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Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE)



The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) launched 07 September 2013 at 03:27 UT (06 September 11:27 EDT) on a Minotaur-V from Wallops Flight Facility. LADEE is designed to characterize the tenuous lunar atmosphere and dust environment from orbit. The scientific objectives of the mission are: (1) determine the global density, composition, and time variability of the fragile lunar atmosphere; and, (2) determine the size, charge, and spatial distribution of electrostatically transported dust grains and assess their likely effects on lunar exploration and lunar-based astronomy. Further objectives are to determine if the Apollo astronaut sightings of diffuse emission at 10s of km above the surface were Na glow or dust and document the dust impactor environment (size-frequency) to help guide design engineering for outpost and future robotic missions.

The orbiter carried a Neutral Mass Spectrometer (NMS), an Ultraviolet/Visible Spectrometer (UVS), and a Lunar Dust Experiment (LDEX). There is also a technology demonstration, the Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD). Spacecraft communications were via S-band with a 10 Kbps science data rate. The spacecraft is basically a 1.85 meter-diameter cylinder with a height of 2.37 meters. Total mass of the orbiter was approximately 383 kg, which included 135 kg of fuel, with solar array panels covering the outside surface producing 295 Watts at 1 AU.

The instruments were designed to detect and constrain the abundances of species expected to be prevalent at and below the 50 km altitude, due to the solar wind and its interactions with the surface, release from regolith, and radiogenic sources. The NMS is a quadrupole mass spectrometer designed to detect species up to 150 amu and to look for CH4, S, O, Si, Kr, Xe, Fe, Al, Ti, Mg, OH, and H2O. The UVS was designed to detect Al, Ca, Fe, K, Li, Na, Si, T, Ba, Mg, H2O, and O and monitor the dust composition. The LDEX was an impact ionization dust detector designed to measure particles down to 0.3 microns at the spacecraft altitude. The LLCD was a test of a high data-rate optical (laser) communications system.

After launch on 6 September 2013 at 11:27 p.m. EDT (07 September 03:27 UTC) on the Minotaur V with a Star 48BV 4th stage and a Star 37FM upper stage, LADEE entered an elliptical Earth orbit which was elongated by perigee boosts until it performed a lunar orbit insertion on 6 October. It spent about 30 days reaching nominal lunar orbit and checking out systems before its nominal 100 day science mission began. The spacecraft was put into a near-circular retrograde equatorial science orbit with an altitude of approximately 50 km and the periselene over the dawn terminator. The science orbit ended up lasting approximately 5 months. LADEE impacted the Moon as planned on 18 April 2014, hitting about 800 meters from the eastern rim of Sundman IV crater on the lunar farside at 1700 meters/sec. The impact occurred between 4:30 and 5:22 UT, the impact site was 11.8494 N, 266.7506 E at an altitude of about 2800 meters. Impact was confirmed by ground control at 6:59 UT.

Total lifetime cost of the mission is approximately $263 million. For more on the LADEE mission, see:

(LADEE image courtesy NASA Ames)

Alternate Names

  • 39246
  • urn:nasa:pds:context:instrument_host:spacecraft.ladee

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 2013-09-07
Launch Vehicle: Minotaur 5
Launch Site: Wallops Island, United States
Mass: 248.2 kg
Nominal Power: 60 W

Funding Agency

  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (United States)


  • Planetary Science

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Dr. Butler P. Hine, IIIProject ManagerNASA Ames Research
Dr. Sarah NobleProgram ScientistNASA
Dr. Richard C. ElphicProject ScientistNASA Ames Research

Selected References

  • Elphic, R.C., et al., The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer Mission, Space Science Review, 185, No. 1-4, 3-25, Dec. 2014.
[LADEE Exploded View]

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Home Page - Goddard Space Flight Center

Moon Page
Lunar Exploration Chronology Page
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