Dawn Arrives in Florida - A Little After Dawn
The Dawn spacecraft arrived at Astrotech Space Operations in
Titusville, Fla., at 9 a.m. EDT today. Dawn, NASA's mission into
the heart of the asteroid belt, is at the facility for final processing
and launch operations. Dawn's launch period opens June 30.
"Dawn only has two more trips to make," said Dawn project manager Keyur
Patel of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "One will be
in mid-June when it makes the 15-mile journey from the processing facility
to the launch pad. The second will be when Dawn rises to begin its eight-year,
3.2-billion-mile odyssey into the heart of the asteroid belt."
Image right: Artist's concept of Dawn. Image credit: William K. Hartmann Courtesy of UCLA+ Larger view
The Dawn spacecraft will employ ion propulsion to explore two of the asteroid
belt's most intriguing and dissimilar occupants: asteroid Vesta and the dwarf
Now that Dawn has arrived at Astrotech near NASA's Kennedy Space Center, final
prelaunch processing will begin. Technicians will install the spacecraft's
batteries, check out the control thrusters and test the spacecraft's instruments.
In late April, Dawn's large solar arrays will be attached and then deployed for
testing. In early May, a compatibility test will be performed with the Deep Space
Network used for tracking and communications. Dawn will then be loaded with fuel to
be used for spacecraft control during the mission. Finally, in mid-May, the
spacecraft will undergo spin-balance testing. Dawn will then be mated to the upper
stage booster and installed into a spacecraft transportation canister for the trip to
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This is currently scheduled for June 19, when it
will be mated to the Delta II rocket at Pad 17-B.
The rocket that will launch Dawn is a Delta II 7925-H manufactured by the United
Launch Alliance; it is a heavier-lift model of the standard Delta II that uses
larger solid rocket boosters. The first stage is scheduled to be erected on Pad 17-B
in late May. Then the nine strap-on solid rocket boosters will be raised and attached.
The second stage, which burns hypergolic propellants, will be hoisted atop the first
stage in the first week of June. The fairing which surrounds the spacecraft will
then be hoisted into the clean room of the mobile service tower.
Next, engineers will perform several tests of the Delta II. In mid-June, as a leak
check, the first stage will be loaded with liquid oxygen during a simulated countdown.
The next day, a simulated flight test will be performed, simulating the vehicle's
post-liftoff flight events without fuel aboard. The electrical and mechanical systems
of the entire Delta II will be exercised during this test. Once the Dawn payload is
atop the launch vehicle, a final major test will be conducted: an integrated test of
the Delta II and Dawn working together. This will be a combined minus and plus count,
simulating all events as they will occur on launch day, but without propellants
aboard the vehicle.
The NASA Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center and the United Launch
Alliance are responsible for the launch of the Delta II.
The Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres is managed by JPL, a division of the California
Institute of Technology in Pasadena, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington,
D.C. The University of California Los Angeles is responsible for overall Dawn mission
science. Other scientific partners include Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico;
German Aerospace Center, Berlin; Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research,
Katlenburg, Germany; and Italian National Institute of Astrophysics, Palermo. Orbital
Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., designed and built the Dawn spacecraft.
Additional information about Dawn is online at:
For more information about NASA and agency programs on the Internet, visit:
Media contacts: DC Agle 818-393-9011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
George Diller 321-861-7643
NASA Kennedy Space Flight Center, Fla.
Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726/
Tabatha Thompson 202-358-3895
NASA Headquarters, Washington