Spacecraft technicians in a clean room at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., lift NASA's LADEE observatory off of its mount to move it to a shipping container for transport. Image credit: NASA Ames
Spacecraft technicians in a clean room at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., set the LADEE observatory down onto the shipping container base and fasten in place. Image credit: NASA Ames Engineers at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., recently attached all of the solar panels to NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) observatory, and prepared to transport the observatory to the National Technical Systems mechanical testing facility in Santa Clarita, Calif. 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.
This is an important phase for the mission, because any problems with the spacecraft often are discovered during the tests. Engineers will perform a variety of tests to simulate the environment LADEE must face during its launch and operation in space, including acoustic, vibration, shock, and thermal-vacuum conditions. During the acoustic testing, which takes place first, large speakers will blast sound at the observatory to simulate the roar of the rocket at launch. The second test involves engineers mounting the observatory to a large vibration table to shake the observatory at different frequencies and accelerations and simulate the vibration of the rocket as it climbs to space. The third test simulates the shock that occurs when the rocket stages separate. Thermal-Vacuum testing, which simulates the extreme heat and cold of space, will happen after the LADEE observatory returns to Ames.
NASA used a special truck with equipment that maintains a clean environment to ship the observatory to the test facility. The observatory itself sat in a container designed to insulate it from vibration, cold, humidity and dirt. The truck's environmental control system fed clean, dry, warm gas into the observatory's transport container as it traveled to southern California. Once at the test facility, the observatory was removed from its container and prepared for testing.