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LAT to Rendezvous with Spacecraft

(Image - GLAST at NRL)The Large Area Telescope (LAT) instrument successfully survived an onslaught of outer space and launch conditions at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington, D.C.

The instrument, assembled at SLAC and sent to NRL in May for environmental testing, will begin its journey to Arizona tomorrow morning. There, General Dynamics C4 Systems will install LAT onto the spacecraft that will keep LAT in near-earth orbit and provide it with power and communications.

LAT, the spacecraft and a second instrument make up GLAST, the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope, whose mission is to map gamma rays throughout the universe and probe the nature of dark matter, the collapse of massive stars, and the powerful radiation from supermassive black holes.

Forty SLAC researchers visited NRL this summer to help run the barrage of tests. The last test took place in the huge thermal vacuum chamber affectionately known as “Big Blue,” which simulates the vacuum conditions of space as well as the extreme temperatures.

A smaller group of SLAC and other researchers will support the final rounds of testing at General Dynamics. Then LAT will make yet another cross-country journey to Kennedy Space Center in Florida to be launched in the fall of 2007.

"This is my first space experiment, and it was amazing to me that the LAT detector worked so well during environmental testing," said SLAC experimental physicist Larry Wai. "This success is a tribute to the hard work of LAT personnel at NRL during the testing, as well as the many years of dedicated effort by the whole LAT team."

GLAST is an international collaboration led by NASA and the Department of Energy.

—Heather Rock Woods
    SLAC Today, September 15, 2006

Above image: The LAT enters the Thermal Vacuum Chamber "Big Blue" for environmental testing at NRL. (Click on image for larger image.)