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The Mission




Rocket: Minotaur
Payload: COSMIC
Date: April 14, 2006
Window: 5:10-8:10 p.m. PDT (8:10-11:10 p.m. EDT; 0010-0310 GMT)
Site: SLC 8, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California




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BY JUSTIN RAY

Follow the countdown and launch of the Orbital Sciences Minotaur rocket with the six COSMIC atmospheric research spacecraft. Reload this page for the latest on the mission.

SATURDAY, APRIL 15, 2006

Six tiny satellites sped into space Friday evening aboard an ultra-fast rocket booster, beginning a five-year mission to examine Earth's atmosphere and the underlying hints of climate change by employing a novel technique.

The $100 million COSMIC mission that partners the U.S. and Taiwan roared away from the wet and foggy Space Launch Complex 8 on the southern end of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 6:40 p.m. PDT (9:40 p.m. EDT; 0140 GMT).

The Orbital Sciences Minotaur rocket was gone in a flash, almost instantly disappearing from view of launch pad cameras. The liftoff was delayed an hour-and-a-half after an initial countdown attempt was aborted because of a problem with the system monitoring rocket data.

Launch photos can be seen here.

The first minutes of flight were powered by two left-over motor stages from decommissioned Minuteman 2 intercontinental ballistic missiles. They heaved the rocket well on the way to space before two additional solid-propellant stages from Orbital's commercial Pegasus rocket program each fired to achieve the desired orbit by T+plus 10 minutes.

The six disc-shaped spacecraft then began separating one-by-one to form a network for atmospheric research under the name Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate, or COSMIC for short. The mission also carries the name FORMOSAT 3 by its Taiwanese participants.

Minotaur has proven itself as a workhorse for carrying small satellites. The rocket has successfully delivered 20 satellites into space during five launches since 2000.

The COSMIC satellites will begin scientific studies in a couple of months. But their full potential to provide daily global coverage won't start until May 2007 when the craft complete the lengthy process of maneuvering into a formation with broadly-spaced separations between each other.

The satellites will fly 500 miles above the planet and use a technique called radio occultation to examine how the Earth's atmosphere distorts signals emitted by the U.S. military's Global Positioning System spacecraft. The COSMIC satellites will look for GPS transmissions just above Earth's horizon and measure the "bending" in the signals caused by the atmosphere. The extent of "bending" implies the atmospheric conditions, scientists say.

"This is the first time the technique of radio occultation has been used on a large scale in real time to provide nearly continuous measurements of worldwide atmospheric conditions at all altitudes," says William Kuo, director of the COSMIC office at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.

The primary instrument on each of the 155-pound COSMIC spacecraft is a GPS receiver originally developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The data will allow researchers to generate atmospheric temperature and water vapor profiles, and mission officials anticipate such information should improve weather forecasting and assist long-term monitoring of climate change.

"The satellites will convert GPS measurements into a precise worldwide set of weather, climate and space weather data," said Jay Fein, program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Atmospheric Sciences that funded COSMIC. "The resulting new information will have a tremendous impact on geosciences research and weather prediction, and will be an important contribution to global Earth observations."

The COSMIC satellites will take about 2,500 measurements across the globe every day. Scientists are especially eager for data over the oceans where observations by weather balloon aren't possible.

"Centers around the world will have access to this new information for both research and operational forecasting," said Richard Anthes, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. "User-friendly versions of the data will enable those with less sophisticated systems to benefit as well."

Taiwan's interest in the mission began nine years ago in the wake of a deadly typhoon, Kuo said. Taiwanese leaders hope COSMIC/FORMOSAT 3 will benefit meteorologists trying to forecast rainfall and the strength of wind embedded in such large storms.

"The expected improvements in forecasting skill and COSMIC's contribution to long-term climate monitoring are a direct result of NASA's research investments in radio occultation, a technology originally developed by JPL in the 1960s for planetary atmospheric studies and later refined in the 1990s for Earth orbit use," said Tony Mannucci, supervisor of JPL's Ionospheric and Atmospheric Remote Sensing Group.

0250 GMT (10:50 p.m. EDT Fri.)

"This launch continues a long tradition of successful space launches from Vandenberg," said Col. Jack Weinstein, the 30th Space Wing commander at Vandenberg Air Force Base. "The success of the mission required a great team effort between the 30th Space Wing, SMC, our industry partners, our scientific community and Taiwan's National Space Organization."

"This was a tremendous effort of cooperation and collaboration," added Col. Kevin Erickson, Space & Missile Systems Center (SMC) Detachment 12 Rocket Systems Launch Program director and the mission director for the COSMIC launch. "This mission combined the satellite technical expertise of Taiwan's National Space Organization and the significant space capability of the U.S. Air Force."

0200 GMT (10:00 p.m. EDT Fri.)

The Minotaur rocket program has now launched 20 satellites during five missions since 2000.

0159 GMT (9:59 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 19 minutes, 19 seconds. SPACECRAFT SEPARATION! Minotaur has deployed the sixth COSMIC satellite, completing today's launch!

0158 GMT (9:58 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 18 minutes, 19 seconds. The fifth satellite has been released!

0157 GMT (9:57 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 17 minutes, 20 seconds. Release of the fourth satellite is confirmed!

0156 GMT (9:56 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 16 minutes, 20 seconds. The third satellite has been deployed!

0155 GMT (9:55 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 15 minutes, 55 seconds. Rocket systems remain normal.

0155 GMT (9:55 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 15 minutes, 23 seconds. Separation of the second spacecraft!

0154 GMT (9:54 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 14 minutes, 25 seconds. SPACECRAFT SEPARATION! The first of six COSMIC spacecraft has been released by the Minotaur rocket.

0153 GMT (9:53 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 13 minutes, 30 seconds. The rocket's orientation remains stable.

0151 GMT (9:51 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 11 minutes, 40 seconds. Vehicle avionics continue to operate normally.

0150 GMT (9:50 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 10 minutes, 30 seconds. Telemetry from the rocket is being received through NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System.

0150 GMT (9:50 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 10 minutes, 10 seconds. Thrust has tailed off from the solid-fueled fourth stage to complete the burn.

0149 GMT (9:49 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 9 minutes, 50 seconds. All systems appear normal as fourth stage continues to burn.

0149 GMT (9:49 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 9 minutes, 13 seconds. Fourth stage stage ignition!

0149 GMT (9:49 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 9 minutes, 9 seconds. Confirmation now received that the third stage was jettisoned from the fourth stage. Coming up on ignition of the fourth stage.

0148 GMT (9:48 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 8 minutes, 44 seconds. The fourth stage battery has been activated.

0148 GMT (9:48 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 8 minutes. Standing by for staging.

0146 GMT (9:46 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 6 minutes. Systems aboard the Minotaur continue to look good.

0145 GMT (9:45 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 5 minutes. Minotaur remains in the ballistic coast phase of flight. The spent third stage will be shed in about three-and-a-half minutes from now, followed by fourth stage ignition.

0144 GMT (9:44 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 4 minutes, 25 seconds. Official Range liftoff time was 0140:00.172 GMT.

0144 GMT (9:44 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 4 minutes. Performance so far in this launch indicates the target apogee altitude high point will be reached at 499 km.

0143 GMT (9:43 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 3 minutes, 25 seconds. The solid-fuel third stage has burned out, and the rocket is now in a brief coast period.

0143 GMT (9:43 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 3 minutes. All appears normal with the flight as the third stage solid motor continues to fire.

0142 GMT (9:42 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 2 minutes, 28 seconds. The rocket's payload fairing nose cone has separated.

0142 GMT (9:42 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 2 minutes, 19 seconds. Third stage ignition confirmed as the spent second stage falls way. This sheds the Minuteman 2 portion of Minotaur and the Pegasus heritage solid-fuel motors take over.

0142 GMT (9:42 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 2 minutes. Everything remains nominal aboard Minotaur.

0141 GMT (9:41 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 80 seconds. Rocket is flying normally as the second stage fires.

0141 GMT (9:41 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 64 seconds. Staging has occurred. The first and second stages separated. And the second stage motor has ignited.

0140 GMT (9:40 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 35 seconds. The rocket's is passing through the region of maximum aerodynamic pressures of ascent.

0140 GMT (9:40 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T+plus 10 seconds. First stage motor pressure nominal.

0140 GMT (9:40 p.m. EDT Fri.)

LIFTOFF! Liftoff of the Minotaur rocket with the COSMIC spacecraft, studying Earth's atmosphere through a partnership between the U.S. and Taiwan.

0139 GMT (9:39 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 30 seconds.

0139 GMT (9:39 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 1 minute. Data recording charts are running.

0138 GMT (9:38 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 100 seconds. The rocket ordnance has been armed.

0138 GMT (9:38 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 2 minutes. Auto sequence start. Minotaur's flight computer is controlling the countdown.

0137 GMT (9:37 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 2 minutes, 30 seconds. Auto sequence start coming up in 30 seconds.

0137 GMT (9:37 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 3 minutes. The Air Force-controlled Western Range has given its final clear to launch.

0136 GMT (9:36 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 3 minutes, 35 seconds. Navigation system is now in "nav mode."

0135 GMT (9:35 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 4 minutes, 15 seconds. The C-band tracking beacon is functioning as expected on interal power.

0135 GMT (9:35 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 4 minutes, 25 seconds. The flight computer is armed.

0135 GMT (9:35 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 5 minutes. The rocket's avionics are switching to internal power.

0134 GMT (9:34 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 6 minutes. Management says everything is still "go" for launch of Minotaur and COSMIC.

0133 GMT (9:33 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 6 minutes, 53 seconds. The COSMIC payload has been declared "go" for launch.

0131 GMT (9:31 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 8 minutes, 45 seconds. The COSMIC spacecraft are confirmed on internal battery power for launch.

0131 GMT (9:31 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 8 minutes, 45 seconds. The flight termination system is now armed.

0131 GMT (9:31 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 9 minutes. The rocket's flight termination system has switched to interal power. The FTS would be used to destroy the rocket should a problem arise during flight.

0130 GMT (9:30 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 10 minutes. The COSMIC satellites atop the Minotaur rocket are switching back to internal power.

0128 GMT (9:28 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 12 minutes. The exact 0140:00 GMT (6:40:00 p.m. local) launch time is being loaded into the rocket's flight computer.

0126 GMT (9:26 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Safety officials confirm that the hazard area is clear for launch.

0126 GMT (9:26 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 14 minutes and counting! Clocks are running again.

0116 GMT (9:16 p.m. EDT Fri.)

The countdown will resume in 10 minutes.

0110 GMT (9:10 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Now 30 minutes from the new launch time.

0109 GMT (9:09 p.m. EDT Fri.)

The team has been polled to enter into the final launch checklist for today's second attempt.

0105 GMT (9:05 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Space Launch Complex 8 is now completely shrouded in fog.

0101 GMT (9:01 p.m. EDT Fri.)

The countdown has been reset to T-minus 14 minutes and holding. Clocks will resume ticking at 6:26 p.m. local (0126 GMT; 9:26 p.m. EDT).

0100 GMT (9:00 p.m. EDT Fri.)

NEW LAUNCH TIME. Liftoff is now targeted for 6:40 p.m. PDT (0140 GMT; 9:40 p.m. EDT). Weather conditions are expected to be acceptable at that time.

0059 GMT (8:59 p.m. EDT Fri.)

The launch conductor says the problem was with the limit-checking system and not the actual pressure sensors aboard the Minotaur. So the glitch is being resolved and launch will be reattempted today. Officials are working to establish a new launch time.

0056 GMT (8:56 p.m. EDT Fri.)

The launch team is verifying a good alignment for the rocket's guidance and navigation system.

0053 GMT (8:53 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Management has approved another launch attempt. It appears the power problem has been understood and resolved.

0045 GMT (8:45 p.m. EDT Fri.)

The countdown has been recycled to the T-minus 16 minute mark while officials work to understand the concern with the power system for pressure-measuring sensors aboard the rocket.

0031 GMT (8:31 p.m. EDT Fri.)

To recap, the countdown was stopped because the electrical current in the power system that feeds pressure sensors aboard the Minuteman missile stages of the Minotaur rocket violated the pre-set limits. Engineers are working to determine if there is a real problem with the power system, a problem with the limits or whether there is some other reason to explain the situation.

0027 GMT (8:27 p.m. EDT Fri.)

The launch team is going to begin the checklist that will ready the rocket for another liftoff attempt today.

0026 GMT (8:26 p.m. EDT Fri.)

"We did abort at one-minute and 30 seconds prior to liftoff. We aborted because we had a background limit-checking constraint for the Minuteman pressure transducer power bus that was out of tolerance on current. We are currently evaluating the status of that limit-check. We do want to preserve the opportunity to try another launch opportunity today. So we are currently looking at the status of that power bus to determine what further action would be required," the launch conductor says.

0021 GMT (8:21 p.m. EDT Fri.)

If this problem with the Minuteman pressure transducer power system can be resolved, launch of Minotaur could be rescheduled for later in today's window.

0015 GMT (8:15 p.m. EDT Fri.)

"We experienced an abort at T-minus 1 minute and 30 seconds. We experienced an off-nominal performance of a Minuteman pressure transducer bus. We had limit checks go out at the T-minus 2 minute point. We are currently evaluating data (and) ask all personnel to stand by," the launch conductor just told his team.

0012 GMT (8:12 p.m. EDT Fri.)

A problem of some sort prompted the launch conductor to call an abort at about T-minus 90 seconds. We're awaiting further details about the issue. The Minotaur rocket and COSMIC spacecraft are being placed into a safe configuration.

0011 GMT (8:11 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Vehicle safing is underway after a problem cropped up and forced the countdown to be halted.

0010 GMT (8:10 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Countdown clocks have stopped.

0010 GMT (8:10 p.m. EDT Fri.)

ABORT!

0010 GMT (8:10 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 2 minutes. Auto sequence start. Minotaur's flight computer is controlling the countdown.

0009 GMT (8:09 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 2 minutes, 30 seconds. Coming up on auto sequence start in 30 seconds.

0009 GMT (8:09 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 3 minutes. The Air Force-controlled Western Range is clear for launch.

0008 GMT (8:08 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 3 minutes, 40 seconds. The air conditioning duct to the rocket's payload fairing nose cone has been retracted.

0008 GMT (8:08 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 4 minutes. The flight computer is armed. And the C-band tracking beacon is functioning as expected on interal power.

0007 GMT (8:07 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 5 minutes. The rocket's avionics are switching to internal power.

0006 GMT (8:06 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 6 minutes. The final management poll ended with the OK to launch right on time.

0005 GMT (8:05 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 6 minutes, 40 seconds. The COSMIC payload has been declared "go" for launch.

0004 GMT (8:04 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 8 minutes and counting. The COSMIC spacecraft are confirmed to be running on internal battery power for launch.

0003 GMT (8:03 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 8 minutes, 30 seconds. The flight termination system is now armed.

0003 GMT (8:03 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 9 minutes. The rocket's flight termination system has switched to interal power. The FTS would be used to destroy the rocket should a problem arise during flight.

0002 GMT (8:02 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 10 minutes and counting. The COSMIC satellites atop the Minotaur rocket are switching to internal power.

0001 GMT (8:01 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 11 minutes. The guidance computer's voltages and currents are reported normal.

0000 GMT (8:00 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 12 minutes. The exact 0012:00 GMT (5:12:00 p.m. local) launch time is being loaded into the rocket's flight computer.

FRIDAY, APRIL 14, 2006
2359 GMT (7:59 p.m. EDT Fri.)


Removal of the thermal blanket covering the Minotaur rocket's Minuteman stages has been completed. This cover is affectionately called the "banana" because of its color and since it's peeled away in sections.

2358 GMT (7:58 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Safety officials confirm that the hazard area and impact zones are clear for launch.

2357 GMT (7:57 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 15 minutes. The final launch readiness poll of various team members was just conducted. All systems are "go" for liftoff of the Minotaur rocket and the COSMIC spacecraft from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

And approval has been given to start removing the thermal blanket covering the bottom half of the rocket. This operation is being performed remotely without workers at the pad via an automatic retraction system.

2355 GMT (7:55 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Launch team members will be polled in the next few minutes to confirm everything is ready for liftoff.

2353 GMT (7:53 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 19 minutes. Ground and high-altitude winds are acceptable for launch.

2352 GMT (7:52 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Minotaur's target launch time is 0012:00 GMT (5:12:00 p.m. local).

2352 GMT (7:52 p.m. EDT Fri.)

The countdown is passing the T-minus 20 minute mark.

2347 GMT (7:47 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 25 minutes. A safety test of the rocket's flight termination system is starting. This system would be activated to destroy Minotaur if the rocket veered off course or experienced a major problem during launch.

2342 GMT (7:42 p.m. EDT Fri.)

The rocket's tracking beacon is being verified by the Western Range.

2342 GMT (7:42 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Now a half-hour left in the countdown to launch of the fifth Minotaur rocket. The Orbital Sciences-managed rocket uses decommissioned first and second stages from Minuteman 2 intercontinental ballistic missiles and solid-propellant motors from the commercial Pegasus rocket program for its third and fourth stages. The vehicle was created to launch small satellites.

Minotaur has flown four times since 2000, successfully placing 14 spacecraft into orbit. Today's launch will haul six more satellites to space.

2334 GMT (7:34 p.m. EDT Fri.)

The launch pad danger area has been confirmed clear of all personnel.

2332 GMT (7:32 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 40 minutes and counting. A rare sight today -- there's some breaks in the cloud cover over the launch pad right now. Just a little while ago, it was raining at the complex.

2324 GMT (7:24 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Minotaur's guidance system is in alignment. And a GPS time stamp has been transmitted to the payload.

2322 GMT (7:22 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 50 minutes. Countdown clocks are ticking toward liftoff of the Minotaur rocket at 5:12 p.m. Pacific time. Although the weather has remained iffy all day, officials have enough optimism is press ahead with the count. There is a hold point available at T-minus 16 minutes where the count can be stopped prior to jettisoning the thermal blankets from the rocket, if weather or technical problems appear as if they are going to prohibit an on-time launch today.

2312 GMT (7:12 p.m. EDT Fri.)

The rocket's avionics are being powered to permit the inertial guidance system final pre-launch alignment and test the S-band telemetry communications antenna signal strength.

2312 GMT (7:12 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 60 minutes and counting. The launch team is opening up the final checklist to guide activities through liftoff.

2310 GMT (7:10 p.m. EDT Fri.)

The decision has been made to proceed with the countdown.

2257 GMT (6:57 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Mission managers are standing by for a weather briefing in the next few minutes. If the forecast does not look favorable for liftoff at 5:12 p.m. PDT (0012 GMT; 8:12 p.m. EDT) today, the launch team will hold the clock at T-minus 1 hour for approximately an hour and reassess the conditions around 5 p.m. PDT (0000 GMT; 8 p.m. EDT).

2250 GMT (6:50 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Another rainshower is moving over the launch pad.

2248 GMT (6:48 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Launch support equipment is being powered up again.

2242 GMT (6:42 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Now 90 minutes from the scheduled launch time. Things are fairly quiet in the countdown right now. Technicians will begin ticking through the steps of the final launch checklist starting at T-minus 1 hour. The main worry continues to be the weather. Skies are overcast and rain has been falling throughout the region.

2227 GMT (6:27 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 1 hour, 45 minutes.

2224 GMT (6:24 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Hands-on work at the launch pad has been finished. Crews are now departing Space Launch Complex 8 in preparation for liftoff.

2212 GMT (6:12 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 2 hours and counting down to today's launch of the Minotaur rocket carrying a cluster of six small science satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

2157 GMT (5:57 p.m. EDT Fri.)

The launch conductor has given the pad crew a "go" for arming and final closeouts of the Minotaur rocket.

2147 GMT (5:47 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Missile Liftoff, or MLO, testing just finished. This ensured that receiving stations will be able to detect the signal announcing Minotaur's launch.

2144 GMT (5:44 p.m. EDT Fri.)

The pre-launch checkout of rocket systems has wrapped up, allowing equipment to be powered down for now.

2128 GMT (5:28 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 2 hours, 44 minutes. First and second stage engine steering checks were accomplished as planned over the past couple of minutes. Also, interrogation tests of the Minotaur's C-band beacon used for tracking the rocket during launch have been completed.

2124 GMT (5:24 p.m. EDT Fri.)

The pre-flight alignment of the rocket's inertial navigation system has been verified complete. And upcoming will be a steering test of the Minotaur engine nozzles.

2120 GMT (5:20 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Link checks between the rocket's flight termination system and Range Safety is underway.

2112 GMT (5:12 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 3 hours and counting.

2050 GMT (4:50 p.m. EDT Fri.)

It remains cloudy and rainy at the launch pad as the countdown proceeds today. The temperature is 61 degrees F and winds are 8 mph.

2045 GMT (4:45 p.m. EDT Fri.)

We have posted some pictures taken a couple of hours ago while photographers were setting up their sound-activated cameras around the Minotaur's pad at Space Launch Complex 8. The gallery is available here.

2043 GMT (4:43 p.m. EDT Fri.)

The mobile shelter that has enclosed the Minotaur rocket on the launch pad just completed its rollback for liftoff. This tower-like structure now stands in its launch position away from the rocket.

2039 GMT (4:39 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Tower rollback has begun. The service gantry that has shrouded the Minotaur rocket at Space Launch Complex 8 is slowly rolling away from the six-story booster in preparation for today's 5:12 p.m. PDT blastoff. The mobile tower provided workers access to the various parts of the rocket and gave the vehicle shelter from the weather during the pre-launch mission campaign.

2022 GMT (4:22 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Approval has been given for rollback of the launch pad service structure. And the launch team was just polled to verify all members are ready to begin Minotaur's pre-flight system checks.

2012 GMT (4:12 p.m. EDT Fri.)

T-minus 4 hours and counting. Launch day activities are proceeding for the Minotaur rocket. Controllers have been testing communications and telemetry links during the early portion of the countdown. At the launch pad, technicians are awaiting a "go" to roll the mobile service tower away from the rocket.

1948 GMT (3:48 p.m. EDT Fri.)

Today's target launch time has been adjusted slightly to 5:12 p.m. local (8:12 p.m. EDT; 0012 GMT).

1925 GMT (3:25 p.m. EDT Fri.)

The launch countdown is continuing for today's liftoff of the Minotaur rocket with the COSMIC atmospheric research mission.

Read our earlier Mission Status Center coverage.

Copyright 2006 SpaceflightNow.com, all rights reserved.


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