REDONDO BEACH, Calif., June 23, 2009 -- The Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC)-built Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) successfully completed a critical swing-by maneuver of the moon at 5:20 a.m. PDT on June 23. This maneuver puts LCROSS, built under contract to NASA Ames Research Center, on a trajectory to complete its mission to search for water ice on moon in early October.
LCROSS calibrated its NASA Ames-built science instruments during the swing-by, which put it into a long looping polar orbit around the Earth and moon. The orbit, called a Lunar Gravity Assist, Lunar Return Orbit (LGALRO), will be roughly perpendicular to the moon's orbit around Earth and will take about 37 days to complete. LCROSS will make approximately three LGALRO orbits before impact.
LCROSS was launched June 18 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, along with NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).
"LCROSS has been a fantastic mission," said Craig Elder, LCROSS spacecraft program manager for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems sector. "It came together very quickly, was built on a modest budget and delivered in a very short time frame, just 29 months. Most importantly, it will produce high value science data critical to the nation's quest to return humans to the moon and beyond."
Northrop Grumman built LCROSS quickly using an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adaptor ring as the spacecraft support structure, commercial-off-the-shelf technology, duplicates of systems built for LRO and a sophisticated risk management system.
The first step in NASA's plan to return humans to the moon, LCROSS is on an impact mission in search for water ice and hydrated materials in permanently shadowed craters that could be a resource for lunar outposts. It consists of a shepherding spacecraft and a spent upper stage Centaur.
The exact target crater will be identified by NASA Ames 30 days before impact. The final crater selection will include consideration of information collected by LRO, other spacecraft orbiting the moon, and observatories on Earth. During the four short minutes before its lunar impact, data will be collected and streamed to LCROSS mission operations for analysis.
The LCROSS science team will lead a coordinated observation campaign that includes LRO, the Hubble Space Telescope, observatories on Hawaii's Mauna Kea and amateur astronomers around the world.
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