Core Facts

  • NASA's Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft are the first steps in NASA's plan to return humans to the moon.
  • The LCROSS spacecraft was built and integrated by Northrop Grumman under contract to NASA Ames Research Center and was available for acceptance in 29 months. The total mission cost is $79 million.
  • The LCROSS payload was developed, integrated and tested by NASA Ames Research Center.
  • LCROSS was built using an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) secondary payload adapter, or ESA ring, as the spacecraft structure, and costs were kept low by reusing existing hardware/hardware designs and commercial-off-the-shelf products.
  • LCROSS is a short duration mission. The LCROSS spacecraft will shepherd the Earth departure upper stage of the Atlas V rocket,  upon which it will be launched, to impact the moon to help confirm  the presence of water ice in a permanently shadowed lunar crater  and to characterize other regolith properties within the crater.
  • LCROSS's impact will create a greater than 250-metric-ton plume of ejecta reaching as high as 6.2 miles (10 km) above the target crater's rim.
  • The impact will be visible to space- and land-based observatories  in Hawaii and the continental U.S.
  • The LCROSS template represents a new generation of fast development missions designed to achieve focused mission goals.


  • "LCROSS is a faster, cheaper and good enough spacecraft." -- Steve Hixson, vice president of Advanced Concepts, Space & Directed Energy Systems for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems sector
  • "There was a time when developing the LCROSS spacecraft and instrument payload was thought improbable at best ...that we'd be fortunate to merely bust our budget, let alone successfully build a spacecraft in time." -- Dan Andrews, LCROSS project manager for NASA Ames Research Center
  • LRO/LCROSS is our first important step to knowing the moon as well as we know Mars."  -- Rick Gilbrech, former Associate Administrator, NASA ESMD
  • "Congratulations to LCROSS on your innovative approaches and tactics." -- Michael Griffin, former NASA Administrator NASA-HQ
  • "I would like to see an LCROSS-like science mission every year. NASA should pursue a common architecture/bus for doing this." -- Alan Stern, former Director of the Science Mission Directorate for NASA-HQ
  • "LCROSS is the simplest spacecraft we've ever had to process here at Astrotech." -- Gerard Gleeson, Lead Planner for Astrotech Space Operations


  • Northrop Grumman is a leader in space exploration and has built many of NASA's smallest, and largest, spacecraft.  The company is leading an industrial team for NASA as the prime contractor for the James Webb Space Telescope, which will be launched in 2014.
  • Northrop Grumman is leveraging 50 years of flight heritage to provide fast turnaround, low-cost solutions with a user focus, like LCROSS, to meet customer requirements.
  • Northrop Grumman Corporation is a leading global security company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information systems, shipbuilding and technical services to government and commercial customers worldwide.