During preparations for NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) observatory launch on Sept. 6, 2013, the spacecraft went through final preparations and close-outs, which included checking alignment after its cross-country shipment, checking the propulsion system for leaks, inspecting and repairing solar panels, and final electrical tests. After these activities were completed, more challenging portions of the launch preparations began: spin testing and fueling.
To make sure that the spacecraft is perfectly balanced for flight, engineers mounted it onto a spin table and rotate it at high speeds, approximately one revolution per second. The team measured any offsets during the spinning, and then added small weights to the spacecraft to balance it. Once the spacecraft was balanced dry, the team loaded the propulsion tanks with fuel, oxidizer, and pressurant. The spin testing was performed again “wet,” or with fuel, in order to see if the balance changed with the full fuel tanks.
Engineers from NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., have now successfully completed launch preparation activities for LADEE, which has been encapsulated into the nose-cone of the Minotaur V rocket at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. LADEE is ready to launch when the window opens on Friday.