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November 13, 2012
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. -- On Launch Pad 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the second stage of the Delta II launch vehicle for the Dawn spacecraft is lowered into the hole toward the Delta first stage below. The two stages will be mated. The Delta II-Heavy, manufactured by the United Launch Alliance, is scheduled to launch the Dawn spacecraft on its 4-year flight to the asteroid belt. The Delta II-Heavy is the strongest rocket in the Delta II class. It will use three stages and nine solid-fueled booster rockets to propel Dawn on its way. A 9.5-foot payload fairing will protect the spacecraft from the heat and stresses of launch. Dawn's goal is to characterize the conditions and processes of the solar system's earliest epoch by investigating in detail the largest protoplanets that have remained intact since their formations: asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres. They reside in the extensive zone between Mars and Jupiter together with many other smaller bodies, called the asteroid belt. Dawn is scheduled to launch July 7. Photo credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller

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