A NASA Discovery mission to conduct the first orbital study
of the innermost planet
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Heating Up

Late last week the MESSENGER team began integrating heaters and thermostats on the spacecraft.

Why put heaters on a spacecraft that will fly so close to the Sun? Since MESSENGER's ceramic-material sunshade is designed to block the Sun's heat and radiation, the spacecraft will need several temperature sensors and heaters to keep its electronics at safe temperatures - without them, those electronics could face "shade" temperatures as low as -100°C (-212°F). Software-controlled heaters are attached to MESSENGER's main propellant tanks as a way to regulate the spacecraft's overall temperature.

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Last updated: June 27, 2003

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