Press Release

Northrop Grumman Completes LCROSS Thermal Vacuum Testing; Mission to Seek Water Ice At a Lunar Pole

By SpaceRef Editor
June 24, 2008
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Northrop Grumman Completes LCROSS Thermal Vacuum Testing; Mission to Seek Water Ice At a Lunar Pole

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) successfully completed one of the most critical spacecraft environmental tests on NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) two months ahead of schedule. LCROSS will be launched later this year on a mission to impact the moon in the search for water ice and water-bearing compounds in lunar craters.

LCROSS is being readied for testing the thermal vacuum chamber at Northrop Grumman Space Technology in Redondo Beach, Calif.

Thermal vacuum testing helps determine a spacecraft’s flight-worthiness. During the 13.5-day test, LCROSS was subjected to thermal cycles with temperatures reaching as high as 230 degrees Fahrenheit (110 Celsius) and as low as -40 degrees F (-40 C) while simulating launch, on-orbit turn-on, and the cruise phase to spacecraft impact on the moon.

LCROSS is now undergoing final checkout at Northrop Grumman’s manufacturing facility in Redondo Beach, Calif. It will then be readied for shipment to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for launch processing and integration onto an Atlas V rocket as a secondary payload to NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. “The fast-track development processes we’ve employed on this program have paid huge dividends in our ability to improve schedule performance, which, in turn, results in a lower cost,” said Steve Hixson, vice president of Advanced Concepts for Northrop Grumman Space Technology. “We are applying the lessons learned here to some of our other programs.”

LCROSS is a rapid response mission. NASA Ames Research Center awarded the contract to design and build LCROSS to Northrop Grumman in June 2006, and the company plans to have the spacecraft ready for delivery in just 25 months, two months ahead of the original 27 month schedule.

LCROSS consists of two main components, an expended Centaur upper stage and the Northrop Grumman-built Shepherding Spacecraft. On approach to the Moon, the Shepherding Spacecraft will position the upper stage for a precision impact, then separate and perform a braking maneuver in order to observe the upper stage’s impact into the Moon using NASA-Ames’ on-board sensor payload. The impact will create a plume higher than 10 kilometers from the Moon’s surface that may be visible from Earth by amateur astronomers, given viewing conditions.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a global defense and technology company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide.

SpaceRef staff editor.