A Look at NASA’s Plans to Explore the Moon

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Statement of Jason Crusan
Director, Advanced Exploration Systems Division
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate
National Aeronautics and Space Administration

before the

Subcommittee on Space
Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
U. S. House of Representatives

SELECTED EXCERPTS

Lunar CATALYST: Promoting Private Sector Robotic Exploration of the Moon

As part of the Agency’s overall strategy to conduct deep space exploration, NASA is also supporting the development of commercial lunar exploration. In 2014, NASA introduced an initiative called Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (CATALYST). The purpose of the initiative is to encourage the development of U.S. private-sector robotic lunar landers capable of successfully delivering payloads to the lunar surface using U.S. commercial launch capabilities.

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NASA Plans Further Laser Communications Tests in Hawaii

laser_hawaii
HILO, Hawaii (PISCES PR) — Since its founding in 1958, NASA has solely relied on RF (radio frequency) technology to facilitate communications between spacecrafts in the heavens and bases on Earth. While RF continues to be the mainstay for space communication, rapidly advancing technologies and science instruments, as well as an increasingly crowded RF spectrum are driving the need for an alternative and superior method.

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NASA’s Year in Review: Amazing Space Science in 2013

This artist's concept shows the Voyager 1 spacecraft entering the space between stars. (Credit: NASA)
This artist’s concept shows the Voyager 1 spacecraft entering the space between stars. (Credit: NASA)

NASA Takes a Look Back at 2013

NASA science this year uncovered new knowledge about our home planet and the farthest reaches of the galaxy. Analysis showed the Voyager 1 spacecraft has entered interstellar space and, at 12 billion miles away, is the most distant man-made object ever created.
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NASA Planetary Exploration Highlights From 2013

This self-portrait of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on Feb. 3, 2013, plus three exposures taken on May 10, 2013. (Credit: NASA)
This self-portrait of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on Feb. 3, 2013, plus three exposures taken on May 10, 2013. (Credit: NASA)

NASA Takes a Look Back at 2013

Mars

Mars is the centerpiece of NASA’s planetary exploration. The Curiosity rover continues to explore the planet, and in its first year already has accomplished its primary goal of determining that Mars could indeed have supported life in the past, possibly much later than originally thought. Curiosity’s Radiation Assessment Detector instrument is helping scientists assess round-trip radiation doses for a human mission to Mars.

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Laser Demonstration Mission Proves Space Broadband Communications Feasible

On 22 October 2013, NASA's Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD), on board the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft, made history using a pulsed laser beam to transmit data over the 400 000 km between Earth and the Moon at a record-breaking download rate of 622 megabits per second (Mbps). (Credit: NASA)
On 22 October 2013, NASA’s Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD), on board the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft, made history using a pulsed laser beam to transmit data over the 400 000 km between Earth and the Moon at a record-breaking download rate of 622 megabits per second (Mbps). (Credit: NASA)

GREENBELT, MD (NASA PR) — The completion of the 30-day Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration or LLCD mission has revealed that the possibility of expanding broadband capabilities in space using laser communications is as bright as expected.

Hosted aboard the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer known as LADEE, for its ride to lunar orbit, the LLCD was designed to confirm laser communication capabilities from a distance of almost a quarter-of-a-million miles.  In addition to demonstrating record-breaking data download and upload speeds to the moon at 622 megabits per second (Mbps) and 20 Mbps, respectively, LLCD also showed that it could operate as well as any NASA radio system.  “Throughout our testing we did not see anything that would prevent the operational use of this technology in the immediate future,” said Don Cornwell, LLCD mission manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

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NASA Shoots Laser From Moon, Fails to Destroy Anything

On 22 October 2013, NASA's Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD), on board the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft, made history using a pulsed laser beam to transmit data over the 400 000 km between Earth and the Moon at a record-breaking download rate of 622 megabits per second (Mbps). (Credit: NASA)
On 22 October 2013, NASA’s Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD), on board the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft, made history using a pulsed laser beam to transmit data over the 400 000 km between Earth and the Moon at a record-breaking download rate of 622 megabits per second (Mbps). (Credit: NASA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s ground station on the island of Tenerife has received laser signals over a distance of 400,000 km from NASA’s latest Moon orbiter. The data were delivered many times faster than possible with traditional radio waves, marking a significant breakthrough in space communications.

The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, was launched on 7 September and arrived in orbit around the Moon in October. In addition to probing the Moon’s environment, it’s also carrying a new laser terminal.

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NASA Laser System Sets Record with Data Transmissions From Moon

NASA's LADEE spacecraft approaching lunar orbit. (Credit: NASA)
NASA’s LADEE spacecraft approaching lunar orbit. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) has made history using a pulsed laser beam to transmit data over the 239,000 miles between the moon and Earth at a record-breaking download rate of 622 megabits per second (Mbps).

LLCD is NASA’s first system for two-way communication using a laser instead of radio waves. It also has demonstrated an error-free data upload rate of 20 Mbps transmitted from the primary ground station in New Mexico to the spacecraft currently orbiting the moon.

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LADEE Safely Enters Lunar Orbit

NASA's LADEE spacecraft approaching lunar orbit. (Credit: NASA)
NASA’s LADEE spacecraft approaching lunar orbit. (Credit: NASA)

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Oct. 7, 2013 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne, a GenCorp (NYSE:GY) company, announced today that its 100-lbf High Performance Apogee Thruster (HiPAT™) bipropellant engine, integrated into a propulsion system built by Space Systems/Loral (SSL), enabled NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) to achieve lunar orbit on Oct. 6.

The HiPAT™ performed two phasing burns, each of which increased the apogee in preparation for two Lunar Orbit Insertion burns.

“From the crewed Apollo vehicle to the orbiters of Lunar Prospector and LADEE, Aerojet Rocketdyne provides propulsion and power for lunar exploration,” said Aerojet Rocketdyne Vice President of Space Systems, Warren Yasuhara. “LADEE is designed to characterize the tenuous lunar atmosphere and dust environment—an important study in preparation for returning astronauts to the moon.”

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LADEE Launched Toward the Moon

ladee_launch_minotaur
NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) successfully launched on a Minataur V rocket Friday night from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The mission will orbit the moon to gather detailed information about the lunar atmosphere, conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust.

The flight appeared to have gone nominally, with all five solid stages of the booster performing as designed. Spacecraft separation appeared to have gone as planned.  This was the 24th successful launch of the Minotaur rocket family in 24 attempts.

East Coasters to Get Awesome View of LADEE Launch Tonight

LADEE Launch Viewing Map
Mission Information

Spacecraft: NASA’s LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer)

Launch Site: Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, Wallops Island, Virginia

Launch Vehicle: Minotaur V

Launch window: Friday, Sept. 6, 2013 from 11:27 – 11:31 PM EDT

Mission: LADEE lunar orbiter will 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.

Live Coverage: NASA TV

Live Viewing Guide

Maximum Elevation Map

The map above shows the maximum elevation (degrees above the horizon) that the Minotaur V rocket will reach depending on your location along the east coast. The further away you are from the launch site, the closer to the horizon the rocket will be. As a reference, when you look at your fist with your arm fully outstretched, it spans approximately 10 degrees. Thus if you are in Washington, DC the highest point the Minotaur V will reach is approximately 13 degrees above the horizon, or just slightly more than a fist’s width. The contours shown stop below 5 degrees. It is unlikely that you’ll be able to view the rocket when it is below 5 degrees due to buildings, vegetation, and other terrain features.

Time of First Sighting Map

LADEE Launch Viewing Map - First Sight
This map shows the rough time at which you can first expect to see the Minotaur V rocket after it is launched. It represents the time at which the rocket will reach 5 degrees above the horizon and varies depending on your location along the east coast. We have selected 5 degrees as it is unlikely that you’ll be able to view the rocket when it is below 5 degrees due to buildings, vegetation, and other terrain features. As a reference, when you look at your fist with your arm fully outstretched, it spans approximately 10 degrees. As an example, using this map when observing from Washington, DC shows that the Minotaur V rocket will reach 5 degrees above the horizon approximately 54 seconds after launch (L + 54 sec).

Laser Communications Set for LADEE Moon Mission

A laser from Optical Ground Station on Tenerife. (Credit: ESA)
A laser from Optical Ground Station on Tenerife. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — An advanced laser system offering vastly faster data speeds is now ready for linking with spacecraft beyond our planet following a series of crucial ground tests. Later this year, ESA’s observatory in Spain will use the laser to communicate with a NASA Moon orbiter.

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Space 2013: Space Agencies Head for Moon, Mars

moon_wires
Space agencies around the world are planning to launch four missions to other worlds this year, evenly split between the moon and Mars. NASA will orbiters to each destination, while China will attempt to become only the third nation to soft land on the moon. India also looks to make history with its first mission to Mars.
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Space Systems/Loral to Provide Propulsion for NASA’s LADEE Lunar Spacecraft

NASA's LADEE spacecraft
NASA's LADEE spacecraft

SS/L PRESS RELEASE

Space Systems/Loral (SS/L), a subsidiary of Loral Space & Communications (Nasdaq:LORL) and the leading provider of commercial satellites, today announced that it has been selected to provide a propulsion system to NASA Ames Research Center for the Lunar Atmosphere Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft. The contract demonstrates NASA’s success in leveraging the capability of commercially proven technology for U.S. Government missions.

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NASA Awards Contract for LADEE Moon Orbiter

NASA's LADEE spacecraft
NASA's LADEE spacecraft

NASA PRESS RELEASE

NASA has selected Space Systems/Loral, Palo Alto, Calif., to receive a contract for the propulsion system for the Lunar Atmosphere Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft. The contract has a maximum value of $8.86 million.

This is a firm fixed price 15-month long contract that begins Dec. 21, 2009.

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