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NASA’s GRAIL twins – dubbed GRAIL-A & GRAIL-B – are ready to embark on America’s next science expedition to the moon in less than 1 month’s time from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
The twin Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft have been exhaustively tested, fueled for flight and mounted side-by-side on a specially designed payload adapter inside the controlled environment of a clean room at the Astrotech Space Operations facility in nearby Titusville, Fla.
The next processing step is to encapsulate the lunar probes inside their protective payload fairing. The duo are set to be shipped from Astrotech to their Cape Canaveral launch pad next week on Aug. 16, where they will be mated to an already assembled Delta II booster.
Liftoff of the GRAIL twins is slated for Sept. 8 at 8:37 a.m. EDT by a Delta II Heavy rocket from Launch Complex 17 at Cape Canaveral for a nearly four month voyage to the moon.
After entering lunar orbit, the two GRAIL spacecraft will fly in a tandam formation just 50 kilometers above the lunar surface with an average separation of 200 km during the 90 day science phase.
GRAIL’s mission goal is to map the moon’s gravity field to high precision and thereby deduce the structure of the lunar interior from crust to core. This will also lead to a better understanding of the composition of the moon’s interior, according to Sami Asmar, GRAIL co-investigator from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasasdena, Calif., during an interview inside the Astrotech clean room at a photo opportunity for the media. A gravity experiment is also aboard the just launched Jupiter bound Juno spacecraft.
GRAIL Photo Album special taken from inside the Astrotech cleanroom facility.