KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. - At the Astrotech Space Operations processing facilities, an overhead crane lowers NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft onto a work stand. There employees of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, builders of the spacecraft, will perform an initial state-of-health check. Then processing for launch can begin, including checkout of the power systems, communications systems and control systems. The thermal blankets will also be attached for flight. MESSENGER - short for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging - will be launched May 11 on a six-year mission aboard a Boeing Delta II rocket. Liftoff is targeted for 2:26 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, May 11.
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