Friday, June 10, 2011

Delta II rocket set for launch from California

Final fueling is under way of a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket for a 10:20 a.m. EDT launch today from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Atop the 128-foot rocket is a satellite carrying a salt-mapping NASA instrument and seven other international science instruments from Brazil, Canada, Italy and France.

The $287-million Aquarius mission is a collaboration with Argentina's space agency, which built the satellite called SAC-D.

Aquarius will map the concentration of salt on the ocean surface to better understand the cycle of water around the globe and its connection to climate change.

The launch is being managed by Kennedy Space Center's Launch Services Program. It was delayed one day to sort out inconsistencies found in the flight profile designed to steer the rocket through upper level winds.

No technical concerns are being reported and there's a 100 percent chance of favorable weather. The launch window extends five minutes.

Liquid oxygen at minus 297 degrees Fahrenheit began pumping into the two-stage rocket's first stage at 8:35 a.m. Three 42-foot-long strap-on solid rocket motors will also support the vehicle at liftoff.

IMAGE: Above, a United Launch Alliance Delta II stands ready for launch at Space Launch Complex-2 with NASA’s Aquarius/SAC-D payload. Launch is scheduled for Friday, June 10 at 7:20 a.m. PDT. NASA’s Aquarius, the primary instrument on the SAC-D observatory, will provide unprecedented global maps of ocean surface salinity to better understand the links between ocean circulation, the global cycling of freshwater and climate. Photo by William G. Hartenstein, ULA.

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