NASA announced that the LADEE moon probe successfully took off atop an Orbital Science Minotaur V rocket from the space agency’s Wallops Island launch facility in Virginia on Sept 6, 2013. However an equipment glitch has cropped up that needs fixing before the probe can successfully complete its mission in lunar orbit.
“NASA has confirmed its Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) has separated from its ride into space, powered up and is communicating with ground controllers following a successful launch at 11:27 p.m. EDT Friday, Sept. 6, from the agency's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. LADEE is on its way to arrive at the moon in 30 days, then enter lunar orbit.
“According to the LADEE mission operations team at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., during technical checkouts the LADEE spacecraft commanded itself to shut down the reaction wheels used to position and stabilize the spacecraft.”
S. Pete Worden, NASA Ames center director, expressed confidence that the LADEE’s problems will be resolved during the checkout phase over the next few days. LADEE was designed and built at NASA Ames as part of an innovative small satellite initiative. The probe is designed to “orbit the moon to gather detailed information about the lunar atmosphere, conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust. A thorough understanding of these characteristics will address long-standing unknowns, and help scientists understand other planetary bodies as well.” LADEE will also test a laser based communications system that will boost the amount of data that a space probe can transmit to Earth.