Falling Wrench Hits Solar Panel, No Cells Broken
NASA is investigating a minor mishap affecting the delay-plagued
Dawn spacecraft, although the target launch date of July 7 is
On June 11, during a procedure to prepare the spacecraft for
spin-balance testing, the back of a solar array panel was slightly
damaged by a technician's tool. Media reports indicate the
unspecified tool fell from a platform suspended above the
Fortunatelt, no solar cells were broken, and NASA says the
necessary minor repairs will be made this weekend.
Loading of xenon for the ion propulsion system was completed
last week. Hydrazine, used for spacecraft control and maneuvering,
was loaded aboard June 10. The spacecraft was then weighed and
placed on a spin table for a series of spin tests that are
currently under way.
Dawn will be mated to its associated upper-stage booster on June
21 and transported to Pad 17-B for mating to the Delta II on June
At Pad 17-B, the operations to attach the Delta II solid rocket
boosters to the first stage are complete. The second stage is
planned to be hoisted atop the first stage on Friday.
This isn't the first glitch the Dawn team has suffered through
this month. As ANN reported, a crane used
to stack segments of the Delta II booster broke down, forcing NASA
to bump Dawn's scheduled June 30 launch date by one week.
Frustrated mission planners may take some comfort, at least,
that Dawn has come this far... as NASA cancelled the program
outright in early 2006, before granting Dawn a reprieve weeks later
after scientists protested.
Once it is eventually launched, Dawn will visit the asteroids
Ceres and Vesta, contained in an asteroid belt between Mars and
Jupiter. They are two of the largest such bodies in the solar
system, and scientists hope the two heavenly bodies will reveal
clues about the formation of the solar system.