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Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS)

Spacecraft and System Description

Secondary Payloads Using the LCROSS Architecture

The Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) was a secondary payload mission that was selected to launch with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) when that mission was upgraded from a Delta II to an Atlas launch vehicle. The LCROSS spacecraft employed the EELV Secondary Payload Adaptor (ESPA) ring as the primary structure, ensuring compatibility with both the Centaur upper stage and the LRO spacecraft. In this novel approach the ESPA ring, which was originally designed to hold up to 6 small satellites weighing 205 kg each, supported the LCROSS spacecraft subsystems on panels mounted to each adaptor fitting. This ESPA ring architecture affords low-cost access to space through reduced spacecraft costs and by enabling two capable missions for the cost of a single launch. The modular subsystem panel approach also provides flexibility in performing integration and in adapting the design to new missions. This paper describes our approach for leveraging the extra lift capability of the new generation of EELVs to enable the use of a secondary mission at well below the cost of an independently launched mission. We discuss the design of the LCROSS mission, and use the LCROSS architecture to illustrate a variety of planetary and astronomical missions that are compatible with being a secondary payload. Despite being labeled a secondary mission, provides the potential for high value science missions at a fraction of the cost of the traditional mission approach.

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LCROSS SpaceCraft Movie

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO): Leading NASA's Way Back to the Moon
Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS): NASA's Mission to Search for Water on the Moon

PRESS KIT/MAY 2009 [9.2 MB]

LCROSS was a fast-track, low-cost, companion mission to the LRO. The LCROSS mission took advantage of the structural capabilities of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) ring used to attach LRO to the Centaur upper stage rocket. Mounted on the outside of the ESPA were six panels that held the spacecraft's science payload, command and control systems, communications equipment, batteries, and solar panels. A small monopropellant-propulsion system was mounted inside of the ring. Also attached to the ring were two S-Band omni antennas, and two medium-gain antennas. The mission's strict schedule, mass, and budget constraints forced engineering teams from NASA Ames Research Center and Northrop Grumman to think "outside-the-box." This thinking led to a unique use of the ESPA ring and innovative sourcing of other spacecraft components. Usually, the ESPA ring is used as a platform to hold six small deployable satellites; for LCROSS, it became the backbone of the satellite, a first for the ring. LCROSS also took advantage of commercially available instruments and uses many of the already flight-verified components used on LRO. The NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., oversaw the development of the LCROSS mission. Northrop Grumman, Redondo Beach, Calif., the LCROSS spacecraft and integration partner, designed and built the spacecraft for this innovative mission.

LCROSS Spacecraft

Technical Information
Overview | Mission Rationale | Spacecraft and System Description | Instrumentation | Water Detection | Targeting

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Editor: Brian Day
NASA Official: Daniel Andrews
Last Updated: October 2010