BY JUSTIN RAY

Follow the countdown and launch of the Boeing Delta 2 rocket with the U.S. Air Force's GPS 2R-8 navigation spacecraft. Reload this page for the very latest on the mission.

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THURSDAY, JANUARY 30, 2003
1915 GMT (2:15 p.m. EST)


The Air Force Research Laboratory says the XSS-10 micro-satellite deployed from the Delta 2 rocket's second stage and performed its technology demonstrations earlier today.

"The XSS-10 achieved it's primary mission objectives and appears to be quite a success," officials said in a statement.

"The XSS-10 was ejected from the second stage of the booster early this morning and the separation went as planned. The satellite was able to acquire and track the second stage through the three planned mission inspection sequences.

"Telemetry was briefly lost between the micro-satellite and the ground tracking station at the end of the primary mission sequence but picked up again through a different ground station within 10 minutes. The team then successfully put the micro-satellite into sleep mode and reactivated it as planned. The integrated visual camera, propulsion system, and guidance and control software all performed extremely well.

"This mission will serve as a building block for future micro-satellite missions."

The 62-pound craft was built as part of a $100 million project to test technologies that might be used for orbital inspections and satellite servicing.

Plans called for the micro-satellite to move away from the spent second stage, then approach to within 35 to 100 meters during different tests. Due to the onboard battery life, the XSS-10 mission was expected to only last about 24 hours after launch.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 29, 2003

For the first time in two years, a replacement satellite is en route to bolster the U.S. military's Global Positioning System constellation following a successful launch Wednesday that was dedicated to the heroes of September 11. Read our full launch story.

1914 GMT (2:14 p.m. EST)

T+plus 68 minutes, 20 seconds. SPACECRAFT SEPARATION! The U.S. Air Force's NAVSTAR Global Positioning System Block 2R-8 spacecraft has been released from the Delta rocket's third stage following launch today from Cape Canaveral.

The satellite will boost itself into the GPS constellation in the coming days to begin an accelerated checkout period by ground controllers. The craft should begin providing navigation signals to users around the world on February 17, if all goes well.

Meanwhile, the Delta 2's second stage will be performing a series of maneuvers this afternoon in support of the XSS-10 micro-satellite mission. The stage will be put into a 430-mile circular orbit. The tiny experimental craft, which is currently mounted on the side of the rocket body, will separate from the stage in about 15 hours for an Air Force Research Lab test of newly-developed guidance and control software.

Check back later today for a full wrap-up story on this launch.

And watch this page for further updates on XSS-10. It is hoped that some information will be released by the Air Force on the mission tomorrow.

1912 GMT (2:12 p.m. EST)

T+plus 66 minutes, 11 seconds. Third stage burnout has been announced, completing the powered phase of launch for GPS 2R-8 aboard the Delta 2 rocket. Separation is about two minutes away.

1910 GMT (2:10 p.m. EST)

T+plus 64 minutes, 50 seconds. The solid-fueled Star 48B third stage has separated from the Delta 2's second stage and ignited to propel GPS 2R-8 into the proper orbit.

1910 GMT (2:10 p.m. EST)

T+plus 64 minutes, 10 seconds. Spin up has begun, standing by for confirmation of separation between the second and third stages.

1909 GMT (2:09 p.m. EST)

T+plus 63 minutes, 14 seconds. SECO 2. The liquid-fueled Aerojet AJ10-118K engine has fired, raising the orbital altitude as GPS continues its ride on the Boeing Delta 2 rocket.

1908 GMT (2:08 p.m. EST)

T+plus 62 minutes, 44 seconds. Second stage engine is up and burning again.

1901 GMT (2:01 p.m. EST)

T+plus 55 minutes. The official Range liftoff time was 1:06:00.431 p.m. EST.

1858 GMT (1:58 p.m. EST)

T+plus 52 minutes. About 10 minutes remain until the action resumes in today's launch. The fast sequence begins with the firing of the second stage, followed by jettison of that stage, the third stage motor burn and separation of GPS 2R-8 into its intended transfer orbit at T+plus 68 minutes.

1846 GMT (1:46 p.m. EST)

T+plus 40 minutes. There really isn't much to say at this point. The rocket is currently out of range from any ground tracking stations. The next communications pass with the Delta 2 is expected in about 22 minutes -- just a few seconds before the second stage engine is restarted.

1832 GMT (1:32 p.m. EST)

T+plus 26 minutes. Delta 2 is now moving beyond the coverage zone of Ascension. The rocket will be out of contact with any tracking sites until it moves over the Guam station in about 35 minutes.

1826 GMT (1:26 p.m. EST)

T+plus 20 minutes. The rocket has passed within range of the Ascension Island tracking station. This allows the launch team back at the Cape to receive live data from the rocket to assess its health. The rocket is currently in a thermal conditioning roll during this coast.

1820 GMT (1:20 p.m. EST)

T+plus 14 minutes. Unofficially, this preliminary orbit achieved has an apogee of 107 miles and perigee of 93 miles. Those parameters appear right on target.

1818 GMT (1:18 p.m. EST)

T+plus 12 minutes. The rocket is coasting until the second stage restarts at T+plus 62 minutes, 39 seconds for a brief firing to raise the orbit. That will be followed by separation between the second and third stages. The upper stage will burn to inject GPS into the intended transfer orbit. Deployment of the payload to complete the launch is expected at T+plus 68 minutes, 5 seconds.

1816 GMT (1:16 p.m. EST)

T+plus 10 minutes, 48 seconds. SECO 1. Confirmation that the second stage engine has shut down as planned. The Delta 2 rocket with GPS 2R-8 has arrived in a preliminary orbit around Earth following an on-time launch this afternoon.

1816 GMT (1:16 p.m. EST)

T+plus 10 minutes, 30 seconds. Second stage engine pressures reported normal.

1815 GMT (1:15 p.m. EST)

T+plus 9 minutes. Just under two minutes remaining in this first firing of the second stage engine.

1813 GMT (1:13 p.m. EST)

T+plus 7 minutes, 40 seconds. Altitude 93 miles, velocity over 14,000 miles per hour.

1813 GMT (1:13 p.m. EST)

T+plus 7 minutes. Second stage engine continues to burn as planned. No problems being reported by Boeing.

1811 GMT (1:11 p.m. EST)

T+plus 5 minutes, 10 seconds. The protective payload fairing enclosing the GPS satellite atop the rocket has separated.

1810 GMT (1:10 p.m. EST)

T+plus 4 minutes, 50 seconds. Second stage engine ignition has been confirmed.

1810 GMT (1:10 p.m. EST)

T+plus 4 minutes, 30 seconds. MECO. The first stage main engine cutoff confirmed, and the spent stage has been jettisoned.

1809 GMT (1:09 p.m. EST)

T+plus 3 minutes. First stage performance reported normal.

1808 GMT (1:08 p.m. EST)

T+plus 2 minutes, 15 seconds. The three air-start solid rocket boosters have burned out and separated. The rocket continues its trek to orbit on the power of the first stage liquid-fueled main engine.

1807 GMT (1:07 p.m. EST)

T+plus 1 minute, 50 seconds. Altitude 18 miles, downrange distance 40 miles, speed 3,800 miles per hour.

1807 GMT (1:07 p.m. EST)

T+plus 1 minute, 10 seconds. All six ground-start solid rocket boosters have burned out and separated. The three remaining motors strapped to first stage have ignited to continue assisting the rocket's RS-27A main engine on the climb to space.

1806 GMT (1:06 p.m. EST)

T+plus 56 seconds. Vehicle has passed maximum dynamic pressure.

1806 GMT (1:06 p.m. EST)

T+plus 30 seconds. Solid rocket motors have passed the period of maximum thrust.

1806 GMT (1:06 p.m. EST)

T+plus 20 seconds. Vehicle has rolled to the proper trajectory, heading east from Cape Canaveral.

1806 GMT (1:06 p.m. EST)

LIFTOFF! Liftoff of the Boeing Delta 2 rocket launching a spacecraft to replenish the U.S. military's Global Positioning System while saluting the heroes of September 11. And the rocket has cleared the tower!

1805 GMT (1:05 p.m. EST)

T-minus 30 seconds. Hydraulics and electronics reported go.

The launch ignition sequence will begin at T-minus 2 seconds when a Boeing engineer triggers the engine start switch. The process begins with ignition of the two vernier engines and first stage main engine start. The six ground-lit solid rocket motors then light at T-0 for liftoff.

1805 GMT (1:05 p.m. EST)

T-minus 1 minute. The Range has given its final clear-to-launch. The Delta 2 rocket's second stage hydraulic pump has gone to internal power after its pressures were verified acceptable.

1804 GMT (1:04 p.m. EST)

T-minus 2 minutes. The first stage liquid oxygen vents are now being closed so the LOX tank can be pressurized for launch. Puffs of vapor from a relief valve on the rocket will be seen in the remainder of the countdown as the tank pressure stabilizes.

1803 GMT (1:03 p.m. EST)

T-minus 2 minutes, 20 seconds. The GPS 2R-8 spacecraft has been declared "go" for launch.

1803 GMT (1:03 p.m. EST)

T-minus 3 minutes and counting. The rocket's third stage safety destruct safe and arm devices are being armed.

1802 GMT (1:02 p.m. EST)

T-minus 4 minutes and counting. The final phase of the countdown has commenced! Launch of the GPS 2R-8 military navigation satellite remains set to occur at 1:06 p.m. EST from pad 17B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. No problems are standing in the way of the 295th Delta rocket launch.

The Delta 2 rocket's systems are now transferring to internal power for launch.

1801 GMT (1:01 p.m. EST)

Now five minutes from launch! Standing by for release of the hold in one minute.

1759 GMT (12:59 p.m. EST)

The Air Force has completed its final readiness poll. Everyone announced "go" status.

1758 GMT (12:58 p.m. EST)

The launch team has been polled by the Boeing Launch Conductor for a "go" to proceed with the countdown. No problems were reported. The team is now receiving final instructions on countdown procedures.

1757 GMT (12:57 p.m. EST)

The countdown is now half-way through this built-in hold. Everything still looks to be set for an on-time launch.

1752 GMT (12:52 p.m. EST)

T-minus 4 minutes and holding. The countdown has entered the final planned hold point for today's launch attempt. During this planned 10-minute hold, officials will poll the various team members in the soft blockhouse, Range Operations Control Center and Mission Directors Center. If all systems are go, the countdown will resume for liftoff at 1:06 p.m. EST (1806 GMT).

1750 GMT (12:50 p.m. EST)

Launch Weather Officer Joel Tumbiolo reports conditions are "go" for liftoff today.

1748 GMT (12:48 p.m. EST)

The first stage fuel tank vent is being closed and the tank is being pressurized for launch. And the spacecraft safe and arm devices are being armed.

1747 GMT (12:47 p.m. EST)

The GPS 2R-8 spacecraft cargo atop the Delta 2 rocket has switched to internal power for launch.

1746 GMT (12:46 p.m. EST)

T-minus 10 minutes and counting.

1743 GMT (12:43 p.m. EST)

Inhibited checks are now beginning for the Range Safety command destruct receivers that would be used in destroying the Delta rocket should the vehicle veer off course and malfunction during the launch.

1739 GMT (12:39 p.m. EST)

In other launch news here at the Cape, Air Force spokespeople have just confirmed that the Titan 4 mission with the last Milstar communications satellite has been tentatively targeted for next Tuesday. However, the on-going software review for the Centaur upper stage remains to be completed. The issue delayed the launch from January 21. Officials had hoped to get the mission off the ground this coming Sunday, but pushed it back another two days.

1736 GMT (12:36 p.m. EST)

T-minus 20 minutes and counting. The planned hold in the countdown has been released. Clocks will now tick down to T-minus 4 minutes where the final hold is planned.

1732 GMT (12:32 p.m. EST)

The Boeing and Air Force readiness polls of the launch team have been completed. No technical problems were reported. So the "go" was given to resume the countdown at 12:36 p.m. EST as planned.

1726 GMT (12:26 p.m. EST)

Now half-way through this built-in hold at T-minus 20 minutes.

1716 GMT (12:16 p.m. EST)

T-minus 20 minutes and holding. The countdown has entered a planned 20-minute built-in hold. This pause is designed to give the launch team a chance to work any problems or catch up on activities that might be running behind schedule. Engineers will also have time to examine all the date from the just-completed steering tests. At this point, all continues to go well for today's 1:06 p.m. EST launch.

1712 GMT (12:12 p.m. EST)

Gimbal checks of the nozzles on the Delta 2 first and stage engines have been completed.

1706 GMT (12:06 p.m. EST)

T-minus 30 minutes and counting. The countdown rolls on at Cape Canaveral with one hour left until liftoff time. There is a 20-minute planned built-in hold upcoming at T-minus 20 minutes, then a 10-minute hold at T-minus 4 minutes.

The launch team will soon begin the "slew" or steering checks of the first and second stage engines. These are gimbal tests of the nozzles on the first stage main engine and twin vernier engines and second stage engine to ensure the rocket will be able to steer itself during launch.

And in the next few minutes RF link tests between the Range and rocket are scheduled.

1649 GMT (11:49 a.m. EST)

The launch team reports the loading of the Delta 2 rocket's first stage liquid oxygen tank was completed at 11:48:48 a.m. EST. The operation took 26 minutes and 22 seconds today. The tank will be replenished through the countdown to replace the super-cold liquid oxygen that naturally boils away.

The rocket is now fully fueled for launch. The vehicle's first stage was successfully loaded with RP-1 kerosene fuel along with the liquid oxygen over the past hour. The second stage was filled with its storable nitrogen tetroxide and Aerozine 50 fuels a few days ago; the third stage and nine strap-on booster rockets are solid-propellant.

1646 GMT (11:46 a.m. EST)

The liquid oxygen tank has reached the 95 percent full level. The "rapid load" valve is now closed and the slower "fine load" phase is continuing to fill the tank.

1642 GMT (11:42 a.m. EST)

Liquid oxygen filling continues smoothly as the 20-minute mark is passed in the loading operation.

1636 GMT (11:36 a.m. EST)

Now 90 minutes away from launch time. There have been no reports from the launch team of any significant technical problems, the weather forecast nearly perfect and the countdown is on schedule.

1632 GMT (11:32 a.m. EST)

Ten minutes into the LOX tanking. The bottom of the rocket is icing over as the super-cold liquid oxygen flows into the first stage.

1627 GMT (11:27 a.m. EST)

Now five minutes into this approximate 25-minute process to fill the first stage liquid oxygen tank.

1622 GMT (11:22 a.m. EST)

Super-cold liquid oxygen, chilled to Minus-298 degrees F, is being pumped into the first stage of the Boeing Delta 2 rocket as the countdown continues for today's launch attempt. The liquid oxygen is flowing from a storage tank at pad 17B, through plumbing and into the bottom of the rocket. The LOX and the RP-1 kerosene fuel loaded aboard the vehicle in the last hour will be consumed by the first stage main engine.

Meanwhile, the work to turn on the Delta 2's guidance system has been completed.

1617 GMT (11:17 a.m. EST)

The "go" has been given to the launch team to begin preparations for loading the rocket's first stage liquid oxygen tank as planned.

1603 GMT (11:03 a.m. EST)

Launch Weather Office Joel Tumbiolo has just provided a briefing to officials. All conditions are currently acceptable for launch and expected to remain that way.

Meteorologists are looking at some low-level clouds coming off the ocean. The weather reconnaissance aircraft will be sent aloft to make sure the clouds aren't too thick for the Delta 2 rocket to safely fly through. But Tumbiolo says the clouds should be thin and not a problem today.

1553 GMT (10:53 a.m. EST)

The first stage fuel tank of the Boeing Delta 2 rocket has been fully loaded for today's planned 1:06 p.m. EST liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The tank was filled with a highly refined kerosene, called RP-1, during a 19-minute, 44-second process that concluded at 10:53:17 a.m. EST.

The next major task in the countdown will be loading super-cold cryogenic liquid oxygen into the first stage starting in about a half-hour.

1548 GMT (10:48 a.m. EST)

The launch team has computed that the full load for the first stage fuel tank is 10,032 gallons. Over 8,000 gallons are already aboard.

Once the tank is filled with 9,830 gallons, or 98 percent, the "rapid load" valve will be closed and the slower "fine load" phase will continue top off the tank.

1542 GMT (10:42 a.m. EST)

RP-1 loading has passed the 5,000-gallon mark. No problems reported thus far.

The propellant will be guzzled along with liquid oxygen -- to be pumped into the rocket less than an hour from now -- by the first stage Rocketdyne RS-27A main engine and twin vernier steering thrusters during the initial four-and-a-half minutes of flight.

1537 GMT (10:37 a.m. EST)

Now four minutes into this approximate 20-minute process to load the rocket's first stage with about 10,000 gallons of refined kerosene. Just over 2,000 gallons have been loaded to this point.

1533 GMT (10:33 a.m. EST)

Fueling of the Delta 2 rocket's first stage has started for today's launch. About 10,000 gallons of a highly refined kerosene propellant, called RP-1, are being pumped into the rocket from a storage tank at pad 17B.

1528 GMT (10:28 a.m. EST)

The Boeing launch team is now beginning the steps to prepare for loading the Delta 2 rocket's first stage RP-1 fuel tank. After verifying valves, sensors, flow meters and equipment are ready, the highly refined kerosene fuel will start flowing into the vehicle.

1506 GMT (10:06 a.m. EST)

T-minus 150 minutes and counting. The Terminal Countdown begins at this time for the launch of the Boeing Delta 2 rocket and the U.S. Air Force's Global Positioning System 2R-8 spacecraft. Over the next three hours, the launch team will prep the rocket, payload and ground support systems for the planned 1:06 p.m. EST (1806 GMT) liftoff from pad 17B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

With the countdown underway, the Complex 17 area will be verified cleared of workers as a safety precaution. A warning horn will be sounded three times at the seaside complex to alert any remaining personnel to depart the hazardous area.

Upcoming in the next few minutes, launch team members in the Delta Operations Building, or "soft blockhouse", located several miles west of the pad will oversee the pressurization of helium and nitrogen storage tanks inside the rocket's first and second stages, along with the second stage fuel and oxidizer tanks. In addition, the Delta's onboard guidance computer -- called the Redundant Inertial Flight Control Assembly or RIFCA -- will be turned on and configured for the mission.

The loading of about 10,000 gallons of RP-1 kerosene fuel into the Delta first stage is due to commence in about 20 minutes. Super-cold liquid oxygen should begin flowing into the stage around 11:20 a.m. EST.

1457 GMT (9:57 a.m. EST)

The "go" has been given to resume the countdown as scheduled at the end of this hold. A poll of the launch team did not reveal any problems.

1406 GMT (9:06 a.m. EST)

T-minus 150 minutes and holding. Clocks have entered a planned 60-minute built-in hold as the countdown remains on schedule for today's 1:06 p.m. EST liftoff of Delta 2 from Cape Canaveral.

Holds are added to the countdown to give workers a chance to catch up on any activities that may be running behind.

Over the next hour, the entire launch team and management will be seated at their consoles. A series of polls will be conducted to verify all is in readiness for entering Terminal Count at end of the built-in hold.

Read our earlier Mission Status Center coverage.

Snapshot


(Top) The "Let's Roll" commemorative artwork flying on the nose of the Delta 2 rocket to salute the heroes of September 11. Credit: Air Force. (Bottom) Delta 2 rocket blasts off Wednesday. Photo: Boeing TV/Spaceflight Now

Pre-launch briefing
Launch timeline - Chart with times and descriptions of events to occur during the launch.

Global Positioning System - Description of the U.S. Air Force's space-based navigation network.

GPS constellation - Chart shows the current status of the orbiting GPS satellite fleet.

XSS-10 - The experimental microsatellite flying as a secondary payload on this launch.

Delta 2 rocket - Overview of the Delta 2 7925-model rocket used to launch GPS satellites.

SLC-17 - The launch complex where Delta rockets fly from Cape Canaveral.

Delta directory - See our coverage of preview Delta rocket flights.

Flight Data File
Vehicle: Delta 2 (7925-9.5)
Payload: GPS 2R-8
Launch date: Jan. 29, 2003
Launch window: 1:06-1:20 p.m. EST (1806-1820 GMT)
Launch site: SLC-17B, Cape Canaveral, Florida
Satellite broadcast: AMC 2, Transponder 4, C-band

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