New American Rocket Making Launch Debut with Friday Moon Shot By Mike Wall, Senior Writer at Space.com
A Minotaur V rocket will carry NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer spacecraft (LADEE) on its maiden launch, which is slated to take place Friday at 11:27 p.m. EDT (0327 GMT) from the space agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
The first three stages of the Minotaur V (and the Minotaur IV) are solid rocket motors recycled from decommissioned Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missiles. The fourth and fifth stages are commercial Star motors, which are also flight-proven, [Wallops launch manager Doug] Voss said.
The $280 million LADEE mission aims to study lunar dust and the moon’s wispy atmosphere from orbit using three science instruments.
[Space.com] Editor’s note: Weather permitting, Friday’s launch could be visible across wide regions of the U.S. East Coast.
What is LADEE
NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (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. A thorough understanding of these characteristics will address long-standing unknowns, and help scientists understand other planetary bodies as well.
The LADEE spacecraft’s modular common spacecraft bus, or body, is an innovative way of transitioning away from custom designs and toward multi-use designs and assembly-line production, which could drastically reduce the cost of spacecraft development, just as the Ford Model T did for automobiles. NASA’s Ames Research Center designed, developed, built and tested the spacecraft.
Image Credit: NASA Wallops/Jackie Adkins