Comet Halley | Published:

Pathfinder: accuracy improvement of comet Halley trajectory for Giotto navigation

Nature volume 321, pages 318320 (15 May 1986) | Download Citation

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Abstract

The ‘Pathfinder’ project represents a cooperative effort involving the space agencies Intercosmos (Soviet Union), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA; United States) and the European Space Agency (ESA; Europe) for the benefit of the Giotto mission, the context of which was the stringent requirement for Giotto to fly past comet Halley at a distance of 500 km on the sunward side. The uncertainties1–5 in the comet's trajectory were such that this requirement could not be fulfilled with the necessary accuracy using only ground-based astronomical observations; early studies6–8,20 revealed that a considerable improvement could be attained by incorporating space-borne observations. As the two Vega spacecraft were to reach the comet a few days before Giotto, optical observations performed by the Vega cameras could be used for this purpose. These, combined with a very accurate determination of the Vega trajectories using VLBI (very-long-baseline interferometry)9,10, permitted a final fly-by distance of 600km to be achieved with an uncertainty of only ±40 km (1σ probability level).

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Author information

Affiliations

  1. Orbit Attitude Division, European Space Operations Centre of ESA, 6100 Darmstadt, FRG

    • R. E. Münch
  2. Space Research Institute, Profsoyuznaya 84/32, 117810 Moscow GSP-7, USSR

    • R. Z. Sagdeev
  3. Systems Division, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California 91101, USA

    • J. F. Jordan

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About this article

Publication history

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/321318a0

Further reading

  • 1.

    Television observations of comet Halley from Vega spacecraft

    • R. Z. Sagdeev
    • , F. Szabó
    • , G. A. Avanesov
    • , P. Cruvellier
    • , L. Szabó
    • , K. Szeg?
    • , A. Abergel
    • , A. Balazs
    • , I. V. Barinov
    • , J.-L. Bertaux
    • , J. Blamont
    • , M. Detaille
    • , E. Demarelis
    • , G. N. Dul'nev
    • , G. Endröczy
    • , M. Gardos
    • , M. Kanyo
    • , V. I. Kostenko
    • , V. A. Krasikov
    • , T. Nguyen-Trong
    • , Z. Nyitrai
    • , I. Reny
    • , P. Rusznyak
    • , V. A. Shamis
    • , B. Smith
    • , K. G. Sukhanov
    • , F. Szabó
    • , S. Szalai
    • , V. I. Tarnopolsky
    • , I. Toth
    • , G. Tsukanova
    • , B. I. Valní?ek
    • , L. Varhalmi
    • , Yu. K. Zaiko
    • , S. I. Zatsepin
    • , Ya. L. Ziman
    • , M. Zsenei
    •  & B. S. Zhukov

    Nature (1986)

  • 2.

    The Giotto encounter with comet Halley

    • R. Reinhard

    Nature (1986)

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