Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world’s leading space technology companies, congratulates the Dawn Flight Team, headed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), for its selection as recipients of the 2014 Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM) Trophy for Current Achievement. This prestigious award recognizes the accomplishments of the Dawn Flight Team for operating the deep-space asteroid exploration spacecraft which reached Vesta in mid-2011, examined the near planet-size asteroid from a low-altitude orbit for over a year, and continued its journey to explore the dwarf planet Ceres, which it will reach in early 2015. Dawn was launched from Cape Canaveral in September 2007.
Orbital designed, built and tested the spacecraft and supports ongoing mission operations. The Dawn spacecraft incorporates a revolutionary ion propulsion system developed by NASA, which enables the spacecraft to continuously accelerate. This key technology made the orbit of two large solar system bodies possible, the first time it will ever have been done by one spacecraft on a single mission.
Drawing upon cost-effective and flight-proven spacecraft technology, Orbital designed and produced the Dawn spacecraft, which measures 20 meters (or 65 feet) wide with its solar panels deployed and incorporates instruments provided by mission partners from Italy, Germany and the U.S., at the company’s manufacturing and test facilities in Dulles, VA. Dawn is Orbital’s second deep-space planetary mission, following the Deep Space 1 spacecraft built at the company’s Gilbert, AZ operations and launched in 1999.
About the Dawn ProgramDawn has traveled 4.4 billion kilometers (or 2.7 billion miles) since launch, reaching the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and orbiting its first target. Dawn arrived at Vesta in July 2011. Vesta is the second most massive body in the main belt, the brightest of the asteroids, and the only one visible with the naked eye from Earth. The spacecraft spent over a year orbiting the asteroid, mapping the body and conducting other remote sensing observations using a suite of science instruments. Dawn departed from Vesta’s orbit in September 2012 and is currently en-route to rendezvous with the largest asteroid, Ceres, in early 2015. Dawn will collect similar scientific data at Ceres to what it gathered at Vesta.