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28-Apr-06 | Delta flight 314 – CALIPSO / CloudSat

It was lucky number seven for Delta 314 this morning, as it delivered CALIPSO and CloudSat into orbit. After six previous scrubs, the two-stage Delta II rocket leapt from the pad at Vandenberg’s SLC-2W at an official liftoff time of 03:02:16.721 PDT and quickly vanished into a low-lying cloud bank. Infrared tracking cameras provided the only view of the remainder of the flight, their steady aim showing clearly the jettison of its 4 booster motors, MECO, first/second staging, second stage ignition, and payload fairing jettison. The “Big Crow” tracking aircraft, whose lack of refuelling support caused two scrubs earlier in the week, lost its telemetry lock with the Delta rocket and was unable to provide realtime data during the one significant event it was slated to cover, SECO-1. Unseen or not, the vehicle completed all its remaining tasks and deployed CALIPSO (at T+62:31) and CloudSat (at T+97:37) into their sun-synchronous delivery orbits. Over the next six weeks the satellites will be checked out and moved into their operational orbits, where they will join the “A-Train” — a fleet of Earth-observing satellites, moving in close formation in similar orbits, that includes Aqua (Delta 291) and Aura (Delta 306). Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO), jointly operated by NASA and CNES, will provide a global map of atmospheric aerosol particles. CloudSat will study the formation and function of clouds, answering some basic questions about how they generate rain and snow, to improve the science of climatology.


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