After a spectacular launch, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft was placed by the Minotaur V launch vehicle into an elliptic orbit around Earth, as the start of our journey to the moon. After adjusting some fault protection settings to enable the reaction wheels, mission controllers at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., successfully completed the initial systems checkout phase, and everything looks good so far. This checkout included spacecraft acquisition, tracking, and ranging by all the ground stations. The propulsion system also was activated to do a momentum dump, which means that the spacecraft spin and the reaction wheel spins were reduced together to a nominal state.
LADEE is doing fine and its trajectory to the moon is good. The LADEE spacecraft is currently in an elliptical orbit around Earth, about 162,000 miles (260,000 Km) in altitude. Mission controllers are now performing an extended checkout phase including guidance, navigation and control characterization, reaction control system tests, and on-board controller tuning.
The spacecraft was at the highest point in the current orbit (apogee) at 9:30 a.m. PDT, Tuesday Sept. 10. Then it will drop back down to a closest approach to Earth (perigee) at 9:38 a.m. PDT on Friday, Sept. 13, where we will perform an engine burn to boost its orbit.
LADEE will continue with two more of these elliptical orbits until it is captured around the moon to do its initial Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI-1) burn on Sunday Oct. 6th. After that we are in lunar orbit. This LOI burn is one of the most critical phases of the mission, because without it working we do not get into lunar orbit.