Press Release

NASA Probe Launched by Boeing Delta II Heading to Mercury

By SpaceRef Editor
August 3, 2004
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ST. LOUIS, August 3, 2004 – The first mission to explore the planet Mercury
in more than 36 years began successfully today with the launch of NASA’s
MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space, ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging)
spacecraft aboard a Boeing Delta II Heavy launch vehicle.

The launch occurred at 2:15:56.537 a.m EDT from Space Launch Complex 17B at
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Following a 57-minute flight, the
spacecraft was deployed to an Earth-escape trajectory.

Upon arriving at Mercury in 2008, MESSENGER will make three passes of the
planet before entering orbit around it in March 2011 to become the first
spacecraft to visit Mercury since Mariner 10 in 1974-75.

During its orbital lifetime, MESSENGER’s onboard cameras and sensors will
image the planet and collect data on Mercury’s geological and atmospheric
composition, enabling scientists better to understand how Mercury was
formed, how it evolved, and how it interacts with the Sun. MESSENGER will
stay in orbit around Mercury for one Earth year, finishing its data
collection in March 2012.

“The launch of the MESSENGER spacecraft aboard a Boeing Delta II continues
our long-standing partnership with NASA,” said Will Trafton, vice president
and general manager, Boeing Expendable Launch Systems. “The dependable Delta
II has carried aloft a wide variety of interplanetary and planetary
explorers for the space agency that are helping us better to understand the
Earth and our solar system. Our continued launch success is testament to the
reliability of this versatile launch system and the Delta team’s commitment
to excellence.”

MESSENGER is the seventh mission selected for NASA’s Discovery Program,
which focuses on planetary exploration. The spacecraft was developed by The
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

The Boeing Delta II 7925 Heavy launch vehicle used for the MESSENGER mission
featured a Rocketdyne RS-27A first stage engine, nine 46-inch diameter
stretched solid rocket boosters provided by Alliant Techsystems, an Aerojet
AJ10-118K engine that powered the second stage, a Thiokol Star-48B
solid-rocket motor that powered the third stage, and a nine-and-a-half-foot
diameter Boeing fairing that protected the spacecraft during flight.

Delta II rockets also use the Redundant Inertial Flight Control Assembly
system from L3 Communications Space & Navigation that provides launch
vehicle guidance and control to enable precision payload deployments.

The next Delta mission will be the maiden flight of the Boeing Delta IV
Heavy launch vehicle planned for this fall from Space Launch Complex 37B at
Cape Canaveral.

A unit of The Boeing Company, Integrated Defense Systems is one of the world
‘s largest space and defense businesses. Headquartered in St. Louis, Boeing
Integrated Defense Systems is a $27 billion business. It provides systems
solutions to its global military, government and commercial customers. It is
a leading provider of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; the
world’s largest military aircraft manufacturer; the world’s largest
satellite manufacturer and a leading provider of space-based communications;
the primary systems integrator for U.S. missile defense; NASA’s largest
contractor; and a global leader in launch services

SpaceRef staff editor.