The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that will send NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale spacecraft into orbit is nearly fully assembled at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41. The rocket’s first stage was installed Feb. 6 and its two solid rocket boosters were added Feb. 7 and Feb. 9. Next up was the Centaur upper stage. After its Feb. 12 arrival at the launch complex, it was lifted into place atop the first stage.
Meanwhile, the four observatories comprising the MMS spacecraft continued their prelaunch preparations at the Astrotech Payload Processing Facility. Engineers cleaned and inspected the spacecraft’s science instruments and 32 GPS antennas, and the lower two observatories were attached to the Atlas V payload adapter. The upper two observatories then were hoisted and mated to the lower stack. News media representatives had the chance to view the MMS payload in its launch configuration at Astrotech on Feb. 18.
The payload fairing that will protect MMS during launch was secured around the spacecraft yesterday in advance of the overnight journey from Astrotech to the launch complex, scheduled for Thursday morning.