NASA's Aura spacecraft, the latest in the Earth Observing System (EOS) series, was launched successfully on July 15, 2004 at 3:01:59.34 a.m. PDT from NASA's Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Spacecraft separation from the Boeing Delta II occurred at 4:06:00 a.m. PDT. On-orbit, Aura is operating satisfactorily.MISSION: MESSENGER
MESSENGER, riding atop its spacecraft transporter, departed the Astrotech Space Operations facilities in Titusville at 12:27 a.m. today. It arrived at Pad 17-B on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 4:30 a.m. and was hoisted atop the Boeing Delta II rocket at 6:20 a.m. The Flight Program Verification, an integrated test of the spacecraft/launch vehicle combination and the last major test before launch, is scheduled to occur on July 24.
The spacecraft was mated to the Delta third stage, or upper stage, on July 12 at Astrotech.
Meanwhile, the stacking of the Boeing Delta II launch vehicle on Pad 17-B began on 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 was completed July 6. The second stage was hoisted into position atop the first stage on July 8.
The first “power-on” testing was completed on July 12. A vehicle control check was performed on July 14. This test procedure qualifies the first and second stage steering systems. A Simulated Flight (SimFlight) or flight test of the launch vehicle electrical and mechanical systems was completed on July 15. The first stage leak check, or LOX leak check, occurred on July 16 with the loading aboard of liquid oxygen. This test also exercises the first stage propulsion team using a procedure similar to that which will be during the countdown on launch day. On Monday, July 19, the first stage fuel system was then qualified by loading RP-1, a highly refined kerosene fuel.
There are no technical issues or concerns with MESSENGER or the Boeing Delta II at this time. The launch period extends through Aug. 14.
MESSENGER was built for NASA by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.MISSION: Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology (DART)
On the Pegasus XL launch vehicle, the aft skirt has been installed. The fins are mechanically mated and alignment is underway. The GPS and UHF antennas have also been installed.
The DART spacecraft arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base on July 13 to begin final preparations for launch. The spacecraft's Reaction Control System (RCS) has been charged with gaseous nitrogen and leak checks are underway.
DART has been designed and built for NASA by Orbital Sciences Corporation as a flight demonstrator to locate and maneuver near an orbiting satellite. The DART spacecraft weighs about 800 pounds, is nearly 6 feet long and 3 feet in diameter. The Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL vehicle will launch DART into a circular polar orbit of approximately 475 miles.
The Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology (DART) satellite is an advanced flight demonstrator that provides a key step in establishing autonomous rendezvous capabilities for the U.S. Space Program. While previous rendezvous and docking efforts have been piloted by astronauts, the unmanned DART satellite will have computers and cameras to perform all of its rendezvous functions.
Once in orbit, DART will rendezvous with a target satellite, the Multiple Paths, Beyond-Line-of-Site Communications (MUBLCOM), also built by Orbital Sciences and launched in 1999. DART will then perform several close-proximity operations, such as moving toward and away from the satellite using navigation data provided by onboard sensors. The entire mission will last only 24 hours and will be accomplished without human intervention. The DART flight computer will determine its own path to accomplish its mission objectives.
DART is designed to demonstrate technologies required for a spacecraft to locate and rendezvous, or maneuver close to, other craft in space. Results from the DART mission will aid in the development of NASA's Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) and will also assist in vehicle development for crew transfer and crew rescue capability to and from the International Space Station.-- end --