Mission: LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer)
Launch Window: 6 September 2013 from 11:27 - 11:31 PM EDT.
Launch Location: Wallops Flight Facility (WFF), Virginia
This series of simulated views shows various viewpoints of the trajectory of the Minotaur V rocket that will carry LADEE into orbit. LADEE's prime launch window is late at night. The daytime illustrations are simply a guide of where to look. Weather and haze also may affect launch visibility. The Orbital employee who created the original graphics, Carlos Niederstrasser (@RocketScient1st) said, "There are a couple of tricks to getting the right camera view in the Google Earth program to create these images, but if you persist, you can create your own graphic pretty easily." Download the Google Earth KMZ File (Zip File, 260 KB).
After launch, the Minotaur V will rise over the horizon heading east out over the Atlantic Ocean. It might seem that the rocket dips back to Earth as it moves farther away from the observer - just as a ship appears to sink as it moves out to sea - but actually the rocket is going higher, faster and farther from populated areas. Four of the Minotaur's five rocket stages will drop off and break up far out over the ocean. The fifth stage, along with LADEE, will be inserted in high Earth orbit.
LADEE will use its own engines to continue on to the moon, where it will begin a 100 day mission to gather detailed information about the thin lunar atmosphere, conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust.
LADEE Mission In Brief
What You Could See (Various Locations)
In the Vicinity of NASA Wallops Flight Facility
New York City
Maximum Elevation Map
This map shows the maximum elevation (degrees above the horizon) that the Minotaur V rocket will reach depending on your location along the east coast. The further away you are from the launch site, the closer to the horizon the rocket will be. As a reference, when you look at your fist with your arm fully outstretched, it spans approximately 10 degrees. Thus if you are in Washington, DC the highest point the Minotaur V will reach is approximately 13 degrees above the horizon, or just slightly more than a fist's width. The contours shown stop below 5 degrees. It is unlikely that you'll be able to view the rocket when it is below 5 degrees due to buildings, vegetation, and other terrain features.
Time of First Sighting Map
This map shows the rough time at which you can first expect to see the Minotaur V rocket after it is launched. It represents the time at which the rocket will reach 5 degrees above the horizon and varies depending on your location along the east coast. We have selected 5 degrees as it is unlikely that you'll be able to view the rocket when it is below 5 degrees due to buildings, vegetation, and other terrain features. As a reference, when you look at your fist with your arm fully outstretched, it spans approximately 10 degrees. As an example, using this map when observing from Washington, DC shows that the Minotaur V rocket will reach 5 degrees above the horizon approximately 54 seconds after launch (L + 54 sec).
The inaugural mission of a Minotaur V rocket is scheduled to occur on September 6, 2013 to launch NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment (LADEE) into a lunar transfer orbit. The LADEE mission will be the 24th overall launch of the Minotaur family of vehicles, the fifth Minotaur launch from Wallops Flight Facility, and LADEE will be the 45th satellite launched by a Minotaur rocket.
The mission also represents a number of firsts, including:
- First launch of the Minotaur V configuration
- First five-stage vehicle flown by Orbital
- First Peacekeeper-based vehicle launched from Wallops Flight Facility
- First Lunar mission flown by Orbital
- First Lunar mission flown from Wallops
Minotaur will boost the LADEE Spacecraft into a highly elliptical orbit of 200 km x 278,000 km around the Earth. Over the next 23 days, as LADEE orbits Earth 3.5 times, the Moon's gravitational field will increase the perigee of its orbit. The spacecraft will fire its on-board thrusters to alter its trajectory to allow it to enter orbit around the Moon. The spacecraft is designed to conduct a 100 day mission to measure lunar dust and examine the lunar atmosphere from an orbit of 50 km above the surface of the Moon. The LADEE program is managed by NASA/Ames Research Center.
Orbital conducts Minotaur IV launches under the U.S. Air Force's Orbital/Suborbital-3 contract, which is managed by the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), located at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA. The Space Development and Test Wing, based at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, NM, oversees Minotaur launches for SMC.
About Minotaur V
Minotaur V is a five-stage space launch vehicle based on the flight-proven Minotaur IV vehicle and adds a solid motor fifth stage to propel LADEE into its lunar transfer orbit. It leverages the experience of the Air Force's Peacekeeper program, along with the extensive flight heritage of Orbital's Minotaur I, Minotaur IV, Pegasus and Taurus space launch vehicles to produce a highly reliable launcher for U.S. government space programs. The standard space launch configuration of Minotaur V is made up of three decommissioned Peacekeeper solid fuel rocket motors that Orbital has upgraded and integrated with modern avionics and other subsystems, and solid fuel commercially-supplied STAR 48BV fourth and STAR 37FM fifth stages. The Minotaur V rocket is capable of launching payloads up to 342 kg (754 lbs) to trans-lunar injection orbit.
Last Updated: 7 April 2014