Dawn mission officials at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in Pasadena, California, say that the spacecraft is now ready to transfer to its final science orbit around Vesta, the largest asteroid in our solar system.
Dawn has been studying the large space rock for a year, and occupied four different orbits around it since arriving. However, its mission there is currently coming to a close. Dawn is scheduled to depart Vesta for the dwarf planet Ceres within less than two months.
After spending five months in an orbit 130 miles (210 kilometers) above the surface of Vesta, the satellite began to spiral upwards slowly. It has been doing this for six weeks, and will reach its target orbit, at an average altitude of 420 miles (680 kilometers), later today, June 15.
If all goes according to current plans, Dawn is expected to enter orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres – also in the Inner Asteroid Belt, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter – by February 2015.