LADEE is Heading For The Moon with One Small Glitch



NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) launched on time Friday night at 11:27 pm EDT aboard a Minotaur V rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The LADEE mission will orbit the Moon to gather detailed information about the lunar atmosphere, conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust.

While the launched appeared flawless, the spacecraft's onboard software commanded the reaction wheels to shutdown after the 5th stage separation. The reaction wheels are used to position and stabilize the spacecraft.

"This is not an unusual event in spacecraft," Worden said. "We plan in the next few days to complete spacecraft checkout."

"The LADEE spacecraft is working as it was designed to under these conditions - there's no indication of anything wrong with the reaction wheels or spacecraft," said S. Pete Worden, Ames center director. "The LADEE spacecraft is communicating and is very robust. The mission team has ample time to resolve this issue before the spacecraft reaches lunar orbit. We don't have to do anything in a rush."

Story updated at 1:00 p.m. ET, September 7, 2013.

NASA has confirmed that the reaction wheels of its Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) were successfully brought back on-line and the spacecraft has acquired its safe-mode attitude profile.

Last night during technical checkouts the LADEE spacecraft commanded itself to shut down the reaction wheels used to position and stabilize the spacecraft. According to the LADEE mission operations team at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., this was determined to be the result of fault protection limits put in place prior to launch to safeguard the reaction 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.

"Our engineers will determine the appropriate means of managing the reaction wheel fault protection program. Answers will be developed over time and will not hold up checkout activities," said Butler Hine, LADEE project manager.

"The initial checkout flight procedure is progressing," said S. Pete Worden, Ames center director. "The reaction wheel issue noted soon after launched was resolved a few hours later. The LADEE spacecraft is healthy and communicating with mission operators."

The spacecraft was successfully launched at 11:27 p.m. EDT Friday, Sept. 6, from Pad 0B at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va. LADEE is on its way to arrive at the moon in 30 days, then enter lunar orbit.

LADEE is managed by NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

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