SAN DIEGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Dec. 15, 1998–SpaceDev, Inc. (OTC BB:SPDV - news), the world’s first commercial space exploration company, has placed NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) under contract to provide various analysis and planning services for SpaceDev’s first deep-space science mission, the Near Earth Asteroid Prospector (NEAP).
The NEAP spacecraft is planned to launch in 2001 and by mid-2002 should rendezvous with the asteroid 4660 Nereus for a two-month primary mission.
Starting immediately, engineers in JPL’s Telecommunications and Mission Operations Directorate (TMOD) will initiate the process for allocating its world-wide DSN resources to support tracking, commanding and telemetry reception for NEAP in 2002, principally during the spacecraft’s cruise to Nereus and during operations in close proximity to the approximately 1-kilometer-(0.6-mile-) diameter body.
“To meet our NEAP launch readiness date of early 2001 and Nereus rendezvous date of mid-2002, we have to get the DSN tracking pass-allocation process started now,” said Rex Ridenoure, SpaceDev’s Chief Mission Architect. “The 34-meter DSN dishes we’ll need for communicating with NEAP also supports other numerous deep-space missions, so now is the time to make our needs known to JPL and get into the queue,” he added.
The SpaceDev contract marks a first for NASA and JPL; never before in the 40-year history of the DSN has a commercial company requested tracking time and analysis support for a deep-space mission. “The Jet Propulsion Laboratory has accepted a request by SpaceDev to study the feasibility of tracking NEAP using NASA’s Deep Space Network,” said Gael Squibb, JPL’s Assistant Laboratory Director for TMOD. “This is the first time a commercial enterprise has attempted to build and fly a scientific mission into deep space, and we’re looking forward to working with SpaceDev on its NEAP mission,” he added.
In coming months and through fall next year, JPL will also assess NEAP’s telecommunication system design for compatibility with the DSN and will assist SpaceDev in defining and pricing selected JPL-supplied mission-operations services, software tools and other engineering support required for the mission. Demands placed by the NEAP mission on JPL’s Deep Space Mission System – comprising the world-wide DSN and JPL-based Advanced Multi-Mission Operations System – are expected to be quite modest. The JPL work follows a well-defined process applied to all missions using the DSN.
SpaceDev is providing the funds for this work to JPL via JPL’s Technology Affiliates Program which covers the first of several phases of expected JPL support activity. SpaceDev is also in the process of negotiating with NASA on the possibility of providing radio science data in exchange for certain DSN services, however the parties have not entered into any formal agreement at this time.
SpaceDev, the world’s first commercial space exploration and development company, intends to launch the first privately financed spacecraft to visit and land on another planetary body. SpaceDev is selling rides for scientific instruments to governments and companies to transport their instruments and experiments through deep space to a near Earth asteroid. SpaceDev intends to sell the data acquired by its instruments as commercial products. Colorado-based SpaceDev has offices in San Diego, CA and Washington, DC.
SpaceDev also announced that its consolidated Revenue for the 1998 year will be lower than expected due to the timing of SpaceDev’s acquisition of its second wholly owned subsidiary and other delays associated with NASA’s funding cycle.
Pasadena-based JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology. It defines and conducts most deep-space missions for NASA and also manages and operates the Deep Space Network (DSN).
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