Canned Phoenix, anyone?
Posted By Emily Lakdawalla
2007/07/24 12:11 CDT
The last time I posted photos of Phoenix was two months ago, and they've made a lot of progress since then, preparing for their launch.
First, here's a neat photo from about a month ago, when they were showing off Phoenix to the media. We're looking at the underside of the spacecraft, so you can see the three footpads (white circles) and the twelve thrusters (currently capped with red plugs) that represent Phoenix' landing system.Here, the spacecraft has been flipped over, and is being lifted onto its upper stage booster. This was a week ago. Two days later, on the 19th, they topped the stack off with the heat shield. With that, all of the indoor work on Phoenix was completed, and it was time to transport the spacecraft to the launch pad. But transporting the spacecraft any distance, no matter how short, requires very careful packing. This seems a little odd, given the tremendous shocks and forces that the spacecraft will endure during its launch, but those shocks the spacecraft was designed for; it was not designed to survive, say, tipping over and crashing sideways to the ground. So they have to pack and handle the spacecraft very carefully when they move it. I think it's amusing that they refer to this step as "canning" the spacecraft. Yesterday, Phoenix met its rocket: Less than two weeks remain until the launch! Launch is scheduled for August 3 at 5:35:18 a.m. EDT (09:35:18 UTC, and an ungodly early -- or awfully late -- 2:35:18 a.m. PDT); if that launch window doesn't look good, they can try and reschedule for half an hour later, 6:11:24 a.m. EDT, before scrubbing to the next day. Here's a table of the launch times throughout the launch period, which came from NASA via Spaceflightnow.com. I've converted the times to UTC to help you calculate your local time. (Don't know your offset from UTC? My favorite website for working through time zones is timeanddate.com.)
|Date||Instant One||Instant Two|
Meanwhile, at the other pad, the entire process was proceeding in reverse for Dawn.
On July 22, 2007, the Dawn spacecraft and its upper stage motor were replaced in their shipping canister and removed from the Delta II launch vehicle on pad 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It was moved by truck back to the Hazardous Payload Processing Facility at Astrotech. It will be returned to the pad after the launch of the Phoenix mission to Mars. Credit: Top row: NASA / George Shelton. Bottom row: NASA / Charisse Nahser