June 8, 2009

NASA plans lunar spacecraft launch

The U.S. space agency said preparations are complete for the launch of its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite.

The two National Aeronautics and Space Administration spacecraft are to be launched together to the moon aboard an Atlas V rocket on June 17. Three launch windows are available for the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., liftoff -- at 3:51 p.m., 4:01 p.m. and 4:11 p.m. EDT.

NASA said its television coverage of the launch will begin at 1 p.m. EDT. If the launch must be postponed 24 hours, the launch times on June 18 will be 5:12 p.m., 5:22 p.m. and 5:32 p.m. EDT.

LRO's objectives during its mission orbiting the moon are to identify safe landing sites, locate potential resources, characterize the radiation environment and demonstrate new technology, NASA said in a statement. LRO will orbit the poles of the moon during a one-year exploration mission followed by a planned multi-year science mission.

Approximately four to five months after launch, LCROSS will impact the moon, providing information about the lunar composition and presence of water ice or hydrated minerals.

An overview of the LRO mission is available at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/LRO/overview/index.html.