With MESSENGER less than eight months from launch, the mission's engineering crews are working 20 hours a day, seven days a week to meet a demanding schedule. This composite image and a related time-lapse movie (7 MB version or 700 KB version) from July 18 show the nearly "round the clock" activity from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. in the MESSENGER clean room.
The team was especially busy over the past week, integrating MESSENGER's Power Distribution Unit (see May 15 image); two Integrated Electronics Modules (see June 26); small deep-space transponder; reaction wheel assemblies; digital Sun sensors; two star-tracker cameras; radio frequency switches/low-gain antennas; and two scientific instruments, the Mercury Laser Altimeter (see July 9) and X-Ray Spectrometer. At the same time, the crews continue to troubleshoot a range of daily technical issues that typically come with assembling a spacecraft.
After completing initial prelaunch tests at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in October, MESSENGER is scheduled to move to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., for more than two months of additional tests. In January MESSENGER will leave Goddard for Kennedy Space Center, Fla., in final preparation for its March 2004 launch aboard a Boeing Delta II rocket.