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Archive for 2003

07-Mar-03 | SIRTF arrives in Florida

The Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) arrived at the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday, 6 March. The last of NASA’s Great Observatories was transported in a three-vehicle land convoy from the Lockheed Martin plant in Sunnyvale, California, and will be prepared for launch in the clean room of Hangar AE. Meanwhile, its launch vehicle, the first Delta II-Heavy, began stacking at Pad 17B on 24 February. Main stage and solid boosters are in place, with upcoming events currently scheduled as follows (JPL Press Release, 06-Mar-03):

11-Feb-03 | New MAP of the universe

NASA has released the sharpest image of the “infant universe” captured to date, the result of a 12-month full-sky survey by MAP (Delta 286). Now known as the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, WMAP returned data some 35 times more detailed than those provided in 1992 by COBE (Delta 189). Thanks to these results, scientists now believe the age of the universe is 13.7 billion years. (NASA Press Release, 11-Feb-03)

29-Jan-03 | Delta flight 295 – NAVSTAR IIR-8

Today marked the second Delta II launch in just over two weeks, as flight 295 placed NAVSTAR IIR-8 into a perfect transfer orbit for the U.S. Air Force and its Global Positioning System. The Air Force, Boeing, the Delta rocket and the weather apparently all took to heart the message of the Delta’s commemorative nose art, “Let’s Roll!”, as the terminal countdown was flawless and the vehicle lifted off right at the opening of its 14-minute window. (Official liftoff time, 18:06:00.431 UTC) Just over 68 minutes later the third stage separated from the spacecraft after placing it in a elliptical transfer orbit of about 11,000 n.m. apogee. Within the next few days IIR-8 will fire its on-board kick motor to reach operational orbit, where it will eventually replace spacecraft SVN-22 (launched 03-Feb-93 aboard Delta 218). Meanwhile, the experimental XSS-10 microsatellite remained attached to the AJ10-118K second stage for several hours before deploying to perform its guidance and control software test.

17-Jan-03 | Delta flight 294 – ICESAT / CHIPSAT

After a one-day delay caused by a faulty helium valve unit in a piece of ground support equipment, Delta flight 294 launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in the evening of Sunday, 12 January, 2003 (official launch time was 00:45:00.102 UTC on 13-Jan-03). The two-stage Delta II successfully placed ICESAT and its co-payload CHIPSAT in their proper orbits. As this author had the misfortune to be incommunicado during the launch, readers interested in a play-by-play of the launch are advised to check out Justin Ray’s coverage at Spaceflight Now.

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