A NASA Discovery mission to conduct the first orbital study
of the innermost planet
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A Key Ring

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.

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Last updated: May 6, 2003

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