NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute of Technology JPL HOME EARTH SOLAR SYSTEM STARS & GALAXIES SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY BRING THE UNIVERSE TO YOU JPL Email News RSS Podcast Video
Follow this link to skip to the main content



schematic of Dawn solar panel span

Key Spacecraft Characteristics:

  • Extensive redundancy using flight-proven assemblies from other Orbital and JPL spacecraft
  • Ion propulsion system, based on the design validated on Deep Space 1
  • Two 100 W (RF) traveling wave tube amplifiers, fixed 1.5 m high-gain antenna, 3 low-gain antennas, two small deep space transponders
  • Solar array capable of producing more than 10 kW at Earth's distance from the Sun and more than 1 kW at Ceres's maximum distance
  • Flight proven attitude control system used on Orbview, TOPEX/Poseidon ocean topography mission, and Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer
  • Simple hydrazine reaction control subsystem with two sets of six 0.9 N engines used on the Indostar spacecraft
  • Command and data handling uses off the shelf components as used on the Orbview program
  • Modular flight software based on design used on Orbview
  • Core structure is graphite composite. Panels are aluminum core, some with aluminum facesheets and others with composite facesheets.



This figure depicts the Dawn flight system. Upper views are the same scale.


  • HGA – High Gain Antenna
  • LGA – Low Gain Antenna
  • CSS – Coarse Sun Sensors
  • GRaND – Gamma Ray and Neutron Detector
  • IPS Thrusters – Ion Propulsion Thrusters
  • RCS Thrusters – Reaction Control System Thrusters
  • VIR – Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer
  • FC – Framing Camera

- Learn about Dawn's ion propulsion
- Read published article describing the mission: Dawn: A mission in development for exploration of main belt asteroids Vesta and Ceres