Tabatha Thompson/Dwayne Brown
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
DAWN ARRIVES IN FLORIDA – A LITTLE AFTER DAWN
The Dawn spacecraft arrived at Astrotech Space Operations in
Titusville, Fla., at 9 a.m. EDT today. Dawn, NASA’s mission into the
heart of the asteroid belt, is at the facility for final processing
and launch operations. Dawn’s launch period opens June 30.
“Dawn only has two more trips to make,” said Dawn project manager
Keyur Patel of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
“One will be in mid-June when it makes the 15-mile journey from the
processing facility to the launch pad. The second will be when Dawn
rises to begin its eight-year, 3.2-billion-mile odyssey into the
heart of the asteroid belt.”
The Dawn spacecraft will employ ion propulsion to explore two of the
asteroid belt’s most intriguing and dissimilar occupants: asteroid
Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres.
Now that Dawn has arrived at Astrotech near NASA’s Kennedy Space
Center, final prelaunch processing will begin. Technicians will
install the spacecraft’s batteries, check out the control thrusters
and test the spacecraft’s instruments. In late April, Dawn’s large
solar arrays will be attached and then deployed for testing. In early
May, a compatibility test will be performed with the Deep Space
Network used for tracking and communications. Dawn will then be
loaded with fuel to be used for spacecraft control during the
mission. Finally, in mid-May, the spacecraft will undergo
spin-balance testing. Dawn will then be mated to the upper stage
booster and installed into a spacecraft transportation canister for
the trip to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This is currently
scheduled for June 19, when it will be mated to the Delta II rocket
at Pad 17-B.
The rocket that will launch Dawn is a Delta II 7925-H manufactured by
the United Launch Alliance; it is a heavier-lift model of the
standard Delta II that uses larger solid rocket boosters. The first
stage is scheduled to be erected on Pad 17-B in late May. Then the
nine strap-on solid rocket boosters will be raised and attached. The
second stage, which burns hypergolic propellants, will be hoisted
atop the first stage in the first week of June. The fairing which
surrounds the spacecraft will then be hoisted into the clean room of
the mobile service tower.
Next, engineers will perform several tests of the Delta II. In
mid-June, as a leak check, the first stage will be loaded with liquid
oxygen during a simulated countdown. The next day, a simulated flight
test will be performed, simulating the vehicle’s post-liftoff flight
events without fuel aboard. The electrical and mechanical systems of
the entire Delta II will be exercised during this test. Once the Dawn
payload is atop the launch vehicle, a final major test will be
conducted: an integrated test of the Delta II and Dawn working
together. This will be a combined minus and plus count, simulating
all events as they will occur on launch day, but without propellants
aboard the vehicle.
The NASA Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center and the
United Launch Alliance are responsible for the launch of the Delta
The Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres is managed by the JPL, a division
of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, for NASA’s
Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. The University of
California Los Angeles is responsible for overall Dawn mission
science. Other scientific partners include Los Alamos National
Laboratory, New Mexico; German Aerospace Center, Berlin; Max Planck
Institute for Solar System Research, Katlenburg, Germany; and Italian
National Institute of Astrophysics, Palermo. Orbital Sciences
Corporation of Dulles, Va., designed and built the Dawn spacecraft.
Additional information about Dawn is online at:
For more information about NASA and agency programs on the Internet,