LADEE On Schedule for Tonight, New Map Shows How Long Before You Can See It

LADEE On Schedule for Tonight, New Map Shows How Long Before You Can See It

NASA’s LADEE lunar spacecraft is still on schedule for launch tonight at 11:27 pm Eastern Daylight Time from the Wallops Flight Facility on the coast of Virginia.  The launch should be visible along the East Coast from South Carolina to Maine and as far west as Pittsburgh.   A new map shows how many seconds it will take for the rocket to be visible above the horizon in those locations.

The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer will launch on a Minotaur V rocket provided by Orbital Sciences Corporation.  Orbital already released a map showing the number of degrees above the horizon to look for it.   Now a companion map shows when to look — the number of seconds after launch.

Source:  Orbital Sciences Corporation

NASA will have live coverage on NASA TV.  

You can also following the action on Twitter.   We @SpcPlcyOnline will be following it aiong with many others including @nasa and @OrbitalSciences.

Tonight’s launch window is 4 minutes long and the weather is 95 percent favorable.  In case of a scrub, there are additional launch opportunities for the next four days with slightly longer windows.

LADEE is using an unusual approach to reaching the Moon.  Instead of flying directly there like the Apollo missions, it is being placed in a highly elliptical Earth orbit.  The orbit’s apogee (point furthest from Earth) will be raised — making three “phasing loops” — until the spacecraft is captured by the Moon’s gravity. Then a braking rocket will fire for three minutes to place it into lunar orbit.  The process will take about a month.  The spacecraft will orbit the Moon for 100 days at 20-60 kilometers altitude and then make a controlled descent and crash into the lunar surface. 

In addition to conducting scientific investigations of the lunar atmosphere and dust environment, LADEE is carrying a laser communications experiment — the Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD).   NASA deep-space communications have always relied on radio frequencies, but NASA hopes to move to optical frequencies that can transmit much more data.   Radio waves and light waves both travel at the speed of light, so the communications will not travel faster, but more data can be transferred

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