The Aura spacecraft, the latest in the Earth Observing System (EOS) series, arrived at Space Launch Complex 2 located on North Vandenberg Air Force Base before dawn on Tuesday, June 22. It was transported from the Astrotech payload processing facility located a few miles south of the pad. Aura was then hoisted atop the Boeing Delta II launch vehicle. The mechanical and electrical connections are complete and an Aura stand-alone, state-of-health check has been performed.
The last remaining major test, the Flight Program Verification, was successfully completed yesterday. This was an integrated test involving the Delta II and the Aura spacecraft. Work to install the fairing around the spacecraft is scheduled to begin on July 1 and end the following day. The Flight Readiness Review is scheduled for July 6 and will give the approval for loading of the Delta second stage with its hypergolic propellants July 7.
Retraction of the mobile service tower, the gantry surrounding the Delta II, is scheduled to occur at 5:30 p.m. PDT on July 9. Loading of RP-1, a highly refined kerosene fuel, aboard the first stage is scheduled to begin at 12:21 a.m. PDT July 10. Loading of the cryogenic liquid oxygen in the first stage will begin approximately an hour later.
Aura's four state-of-the-art instruments will study the dynamics of chemistry occurring in the atmosphere. The spacecraft will provide data to help scientists better understand the Earth's ozone, air quality and climate change.
The EOS Aura satellite, instruments and science investigations are managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Government oversight of launch preparations and the countdown management on launch day is the responsibility of the NASA Launch Services Program based at Kennedy Space Center. The launch service is provided to NASA by Boeing Launch Services.MISSION: MESSENGER
With the successful launch of the Air Force Delta/GPS mission last week, the launch of NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft has been rescheduled and is now targeted to occur Aug. 2. While the previous launch date of July 30 may have been achievable, the additional margin now being built into the schedule will provide greater confidence in meeting this new launch date.
MESSENGER is undergoing prelaunch testing and final assembly at the Astrotech Space Operations facilities near Kennedy Space Center. Yesterday it was moved to a hazardous processing facility in preparation for loading the spacecraft's complement of hypergolic propellants. Fueling is underway today and will conclude July 1.
The spacecraft's two solar arrays were installed on June 24 - 25 and a deployment test was conducted. Installation of thermal blankets continues. Spacecraft propellant loading is scheduled for June 29 - July 2. Spacecraft spin balance testing is planned for July 7.
Autonomy testing of the spacecraft has been successfully completed and MESSENGER is verified to operate independently when not in direct contact with Earth. The spacecraft Mission Readiness Review was completed on June 24 without any major issues remaining to be resolved.
The stacking of the Boeing Delta II launch vehicle on pad 17-B is planned to begin on Wednesday, June 30, with the hoisting of the first stage atop the launcher. Attachment of the nine strap-on solid rocket boosters in sets of three will be performed July 1 - 6. The second stage is scheduled to be hoisted into position atop the first stage on July 8.
There are no technical issues or concerns with MESSENGER or its associated Delta II at this time.
The launch period for MESSENGER extends through Aug. 13.
MESSENGER was built for NASA by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.-- end --