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Exploration through Navigation
Charting a Course to the Moon

Preliminary Design by:

Team Name: "Moon Dusters"
Ms. Levin-Kretz's Fifth Grade
Sunrise Elementary


Spacecraft Name: Starshooter

Launch Date: May 23rd, 2009 (three days before the moon's closest appraoch to earth)

Launch Time: The time of day when a launch from KSC will end in a low-earth orbit that is already oriented for the transfer orbit burn. The benefit of this launch time is that the transfer orbit burn can be accomplished right after the launch burn. The draw-back is that the launch window will have less room for delays.

Duration of Journey: 4 days

Expected Impact Date: May 27th, 2009

Description of Route and Orbital Paths:

1. Launch - The spacecraft will launch from Kennedy Space Center into a low earth orbit

2. Low Earth Orbit - The spacecraft will remain in low-earth orbit only as long as it takes to start the transfer orbit burn.

3. Transfer Orbit - The spacecraft will enter a transfer orbit that will approach the moon from "behind" rather than pass in front of or behind the moon.

4. Lunar Orbit - The spacefraft will enter a polar lunar orbit that's plane is perpendicular to the earth so the earth can remain in radio contact with the spacecraft at all times. The spacecraft will pass over the north pole of the moon at least one time to scan for the best impact site.

5. Impact - Once the impact site is determined, the spacecraft will adjust its course to impact the landing site. As soon as the course is correct, the impact probe will separate from the spacecraft so that it impacts 4 minutes before the rest of the spacecraft.

Navigational Instruments: Radios, gyroscopes, and computer-controlled sextants

Methods of Guidance, Navigation, Control, and Tracking: The primary method of navigation will be using the radio to receive positions and commands from Earth. Telescopes and radar sensors on different parts of the earth can track the position and velocity of the spacecraft and send course adjustments. Since the spacecraft will be in a lunar polar orbit perpendicular to the earth, radio contact should not be lost at any time. Backup navigation in the event of radio failure will be done using gyroscopes and by a computer-controlled sextant for celestial navigation. Liquid thrusters will be used for course corrections and orbit transfers.

drawing of orbit

 FirstGov  NASA

Editor: Linda Conrad
NASA Official: Liza Coe
Last Updated: October 2007
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