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Archive for March, 2009


30-Mar-09 | Delta flight 340 – NAVSTAR IIR-20 (M7)

An early-morning Delta II launch from Cape Canaveral on Tuesday, 24 March 2009, has successfully placed another GPS satellite into orbit. Given the flight’s official range liftoff time of 04:34:00.244 EDT, this reporter slept through the whole thing—but Spaceflight Now‘s Justin Ray was awake and filed another entry in his continuing series of excellent mission status reports.

The flight marked the 87th success in a row for the venerable Delta II, a record dating back to 1997. There now remains only one Delta II launch for the Global Positioning System, currently scheduled for late summer.


28-Mar-09 | Delta flight 339 – Kepler

On the evening of Friday, 6 March, a three-stage Delta II 7925 launched NASA’s newest observatory, Kepler. The official liftoff time from Cape Canaveral’s SLC-17B was 03:49:57.465 UTC on 7 March. As usual, Spaceflight Now provided a complete play-by-play in its Mission Status Center.

Kepler is the first concentrated attempt at seeking out terrestrial planets—i.e., those roughly the size of Earth. It will do this by watching stars closely to spot the minute dimming caused by periodic transits of planets across the stars’ visible faces. Using Johannes Kepler’s Third Law of planetary motion scientists will be able to determine the planet’s orbit, and from there extrapolate its mass and estimated surface temperature. Thus they may figure out whether the planet might be capable of supporting life similar to that on Earth.


02-Mar-09 | Next launch

The next Delta II launch will be NASA’s Earth-size-planet hunter, Kepler. It is currently targeted for the late evening of 6 March EST (early morning 7 March UTC), pending a positive Flight Readiness Review today as well as confirmation of range availability by the USAF. The launch was delayed by one day to give engineers additional time to review possible hardware commonalities with the Taurus XL launch vehicle, which splashed NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory last week after its payload fairing failed to separate properly.


     

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