Michigan Aerospace provided mechanical design and analysis for key instrument

ANN ARBOR, MI, April 7, 2015 — Michigan Aerospace Corporation (MAC), an advanced engineering and products company, announced that the Fast Imaging Plasma Spectrometer (FIPS) aboard NASA’s MESSENGER probe continues to operate well over a decade after launch as MESSENGER passed the four-year anniversary of entering Mercury orbit on March 17. Mounted on the side of the spacecraft, FIPS observes low-energy ions coming from Mercury’s surface and its minimal atmosphere, along with ionized atoms picked up by the solar wind and other solar-wind components. Michigan Aerospace staffers, led by Mr. Greg Ritter, provided the mechanical design and analysis for the University of Michigan Space Physics Research Laboratory (SPRL) instrument. Its continued trouble-free operation is a testament to its robust design and construction by the FIPS team.

MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) is maneuvering to keep its minimum altitude high enough to avoid collision with the planet’s surface, but it is running low on the fuel used for this purpose; the most recent orbit-raising maneuver happened April 6. Orbital decay will eventually cause MESSENGER to collide with Mercury, so mission managers are using its limited fuel supply to extend the mission as long as possible, perhaps as late as through the end of April.

For more information on MESSENGER: http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/index.php

For more information on FIPS: http://www.sprl.umich.edu/projects/FIPS/