Though much of the spacecraft is obscured
behind the turnover fixture, this view offers a clear look at
the Launch Vehicle Adapter ring. Next month, four of MESSENGER's
scientific instruments will be attached to the spacecraft inside
the adapter, including the imaging system (Mercury Dual Imaging
System); visible- and infrared-light spectrometer (Mercury Atmospheric
and Surface Composition Spectrometer); laser rangefinder (Mercury
Laser Altimeter); and X-ray Spectrometer.
After MESSENGER separates from the Delta
II launch vehicle the adapter ring will continue to shade the
instruments, an important job on a spacecraft that will zip within
0.3 astronomical units (about 28 million miles, or nearly 45 million
kilometers) of the Sun.
Last updated: May 6, 2003