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NASA's Launch Blog - STEREO Mission

NASA's launch blog was activated Oct. 25, 2006 at 6:30 p.m. and deactivated at 9:17 p.m. EDT.

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All times are in EDT unless otherwise stated.

9:17 p.m. - "Yo-yo" weights have been deployed -- and spacecraft separation is confirmed! Cheering erupts among the launch and mission team members as the twin STEREO spacecraft are on their own in orbit, preparing for a two-year mission.

Commentator George Diller interviews NASA Launch Manager Omar Baez following tonight's successful countdown and liftoff.
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9:12 p.m. - And third stage burnout.

9:11 p.m. - We have third stage ignition.

9:10 p.m. - The second stage engine has completed its job and is "flying free" from the third stage, in the words of telemetry specialist Mark Levigne.

9:09 p.m. - Second stage engine shutdown (SECO 2) and hydraulic pump shutdown.

9:07 p.m. - Cape Verde tracking station confirms second stage engine restart. SECO 2 is coming up in about a minute and a half, followed by jettison of the second stage.

9:03 p.m. - The rocket is in a five minute coast phase before reignition of the stage 2 engine.

9:02 p.m. - We have second stage engine cutoff (SECO), the first of two in tonight's ascent. We are in orbit! The rocket has passed 16,500 miles per hour velocity.

Did You Know?
One of the STEREO observatories will be ahead of Earth in its orbit and the other will be trailing behind the Earth.

8:57 p.m. - The vehicle has exceeded 80 miles in altitude. Everything looking good with ascent so far.

8:55 p.m. - We have main engine cutoff (MECO) and separation of the first stage from the second stage, followed by stage 2 engine ignition. The composite payload fairing that has protected the STEREO spacecraft through the harshest part of ascent has been jettisoned on time. The official range liftoff time was 8:52:00 p.m. EDT.

8:53 p.m. - Main engines are doing well as the vehicle approaches MACH 1 at T+30 seconds. Solid motors are starting to taper off as expected. And we have burnout and jettison of six of the Delta II's nine solid motors, followed by ignition of the three air-lit solid motors. The three remaining solids have burned out and jettisoned after providing additional boost in the earliest minutes of the climb to orbit.

Velocity over 3,000 miles per hour, vehicle telemetry is looking good, performance is nominal.

8:52 p.m. - And liftoff of the Delta II rocket with STEREO, giving us a 3-dimensional look at the physics of our sun.
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8:49 p.m. - T-3 minutes and STEREO is go for launch.

8:48 p.m. - T-4 minutes and counting! The vehicle has gone to internal power.

8:41 p.m. - Diller reports that the toxics issue has been resolved and the range has gone "green." The countdown will resume at 8:48 p.m.

8:36 p.m. - Baez has conducted his final poll of the launch team and they are ready to proceed, pending resolution of the issue with the range. Right now we are scheduled to come out of this hold at 8:48 p.m. for a launch at 8:52 p.m.

8:33 p.m. - NASA Launch Manager Omar Baez has announced that the team will not come out of the T-4 minute hold as scheduled because the Eastern Range is still "red" due to the toxics issue. The team is now targeting the end of tonight's launch window -- 8:52 p.m. The gaseous nitrogen bottle issue has been resolved.

Did You Know?
The two-year STEREO mission will provide a unique and revolutionary view of the sun-Earth system.

8:26 p.m. - T-4 minutes and holding for 10 minutes. Evaluation of the toxics issue continues, but weather is "go" otherwise. However, there is an issue with a gaseous nitrogen bottle. The bottle is out of limits and too cold. The launch team is trying to warm up the bottle, which could take us past the opening of the window. NASA Chief Engineer James Wood is working this issue.

8:23 p.m. - T-5 minutes and counting. LOX is being allowed to boil off, with the level being maintained between 99% and 100%.

8:17 p.m. - Range safety is red at this time due to the possibility that toxics from the vehicle could disperse over local populated areas, should there be a mishap. Additional weather balloons are being launched to monitor this. If this continues to be an issue, we will not come out of the T-4 hold.

8:13 p.m. - T-15 minutes and counting. The countdown will continue until T-4 and pause for a final 10 minute hold. There are no vehicle or spacecraft issues being worked.

8:05 p.m. - NASA Launch Manager Omar Baez is polling the launch team to verify they're ready to proceed with the countdown, and the team is ready.

Did You Know?
STEREO is the third mission in NASA's Solar Terrestrial Probes Program (STP).

Catch the Vision: Tiffany Nail explains how NASA's Launch Services Program gets the job done.
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7:53 p.m. - The countdown clock is holding at T-15 minutes. This is a 20 minute built-in hold.

7:50 p.m. - Weather officer Joel Tumbiolo just gave another promising weather briefing. The radar continues to show no precipitation, winds are less than 10 knots, and there's really no change to the earlier forecasts. There is virtually no chance that weather will interfere with tonight's launch plans. The launch team is "green" on all weather constraints.

7:48 p.m. - T-19 minutes and counting, and engine slews are successfully complete.

7:42 p.m. - At T-25 minutes and counting, the vehicle is about to start engine "slews." These are steering checks of the Delta II's first and second stage engine nozzles. During these checks, both engine nozzles go through a series of programmed movements to verify that they can steer the vehicle properly. The second stage slews are completed first, followed by the first stage slews.

7:32 p.m. - At T-35 minutes and counting, the team is conducting Command Receiver/Decoder checks. These checks are done for Range Safety, should the rocket veer off course and have to be destroyed.

All is going well tonight as the countdown clock ticks down toward launch at 8:38 p.m. All activities are running on schedule and Commentator George Diller reports that everything is "green," meaning there are no launch constraint violations.

Did You Know?
There are four instrument packages mounted on each of the two STEREO spacecraft. + Read More

7:22 p.m. - LOX loading is complete after about 27 minutes and 32 seconds. Puffs of oxygen venting from the vehicle are another visible sign that LOX is present inside the first stage. These puffs appear as small amounts of liquid oxygen boil off and are replenished, a measure designed to prevent a pressure build-up inside the tank.

Commentator George Diller interviews Jim Adams, STEREO deputy project manager.
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7:11 p.m. - Darkness is falling quickly across central Florida, and the bright lights surrounding Launch Pad 17-B are trained on the rocket. The LOX flow is already 72% complete after 17 minutes. As the tank continues to fill with liquid oxygen, ice is forming on the exterior wall of the first stage, making its color seem to change from blue to white.

Did You Know?
The STEREO mission will provide a number of "firsts:"
  • First stereo viewing of the sun from out-of-Earth-orbit vantage points
  • First imaging and tracking of space weather disturbances from the sun to Earth
  • First continuous determination of interplanetary shock positions by radio triangulation
  • First simultaneous imaging of solar activity with in-situ measurement of energetic particles
+ Read More About STEREO Firsts

Commentator George Diller interviews Mission Integration Manager Rex Engelhardt.
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6:57 p.m. - Now three minutes into the LOX "flow."

6:54 p.m. - Fine load and rapid load are both "open," and liquid oxygen is flowing. The engine heaters are on, helping to stabilize the vehicle as it's filled with the super-cold propellant, which is chilled to about -300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Commentator George Diller interviews Ed Reynolds, STEREO project manager.
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6:53 p.m. - At T-75 minutes and counting, the team has started loading 14,700 gallons of liquid oxygen into the first stage. Less than an hour ago, the first stage was loaded with nearly 10,000 gallons of RP-1 fuel, a highly refined kerosene that combines with liquid oxygen to power the main engine.

6:48 p.m. - T-80 minutes and counting. The blast danger area is clear and the team is making final preparations to begin loading liquid oxygen into the first stage.

6:43 p.m. - Mission Director Rich Murphy of The Boeing Company has conducted his poll and the team is ready to begin cryo tanking.

6:41 p.m. - NASA Launch Manager Omar Baez is conducting a poll of the launch team to verify they're ready to begin "cryo tanking" -- the process of loading about 15,000 gallons of liquid oxygen (LOX) into the Delta II rocket's first stage. The team is ready.

6:35 p.m. - Weather Officer Joel Tumbiolo reports that there is a 0% chance that weather will prevent a launch tonight. Temperatures will be in the low 60s, with a light wind -- about 10 knots -- out of the northeast. There is no precipitation on the radar and none expected. "We're looking at very good conditions this evening," Tumbiolo told the launch team.

NASA Launch Commentator George Diller interviews Kennedy Space Center Director James Kennedy.
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6:30 p.m. - Good evening, and thanks for joining tonight's coverage of the launch of a Boeing Delta II rocket carrying NASA's STEREO spacecraft. The Delta II is poised for liftoff at 8:38 p.m. from Launch Pad 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. So far, everything is looking great for launch tonight, with no issues in work.

Several important events have already taken place prior to our coverage. The terminal countdown began just about an hour ago at 5:38 p.m. with the countdown clock ticking down from the T-150 minute mark. First stage nitrogen and helium chilldown and pressurization were complete at 5:55 p.m.

The gantry-like mobile service tower began its 30-minute rollback from the Delta II at 12:50 p.m. this afternoon.
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The launch team began loading 9,982 gallons of RP-1 fuel into the rocket's first stage at 6:02 p.m. The fuel flows quickly -- about 1,000 gallons per minute during "rapid load" -- until the tank is 98% full. During "fine load" the flow slows until the tank is completely full. Tonight's RP-1 loading took 17 minutes and 45 seconds, finishing up at 6:20 p.m.

During a briefing with the launch team, Delta Launch Weather Officer Joel Tumbiolo reported that there's less than a 5% chance that weather will prohibit tonight's launch. That's about as good a forecast as a launch team could ask for.

NASA Launch Commentator George Diller kicks off the televised launch coverage for STEREO.
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