SMAP on the launch pad with the gantry

SMAP on the launch pad with the gantry

Erika Podest
Erika Podest is a scientist with the Water and Carbon Cycles Group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Hi Everyone,

Thursday was a day of much anticipation and excitement. We were ready to go, but high upper winds caused the cancellation of the launch four minutes before lift-off. You might be wondering how we monitor wind conditions at high altitudes (in this case, thirty four thousand feet). We do it by sending up weather balloons ahead of time to make these measurements where the rocket will be flying. The last balloon data came down just minutes before launch indicating that the winds exceeded conditions for a safe launch. Afterwards, inspections to the rocket found minor “debonds” to the booster insulation, which were promptly fixed on Friday.

Postponements are common during launches, and we prepare for these in case weather or technical concerns arise so we can address them and have confidence in a successful launch.

The last thing to happen before tomorrow’s launch will be the removal of the gantry, a 12-story scaffold-like structure surrounding the rocket on the launch pad. I saw the first roll back on Wed. and here is an 8 second link to a great time-lapse video:

Tomorrow’s launch is at 6:20 am Pacific time and I’ll be getting up once again before the crack of dawn to experience this once in a lifetime event. We will receive our first communication a couple of minutes after SMAP separates from the rocket, which happens at 56 minutes 51 seconds. I might break the world record for holding one’s breath.

Go Delta II, Go SMAP!


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