A NASA Discovery mission to conduct the first orbital study
of the innermost planet
NASA logo carnegie institution logo JHU APL logo

Why Mercury?
The Mission
News Center
Science Operations
Who We Are
Related Links

Download iPhone/iPad app Information about Mercury Flybys Question and Answer End of Orbit Insertion Where is MESSENGER? Where is Mercury now? Subscribe to MESSENGER eNews

Spacecraft Overview

Designed and built by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory – with contributions from research institutions and companies around the world – the MESSENGER spacecraft tackles the challenges associated with orbiting Mercury. A ceramic-fabric sunshade, heat radiators, and a mission design that limits time over the planet’s hottest regions protect MESSENGER without expensive and impractical cooling systems. The spacecraft’s graphite composite structure – strong, lightweight, and heat tolerant – is integrated with a low-mass propulsion system that efficiently stores and distributes the approximately 600 kilograms (about 1,320 pounds) of propellant that accounts for 54% of MESSENGER’s total launch weight.

To fit behind the 2.5-meter by 2-meter (roughly 8-foot by 6-foot) sunshade, MESSENGER’s wiring, electronics, systems, and instruments are packed into a small frame that could fit inside a large sport utility vehicle. And the entire spacecraft is light enough for launch on a Delta II 7925-H (“heavy”) rocket, the largest launch vehicle allowed under NASA’s Discovery Program of lower-cost, space science missions.


   Top  | Contacts
© 1999-2015 by JHU/APL