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Lunar Prospector: Against All Odds

[ Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Epilogue | Appendices ]

Images are all approximately 50kb in size so please be patient.

+ Figures 3-1 through 3-6

Figure 3-1, in Chapter 3-15: The triangular prism shaped, graphite epoxy, load bearing, main structure of the Lunar Prospector Spacecraft. The Lockheed technician is starting the process of very precisely measuring the structure in preparation for the beginning of the assembly of the spacecraft. The two large holes in the upper part of each side panel of the structure were cut out to make room for the (three) large fuel tanks that were too large to fit inside the load bearing structure. The smaller hole near the bottom of each side panel is where one of the three science instrument boom canisters would eventually be attached to the load bearing structure. The circular aluminum boss attached to the upper part of vertical longeron in the foreground is the external part of one of three such bosses (the internal side of another boss can be seen through the tank cutout, attached to the inner side of a vertical longeron, to the far right of the load bearing structure), which were the front attachment points for the three fuel tanks. Seen through the tank cutout, immediately to the right of the boss on the longeron in the foreground, are two of the three legs of the inverted tripod, the apex of which held three slip bearings that were the attachment points, for the backsides of the fuel tanks. The aluminum structure attached at the bottom of the longeron in the foreground is one of the three “feet”, or attachment points that were used to attach the spacecraft to the Trans-Lunar Injection Stage by means of three explosive bolts (Lockheed Martin photograph). View image

Figure 3-2, in Chapter 3-18: The Lunar Prospector load bearing structure in the hydraulic apparatus that was used to do the static testing of the structure. The static tests were conducted to determine how much the load bearing structure would deform under the loads of the Athena II rocket launch (Lockheed Martin photograph). View image

Figure 3-3, in Chapter 3-24: One of the three propellant tanks, wired with its thermostat, thermisters and heaters, seen temporarily mounted in the load bearing structure during a clearance test. The front of the tank is bolted to the boss on the longeron of the load bearing structure (see Figure 3-1) to the left in the picture and the back of the tank (to the right in the picture) is held in a slip bearing mounted on the inverted tripod at the center on the load bearing structure (Lockheed Martin photograph). View image

Figure 3-4, in Chapter 3-24: A propellant tank all dressed up and ready to go. Here a propellant tank is seen wrapped in its thermal blanket, mounted by its tank boss to a work stand. The nipple at the (in this photograph) top of the tank was to slide into a slip bearing on the inverted tripod in the center of the load bearing structure in order to support the back of the tank. The nipple and slide bearing allowed the tank to be firmly held, while still allowing the tank to expand and contract as the pressure in the tank went up to 450 psi during the fuelling and as the pressure dropped to 150 psi, as the fuel was used up during the mission (Lockheed Martin photograph). View image

Figure 3-5, in Chapter 3-21: The Lunar Prospector Spacecraft, with aluminum blocks mounted on and in it, which simulated the masses of the science instruments and their booms on the lower sides of the structure and those of the antennas and the various electronic units (all on top of the structure), is seen here attached by its three “feet” to the Trans-Lunar Injection (TLI) Stage casing by three explosive bolt, awaiting the drop test. A crane suspends the entire stack, i.e., Lunar Prospector and the TLI Stage, about 10-cm above a thick foam pad. The test was conducted to determine if the spacecraft and TLI Stage casing would separate cleanly when the explosive bolts were blown after the TLI burn. The foam pad was there to absorb the shock of the falling TLI Stage casing, preventing any damage to it and preventing the TLI Stage casing from bouncing back up and hitting the spacecraft, both of which were, of course, flight hardware (we did not have expensive engineering test spacecraft to used during the testing, as is usually the case in more costly programs) (Lockheed Martin photograph). View image

Figure 3-6, in Chapter 3-22: The Lunar Prospector Spacecraft and its Trans-Lunar Injection Stage mounted on the shaker, in preparation for the vibration tests. In addition to the aluminum blocks that simulated masses of the various electronic units, antennas and science instruments and their booms (as discussed in the caption of Figure 3-5), one (out of three) solar panel simulator is clearly seen on the left side of the spacecraft structure (Lockheed Martin photograph). View image

+ Figures 3-7 through 3-12

Figure 3-7, in Chapter 3-29: The Lunar Prospector Spacecraft just after the completion of its wiring. Missing still are the science instrument booms and their canisters, that were yet to be mounted on the aluminum disks towards the bottom of the side panels and the solar array panels that would be mounted on the spacecraft much later in the integration and test phases of the program (Lockheed Martin photograph). View image

Figure 3-8, in Chapter 3-8: The Space Port Florida commercial launch pad - Pad 46, its gantry to the left and its blast vent to the right (photograph provided by Karen Ramos). View image

Figure 3-9, in Chapter 3-8: Karen Ramos and the author standing at the base of the Pad 46 gantry that was built under Karen’s oversight (photograph provided by Karen Ramos). View image

Figure 3-10, in Chapter 3-30: The Lunar Prospector Spacecraft as presented to the world at its "Coming Out Press Conference" on March 12, 1997. Except for the missing solar panels and the thermal blanketing, the spacecraft was fully functional. The white, cone shaped, omni and medium gain antenna complex is seen atop the spacecraft. The science instruments are mounted on their respective science instrument booms that are coiled up in their boom canisters - the Alpha Particle Spectrometer (APS)/Neutron Spectrometer (NS) unit faces the camera at the bottom of the spacecraft, the Gamma-Ray Spectrometer (the black cylindrical object) is to the rear and right-hand side of the spacecraft, the Magnetometer (MAG) is the silvery box protruding above the back and left-hand side of the top of the spacecraft and the Electron Reflectometer (ER) is the red covered object to the back and lower left-hand side of the spacecraft. Two of the three, thermal-blanketed propellant tanks can be seen protruding through the propellant tank cutouts in the front side panel of the spacecraft's structure and the various electronic units can be seen atop - and on the upper front side of - the spacecraft structure. Kim Foster is standing to the right of the spacecraft and connected to it by an anti-static electricity line, while the author, standing to the left of the spacecraft and being very careful not to touch it, since I was not connected to it by an anti-static electricity line, is explaining the various parts of the spacecraft to the members of the press (Lockheed Martin photograph). View image

Figure 3-11, in Chapter 3-31: The start of the first science instrument boom deployment test. The large aluminum frame structure surrounding the spacecraft provided support for the booms during the deployment test, since the 2.5-m long booms could not support their own weight, let alone the weight of the heavy instruments (up to 6.5 kg) in Earth's gravity. At the time this photograph was taken, the author had commanded the release of the Magnetometer (MAG) extension boom, which can be seen extended to the left of the spacecraft and surrounded by Lockheed and Able Engineering technicians - the MAG is the small silvery box at the end of the MAG extension boom (Lockheed Martin photograph). View image

Figure 3-12, in Chapter 3-31: The Lunar Prospector Spacecraft as it appeared after the first science instrument boom deployment test was completed. One can see how spindly the booms were and how the aluminum frame held the booms and the heavy science instrument during and after deployment. The boom to the right carries the Alpha Particle Spectrometer (APS) and Neutron Spectrometer (NS), while the other two booms are visible in the background. The circular devices (here seen best immediately behind the NS/APS unit) attached at the junction between the booms and the science instruments, allowed the booms and instruments to rotate freely (four times) as the booms uncoiled and moved outwards, supported by the frames, during the deployment (Lockheed Martin photograph). View image

+ Figures 3-13 through 3-19

Figure 3-13, in Chapter 3-31: The Gamma-Ray Spectrometer (GRS), before its thermal shield was installed, attached to its boom, which is coiled in its boom canister. The larger diameter cylinder in the middle of the instrument holds the actual Gamma-Ray detector and its anti-coincident shield. The smaller diameter cylinders at the top and bottom of the instrument hold the photomultiplier tubes and pre-amplifiers that detect the light flashes caused when gamma rays and cosmic rays strike the gamma-ray detector and when cosmic rays strike the anti-coincident shield (Lockheed Martin photograph). View image

Figure 3-14, in Chapter 3-31: The Gamma-Ray Spectrometer (GRS) all dressed up in it shiny thermal shield that would keep it at its operational temperature of -28° C to -29° C (Lockheed Martin photograph). View image

Figure 3-15, in Chapter 3-31: The Alpha Particle Spectrometer (APS, the square box at the front of the unit) and the Neutron Spectrometer (NS, the two tubes sticking out the sides of the unit), before they were wrapped in their thermal blankets, attached to their boom, which is coiled in its boom canister. The 5 APS detector pairs, located on five faces of the instrument's square housing, are cover with "red-tag" covers to protect them at all times. The red-tag covers were removed for testing and, of course, prior to launch. All such protective covers and devices that were to be removed before flight were red-tagged and all such red-tag items were catalogued and carefully accounted for after their removal just before launch, to absolutely insure that no such red tag device was left on the spacecraft prior to launch (Lockheed Martin photograph). View image

Figure 3-16, in Chapter 3-31: The author photographed while attaching a nitrogen gas purge line to the APS after the first science instrument boom deployment test was completed (photograph provided by Francisco Andolz). View image

Figure 3-17, in Chapter 3-31: The Alpha Particle Spectrometer (APS) and Neutron Spectrometer (NS) covered with their black blankets that would keep them warm (Lockheed Martin photograph). View image

Figure 3-18, in Chapter 3-32: Little Lunar Prospector and the test support crew in the huge (20 m diameter, 25 m long) Lockheed Thermal-Vacuum Test Chamber. The spacecraft has its test solar panels on and a red "hat-coupler" covers the omni and medium gain antenna complex. The hat-coupler allowed radio signals to be transmitted to - and received from - the spacecraft antennas without broadcasting the signals to the outside world and hence, interfere with normal civil broadcasts in the vicinity (Lockheed Martin photograph). View image

Figure 3-19, in Chapter 3-31: Tom Polette, the author's close friend and, during Phases B/C/D, deputy, photographed behind the Magnetometer (MAG) and Electron Reflectometer (ER), as he worked on the spacecraft. The MAG/ER are seen here mounted on their boom, which is coiled in its boom canister. The MAG is seen at the end of the short MAG extension boom, just above and to the left of Tom's head. The MAG extension boom was held in place for launch by a bracket with two thin wires wrapped around the boom. At the start of the boom deployment sequence, the wires would be cut, on the authors command, by two small explosive devices and then the MAG extension boom would swing out and lock into place, extending to Tom's left. The ER detector can be seen on the lower right of the housing and is covered with a red-tag cover. The housing, on which the ER detector and the MAG extension boom are mounted, contains the electronics for the MAG/ER (Lockheed Martin photograph). View image

+ Figures 3-20 through 3-25

Figure 3-20, in Chapter 3-34: Lunar Prospector, in its full flight configuration with its flight solar panels in place, and its Trans-Lunar Injection (TLI) Stage casing in Lockheed Acoustic Test Chamber. One of the wiring technicians is connecting the wiring between the explosive bolts and the TLI timer. Though the spacecraft is shown here in its full flight configuration, the TLI Stage still has aluminum mass simulators, instead of flight hardware, on it. The acoustic test was the last major test before the spacecraft was shipped to Cape Canaveral for launch preparations and launch (Lockheed Martin photograph). View image

Figure 3-21, in Chapter 3-42: Lockheed Project Manager Tom Dougherty (right) and the author (left) in front of a full-scale model of the spacecraft (Lockheed Martin photograph). View image

Figure 3-22, in Chapter 3-42: The Lockheed/Lunar Prospector Team that did the final design of the Lunar Prospector Spacecraft, built it, tested it and got it ready for flight (LRI photograph). View image

Figure 3-23, in Chapter 3-42: NASA/Ames' Deputy Project Manager, Sylvia Cox, and the author standing in from of the completed Lunar Prospector Spacecraft (Lockheed Martin photograph). View image

Figure 3-24, in Chapter 3-42: Members of the Science Team and the author, who were active in the design, construction integration and testing of the science instruments. From right to left, Bill Feldman (the Gamma-Ray Spectrometer/Neutron Spectrometer/Alpha Particle Spectrometer Co-Investigator), Bob Lin (Magnetometer/Electron Reflectometer [MAG/ER] Co-Investigator), the author (Lunar Prospector Principle Investigator), David Curtis (MAG/ER Chief Engineer) and Paul Turin (MAG/ER Mechanical Engineer); the person to Paul's right is a technician (Lockheed Martin photograph). View image

Figure 3-25, in Chapter 3-42: The senior members of the Lunar Prospector Mission Operations Team. From right to left, Paul Travis (Senior Uplink Controller), the author (Mission Director), Dan Swanson (Dynamics Officer and Deputy Mission Director) and Ric Campo (Senior Uplink controller) (Lockheed Martin photograph). View image

+ Figures 3-26 through 3-31

Figure 3-26, in Chapter 3-42: Lunar Prospector just after it was secured in its inexpensive, but serviceable, wooden shipping box in preparation for its being shipped in a truck to Cape Canaveral. The hardware in the box had a value of nearly $25,000,000 (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image

Figure 3-27, in Chapter 3-42: Lunar Prospector in its shipping box being secured in the special shipping truck for its trip to Cape Canaveral (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image

Figure 3-28, in Chapter 3-43: The Star 37 rocket motor that would be the heart of the Trans-Lunar Injection (TLI) Stage after it arrival at the Astro Tech spacecraft processing facility near Cape Canaveral. Behind and to the right of the Star 37 rocket is the TLI Stage casing, in which the Star 37 would soon be mounted (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image

Figure 3-29, in Chapter 3-43: Astro Tech technicians preparing to fill Lunar Prospector’s three fuel tanks with 137 kg of explosive, toxic, corrosive hydrazine (N2H4, a relative to common ammonia, NH3). Given hydrazine’s nasty disposition, the technicians had to wear protective suits and stand behind the blast shield, seen on the left, as they filled the tanks (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image

Figure 3-30, in Chapter 3-43: The TLI Stage is nearly ready to go. A Lockheed technician puts the final touches on the Trans-Lunar Injection (LTI) Stage. The Star 37 rocket motor (whose black engine bell can be seen under the casing) had been mounted in the TLI Stage casing, the red-tagged pyro-devices had been attached, the 3000-psi nitrogen bottles (the dark cylinders, one of which the technician is working on) of the collision avoidance system had been mounted on the right and left sides of the casing, the yellow TLI Stage timer unit had been installed, as were the spin-up rockets (one of which is to the immediate right side of the technician’s forehead and the other is on the opposite side of the casing). All those components of the TLI Stage were ready to perform their critical jobs in the separation, spin-up and TLI burn sequence that would propel Lunar Prospector out of its low Earth parking orbit and on its way to the Moon (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image

Figure 3-31, in Chapter 3-43: Laying down on the job? Not really - the technicians, Tim Maloney (lying on the floor just behind the high pressure nitrogen bottle and looking upwards along the Trans-Lunar Injection [TLI] Stage) and the author (lying on the floor to Tim’s right) are all trying to make sure that the TLI Stage and the spacecraft (not seen atop the TLI Stage) are properly attached to the spin-balance test stand for the critical, final spin balancing of the TLI Stage/spacecraft stack (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image

+ Figures 3-32 through 3-37

Figure 3-32, in Chapter 3-43: Mass Properties Engineer, Al Tilley (standing on the right) and the author (standing on the left) watching the Astro Tech engineers spin-balance the TLI Stage/Lunar Prospector stack – visible on the TV screen (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image

Figure 3-33, in Chapter 3-43: One of the author’s favorite photographs of Lunar Prospector and the Trans-Lunar Injection Stage as they stand on the spin-balance table. The Magnetometer (MAG)/Electron Reflectometer (ER) instrument complex is seen, mounted on its boom canister on the lower left side of the spacecraft, with the MAG and it’s MAG extension boom extending to the top of the solar panel drum and with their gold-coated foil, thermal blankets and thermal stripping in place. The Alpha Particle Spectrometer (APS)/Neutron Spectrometer complex is seen on the lower right side of the spacecraft. Looking downwards into the interior of the solar panel drum, one can see the various, blanketed electronic units and the white omni and medium gain antenna complex extending upwards from the top of the spacecraft structure. Note that all the red-tagged items, e.g., the APS detector covers, the ER cover and those on the TLI Stage, have been removed for the spin balancing (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image

Figure 3-34, in Chapter 3-43: Mass Properties Engineer, Al Tilley, standing in front of Lunar Prospector and the Trans-Lunar Injection Stage on the spin-balance test stand, just prior to the spin-balancing event (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image

Figure 3-35, in Chapter 3-43: The Trans-Lunar Injection (TLI) Stage ballast weights that were attached to the TLI Stage during the final preparations of the spacecraft and TLI Stage for launch at the Astro Tech spacecraft processing facility near Cape Canaveral. Just before we attached the ballast weights to the TLI Stage, I had all the engineers and technicians present sign the ballast weights. After launch, the signed weights and the TLI Stage initially followed Lunar Prospector as it raced towards the Moon, but because of decrease in the TLI Stage’s velocity caused by the firing of the high-pressure nitrogen jets of the collision avoidance system immediately after spacecraft separation from the spent TLI Stage, the TLI Stage did not reach the Moon. Rather, the TLI Stage went most of the way to the Moon and then started back to Earth, where it entered into - and burned up in - the Earth’s upper atmosphere over the Indian Ocean several days after launch (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image

Figure 3-36, in Chapter 3-43: Starting the final stacking of the Athena II rocket’s payload. Technicians watch as the fully flight ready, Trans-Lunar Injection Stage is carefully lowered onto the Athena II rockets adapter (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image

Figure 3-37, in Chapter 3-43: Shortly after the Trans-Lunar Injection (TLI) Stage had been attached to the Athena II rocket adapter, Tim Maloney watches as the fully flight ready Lunar Prospector Spacecraft is carefully lowered onto the TLI Stage. Visible (slightly out of focus) on the bottom of the spacecraft, mounted on a bracket, is one of the six small rocket engines of the spacecraft. Note that the small rocket engine bell is at a right angle to the long axis of the engine. Also note the separation spring mounted on the attachment bracket just in front of Tim. Three such springs would push Lunar Prospector away from the spent TLI Stage with a resultant separation velocity of about 1-m/sec, a velocity that would be immediately and greatly augmented by the firing of the nitrogen jets of the collision avoidance system, (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image

+ Figures 3-38 through 3-45

Figure 3-38, in Chapter 3-43: Francisco Andolz, with a smile of satisfaction, helping to attach the Lunar Prospector Spacecraft to the Trans-Lunar Injection Stage, shortly after the photograph in Figure 3-37 was taken. Note the spin-up rocket nozzle that is pointing directly at Francisco (photograph courtesy of Francisco Andolz)! View image

Figure 3-39, in Chapter 3-43: The author’s favorite photograph of the fully flight ready Athena II rocket payload stack – the Athena II rocket adapter, the Trans-Lunar Injection Stage and Lunar Prospector. I am pensively and nostalgically taking a long look at the final results of over 9 years of effort and contemplating the coming, complex events that would, hopefully, result in the successful launch and lunar orbit insertion of my beloved spacecraft. This photography is part of the Lunar Research Institute’s (LRI) Lunar Prospector display and also hangs in LRI’s main office. I tell visitors, jokingly (since I am an atheist), that I am praying to the rocket Gods in this photograph (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image

Figure 3-40, in Chapter 3-43: Shortly before the Astro Tech technicians began the encapsulation process, i.e., putting the Athena II rocket shroud over the payload, part of my proud and happy spacecraft launch preparation crew and I posed before the Lunar Prospector/Trans-Lunar Injection Stage/Athena II rocket adapter stack that would soon be hidden from view by the Athena II rocket shroud, seen almost out of view to the right in this photograph. From right to left, Francisco Andolz, Tim Maloney, Ross Shaw, the author, Kim Foster, Ralph Fullerton, David Curtis and Joe Rashid (photograph courtesy of Francisco Andolz). View image

Figure 3-41, in Chapter 3-43: The encapsulation process began as the Athena II launch vehicle engineers hoisted the Athena II shroud from its shipping platform. The two white, vertical structures to the left and right of the Lunar Prospector/Trans-Lunar Injection (TLI) Stage/Athena II rocket adapter stack are two of three guide rails that would ensure that the shroud did not accidentally hit the spacecraft or the TLI Stage as the shroud was lowered over the stack (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image

Figure 3-42, in Chapter 3-43: Going, Going, Gone. Slowly, every so slowly, the Athena II rocket shroud was lowered over the Lunar Prospector/Trans-Lunar Injection (TLI)/Athena II rocket adapter stack. Finally, the bottom of Lunar Prospector was no longer visible and I felt a nostalgic pang, knowing that I would never see my beloved spacecraft again. Though I would be able to see a small part of the spacecraft through a payload access door at the bottom of the shroud, I would never the see the entire spacecraft again. Several minutes later, the TLI Stage disappeared from view and then the shroud was resting on the basal adapter ring - that Stage of the encapsulation was finished (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image

Figure 3-43, in Chapter 3-43: The shroud, with Lunar Prospector and the Trans-Lunar Injection Stage safely tucked inside, had just been hoisted onto a flatbed truck for its midnight ride to the Athena II rocket that was waiting for its payload at pad 46 at Cape Canaveral (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image

Figure 3-44, in Chapter 3-43: The warning signs on the back of the flatbed truck used to transport the payload to Pad 46 - and we weren’t kidding (photograph by Francisco Andolz)! View image

Figure 3-45, in Chapter 3-43: The start of “The midnight-ride of Paul Re… – no, no, of Lunar Prospector”. At 1:30 AM, December 23, 1997 the payload convoy was ready to start the several hour journey to Pad 46 (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image

+ Figures 3-46 through 3-51

Figure 3-46, in Chapter 3-43: One of four rest and safety check stops on they way to Pad 46. Seen here, immediately behind the flatbed truck with the payload, is the emergency truck (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image

Figure 3-47, in Chapter 3-43: After having arrived safely with the payload at Pad 46, well after sunrise, my tired, but smiling crew and I posed for a photograph in front of the shrouded payload. From right to left, Gary Schlueter, Ralph Fullerton, Tim Maloney, Kim Foster, the author and Joe Rashid (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image

Figure 3-48, in Chapter 3-43: The topless Athena II rocket awaiting its payload in the pad 46 gantry (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image

Figure 3-49, in Chapter 3-43: The hungry alligator that was a few meters from where my crew and I were standing as we watched the payload and shroud being very slowly placed atop the Athena II rocket (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image

Figure 3-50, in Chapter 3-43: After “A hard day’s night” Kim took a nap while the alligator in Figure 3-49 eyed him as a possible breakfast snack. Apparently Kim assumed, incorrectly, that we would wake him up if the alligator decided to amble over for a bite (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image

Figure 3-51, in Chapter 3-43: The Athena II rocket with Lunar Prospector in its protective shroud, ready to go to the Moon (photograph by Francisco Andolz). View image


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