Expendable Launch Vehicle Status Report
NASA's Discovery program of low-cost, science-focused space exploration missions got a major boost Tuesday evening with the successful launch of Lunar Prospector. At the current time, all spacecraft systems are operational and Lunar Prospector is on its way to the Moon.
The compact spacecraft, atop a Lockheed Martin Athena II launch vehicle, roared off Spaceport Florida's pad 46 at the new, commercial launch complex at Cape Canaveral, FL, on schedule at 9:28:44 p.m. EST (6:28:44 p.m. PST), less than one second into the opening of today's launch window.
The launch vehicle's three stages worked as planned, rocketing the craft to an altitude of 62,500 feet after 88 seconds at Stage 1 burnout. All additional milestones were achieved on schedule during the remainder of the ascent phase, culminating in attainment of a successful "parking orbit" around the Earth at an altitude of 125 statute miles.
After completing almost three-quarters of a revolution around the Earth, the vehicle's Trans Lunar Injection (TLI) stage completed a successful 64 second burn, blasting the small spacecraft out of Earth orbit and setting the spin-stabilized vehicle on its 105 hour "coasting" mission to the Moon.
Telemetry and tracking data were acquired on schedule at launch (T) plus 6 minutes and 20 seconds at Antigua, at T + 20 minutes and 23 seconds at Ascension, and at T + 51 minutes and 40 seconds at Australia. Deep Space Network data acquisition at Goldstone, CA occurred at T + 1 hour and 18 minutes, as scheduled. Payload separation from the third stage of the launch vehicle was successful completed at T + 55 minutes and 15 seconds. Spacecraft turn-on was accomplished 56 minutes and 30 seconds after launch.
Lunar Prospector will conduct a one-year primary mission, mapping the surface composition and internal structure, volatile activity, and magnetic and gravity fields of the Moon from an altitude of approximately 63 miles. Additional mapping at altitudes as low as 6 miles above the lunar surface is planned over the following 6 months. Lunar Prospector is expected to provide definitive evidence of the presence or absence of water ice in the shaded lunar polar regions.
The Lunar Prospector spacecraft was built for NASA by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space, Sunnyvale, CA. The Athena II launch vehicle was provided by Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, CO. Science instruments and other important contributions were provided by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the U.C. Berkeley Space Science Laboratory, the University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD and Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA. Alan Binder of the Lunar Research Institute, Gilroy, CA is the Principal Investigator. The Lunar Prospector mission manager is Scott Hubbard of NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA.
Status reports are available at: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/launchingrockets/status/index. html
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