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November 13, 2012
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. -- At Astrotech, the Dawn spacecraft has been wrapped with a protective cover before it is enclosed in a canister. Dawn will be transported to Launch Pad 17-B and lifted into the mobile service tower for mating with the Delta II launch vehicle. 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 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/George Shelton

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