KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. - Shipped in an air-conditioned transportation van from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft, the first Mercury orbiter, arrives at the Astrotech Space Operations processing facilities near KSC. MESSENGER - short for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging - will be offloaded and taken into a high bay clean room. After the spacecraft is removed from its shipping container, 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 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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