Dawn Prepares for Launch

Despite a 24-hour delay, preparations continue for the launch later this week of the Dawn spacecraft to explore two members of the Asteroid Belt. Dawn is now scheduled to be launched between 7:25 and 7:54 AM EDT on Thursday, September 27, 2007 after weather today interrupted the planned completion of launch vehicle fueling. The spacecraft will be launched from Space Launch Complex 17B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, USA using the Delta 2925H launch vehicle.

The launch period between September 26 and October 15, 2007 will allow Dawn to reach both Asteroid Vesta and recently reclassified dwarf planet Ceres as planned. Dawn has been repeatedly postponed due to a slew of other mission launches this summer and fall. These delays follow the cancellation and surprise reinstatement of the mission after earlier cost concerns were capped and technical issues were addressed.

The Dawn mission is unique because a single spacecraft will enter orbit around two separate bodies. Dawn will use an advanced ion propulsion system to enter orbit around Vesta in 2011 and then Ceres in 2014. Vesta and Ceres are the two largest objects in the Asteroid Belt and are expected to give planetary scientists a glimpse at the early history of the solar system. Scientists believe Vesta and Ceres have had very different histories despite similar beginnings.

NASA TV will broadcast the launch live.

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Richard Leis

Richard Leis is a writer and poet living in Tucson, Arizona. His poetry has been published in Impossible Archetype. His essays about fairy tales and technology have been published on Tiny Donkey and Fairy Tale Review’s “Fairy-Tale Files“.