This week, the Surveyor flight team conducted tests to collect diagnostic data toward solving the spacecraft's solar array position discrepancy. Both of Surveyor's solar arrays are deployed and generating full power, but the solar panel on the spacecraft's -Y side is out of position by 20.5 degrees. The flight team performed one test per day on the mornings of Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
During each diagnostic test, the gimbal joint holding the -Y panel to the spacecraft was commanded to "wiggle" the panel back and forth several times over a time period of between 20 to 60 seconds. The flight team examined telemetry transmitted back to Earth to study the nature of the vibrations in the spacecraft that resulted from the "wiggling." This data will provide valuable insight into determining the best method to clear the obstruction that is currently keeping the -Y solar panel 20.5 degrees out of position.
Two more tests are scheduled for next week. One test will occur on Monday, December 16th and the other will occur on Tuesday, December 17th. Both of these upcoming tests will involve a stronger "wiggle" than in the three tests that have already occurred.
After seven weeks of flight, Surveyor is 9.41 million kilometers from the Earth and is moving in an orbit around the Sun with a velocity of 32.74 kilometers per second. This orbit will intercept Mars on September 12th, 1997. All systems on the spacecraft continue to be in excellent condition.