Thursday, October 27, 2011

Last Delta II set to launch from Vandenberg tonight

The last flight on the manifest for the venerable Delta II rocket is set for the early morning hours of Friday 28 October from Vandenberg AFB north of Los Angeles. Scheduled to launch at 2:48 a.m. PDT (5:48 a.m. EDT; 0948 GMT) the Delta II is making its 151st launch.

Delta II will depart on a southerly heading from the west coast facility's Space Launch Complex 2 destined for polar orbit. Clear sky's are forecast tonight for Southern California, so it should be spectacular viewing for anyone awake and away from city lights at launch time.

For this launch Delta II will be in it's 7920 configuration, which includes 9 strap-on GEM (Graphite Epoxy Motor) solid boosters, 6 of which are started at liftoff and 3 air started.

Delta II will loft the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project (NPP) weather satellite. NPP is the first satellite designed to collect critical data to improve weather forecasts in the short-term and increase understanding of long-term climate change.

NPP is an effort led by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center that is carrying the first of the new sensors that will be utilized as part of that next-generation system called the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). The mission will continue critical weather and climate measurements by flying advanced sensor packages. NPP will measure various properties of the Earth's atmosphere, land surface and oceans. Its five-year mission life will help to bridge critical weather data collection before JPSS is ready for operations in 2016.

United Launch Alliance, the builder of Delta II, has 5 more of the birds in it's inventory and has recently decided to continue marketing them, so it's possible Delta II may one day fly again.

Image credit: NASA