Mercury's Messenger Survives Solar Radiation Thanks to NASA Glenn Engineers

Aug 01, 2004

Engineers at NASA's Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, are excited about the role they played in preparing MESSENGER for its mission to Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun. Members of the Thermal Energy Conversion Branch supported 19 tests for MESSENGER (short for MErcury, Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) in Glenn's unique solar simulation vacuum facility.

Glenn's support of the project began in 1999, before MESSENGER was selected as a flight mission, when testing was conducted for the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Laurel, Md., to verify that solar arrays and thermal shields could survive the intense solar radiation at Mercury.

APL was selected to manage MESSENGER for NASA's Office of Space Science and entered into a Space Act Agreement with Glenn in 2001 to provide additional solar simulation testing in Glenn's Solar Thermal Vacuum Facility.

"During MESSENGER's journey, the spacecraft is expected to experience solar radiation intensities 11 times higher than that at Earth," said Wayne Wong, Glenn project engineer. "Our unique Thermal Vacuum Facility allows us to simulate these harsh conditions in order to verify that materials and components will survive in that extreme environment. Testing at Glenn has provided critical data to the spacecraft designers and engineers."

Glenn conducted a variety of tests to evaluate prototype solar array modules, thermal shielding materials, communication devices, and a variety of other sensors and components. Testing to support APL in the Vacuum Facility included thermal cycling of candidate photovoltaic arrays between the extreme cold and hot temperatures that will be experienced by the spacecraft as well as a 100 hour thermal shade life test.

In February 2003, Glenn engineers successfully completed a Flight Antenna Qualification Test, their 19th and final solar thermal vacuum test for MESSENGER. The primary test component was the flight assembly of the phased array and fan beam antennas. In addition to the antennas, a variety of other components were also tested in parallel including components that underwent redesign as a result of previous testing.

The MESSENGER project is the seventh in NASA's Discovery Program of lower-cost, scientifically focused missions. It is scheduled for launch at 2:16 a.m. EDT on Aug. 2, the first day of a 13-day launch period. Messenger will enter Mercury orbit in March 2011 and carry out comprehensive measurements for one Earth year.

For additional information about MESSENGER on the Internet, visit: www.nasa.gov/messenger or messenger.jhuapl.edu

Source: NASA

Explore further: Planet 'reared' by four parent stars

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Image: Moving Bepicolombo into ESA's space simulator

Nov 18, 2014

On 30 October, the Mercury Planetary Orbiter, one of the two spacecraft of ESA's BepiColombo mission, was installed in the Large Space Simulator at the ESTEC technical centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft's 10 years in space

Aug 05, 2014

Ten years ago, on August 3, 2004, NASA's MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) spacecraft blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, for a risky mission that would take ...

MESSENGER spies a soccer ball on Mercury

Jun 27, 2014

Olé, Olé, Olé! Good news World Cup fans, a soccer ball has been found on Mercury! This 'soccer ball' is actually an old impact crater in Goethe Basin that has been flooded with volcanic lava flows, resulting in a 'ghost crater'. The pattern inside is a network of nar ...

Recommended for you

'Planck' puts Einstein to the test

7 hours ago

Researchers, including physicists from Heidelberg University, have gained new insights into dark energy and the theory of gravitation by analysing data from the "Planck" satellite mission of the European ...

Distant supernova split four ways by gravitational lens

7 hours ago

Over the past several decades, astronomers have come to realize that the sky is filled with magnifying glasses that allow the study of very distant and faint objects barely visible with even the largest telescopes.

Testing to diagnose power event in Mars rover

13 hours ago

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is expected to remain stationary for several days of engineering analysis following an onboard fault-protection action on Feb. 27 that halted a process of transferring sample material ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.