ANN ARBOR, MI, Nov. 6, 2014 — 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 a decade after launch and over three years since entering orbit around Mercury. 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 over a decade ago.
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, extending the mission for the third time in this manner on October 24, with one more orbit-raising rocket burn planned in the future. 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.
For more information on MESSENGER: http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/index.php
For more information on FIPS: http://www.sprl.umich.edu/projects/FIPS/