The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, are set to lift off together aboard an Atlas V rocket on Thursday, June 18. There are three launch opportunities from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida: 5:12 p.m., 5:22 p.m. and 5:32 p.m.
Thursday’s liftoff of LRO and LCROSS is postponed 24 hours, the launch times Friday are 6:41 p.m., 6:51 p.m. and 7:01 p.m. Saturday’s opportunities are 8:08 p.m., 8:18 p.m. and 8:28 p.m.
LRO is scheduled for a one-year exploration mission at a polar orbit of about 31 miles, or 50 kilometers, the closest any spacecraft has orbited the moon. The primary objective of LRO is to conduct investigations to prepare for future explorations of the moon.
Launching with LRO is LCROSS, a partner mission that will search for water ice on the moon by sending the spent upper-stage Centaur rocket, about the size of a sports utility vehicle, to impact part of a polar crater in permanent shadows. LCROSS will fly into the plume of dust left by the impact and measure the properties before also colliding with the lunar surface.