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On and Off

With last week's announcement that MESSENGER will launch later this summer, the spacecraft team in Florida had to demonstrate some flexibility. On March 17, engineers installed the flight battery - typically a milestone toward launch. In this Webcam frame the 24.5-kilogram (54-pound) flight battery is settled into position with an overhead crane in the Astrotech Space Operations facility near Cape Canaveral. All batteries have a limited lifetime and thus, flight batteries are only installed shortly before launch to maximize their usable time in space. A spare battery had provided MESSENGER with power since last November.

With the change in launch date, the flight battery came off early this week, to be reinstalled closer to July 30.

A short time-lapse movie (large or small version) shows the 90-minute installation. MESSENGER is back on the familiar turnover fixture to enable easy access to all parts of the spacecraft. The battery is located under a temporary white cover, installed just before the spacecraft is returned to an upright and locked position. Note that the sunshade blanket has been temporarily removed as adjustments are made to the spacecraft.

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Last updated: April 2, 2004

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