Nasa’s Stardust – new exploration of Tempel (Stardust-NExT) spacecraft has fired its engines to delay its arrival at comet Tempel 1 by eight hours and 21 minutes.

The mission will further the investigation of the comet initiated by Nasa’s Deep Impact spacecraft that purposely created a crater on Tempel 1 on 2005.

The delay will provide the best chance of seeing previously imaged and new areas of Tempel 1.

Previously imaged areas of the comet will be analysed for terrain changes caused by the comet’s close approach to the Sun on a successive orbit five-and-a-half years later.

Stardust-NExT is equipped with a dust flux monitor subsystem instrument (DFMI), navigation camera (NC) and a cometary and interstellar dust analyser (CIDA) for monitoring, collecting and analysing dust around the comet.

Trajectory correction manoeuvre commands had been sent to the spacecraft to its velocity, relative to the sun, by 54mph (24m per second).

The spacecraft’s velocity relative to the sun is 47,500mph (21km a second) and has travelled about 3.4 billion miles since its launch 11 years ago.

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Stardust-NExT will fly by the comet during February 2011.