Kennedy News

George H. Diller
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

Sept. 24, 2003
Expendable Launch Vehicle Status Report
Mission: Gravity Probe B
Launch Vehicle: Delta II
Launch Pad: SLC-2W, Vandenberg Air Force Base
Launch Date: Dec. 6, 2003
Launch Time: 5:52:02 p.m. PST

Gravity Probe B is at NASA spacecraft processing hangar 1610 on North Vandenberg Air Force Base. Conditioning of the dewar to a superfluid state has been completed. Conditioning is the process of taking liquid helium at a temperature of about 4 Kelvin (-452 degrees F) to a colder state, known as superfluid, which will allow the helium to last throughout the duration of the mission. Filling the dewar with superfluid helium is a slow and repetitive process. The dewar is now 95% full of superfluid helium at a temperature of 1.65 Kelvin (-456 degrees F) and it will be maintained in this state from now until launch.

In upcoming spacecraft activities, electrical testing is scheduled for Oct. 8, ordnance installation is scheduled for Oct. 20-24, and solar array installation is scheduled to begin Oct. 27.

The first stage of the Boeing Delta II was erected on Space Launch Complex 2 on Monday, Sept. 15, as scheduled. Mating of the second stage atop the first stage also occurred as planned on Sept. 18.

Upcoming is the attachment of the nine strap-on solid rocket boosters in sets of three scheduled for Oct. 6-8. Integrated testing of the vehicle will begin on Oct. 14. This will be followed on Oct. 29 by guidance and control system checks. An exercise that involves loading of liquid oxygen aboard the first stage and a limited "minus count" will be conducted on Nov. 4. A Simulated Flight test, a "plus count" that tests the launch vehicle systems as if it were in powered flight, will be performed on the following day, Nov. 5.

Gravity Probe B will be transported from the spacecraft hangar to Space Launch Complex 2 on Nov. 18 and hoisted atop the second stage. Then the final major test before launch, the Flight Program Verification, will be conducted on Nov. 20. This is an integrated test conducted after the Gravity Probe B spacecraft is mated atop the second stage of the launch vehicle. The Delta II fairing will be installed around the spacecraft on Nov. 25 as part of final preparations for launch.

Gravity Probe B arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base on July 11 from the Lockheed Martin plant in Sunnyvale, Calif. The mission is a relativity experiment developed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Stanford University and Lockheed Martin. The spacecraft will test two extraordinary predictions of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity that he advanced in 1916. Gravity Probe B consists of four sophisticated gyroscopes to be launched into a 400-mile-high orbit for a mission lasting 18 months.

Government oversight of launch preparations and the countdown management on launch day is the responsibility of NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center. The launch service is provided to NASA by Boeing Expendable Launch Systems.

Status reports are available at: .html


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