Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Atlas V, solar satellite will try for Thusday launch

NASA and United Launch Alliance hope lighter winds forecasted Thursday will allow an Atlas V rocket carrying a sun-observing satellite to get off the ground.

Strong winds scrubbed this morning's first attempt to launch the $850-million Solar Dynamics Observatory mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The launch was reset for 10:23 a.m. Thursday, the opening of another one-hour launch window.

"We gave it our best shot today, and we'll try again (Thursday)," said Chuck Dovale of NASA's Launch Services Program, the mission's assistant launch director.

The weather is expected to improve, to a 60-percent chance of favorable conditions.

Winds that consistently blew above 20 knots today, violating the launch limit, should drop to about 16 knots, according to Air Force meteorologists. Cloud cover will also be watched.

The wind appeared to be lightening today right at the end of a launch window that closed at 11:26 a.m. Wind speeds dropped within limits for a four-minute period just before launch directors gave the go-ahead to pick up the countdown from a planned hold at T minus 4 minutes, at 11:22 a.m.

But one second later, computers detected a wind gust above 20 knots and automatically halted the countdown. There wasn't enough time left in the window to wait for winds to calm again.

Operations began to drain the rocket's booster and upper stage of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fuel, which could be reloaded around 8 a.m. Thursday.

NASA's SDO mission is an effort to study the sun and the space weather it creates, hopefully leading to more accurate forecasts of violent storm events like solar flares and coronal mass ejections that can damage satellites, power grids and communications systems on Earth.

The mission is budgeted five years, but managers hope they can operate the spacecraft as long as 10 years.

Click here for more background on the mission.

Keep following the Flame Trench for Thursday's countdown coverage, and sign up to receive text alerts on the countdown's status here.

Between now and then, stay tuned for ongoing coverage of shuttle Endeavour's International Space Station assembly mission.

The shuttle and its crew of six docked at the outpost early this morning after launching Monday from Kennedy Space Center.

IMAGES: By Mike Brown, Florida Today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ever wonder why anyone would pay $850,000,000 for a satellite to look at the sun. I guess that's plus tax, title, and launching costs.