[meteorite-list] LADEE Instruments Healthy and Ready for Science
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Wed, 4 Dec 2013 15:39:14 -0800 (PST)
LADEE Instruments Healthy and Ready for Science
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
December 4, 2013
Now in orbit around the moon, NASA's newest lunar mission has completed
the commissioning phase, and its science instruments have passed their
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), launched Sept.
6, 2013, carries three science instruments designed to 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 these characteristics of our nearest celestial neighbor
will help researchers understand other bodies in the solar system, such
as large asteroids, Mercury, and the moons of outer planets.
"This is very promising for LADEE's science phase - we are already seeing
the shape of things to come," said Rick Elphic, LADEE project scientist
at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., the center that
is managing the mission.
The mission's commissioning phase lasted roughly one month, a period in
which the spacecraft remained in a high-altitude preliminary orbit and
the instruments were turned on, checked and calibrated.
All three science instruments are in good health, according to the mission's
payloads manager, Robert Caffrey at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
in Greenbelt, Md. "The sensitivity of the instruments is very high, and
we are looking forward to an exciting science phase!"
The Lunar Dust Experiment (LDEX), built to collect and analyze lunar dust
particles in the moon's thin atmosphere, is fully operational. The instrument
recorded its first dust hit within minutes after its cover was deployed
on Oct. 16. In subsequent orbits, LDEX observed dozens of dust particles,
indicating an impact rate on the order of one hit per minute. Preliminary
analysis suggests the particle sizes are much smaller than one micrometer
The Ultraviolet and Visible Light Spectrometer (UVS), designed to probe
the composition of the lunar atmosphere, made its first measurements shortly
after the telescope door opened on Oct. 16. The instrument has been performing
as expected and has conducted a series of pointing and instrument-performance
calibrations, including looking at the limb of the moon and performing
solar crossings by aiming the solar viewer at the sun and panning back
The Neutral Mass Spectrometer (NMS), which will measure variations in
the lunar atmosphere over multiple lunar orbits, is operating normally.
One of the first steps in getting the NMS ready for science measurements
was to remove the cover of the instrument and expose the mass spectrometer
to the lunar atmosphere. To do this, a pyrotechnic device was commanded
to fire, breaking a ceramic to metal to ceramic seal, and the cover flew
away from the spacecraft. Sensors on the spacecraft detected a small amount
of motion caused by this event, and measurements made before and after
the cover deployment showed that trapped calibration gases had indeed
been released to space.
In addition to the three science instruments, LADEE includes a Lunar Laser
Communication Demonstration (LLCD) payload. LLCD has made history using
a pulsed laser beam to transmit data over the 239,000 miles between the
moon and Earth at a record-breaking download rate of 622 megabits per
second (Mbps). LLCD is NASA's first system for two-way communication using
a laser instead of radio waves. It also has demonstrated an error-free
data upload rate of 20 Mbps transmitted from the primary ground station
in New Mexico to the spacecraft currently orbiting the moon.
"LLCD's goal is to validate and build confidence in the technology, so
that future missions will consider using it," said Don Cornwell, LLCD
manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "The unique
ability developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln
Laboratory has incredible possibilities."
In addition to LLCD, LADEE marks several other firsts. The mission is
the first flight of a spacecraft developed at Ames, the first spacecraft
launched on a U.S. Air Force Minotaur V rocket integrated by Orbital Sciences
Corp., and the first deep-space mission to launch from NASA's Wallops
Flight Facility in Virginia.
Now that the commissioning phase has ended, LADEE has lowered its orbit
to get closer to the lunar surface and begin its 100-day science mission.
NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington funds the LADEE mission;
a cooperative effort led by Ames, which manages the mission, built the
spacecraft and performs mission operations. Goddard manages the science
instruments and technology demonstration payload, and the science operations
center. Wallops was responsible for launch vehicle integration, launch
services, and launch range operations. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center
in Huntsville, Ala., manages LADEE within the Lunar Quest Program Office.
Received on Wed 04 Dec 2013 06:39:14 PM PST