MOSCOW, September 7 (RIA Novosti) – An unmanned US spacecraft intended to study lunar dust was brought into a low-Earth orbit on late Friday, the launch broadcast live on NASA website.
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) probe successfully separated from the Minotaur V carrier rocket shortly before midnight, NASA said on the mission’s website.
The launch from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia was the debut flight for the Minotaur V, developed by Orbital Sciences Corporation.
LADEE will spend 23 days in the high-elliptical low-Earth orbit before being gradually moved to orbit the Moon.
The $280-million robotic mission, first announced in 2008, will study the rarefied lunar atmosphere, which is important for proposed plans to build telescopes on the Moon, as well as for prospects of manned lunar bases.
The mission will also test a laser communication device, which NASA expects to replace the slower and less efficient radio communication.
The LADEE mission, which is planned to last for 100 days but may be extended to nine months, will end with the spacecraft ramming the Moon, the impact to be a subject of scientific study.