NASA Tests Moon Imaging Spacecraft at Goddard

August 1, 2008
NASA Tests Moon Imaging Spacecraft at Goddard
LRO enters Goddard's vibration chamber. Credit: NASA/Debbie McCallum

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, also known as LRO, has completed the first round of environmental testing at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. These tests ensure the spacecraft is prepared for its mission to collect the highest resolution images and most comprehensive geological data set ever returned from the moon. The objective of the mission is to map the lunar surface in preparation for human missions to the moon, which are planned to occur by 2020.

The first two tests for the orbiter were the spin test and vibration test. The spin test determines the spacecraft's center of gravity and measures characteristics of its rotation. During vibration testing, engineers checked the structural integrity of the lunar probe aboard a large, shaking table that simulated the rigorous ride the orbiter will encounter during liftoff aboard an Atlas rocket.

"It is during lift-off the spacecraft will be under the most stress," said Cathy Peddie, deputy project manager for LRO at Goddard. "We want to ensure the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter can withstand the extreme conditions experienced during launch."

The next hurdle for the orbiter is approximately four days of acoustics testing during which the bagged spacecraft is placed near multistory, wall-sized speakers that simulate the noise-induced vibrations of launch. Following acoustics testing, the spacecraft will undergo a daylong test that simulates the orbiter's separation from the rocket during launch.

In late August, the spacecraft will begin approximately five weeks of thermal vacuum testing, which duplicates the extreme hot, cold and airless conditions of space. During the test, engineers will operate the orbiter and conduct simulated flight operations while the spacecraft is subjected to the extreme temperature cycles of the lunar environment.

By the end of 2008, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will be transported to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for final launch preparations. The orbiter and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, a mission to impact the moon in search of water ice, are scheduled to launch atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch window opens Feb. 27, 2009, and continues through the end of March.

The seven science instruments aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will develop highly detailed maps of the lunar surface that provide data about lunar topography, surface temperature, lighting conditions, mineralogical composition, and abundance of natural resources. Information from the robotic spacecraft will be used to select safe landing sites and assess potential outpost locations for future human missions to the moon. The spacecraft also will provide valuable information about the lunar radiation environment, enabling the development of effective mitigation strategies for human explorers.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will be in a polar orbit, unlike the Apollo missions that focused on gaining science from the area around the moon's equator. The spacecraft will spend at least a year in a low, polar orbit approximately 30 miles above the lunar surface, while the instruments work together to collect detailed information about the lunar environment.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center is building and managing the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington.

Provided by NASA

Explore further: Ice giants at opposition

Related Stories

Ice giants at opposition

August 28, 2015

It seems as if the planets are fleeing the evening sky, just as the Fall school star party season is getting underway. Venus and Mars have entered the morning sky, and Jupiter reaches solar conjunction this week. Even glorious ...

LADEE spacecraft finds neon in lunar atmosphere

August 17, 2015

The moon's thin atmosphere contains neon, a gas commonly used in electric signs on Earth because of its intense glow. While scientists have speculated on the presence of neon in the lunar atmosphere for decades, NASA's Lunar ...

Recommended for you

At Saturn, one of these rings is not like the others

September 2, 2015

When the sun set on Saturn's rings in August 2009, scientists on NASA's Cassini mission were watching closely. It was the equinox—one of two times in the Saturnian year when the sun illuminates the planet's enormous ring ...

New Horizons team selects potential Kuiper Belt flyby target

August 29, 2015

NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits ...

Prawn Nebula: Cosmic recycling

September 2, 2015

Dominating this image is part of the nebula Gum 56, illuminated by the hot bright young stars that were born within it. For millions of years stars have been created out of the gas in this nebula, material which is later ...

Image: Hubble sees a youthful cluster

August 31, 2015

Shown here in a new image taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) on board the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is the globular cluster NGC 1783. This is one of the biggest globular clusters in the Large Magellanic ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

menkaur
not rated yet Aug 05, 2008
i like moon more then mars .... somewhy ....

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.