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Putting on a MASCS

May 31 was a busy day for the MESSENGER integration team, as several important milestones occurred after many weeks of hard work. The most obvious addition to the spacecraft is the frame for the sunshade, which will be critical for protecting the spacecraft from the intense heat of the Sun while in orbit at Mercury. Less obvious - but no less important - was the installation of the front phased array antenna on the sunshade frame. The phased array antennas will serve as the primary communications link with Earth during orbital operations.

Additionally the first science instrument was installed inside the Launch Vehicle Adapter ring. In this view, you can see the legs of two engineers as they actually stand inside the adapter to install the Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer (MASCS) instrument. MESSENGER's other instruments are in different phases of testing and will be added to the spacecraft over the next six weeks.

Click here (or right-click here to download) to see a time-lapse movie of the activity on May 31. (MPEG, 3.26 MB file)

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Last updated: June 5, 2003

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