Posted: Monday, March 3, 2008
Pasadena Firm Provides Key Elements of LCROSS Lunar Mission Science Payload
A collaboration between entrepreneurial space firm Ecliptic Enterprises Corporation and the NASA Ames Research Center reached a notable milestone in mid-January with final acceptance of the Ames-developed science payload for the LCROSS lunar mission and its shipment to Northrop Grumman Space Technology (NYSE:NOC) in Redondo Beach, CA, for integration and testing with the LCROSS spacecraft there starting in late February.
The NASA-funded Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite mission is designed to impact the LCROSS spacecraft (and a large upper stage from the Atlas 5 rocket that launches it) into a permanently shadowed crater at the Moon's south pole in early 2009. LCROSS and another NASA spacecraft, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, will be launched by the same Atlas 5 in winter 2008. On contract to Ames, Ecliptic supplied the core avionics control unit -- the Data Handling Unit (DHU) -- that will be used during the LCROSS mission to control and route data from all nine onboard remote-sensing science instruments, including one of Ecliptic's RocketCam color video cameras.
Employing an active, pre-defined and extensively rehearsed sequence stored in and executed by the DHU, the LCROSS science payload will first observe the Atlas 5 upper stage impact into the crater, followed a few minutes later by direct observations of the 250-metric-ton plume of material ejected from the crater by this first impact as it meets the incoming LCROSS spacecraft about 10 km above the lunar surface. Finally, LCROSS will capture its own demise as it, too, impacts the same crater. Live RocketCam video and science data will be beamed back to Earth-bound viewers throughout this approximately 9-hour sequence of events. Numerous terrestrial and space-based telescopes should be able to observe the impacts as well.
"LCROSS and its payload will give us a truly unique view of the impact event. Never farther than 600 km from the impact itself, and closing in fast, the suite of LCROSS instruments will characterize the impact, ejecta and resulting crater with unmatched sensitivity and resolution," said LCROSS Principal Investigator and Ames planetary scientist Dr. Tony Colaprete. "Furthermore, the method by which this payload was developed, working with existing commercially available instrumentation and hardware, bringing it to flight qualification in extremely rapid fashion, made this payload possible in the first place."
Ecliptic and Ames entered into a joint Memorandum of Understanding in summer 2007 to collaborate on projects involving onboard imaging systems for rockets and spacecraft, small space payloads, related data-transport and data-processing technologies and novel government-business models for enabling expanded entrepreneurial space activity. Ecliptic was one of the first entrepreneurial space firms to co-locate an office next to selected Ames staff at Ames' "Space Portal" building in the nearby Moffett Research Park, which was specifically outfitted and staffed in 2006 to facilitate collaboration between NASA and the emerging entrepreneurial space community
"We're pleased to have the opportunity to work closely with Ecliptic. Combining their innovation and flexibility with the resources of NASA Ames is, we believe, a winning combination," commented Dr. Dan Rasky, Director of the Ames Space Portal.
About Ecliptic Enterprises Corporation: Ecliptic is the world's leading supplier of onboard video systems for use with rockets and spacecraft-its RocketCam(TM) product family-and enjoys a strong customer base in commercial, civil and defense markets. RocketCam fans should expect to see on average one launch per month for the next several years. The privately held firm's core competencies include space systems engineering, aerospace avionics, instrument systems and aerospace test equipment, and its technical staff has a broad range of direct experience on over 85 space missions, including several low-cost missions involving small satellites. Ecliptic has offices in Pasadena and Moffett Field, California. See more at http://www.eclipticenterprises.com/.
RocketCam(TM) is a trademark of Ecliptic Enterprises Corporation.
Ecliptic Enterprises Corporation
(626) 798-2436 x403
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