LADEE launches, encounters early trouble (update: fixed!)

Last night marked the successful launch of the LADEE spacecraft aboard a Minotaur V rocket.  After a prompt liftoff at 11:27 PM EDT, the spacecraft was safely placed in the correct trajectory for its month-long journey to the Moon.  Routine post-launch checks, however, have revealed that not everything is proceeding flawlessly.

LADEE launched successfully last night, but has encountered minor trouble since then.  (Image credit: NASA /Chris Perry)

LADEE seems to be spinning much faster than she should be.  Some spin is normal, and, after every launch, a spacecraft's reaction wheels are turned on to stabilize things.  Shortly after this procedure was initiated, however, the flight computers automatically disabled the reaction wheels because they were drawing too much power. The most likely explanation for this action is that the spacecraft is spinning too quickly for the reaction wheels to overcome.  They tried to spin faster than their design and the computer shut things down to protect the spacecraft.

This doesn't mean that LADEE will spin forever.  In fact, NASA expected to undertake a fairly routine procedure to stabilize the ship.  Most likely, the spacecraft's thruster jets will be fired to slow the rate of spin.  Once the spin is under control, the reaction wheels can be turned back on and normal operation will commence.  NASA believes that this will only add a couple of days to the spacecraft's initial checkout.  That leaves plenty of time to sort things out before LADEE arrives to begin studying the Moon. 

Update: NASA claims the reaction wheel shutdown was caused by a software glitch, which has now been corrected.  Hooray!

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