MESSENGER Ships to Cape for Launch
spacecraft has left Maryland for Cape Canaveral, Fla., site
of its scheduled May 11 launch toward Mercury and the first
study of that planet from orbit.
Secured in an air-conditioned moving van, MESSENGER
arrived March 10 at Kennedy Space Center/Cape Canaveral Air
Force Station from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in
Greenbelt, where it had spent three months being baked,
frozen, spun, shaken and probed to experiencing the
conditions of launch and its upcoming five-year journey to
the innermost planet.
Over the next several weeks, engineers from the
Applied Physics Laboratory, where MESSENGER was designed
and built, will prepare the spacecraft for launch at the
Astrotech Space Operations facility near Kennedy Space
Center. Other team members will continue to test the
spacecraft's key operating systems remotely from the
MESSENGER Mission Operations Center at APL.
Set for a predawn launch aboard a Boeing Delta II
rocket, MESSENGER will fly past Venus three times and
Mercury twice before starting its yearlong orbital study of
Mercury in July 2009. MESSENGER is the next launch in
NASA's Discovery Program of lower cost, highly focused
space science investigations. Sean C. Solomon of the
Carnegie Institution of Washington is principal
investigator; APL manages the mission for NASA's Office of
Space Science. For more information on the mission, go to
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