"NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, spacecraft was loaded on a truck Wednesday to begin its two-day journey to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Launch is targeted for April 24."
Editor's 12 Feb note: This is being circulated internally at NASA:
From: Tooley, Craig R. (GSFC-451.0)
Sent: Thursday, February 12, 2009 9:21 AM
Subject: LRO Launch Date Change
As of this morning LRO was notified that problems with the WSG spacecraft have made it impossible for ULA to launch LRO/LROCSS on 4/24/2009. The next set of LRO/LCROSS launch days opens on 5/7/2009. Both LRO and ULA are replanning for 5/7/2009 as of this morning.
Please note that this is unrelated to the booster tank issues and that there are still unresolved issue with a west coast Delta launch (STSS) that is scheduled for 5/5 and will have to move to late May to enable ULA/KSC to launch LRO/LCROSS on 5/7. The current thinking is this will be arranged but is not yet confirmed.
The details of our replanned schedule, and any changes to planned activities, are not yet sorted out. Once we have the new ULA integration schedule (expected today) we'll replan the details of the LRO schedule and send it to all involved.
CRAIG TOOLEY-LRO Project Manager
Editor's 16 Feb note: Curiously, nearly a week after this internal email was circulated to LRO project staff, NASA has not yet admitted (officially) that LRO's launch date has been slipped. Yet if you visit this KSC visitors center webpage you will see that the launch date listed is 7 May 2009 at 7:30 pm ET.
However, the latest NASA Expendable Launch Vehicle Status Report shows a 24 April launch date and states "There is no formal request to NASA from United Launch Alliance, or ULA, to change the launch date of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter from April 24. Informal discussions are ongoing between NASA, ULA and the Air Force to understand the needs of ULA's launch clients, including the Air Force and its Wideband Global Satcom spacecraft. LRO and LCROSS continue to work towards the earliest possible launch date until a formal determination can be made otherwise."
So why is the LRO Project Manager teling his team that it is "impossible for ULA to launch LRO/LROCSS on 4/24/2009"?
Editor's 17 Feb update: Someone @KSC must have dumped on the KSC Visitor's Center. Their calendar page now shows a 24 April launch date for LRO. However, this LCROSS press release from ARC won't name a specific launch date and only says "in preparation for a spring launch" instead.