Glitch resolved, NASA probe on its way to the moon

20.09.2013 15:45

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) -
Engineers have resolved a minor glitch with a
new NASA robotic lunar probe, which blasted
off Friday night for the first leg of a 30-day
trip to the moon.
Shortly after the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust
Environment Explorer, or LADEE, spacecraft
separated from its Minotaur 5 launch vehicle,
its positioning system shut down due to what
appeared to be a high electrical current.
Engineers quickly determined there was no
problem with the reaction wheels, which are
needed to steer and stabilize the spacecraft.
Rather, the glitch involved a fault protection
system designed to safeguard the wheels.
"The limits that caused the powering off of
the wheels soon after activation were
disabled, and reaction wheel fault protection
has been selectively re-enabled," NASA
wrote in a statement posted on its website.
Engineers will assess how to manage the
fault protection system, added project
manager Butler Hine, with NASA's Ames
Research Center in Moffett Field, California.
LADEE blasted off aboard the Minotaur 5
rocket, which was making its debut flight, at
11:27 p.m. EDT/0327 GMT on Saturday from
the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at
NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops
Island, Virginia.
The rocket, made up of three
decommissioned intercontinental ballistic
missile motors and two commercial boosters,
deposited LADEE into a highly elliptical orbit
stretching as far as 170,000 miles from Earth.
During its third pass around the planet,
LADEE will be in position to fire its braking
rocket and slip into lunar orbit.
A 30-day checkout of the probe's science
instruments will follow. Engineers also will
test a prototype two-way optical laser
communications system that NASA is
developing for use on future space probes.
LADEE's main mission is to analyze the thin
shell of gases enveloping the lunar surface, a
tenuous atmosphere known as an exosphere.
It also will look for signs that the lunar dust
rising off the surface.
Scientists believe the dust may be the cause
of a strange glow on the lunar horizon
spotted by the Apollo astronauts and NASA's
1960s-era Ranger robotic probes.
LADEE was the first deep-space probe to fly
from the Wallops Island spaceport. On
September 17, Orbital Sciences Corp. (NYSE:
ORB) is scheduled to launch its Antares
rocket and Cygnus cargo capsule on a trial
run to the International Space Station for
The station, a project of 15 countries, flies
about 250 miles above Earth.