NASA launches unmanned moon orbiter

Sept. 7, 2013 at 12:48 AM
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ACCOMAC, Va., Sept. 7 (UPI) -- NASA successfully launched an unmanned lunar orbiter from its facility on Wallops Island, Va., Friday night.

The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer lifted into space aboard a Minotaur V rocket at 11:27 p.m. EDT, NASA said in a posting on its website.

The robotic LADEE's mission will orbit the moon to gather information about the lunar atmosphere, conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust, NASA said.

Once the spacecraft arrives near the moon, it will perform a series of maneuvers to get it into its desired orbit for its 100-day "science phase." Following its science phase, it will be maneuvered into lower altitudes and eventually impact the lunar surface, the space agency said.

LADEE's design marks a new era in spacecraft design. NASA said rather than each spacecraft being built specifically for its mission, LADEE is built with what is called a Modular Common Spacecraft Bus, a common body that can be the basis of many future spacecraft, which could reduce development costs dramatically, "just as the Ford Model T did for automobiles," NASA said on its website.

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