Space

November 22, 2013

NASA spacecraft begins collecting lunar atmosphere data

NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer is ready to begin collecting science data about the moon.

On Nov. 20, the spacecraft successfully entered its planned orbit around the moon’s equator — a unique position allowing the small probe to make frequent passes from lunar day to lunar night. This will provide a full scope of the changes and processes occurring within the moon’s tenuous atmosphere.

LADEE now orbits the moon about every two hours at an altitude of eight to 37 miles above the moon’s surface. For about 100 days, the spacecraft will gather detailed information about the structure and composition of the thin lunar atmosphere and determine whether dust is being lofted into the lunar sky.

“A thorough understanding of the characteristics of our lunar neighbor will help researchers understand other small bodies in the solar system, such as asteroids, Mercury, and the moons of outer planets,” said Sarah Noble, LADEE program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Scientists also will be able to study the conditions in the atmosphere during lunar sunrise and sunset, where previous crewed and robotic missions detected a mysterious glow of rays and streamers reaching high into the lunar sky.

On Nov. 20, flight controllers in the LADEE Mission Operations Center at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., confirmed LADEE performed a crucial burn of its orbit control system to lower the spacecraft into its optimal position to enable science collection. Mission managers will continuously monitor the spacecraft’s altitude and make adjustments as necessary.

“Due to the lumpiness of the moon’s gravitational field, LADEE’s orbit requires significant maintenance activity with maneuvers taking place as often as every three to five days, or as infrequently as once every two weeks,” said Butler Hine, LADEE project manager at Ames. “LADEE will perform regular orbital maintenance maneuvers to keep the spacecraft’s altitude within a safe range above the surface that maximizes the science return.”

In addition to science instruments, the spacecraft carried the Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration, NASA’s first high-data-rate laser communication system. It is designed to enable satellite communication at rates similar to those of high-speed fiber optic networks on Earth. The system was tested successfully during the commissioning phase of the mission, while LADEE was still at a higher altitude.

LADEE was launched Sept. 6 on a U.S. Air Force Minotaur V, an excess ballistic missile converted into a space launch vehicle and operated by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va. LADEE is the first spacecraft designed, developed, built, integrated and tested at Ames. It also was the first probe launched beyond Earth orbit from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia coast.

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington funds the LADEE mission. Ames manages the overall mission and serves as a base for mission operations and real-time control of the probe. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the science instruments and technology demonstration payload, the science operations center and overall mission support. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages LADEE within the Lunar Quest Program Office.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
NASA photograph by Carla Thomas

Katherine Lott awarded NASA Armstrong employee scholarship

NASA photograph by Carla Thomas Katherine Lott, the recipient of the 2014 NASA Armstrong Employee Exchange Council Joseph R. Vensel Memorial Scholarship, is congratulated by NASA Armstrong center director David McBride. Flankin...
 
 
NASA Earth Observatory photograph

NASA selects instruments to track climate impact on vegetation

NASA Earth Observatory photograph Two new spaceborne Earth-observing instruments will help scientists better understand how global forests and ecosystems are affected by changes in climate and land use change. This image of the...
 
 
ULA photograph

AF launches successful satellite mission

ULA photograph The Automated Navigation and Guidance Experiment for Local Space satellite, an Air Force Research Laboratory experimental satellite, and two Air Force Space Command Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Prog...
 

 
NASA photograph by Ken Ulbrich

NASA’s Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan vists Armstrong Flight Research Center

NASA photograph by Ken Ulbrich Surrounded by small remotely piloted aircraft, Albion Bowers explains to Ellen Stofan how technologies are tested on small platforms prior to full scale tests. NASA’s chief scientist Ellen S...
 
 
NASA/JPL-Caltech image

NASA’s Mars spacecraft maneuvers to prepare for close comet flyby

NASA/JPL-Caltech image This graphic depicts the orbit of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring as it swings around the sun in 2014. On Oct. 19, the comet will have a very close pass at Mars. Its nucleus will miss Mars by about 82,000 m...
 
 
Image courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Satellite study reveals parched U.S. West using up underground water

Image courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation The Colorado River Basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet of freshwater over the past nine years, according to a new study based on data from NASA’s GRACE mission. This is almost d...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>