Wednesday, November 6, 2013

LADEE transitioning out of commissioning phase

LADEE in lunar orbit
Dana Berry's concept of the NASA Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) in low lunar orbit [NASA/ARC].
Rick Elphic
LADEE Project Scientist

Things are going very well on LADEE.  We've spent the last few weeks, following lunar orbit insertion, splitting our efforts between the laser communication (LLCD) demonstration activities and science instrument commissioning.

The lasercomm (Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration, LLCD) activities have been highly successful, with the LADEE space terminal linking up with the ground terminal at White Sands optically in no more than a few tens of seconds, without resorting to commanding through the conventional RF uplink.  Lasercomm has demonstrated downlink rates as high as 622 megabits/sec, and uplinks of 20 megabits/sec.  This downlink rate is sufficient to convey HD video (if LADEE had HD video!).

The three science instruments have been stepping through a series of tests to characterize their performance in orbit around the Moon, and have acquired preliminary science and engineering data in our high, 250-km altitude commissioning orbit.  

The Neutral Mass Spectrometer (NMS) has performed atmospheric ram measurements as well as special operations for looking at atmospheric ions, as well as species sputtered from the lunar surface.  The Ultraviolet-Visible Spectrometer (UVS) has performed a series of calibration activities, including stellar calibrations, solar viewer calibrations, and telescope boresight calibrations.  UVS has also carried out a number of limb scans above the sunset, noon and sunrise limbs.  The Lunar Dust Experiment has been making many measurements at the 250-km altitude, to characterize the particle impact rates and background in this orbit. 

LADEE will soon be transitioning out of commissioning phase, starting with a maneuver to lower periapsis to around 50-km altitude over the sunrise terminator.  This maneuver is planned for Sunday, November 10, at  around 04:30 UT.  Following this maneuver the science instruments will begin taking data in a more science-like configuration.

After a final block of lasercomm testing, LADEE will drop apoapsis to its operational altitude of approximately 100 km over the sunset terminator on November 20, and then LADEE's science mission truly begins in earnest.

You can see more LADEE info at the official site, HERE, and via the Twitter account, HERE.

(HT: Clive Neal & Lunar-L)

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