NASA Launches First Moon Rocket From Mid-Atlantic Spaceport

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2013-09-09 Print this article Print

In fact, the next major launch from MARS will take place Sept. 17 when an Antares rocket carries a new Cygnus cargo vehicle to the International Space Station. The Antares launch vehicle and the Cygnus craft are significantly larger than the Minotaur V. The Antares and Cygnus are also built and launched by Orbital Sciences.

The LADEE spacecraft is the first mission in NASA's Modular Common Spacecraft Bus project, which is a way to produce a common design for the basic structure of the spacecraft. The idea is to reduce the cost of spacecraft, improve reliability and flexibility and effectively allow more launches. The basic bus would be configured with standard add-on components, including landing gear, thrusters or solar arrays. The result is to effectively leverage a common design and common components to produce a spacecraft capable of multiple missions.

The LADEE spacecraft suffered one glitch after launch when the reaction wheels shut down. The reaction wheels are used to position and stabilize the spacecraft by taking advantage of the reaction that results from braking or speeding up spinning wheels located inside the spacecraft. The reaction wheel operation returned to normal following a series of radio commands the day after the launch.

The LADEE/Minotaur V mission marked a number of firsts for NASA. This was the first deep-space mission launched from Wallops Island. It was the first flight of the Minotaur V launch vehicle and the first night launch visible to so many people. Thousands of people jammed the viewing areas near Wallops Island, crowding causeways, public highways, parks and bridges. eWEEK readers reported seeing the launch from the steps of the U.S. Capitol building, apartment and parking garage roofs in the Washington suburbs as well as from locations as far north as New Jersey and on New York's Long Island.

Most launches from the Mid-Atlantic Spaceport are open to the public with viewing areas that provide information and countdown clocks on launch day. Normally, the viewing areas are on Chincoteague Island and the Assateague Island National Seashore in nearby Maryland.

Daytime launches are less spectacular but more frequent, but launch timing is determined by orbital physics. The increased emphasis on MARS as a launch site for significant missions is partly budgetary, according to a NASA spokesman. But he said that the agency has a variety of reasons, including the growth of commercial launch capacity for expanding beyond its traditional Florida launch sites.



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