SACRAMENTO, Calif., 21 June 2009. Aerojet, a GenCorp company, announced the launch of an Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Spacecraft. Aerojet engineers delivered 12 small monopropellant hydrazine thrusters, used aboard the Atlas Centaur upper stage; eight retro rockets for the Atlas Centaur separation from the launch vehicle; and an additional eight monopropellant thrusters aboard the LRO spacecraft.
As the pre-launch project evolved and the LCROSS mission was added, Aerojet performed two additional qualification test programs after hardware delivery -- one for the launch vehicle and one for the payload to ensure that the thrusters would be capable of completing the extended missions, reveals a company representative.
NASA's spacecraft will use different methods to study the lunar environment. The LRO will orbit the moon, using Aerojet thrusters to turn the suite of instruments toward the moon, as it looks for potential landing sites for astronauts.
LCROSS will watch the Centaur upper stage as it collides with a permanently shaded crater in an effort to kick up evidence of water at the moon's poles.
LCROSS will also impact the lunar surface during its course of study.