NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) Observatory sits beside a radio frequency antenna inside an enclosure that blocks external static to detect electromagnetic emissions. Image credit: NASA Ames Engineers at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., recently completed the initial electromagnetic interference tests of NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) Observatory. LADEE is a robotic mission that will orbit the moon to gather detailed information about the lunar atmosphere, conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust.
Now that all of the science instruments are integrated onto the spacecraft, testing electromagnetic interference determines whether the various spacecraft systems and science instruments will interfere with each other either by emission or absorption of electromagnetic forces. Although each spacecraft system goes through individual testing, only a test of the complete observatory can show problems missed by earlier tests. So far, LADEE has received a clean bill of health and all systems work together harmoniously.
The electromagnetic interference tests are the beginning of a variety of tests aimed to simulate the conditions LADEE will face during launch and operation in space. These tests include acoustic (the loud roar of the rocket), vibration (the shaking of the rocket), shock (the jolt when stages of the rocket separate), and thermal-vacuum (the hot and cold vacuum conditions of deep space). Engineers plan to begin the acoustic and vibration tests at specialized facilities in December 2012, so LADEE is being prepared for shipment from Ames to Southern California.
Thankfully, the impact of Hurricane Sandy on NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia where LADEE is scheduled to launch in August 2013 was minimal and will not affect the mission.