Friday, August 26, 2011

GRAIL set for early September lift-off

Using a precision formation-flying technique, beginning in January 2012, the twin GRAIL spacecraft will map the moon's gravity field.

The twin GRAIL lunar probes are set to launch aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), September 8. That date offers two instantaneous launch windows, at 12:37:06 and and 13:16:12 UT, beginning an optimal launch period (last for a Delta II at the Cape) extending through October 19 when launch windows open approximately four minutes earlier each consecutive day.

The twin GRAIL, developed at JPL originally as a "precursor mission" in support of goals for the defunct Constellation program, are designed to more precisely determine the Moon's interior composition, "from crust to core," and to advance understanding of the Moon's thermal evolution.

A prelaunch news conference is scheduled at the Kennedy Space Center's Press Site, Tuesday, September 6, at 1700 UT. Scheduled to participate in the briefing are Ed Weiler, Science Mission Directorate, NASA HQ; Tim Dunn, KSC launch director; Vernon Thorp, NASA Missions program manager, United Launch Alliance; David Lehman, GRAIL project manager, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena; John Henk, GRAIL program manager for Lockheed Martin and Joel Tumbiolo, launch weather officer, 45th Weather Squadron, CCAFS

A GRAIL mission science briefing at the KSC Press Site is scheduled Wednesday, September 7, at 1400 UT, Participating in that briefing are Robert Fogel, GRAIL program scientist, NASA Washington; Maria Zuber, GRAIL principal investigator, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Sami Asmar, GRAIL deputy project scientist, JPL and Sally Ride, president and CEO of Sally Ride Science of San Diego

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