Key Spacecraft Characteristics
The STARDUST-NExT spacecraft is derived from the Space Probe deep space bus developed by Lockheed Martin Astronautics in Denver, Colorado. This new lightweight spacecraft incorporates components, virtually all of which are either currently operating in space or are flight qualified and manifested to fly on upcoming missions.
The total weight of the spacecraft including the propellant needed for deep space maneuvers is 380 kilograms. The overall length of the main bus is 1.7 meters, about the size of an average office desk.
The STARDUST-NExT spacecraft encountered comet Wild 2 early in 2004 and collected samples of cometary dust and volatiles while flying through the coma at a distance of approximately 250 km on the sunlit side of the nucleus. The samples were returned to Earth for analysis in 2006.
Comet and interstellar particles were collected in ultra low-density silica aerogel during the original Stardust mission in which the sample return capsule was jettisoned back to Earth is January 2006. The CIDA instrument is a time-of-flight mass spectrometer that determines the composition of individual dust grains, which collide with a silver impact plate. The Navigation camera is used for targeting the flyby of the Wild 2 nucleus, but also provides high-resolution science images of the comet. The DFM instrument, mounted on the front of the Whipple shield, monitors the flux and size distribution of particles in the environment.