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10-Jun-11 | Delta flight 354 – SAC-D/Aquarius

A two-stage United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket lifted off into a thick fog early this morning, Friday, 10 June 2011, from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. Aboard was the SAC-D/Aquarius spacecraft, a joint mission of Argentina’s National Commission on Space Activities (CONAE) and NASA. The launch vehicle performed as expected, placing the spacecraft into a circular, sun-synchronous polar orbit some 56 minutes after launch. Official liftoff time was 14:20:13 UTC.

Satelite de Aplicaciones Cientificas-D, the second SAC spacecraft to launch aboard a Delta II, is festooned with several Earth-sensing scientific instruments supplied by different countries. Primary among these is NASA’s Aquarius sensor, which will gauge ocean surface salinity levels. Data from Aquarius is expected to fundamentally impact our understanding of the world’s oceans in terms of circulation, climate, and water cycle.

This was the 94th consecutive successful launch by Delta II, a world-record series of successes dating back to May 1997. It was the first of three planned launches for Delta II this year—all of them for NASA, and the final flights on the schedule. Five Delta II vehicles remain in storage, complete and awaiting assignment.

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