National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo
Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Banner
Solar System Exploration
News & Events
MESSENGER: T-Minus One Year
MESSENGER: T-Minus One Year
12 Mar 2003
(Source: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory)

http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/press_release_3_12_03.html Status Report: MESSENGER Assembly Under Way
MESSENGER Project
March 12, 2003

Start the countdown clock at one year: the effort to assemble and test the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft, set to embark next March on an historic voyage to the innermost planet, is well under way.

On Feb. 3, MESSENGER's integrated propulsion system and structure arrived at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., which is building the remainder of the spacecraft and manages the Discovery-class mission for NASA. Having already completed the first round of vibration tests and a thermal "bake out" to clean the structure, the MESSENGER team will start installing electronic components on the craft in April.

The frame for MESSENGER's signature sunshade - which will protect the craft and its instruments from the intense heat at Mercury - is due to arrive this week from GenCorp Aerojet. Layers of ceramic fabric will be added to the frame at APL over the next two months.

MESSENGER's seven scientific instruments - being provided by APL, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor - are expected to arrive later this spring. Integration and testing will continue at APL through early September, and then MESSENGER heads to Goddard Space Flight Center for additional prelaunch space-environment tests.

In early January, MESSENGER is scheduled to leave Goddard for Kennedy Space Center, Fla., in final preparation for its March 2004 launch aboard a Boeing Delta II rocket.

After launch and a 5-year journey through the inner solar system, MESSENGER will orbit Mercury for one Earth year, providing the first images of the entire planet and collecting information on the composition and structure of Mercury's crust, its geologic history, the nature of its thin atmosphere and active magnetosphere, and the makeup of its core and mysterious polar materials. While cruising to Mercury the spacecraft will fly past the planet twice - in 2007 and 2008 - snapping pictures and gathering data critical to planning the orbit study that begins in April 2009. MESSENGER will also fly by Venus in 2004 and 2006.

News Archive Search  Go!
Show  results per page
 
 
Awards and Recognition   Solar System Exploration Roadmap   Contact Us   Site Map   Print This Page
NASA Official: Kristen Erickson
Advisory: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science
Outreach Manager: Alice Wessen
Curator/Editor: Phil Davis
Science Writer: Autumn Burdick
Producer: Greg Baerg
Webmaster: David Martin
> NASA Science Mission Directorate
> Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
> Equal Employment Opportunity Data
   Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
> Information-Dissemination Policies and Inventories
> Freedom of Information Act
> Privacy Policy & Important Notices
> Inspector General Hotline
> Office of the Inspector General
> NASA Communications Policy
> USA.gov
> ExpectMore.gov
> NASA Advisory Council
> Open Government at NASA
Last Updated: 20 Mar 2003