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LADEE enters lunar orbit
Posted: Mon, Oct 7, 2013, 6:19 AM ET (1019 GMT)
LADEE illustration (NASA) A NASA spacecraft launched last month has entered orbit around the Moon despite the ongoing shutdown of most of the space agency. The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft fired its main engine for four minutes at 6:57 am EDT (1057 GMT) Sunday, placing the spacecraft into a 24-hour elliptical orbit around the Moon. Two additional maneuvers, on October 9 and 12, will place the spacecraft into its final circular orbit around the Moon at an altitude of 245 kilometers. NASA launched LADEE on September 6, placing the spacecraft into an elliptical phasing orbit gradually extended to reach the Moon, an approach designed to use less propellant than a direct trajectory to the Moon. Once in its final orbit, LADEE will begin a 30-day commissioning phase, followed by a three-month science mission. Sunday's maneuver took place despite the federal government shutdown that resulted in the furlough of about 97 percent of NASA's employees. LADEE mission operations were exempt from the furlough, although the shutdown prevented NASA from formally announcing LADEE's arrival at the Moon.
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