Studying these cells could lead to new treatments for diseases ranging from gastrointestinal disease to diabetes.
The High-Energy Transient Explorer (HETE-2) was launched successfully Monday, Oct. 9, at 1:38am EDT from the Kwajalein Missile Range in the Marshall Islands.
HETE-2 was deployed by a Pegasus launcher after being delayed 48 hours to repair a spacecraft ground support cable.
MIT senior research scientist at the Center for Space Research (CSR) and principal investigator for the 20-person international team George R. Ricker reported that "the orbit achieved is superb: 590km perigee x 650km apogee, an orbital period of 97 minutes, at an inclination of 1.95 degrees.
"During the first three orbits, the satellite was detumbled and despun as it was gradually powered up. The solar panels then deployed during the third orbit. The spacecraft successfully achieved its targeted anti-sun pointing configuration during the fourth orbit. Satellite telemetry is being successfully received and commands are being reliably issued at both the Kwajalein and Singapore ground stations," he said.
On Sunday evening, the HETE-2 team noted the 100th orbit of the satellite as data flowed into the HETE-2 Operations Center at the CSR. Members of the operations team include undergraduates, graduate students and CSR staff who monitor the satellite's health and status 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Complete testing with the alternative Cayenne ground station will take place in the coming weeks, as will activation and testing of the network of Burst Alert Stations (BAS).
"During HETE's third day in orbit, we turned on the Radiation Background Monitor (RBM), which allows us to keep track of the rate of high-energy proton and electron hits on the spacecraft. So far, the data appear to be fully consistent with our pre-launch expectations. The particle rates are both satisfyingly low and stable, just as we had hoped they would be in our equatorial orbit," Dr. Ricker said.
"This week should be an exciting one for the HETE science team as the three main astronomy instruments -- Fregate, WXM and the SXC -- are turned on successively. Our HETE-2 colleagues from France and Japan have gathered at MIT for this 'moment of truth' for the mission," he said.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 18, 2000.