|Two objects possibly belonging to the CONTOUR spacecraft.
©2002 The Spacewatch Project, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, The University of Arizona.
CONTOUR launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on July 3, 2002. Unfortunately, six weeks after launch, on August 15, 2002, contact with the spacecraft was lost after a planned maneuver that was intended to propel it out of Earth orbit and into its comet-chasing solar orbit. Limited ground-based evidence at the time suggested the spacecraft split into several pieces. Attempts to contact CONTOUR were made through December 20, 2002, when NASA and The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory concluded the spacecraft was lost.
NASA convened a Mishap Investigation Board to examine the processes, data, and actions surrounding the events of August 15; search for proximate and root causes; and develop recommendations that may be applicable to future missions.
After an extensive investigation, the board identified four possible causes for the failure but concluded the probable proximate cause was structural failure of the spacecraft due to plume heating during the embedded solid-rocket motor burn.
For more details on the mission profile, spacecraft, and subsystems, go to the National Space Science Data Center CONTOUR page.