NASA Robotic Moon Mission Aims for Late-Night Launch Sept. 6
Tonight's NASA rocket launch will send into space the first spacecraft designed and built at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. The nighttime launch will also be visible across much of the East Coast.NASA's launch of its Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft, a robotic vehicle that is being sent to Earth's moon to conduct research about the moon's surface and dust, is expected to get under way at 11:27 p.m. EDT Sept. 6 when its booster rocket is set to be ignited. The launch of LADEE is notable for several key reasons—the LADEE spacecraft is the first ever to be designed, developed, built, integrated and tested at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., and its nighttime launch from Virginia is expected to be viewable in the night sky across much of the East Coast, according to NASA. It's NASA's first lunar launch from a pad in Virginia. The LADEE robotic spacecraft will be sent to the moon atop a U.S. Air Force Minotaur V rocket, which is essentially a ballistic missile converted into a space launch vehicle, according to NASA. The launch is being done by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va. The LADEE project is a robotic research mission that will orbit the moon to gather detailed information about the structure and composition of the thin lunar atmosphere and determine whether dust is being lofted into the lunar sky, according to NASA. A map of the potential viewing areas along the East Coast and instructions on how to spot the rocket as it is launched can be found on Orbital's Website.
The launch will take place at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's Pad 0B at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va., with an expected launch time of 11:27 p.m. EDT. A 4-minute "window" of time will be available for the launch. The launch would have to be rescheduled for another time between Sept. 7 to 10 if the launch window can't be met, NASA stated.