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On Again

Many members of the MESSENGER team are back in Florida, preparing the spacecraft for the July 30 - August 13 launch opportunity.

In this week's image, MESSENGER is perched on the "elephant stand" while an overhead crane is used to guide the nickel-hydrogen (Ni-H) flight battery into place. From this vantage point you can see the outer row of 11 individual cells; they look like upside down 1-liter soda bottles. The spacecraft has been running on the spare battery since last November, except for a short period in March when the flight battery was installed, then removed when launch was shifted to no earlier than July 30. Similar to car batteries, spacecraft batteries have limited lifetimes, so the flight battery is reserved until final launch preparations commence.

Click here for large and small time-lapse movies of the battery installation.

Over the coming weeks MESSENGER's instruments will be powered up and tested, its flight radiator and solar panels installed, insulation blankets adjusted and full up simulations run. MESSENGER is scheduled to leave the Astrotech processing facility for mating with its Delta II launch vehicle on July 16.

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Last updated: June 11, 2004

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