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Fri, Apr 28, 2006

Yeah! CloudSat, CALIPSO Away!

Sixth Time The Charm For NASA

After a series of delays that forced NASA engineers and scientists to deal with Sisyphean levels of patience -- and, it seemed at times, futility -- the Boeing Delta II rocket carrying the CloudSat and CALIPSO cloud-analyzing satellites launched Friday morning from Vandenberg AFB in California.

It was a perfect launch, just after 3:00 am local time Friday morning. The flight of the two satellites also marked the 50th successful launch for NASA's Launch Services Program.

The CALIPSO and CloudSat spacecraft are a pair of Earth-observing satellites designed to study clouds from orbit. The Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) satellite is equipped to examine the role that clouds and airborne particles play in regulating Earth's weather, climate, and air quality.

CloudSat (right) is an experimental satellite using radar to detect clouds and aerosols from space. CloudSat has special significance as the latest spacecraft poised to join NASA's "A-Train" constellation of environmental satellites. The satellite's Cloud-Profiling Radar is more than 1,000 times more sensitive than typical weather radar, and can detect clouds and distinguish between cloud particles and precipitation.

Friday's launch marked one week since the mission's original launch date, which had been postponed one day due to a communications glitch between controllers in the US and France. Five more delays followed... due to weather, the lack of a refueling aircraft for a tracking plane, and a suspect temperature sensor.

After an erroneous sensor reading bumped Thursday's launch attempt, scientists determined unusual temperature readings observed from the sensor on the Boeing Delta II rocket's second stage, were primarily the result of higher temperature pressurization rates -- and were not indicative of any defect in the sensor.



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