The NASA Comet Nucleus Tour (CONTOUR) spacecraft arrived at the Kennedy
Space Center April 24 and was transported to the Spacecraft Assembly and
Encapsulation Facility-2 (SAEF-2) in the KSC Industrial Area today to begin
final preparations for launch.

CONTOUR will provide the first detailed look into the heart of a comet – the
nucleus. The spacecraft will fly as close as 60 miles (100 kilometers) to at
least two comets, taking the sharpest pictures yet of the nucleus while
analyzing the gas and dust that surround these rocky, icy building blocks of
the solar system. For the first time, COUTOUR will help assess the
diversity of comets and unravel the mysteries of how they evolve. The
Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.,
built CONTOUR. They will also be in control of the spacecraft after launch.

Beginning on April 29, the CONTOUR integration and test team will undertake
a system performance test to verify that all spacecraft systems are
functioning to their design capabilities. The week of May 6, using
facilities located at KSC’s MILA tracking station, the Deep Space Network
(DSN) compatibility test will be performed to verify CONTOUR’s ability to
communicate with the worldwide system of deep space tracking stations
operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

On May 13, a five-day mission simulation will begin, once again using ground
station facilities at MILA to connect the spacecraft at KSC with the CONTOUR
mission operations control center located at the Applied Physics Laboratory.
The mission operations team will follow a compressed timeline simulating the
flight of CONTOUR, remotely commanding all of the spacecraft’s systems and

On May 20, mechanical prelaunch preparations will begin, followed by
installation of the spacecraft’s solid rocket motor, attachment of the eight
solar panels, and performance of a solar array lighting test. The spacecraft
will then be placed on a spin-table for spin balance measurements. CONTOUR
can then be loaded with its hydrazine fuel. A weight and center of gravity
determination will be done and a final spin balance test will be performed.

Finally at SAEF-2, the CONTOUR spacecraft will be mated with a solid
propellant upper stage that serves as the third stage of the Delta booster.

The Boeing Delta II launch vehicle is at Cape Canaveral undergoing
pre-erection check out. Buildup of the launch vehicle on Pad A at Space
Launch Complex 17 is scheduled to begin on May 28.

CONTOUR will be transported to the pad and erected atop the Delta II on June
19. After a spacecraft functional test, there will be the integrated
vehicle/spacecraft flight program verification simulated flight. Upon
successful completion, the spacecraft will be closed out for launch and the
vehicle nose fairing installed around the spacecraft.

CONTOUR is scheduled for launch on July 1, 2002 during a 12-second launch
window that extends from 2:56:14 – 2:56:26 a.m. EDT.