Press Release

NASA MESSENGER Spacecraft to be launched on August 2nd

By SpaceRef Editor
July 27, 2004
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NASA MESSENGER Spacecraft to be launched on August 2nd

The launch of MESSENGER, a NASA space probe set to conduct the first scientific investigation of Mercury as it orbits the planet, will be launched aboard a Boeing Delta II Heavy expendable launch vehicle Monday, Aug. 2. Liftoff is targeted for the opening of a 12-second launch window that begins at2:16:11 a.m. EDT. The mission will begin with a liftoff from Pad 17-B on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Should launch be postponed for any reason, the next launch time is Aug. 3 at 2:15:56 a.m. EDT.

MESSENGER’s cameras and sensors will provide the first images of the entire planet and collect important information on the composition and structure of Mercury’s crust, its geologic history, the nature of its thin atmosphere and active magnetosphere, and the makeup of its core and mysterious polar materials.

The surface of Mercury reaches a high temperature near 840 degrees Fahrenheit and the solar intensity can be 11 times greater than on Earth. Yet, the seven instruments aboard the spacecraft will operate near room temperature from behind MESSENGER’s heat-resistant, ceramic-cloth sunshade while the spacecraft dips in its orbit, as low as 124 miles above the planet.

The name MESSENGER means MErcury Surface, Space, Environment, GEochemistry andRanging.

Prelaunch Press Conference

The prelaunch press conference will be held at theNASANewsCenterat KSC on Saturday, July 31, at1 p.m. EDT. Participating in the briefing will be:

  • Orlando Figueroa, Director, Solar System Exploration Division, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
  • Chuck Dovale, NASA Launch Director, Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
  • Kris Walsh, Director of NASA Programs Boeing Expendable Launch Systems, Huntington Beach, Calif.
  • James Leary, MESSENGER Mission Systems Engineer
  • Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md.
  • Joel Tumbiolo, USAF Delta II Launch Weather Officer, 45th Weather Squadron, Cape CanaveralAir Force Station, Fla.

MESSENGERMissionScience Briefing

A mission science briefing with Dr. Sean C. Solomon, MESSENGER principal investigator from the Carnegie Institution of Washington, will immediately follow the prelaunch press conference.

No post-launch press conference will be held. A post-launch release will be issued with details on the state of health of MESSENGER after spacecraft data is received through the Deep Space Network. This release is expected to be issued approximately two hours after launch.

Accreditation and Media Access Badges for KSC

Those who need press accreditation and access badges to the Kennedy Space Center to cover the MESSENGER prelaunch press conference and mission science briefing may do the accreditation process via the Web by going to:

Media may also send a letter of request on news organization letterhead to the NASA KSC News Center. Include the names and Social Security numbers, birth dates, nationality and country of citizenship of those who require accreditation. Letters should be faxed to 321-867-2692 or may be addressed to:

MESSENGER Launch Accreditation


Kennedy Space Center, FL32899

All accreditation for the MESSENGER prelaunch press conference and mission science briefing at KSC must be received by the close of business on Thursday, July 29. The Pass & Identification Building, the badging station located on State Road 405 just east of U.S. 1, will not be open on the day of the briefings, Saturday, July 31. Media may instead obtain their KSC access badge at Gate 3 on State Road 405, just east of the NASA Visitor Complex. Contact the NASA-KSC News Center at 321-867-2468 for further information.

Remote Camera Placement at Complex 17

Sunday, Aug. 1: Photographers who wish to set up remote cameras at the Delta launch complex will be escorted by a Boeing representative to Pad 17-B. Departure will be at9:15 a.m.from the Gate 1 Pass and Identification Building located on State Road 401 outside Gate 1 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Tower Rollback Photo Opportunity at Complex 17

Sunday, Aug. 1: There will be an opportunity to observe rollback of the mobile service tower from around the MESSENGER/Delta II launch vehicle at Pad 17-B. Media will depart at4:30 government bus from the Gate 1 Pass andIdentification Building on State Road 401 outside Gate 1 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Press credentials and identification from a bona fide news organization will be required.

Launch Day Press Site Access toCape CanaveralAir Force Station

Monday, August 2: Media covering the MESSENGER launch will be able to obtain press access badges beginning at12:30 the Gate 1 Pass and Identification Building on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station located on State Road 401. Press credentials and identification from a bona fide news organization will be required to obtain an access badge. A driver’s license alone will not be sufficient.

Due to the location of the impact limit lines for the launch of the Delta II Heavy, the Trident bluff remote press site will be used. This is located on south Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the east side of the Trident turn basin. Video and audio plug-in capability for NASA Television will be available. In addition, a limited number of laptop telephone interfaces will be available. Departure in a vehicle caravan from Gate 1 to the Trident bluff will be at12:45 a.m.

NewsCenterHours for Launch

Saturday, July 31: The NASA News Center at KSC will be open from

11 a.m. to 3 p.m. TheNewsCenterwill be closed on Sunday. On launch day, all media activities will be conducted from the remote press site at the Trident bluff.

Web Prelaunch and Launch Coverage

Two special live prelaunch webcasts are scheduled at2 p.m.on July 29 and 30.

For more information, go to the NASA Direct Web site at:


NASA Television launch coverage will be webcast at:

Live information updates will be available throughKennedySpaceCenter’sVirtualLaunchControlCenterat:

NASA Television Coverage

Saturday, July 31: NASA Television will carry live the MESSENGER prelaunch press conference and mission science briefing beginning at1 p.m. EDT. Monday, Aug 2, NASA Television coverage of the launch will begin at12:01 a.m. EDTand conclude approximately one hour after launch once data from the Deep Space Network confirms the spacecraft’s solar arrays have successfully deployed.

The satellite for NASA Television has been changed to AMC-6 located at 73 degrees West longitude, though use of Transponder 9 remains the same.

The July 31 prelaunch press conference with associated mission science briefing and the Aug. 2 launch attempt will be on AMC-6, Transponder 9. However, should the launch be postponed 24 hours for any reason, the second launch attempt will be on AMC-6, Transponder 5. InAlaskaandHawaii, all MESSENGER events will be on AMC-7 Transponder 17 located at 137 degrees West longitude.

Audio only of the prelaunch press conference and the launch coverage will be carried on the NASA “V” circuits which may be accessed by dialing 321/867-1220… 1240… 1260…7135.

Recorded status reports on the launch of MESSENGER and updates to the Note To Editors will be provided on the KSC news media codaphone starting Thursday, July 29. The telephone number is 321/867-2525. Media are encouraged to check the recording for updates during the hours that the NASA-KSC News Center is closed over the weekend.

The management of the MESSENGER launch is the responsibility of NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center, Fla., with the Delta II launch service provided by Boeing Expendable Launch Systems in Huntington Beach, Calif. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., designed and built MESSENGER for the Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters and will control the spacecraft during the mission.

SpaceRef staff editor.