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Defense Technology Test Spacecraft Launched

January 26, 1994| From Associated Press

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — An unmanned spacecraft named Clementine 1, equipped with sensors built for missile defense, roared off a launch pad Tuesday on a seven-month journey to explore the moon and an asteroid.

Scientific data collected when Clementine points its instruments at the moon next month and the asteroid Geographos next summer will be a byproduct of a $75-million-plus mission primarily intended to test new defense technology.

The key instruments are five advanced sensors designed for detecting and tracking missiles, according to the Defense Department's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, which jointly sponsored the mission with NASA.

A two-stage Titan 2G booster, a converted ballistic missile, lifted Clementine off at 8:34 a.m. and sent it southwest over the Pacific.

Contact with the spacecraft was achieved several hours later as planned.

The mission is designed to test the detection capabilities of the sensors at realistic closing velocities, using the Earth, moon and Geographos as targets. A small rocket motor known as the Interstage Adapter System, launched with Clementine, also will be targeted by the sensors.

Clementine will stay in Earth orbit for about seven days, then begin a looping trajectory to enter orbit around the moon on Feb. 20.

That will be the first lunar exploration since the Apollo moon missions ended 21 years ago. The last, Apollo 17, landed in December, 1972.

Clementine will spend two months in two orbit paths around the moon, mapping the entire surface in visible and near-infrared spectra. Laser-ranging and auto-navigation experiments also are planned.

The spacecraft will then leave lunar orbit on a four-month trip to Geographos, passing within 75 miles of the asteroid on Aug. 31.

The mission is expected to end after seven months.

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