MAP spacecraft in Florida for launch preparations
Posted: May 6, 2001

NASA's Microwave Anisotropy Probe (MAP) arrived April 20 at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida from the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The spacecraft will undergo final readiness preparations for its upcoming launch this summer aboard a Boeing Delta 2 launch vehicle.

MAP in the SAEF-2 building. Photo: NASA-KSC
Using a scanning method, MAP will make an accurate, precise, full sky picture of cosmic microwave background radiation, the afterglow of the Big Bang. MAP seeks to answer fundamental questions about the formation and fate of the universe. Among the questions MAP will attempt to answer: How old is the universe? How and when did the first galaxies form? Will the universe expand forever or will it collapse? How rapidly is the universe expanding?

Upon arrival at Kennedy Space Center, MAP was taken to the Spacecraft and Encapsulation Facility-2 (SAEF-2), a payload processing facility located in the KSC Industrial Area. Several milestones must be completed while MAP is at SAEF-2 including antenna installations, solar array installation, solar array deployment and illumination testing, a spacecraft comprehensive performance test, fueling with hydrazine propellant, and a spin balance test. MAP will then be ready for integration with the solid propellant Payload Assist Module upper stage booster.

MAP is scheduled to be transported from SAEF-2 to Space Launch Complex 17 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station June 19 where it will be hoisted atop the Boeing Delta 2 launch vehicle at Pad 17B. The protective fairing will be installed around the spacecraft on June 26. Launch is currently targeted to occur on June 30 at 4 p.m. EDT.

MAP will be rocketed into a lunar-assisted trajectory to the Sun-Earth for a 27-month mission. The MAP instrument consists of a set of passively cooled microwave radiometers with 1.4- x 1.6-meter diameter primary reflectors to provide the desired angular resolution. MAP measures small fluctuations in the temperature of the cosmic microwave background radiation to an accuracy of one millionth of a degree. These measurements should reveal the size, matter content, age, geometry and fate of the universe. They will also reveal the primordial structure that grew to form galaxies and will test ideas about the origins of these primordial structures. The MAP instrument will be continuously shaded from the Sun, Earth, and Moon by the spacecraft. It is a product of Goddard Space Flight Center in partnership with Princeton University.