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Sunday, December 02, 2007

GLAST Satellite Arrives At Naval Research Lab for Testing

NASA's Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) has arrived at the Naval Research
Laboratory (NRL) in Washington, for its final round of testing.

The GLAST spacecraft has successfully completed two of its three environmental tests at the prime contractor, General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems in Gilbert, Ariz. These tests included exposure to extreme vibrations and electromagnetic fields. "We've completed two of the big three tests, and now we're going to the NRL to perform the third," says GLAST project manager Kevin Grady of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

On Nov. 26, the spacecraft began its drive across the country in a specially modified truck. GLAST arrived at NRL on November 28. At NRL, the spacecraft will undergo thermal and vacuum testing to ensure that it can survive the 90-degree F (50-degree C) temperature swings it will experience in Earth orbit.

"Although gamma rays can travel billions of light-years across the universe, they can't penetrate Earth's atmosphere, so we must launch our instruments into space. We need to ensure the observatory can function in the space environment, and that is the main goal of the testing about to take place," says GLAST project scientist Steve Ritz of NASA Goddard.

After GLAST finishes the thermal-vac testing, it will be trucked or flown to Cape Canaveral, Fla. There, the solar arrays and flight battery will be added to the spacecraft, and it will be fueled with propellant. The launch, aboard a Delta II Heavy rocket, is scheduled for no earlier than May 29, 2008.

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