Friday, June 10, 2011

Delta II, Aquarius blast off from Vandenberg

A NASA science satellite designed to monitor the saltiness of the ocean surface is en route to orbit after blasting off from the California coast.

A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on time at 10:20 a.m. EDT.

The early phases of flight proceeded without incident.

Three strap-on solid rocket boosters burned out and separated one minute and 45 seconds into flight, and the first stage separated about five minutes in, as the vehicle accelerated past 10,000 mph.

The rocket's second stage executed its first burn properly.

The 16-foot-tall, Argentinian-built spacecraft carrying eight instruments including NASA's Aquarius, the primary instrument, was scheduled to separate from the rocket's second stage about 56 minutes after launch.

The $287-million mission will map ocean surface salinity around the globe for three years.

IMAGES: A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket blasts off from Space Launch Complex-2 at 7:20 a.m. PDT with the Aquarius/SAC-D observatory for NASA and the Space Agency of Argentina. Photos by William G. Hartenstein, ULA.

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