MESSENGER Deploys Magnetometer, Flips Sunshade Toward Sun
The MESSENGER spacecraft is now cruising with its sunshade facing the Sun and its Magnetometer boom extended, after a pair of long-planned and successful operations today.
Working on commands sent from the MESSENGER Mission Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Maryland through NASA's Deep Space Network antenna station near Madrid, Spain, the spacecraft tilted its solar panels away from the Sun, used its momentum wheels to flip 180 degrees, then tilted its solar panels back toward the Sun. The nine-minute maneuver, designed to keep MESSENGER operating at safe temperatures as it moves closer to the Sun, wrapped up at 11:47 a.m. EST.
About an hour later, the middle hinge of the two-section boom holding the Magnetometer instrument deployed, followed 30 minutes later by the second hinge that connects the 3.6-meter (about 12-foot) boom to the spacecraft.
"It was a pair of textbook operations," says MESSENGER Mission Operations Manager Mark Holdridge, of the Applied Physics Lab. "A lot of credit goes to the team members who contributed to this successful day. The spacecraft is doing great."
MESSENGER was 29.2 million miles (about 47 million kilometers) from Earth during the operation, speeding around the Sun at 69,826 miles (112 374 kilometers) per hour. MESSENGER had been flying with its "back" to the Sun since launch last August 3, allowing it to keep its instruments and systems warm without using power for heaters. Mission plans call for the spacecraft to keep its shade facing the Sun for the remainder of its cruise to, and science orbit around, Mercury.