Spacecraft and Instruments

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)

Building the LRO Spacecraft

The spacecraft was built by engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. It was then put through extensive testing. The orbiter was subjected to the extreme temperature cycles of the lunar environment as engineers conducted simulated flight operations. "We have cooked LRO, frozen it, shaken it, and blasted it with electromagnetic waves, and still it operates," said Dave Everett, LRO mission system engineer at Goddard. "We have performed more than 2,500 hours of powered testing."

Spacecraft Specs

  • One year primary mission in ~50 km polar orbit, possible extended mission in communication relay/south pole observing, low-maintenance orbit
  • LRO Total Mass ~ 1000 kg/400 W
  • 100 kg/100W payload capacity
  • 3-axis stabilized pointed platform (~ 60 arc-sec or better pointing)
  • Articulated solar arrays and Li-Ion battery
  • Spacecraft to provide thermal control services to payload elements if req'd
  • Ka-band high rate downlink ( 100-300 Mbps, 900 Gb/day), S-band up/down low rate
  • Centralized Mission Operations Center flows level spacecraft data to the individual instrument Science Operations Centers, where the data are processed, calibrated and higher level data products (such as maps) are created.
  • Command & Data Handling : MIL-STD-1553, RS 422, & High Speed Serial Service, PowerPC Architecture, 200-400 Gb SSR, CCSDS
  • Mono or bi-prop propulsion (500-700 kg fuel)

The LRO Instrument Suite

LRO has several instruments that help NASA characterize the moon's surface. The powerful equipment bring the moon into sharper focus and reveal new insights about the celestial body nearest Earth. The LRO payload is comprised of six instruments and one technology demonstration.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation

Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation

(CRaTER) characterizes the lunar radiation environment and determine its potential biological impacts. CRaTER also tests models of radiation effects and shielding, which may enable the development of protective technologies.

Diviner Lunar Radiometer

Diviner Lunar Radiometer

(DLRE) provides orbital thermal mapping measurements, giving detailed information about surface and subsurface temperatures (identifying cold traps and potential ice deposits), as well as landing hazards such as rough terrain or rocks.

Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, Lyman-Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP) field of view

Lyman Alpha Mapping Project

(LAMP) maps the entire lunar surface in the far ultraviolet. LAMP also searches for surface ice and frost in the polar regions and provide images of permanently shadowed regions illuminated only by starlight.

Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector (LEND) scientific instrument is designed for NASA interplanetary mission Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector

(LEND) creates high resolution hydrogen distribution maps and provides information about the lunar radiation environment. It is used to search for evidence of water ice on the Moon's surface, and provides measurements useful for future human exploration.

Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) sends laser pulses down to the surface of the Moon from the orbiting spacecraft.

Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter

 (LOLA) measures landing site slopes, lunar surface roughness, and generate a high resolution 3D map of the Moon. LOLA also identifies the Moon's permanently illuminated and permanently shadowed areas by analyzing Lunar surface elevations.

LRO Spacecraft photo before March 17, 2013 impact crater

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera

(LROC) retrieves high resolution black and white images of the lunar surface, capturing images of the lunar poles and lunar surface which provide knowledge of polar illumination conditions, identify potential resources, hazards, and enable safe landing site selection.

Mini-RF Technology Demonstration

The primary goal of the Mini-RF is to search for subsurface water ice deposits. In addition to taking high-resolution imagery of permanently-shadowed regions.