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Expendable Launch Vehicle Status Report

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Tue Sep 13, 2011 6:39 am via: NASA
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Spacecraft: GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory)
Launch Vehicle: Delta II 7920 Heavy
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Launch Pad: Space Launch Complex 17B
Launch Date: Sept. 10, 2011

Atop the Delta II rocket, GRAIL was launched successfully from Pad 17B on Sept. 10 at 9:08:52 a.m. After GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B separated from the Delta II’s second stage, the Deep Space Network’s Goldstone tracking station acquired them as planned. It verified that solar arrays were deployed and both GRAIL spacecraft were operating normally.

GRAIL’s primary science objectives are to determine the structure of the lunar interior, from crust to core, and to advance understanding of the thermal evolution of the moon.

Spacecraft: NPP (NPOESS Preparatory Project)
Launch Vehicle: Delta II 7920
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
Launch Pad: Space Launch Complex 2
Launch Date: Oct. 25, 2011
Launch Window: 2:48:01 a.m. – 2:57:11 a.m. PDT (9 min., 10 sec.)
Orbital Altitude: 512 miles

At Vandenberg Air Force Base, the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) spacecraft has completed the Spacecraft Limited Performance Test. A Spacecraft Launch Simulation also has been completed. Instrument testing now is under way, and propulsion system testing also is occurring this week.

With the successful launch of GRAIL at Cape Canaveral, United Launch Alliance team members will be returning to Vandenberg to resume testing of the Delta II for the NPP mission at NASA’s Space Launch Complex 2.

NPP represents a critical first step in building the next-generation of Earth-observing satellites. NPP will carry the first of the new sensors developed for this satellite fleet, now known as the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) to be launched in 2016. NPP is the bridge between NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS) satellites and the forthcoming series of JPSS satellites. The mission will test key technologies and instruments for the JPSS missions.

Spacecraft: Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity)
Launch Vehicle: Atlas V-541 (AV-028)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Launch Pad: Space Launch Complex 41
Launch Date: Nov. 25, 2011
Launch Time: 10:21 a.m. EST

The Atlas first stage booster for the Atlas V rocket was transported to Launch Complex 41 on Sept. 8 and hoisted inside the Vertical Integration Facility. The solid rocket boosters are being attached this week. This is an Atlas V-541 configuration that will have four solid rocket boosters attached Sept. 12-15.

The Centaur upper stage will be moved to the launch complex and hoisted atop the Atlas on Sept. 20.

At the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility located at Kennedy Space Center, testing and prelaunch preparations for the Curiosity rover and the associated Mars Science Laboratory flight hardware continue.

The rover’s 10 science instruments will search for signs of life, including methane, and help determine if the gas is from a biological or geological source. The unique rover will use a laser to look inside rocks and release the gasses so that its spectrometer can analyze and send the data back to Earth.

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