NASA launches Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE)

The lift-off and successful beginning of the LADEE mission, says NASA, marks several aerospace firsts.

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The National Aeronautics and Space Admin.'s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), a composites-intensive satellite, the making of which was chronicled recently in High-Performance Composites magazine (click on "Optimization software improves small, low-cost satellite design," under "Editor's Picks," at top right) was successfully launched on Sept. 6, 2013 (11:27 p.m., EDT) atop a Minotaur V launch vehicle provided by the U.S. Air Force. The lift-off over the Mid Atlantic missile range took place at the Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va., on Pad 0B.

LADEE's launch in 2013 marked several firsts. It was the first payload to launch on a U.S. Air Force Minotaur V rocket integrated by Orbital Sciences Corp., and the first deep space mission to launch from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The Minotaur V is a fivestage version of the Minotaur IV. It is designed to provide launches for small missions that require geosynchronous transfer or translunar orbits. Wallops, located on Virginia's eastern shore, was established in 1945 by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. The oldest continuous rocket launch range in the U.S., Wallops is a national resource for aerospace-based science and technology research; using suborbital and orbital vehicles.

NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley designed, developed, built and tested the spacecraft and will manage the 100-day science mission. After launch, Ames took control of the spacecraft and began to execute mission operations.

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