Friday, May 15, 2009

NASA's Moon Probe Launch Delayed

NASA won't launch its lunar mapping probe and crater impactor until at least June 17, a delay of about two weeks from the previously planned June 2 date.

A NASA new release today says more time is needed to analyze how a rocket upper will handle before it is crashed into one of the moon's permanently shadowed poles.

The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite spacecraft, or LCROSS, will follow the rocket stage into the plume with sensors trying to detect evidence of water ice.

Officials are studying a potential thrust disturbance associated with the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket's Centaur upper stage fill/drain valves, according to the release.

Meanwhile, the rocket is fully loaded with propellants today for a launch rehearsal at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 41. The rocket will be rolled back to its vertical hanger facility Saturday.

Also today, the LCROSS spacecraft and rocket's primary payload, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, are being enclosed inside the rocket's payload fairing at Astrotech in Titusville.

LRO will create a detailed digital map of the moon's surface, helping to identify potential landing sites for astronauts. NASA hopes to send crews back to the moon by 2020.

IMAGE NOTE: A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket undergoes a wet dress rehearsal at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 41.

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