Associated Press — LADEE was built using an NASA Ames-developed modular common spacecraft bus architecture, a spacecraft design that allows the space agency to develop, assemble and test multiple modules at the same time. The LADEE bus structure is made of a lightweight carbon composite with a mass of 547.2 pounds. It carries three instruments: a light spectrometer, a mass spectrometer and a dust analyzer.
Its propulsion system was built by Silicon Valley neighbor Space Systems/Loral, using commercial off-the-shelf systems.
The mission will help solve a long-standing mystery: Was lunar dust, electrically charged by sunlight, responsible for the pre-sunrise glow above the lunar horizon detected during several Apollo missions?
It will also test laser communications in space, essential for future space missions. The radio signals that are used today are very slow, with limited bandwidth, said Don Cornwell, mission manager for the Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
This would create an interplanetary Internet, sending back data from future human explorations.