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26-Nov-00 | Delta flight 282 – EO-1 / SAC-C / Munin

Delta flight 282 successfully placed three satellites into orbit on Tuesday, 21 November, just in time to avoid a recurrence of Delta’s occasional reputation as a “holiday-seeking missile.” The two-stage 7320 model lifted off from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 2-West at an official range time of 18:24:25.103 UTC, heading nearly due south to enter a high-inclination polar orbit.

Boeing’s new Dual Payload Attach Fitting (DPAF) deployed the two primary payloads about 60 and 90 minutes after launch. First was NASA’s Earth Observing-1, a new technology demonstrator that should advance and economize Earth imaging systems for future versions of the Landsat satellites. It will fly in formation with Landsat 7 (launched April 1999 on a Delta II) to directly compare the results. (In much the same way, Landsat 7 was initially placed in a similar orbit to its predecessor, the venerable Landsat 5, for calibration purposes.)

EO-1 is the latest mission in the NASA New Millennium Program, which also includes the highly successful Deep Space 1, an advanced technology demonstrator that is currently pursuing an extended mission to fly by a comet, and the disappointing Deep Space 2, the microprobes that plunged to the Martian surface in 1999 without uttering a peep. (Both launched aboard Delta II rockets, DS-2 as a subpayload of Mars Polar Lander.)

Next to deploy was the Satelite de Aplicanciones Cientificas-C (SAC-C), a joint mission of the Argentine Commission on Space Activities and NASA. SAC-C will study Earth’s magnetic field and its interaction with the solar wind, and among other objectives will track an endangered species of whale using GPS receivers attached to the whales’ backs.

Following a total of 4 second stage burns (demonstrating the Aerojet AJ-10’s high reliability and nearly unlimited restart capability), the second stage jettisoned Munin, a small secondary payload for the Swedish Institute of Space Physics. The 13-pound cube will collect data on space weather and auroral activity while assessing autonomous operation of small satellites. (Another payload, Colorado Space Grant Consortium’s Citizen Explorer-1, was not ready in time and was bumped from the flight.)

The launch was delayed by several days due to an issue with the processing records of the RIFCA, and by minor contamination on the EO-1 payload that required one half of the payload fairing to be removed for cleaning operations.

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