Updated on June 10, 2011
The international Aquarius/SAC-D Earth-observing mission, carrying the NASA-built Aquarius instrument, is scheduled to launch at 7:20 a.m. PDT (10:20 a.m. EDT), June 10, 2011, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, along California's central coast. Aquarius will measure the saltiness of Earth's ocean surface to improve climate forecasts.
The satellite observatory is nestled inside the top of a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. Spacecraft separation from the Delta II is scheduled to occur 56 minutes 42 seconds after launch. One minute later, the observatory's solar panels are scheduled to deploy.
The following spacecraft events will be checked off as they occur:
✓ Launch The Delta II rocket carrying the Aquarius/SAC-D observatory, with NASA's Aquarius mission, has lifted off into the morning skies above Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. It is heading up and out over the Pacific Ocean.
✓ Fairing separates
The Delta II's first-stage engine has completed its burn, its second-stage engine has ignited as planned, and the rocket's nose cone, or fairing, has separated and been jettisoned as planned, exposing the Aquarius/SAC-D observatory to space.
✓ Coast phase
The Delta II rocket's second-stage engine has temporarily stopped firing, as planned, and the rocket and Aquarius/SAC-D observatory have begun a planned 42-minute, 40-second coast phase. During this time, the second-stage engine will perform two sets of attitude re-orientation maneuvers.
✓ Spacecraft separates and solar arrays are deployed
The Aquarius/SAC-D observatory has successfully separated from its Delta II rocket, ground controllers have acquired its signal, and its solar arrays have been deployed to provide power.
On launch day, June 10, NASA TV commentary coverage of the countdown will begin at 5:30 a.m. PDT (8:30 a.m. EDT). The coverage will be webcast at http://www.nasa.gov/ntv .
Live countdown coverage on NASA's launch blog also begins at 5:30 a.m. PDT (8:30 a.m. EDT). Coverage features real-time updates of countdown milestones, as well as streaming video clips highlighting launch preparations and liftoff. To access these features, and for more information on Aquarius, go to NASA's Aquarius/SAC-D mission website at NASA’s Aquarius/SAC-D mission website at http://www.nasa.gov/aquarius .
The launch will also be online, with a live chat available, on Ustream TV, at http://www.ustream.tv/nasajpl2 .