BY JUSTIN RAY
Follow the countdown and launch of the Air Force Titan 2 rocket carrying the DMSP F16 weather satellite. Reload this page for the very latest on the mission.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2003
Further management meetings are planned on Friday to determine if the issue can be resolved for a liftoff Saturday at 1617 GMT (9:17 a.m. local time; 12:17 p.m. EDT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base's Space Launch Complex-4 West.
The weekend weather forecast calls for a vast improvement in viewing conditions at Vandenberg after days of foggy skies. But an increase in winds has decreased the odds of launching to 60 percent.
"The Great Basin High centered over the Four Corners dominates the weather pattern on Saturday," Launch Weather Officer Lt. Breea Lemm reported today. "The ridge of the high extends into the LA Basin, pushing the upper-level moisture up over the ridge and keeping skies over SLC-4W mostly clear, with some cirrus between 30,000 and 32,000 ft. At the surface, off shore flow will prevent marine layer formation, but radiational fog will decrease visibilities in the early morning hours. Winds expected to be 10-15 kts from the southwest and warm temperatures result from the weak Santa Ana set-up. Temperatures will be in the low to mid 60's, with upper level winds 35 knots from the southwest at 40,000 ft. No precipitation is expected to occur."
The winds are a concern for violating the rules governing acceptable weather conditions while rolling the mobile service tower away from the rocket and at launch time.
In the event launch slips to Sunday, there is again a 60 percent chance of favorable weather. The winds remain the prime worry.
"Sunday's weather shows the upper-level ridge continuing to push its way into the region," Lemm said. "Upper level moisture will continue to flow over the ridge and the cirrus layer will be scattered from 30,000 to 35,000 ft. Off shore flow at the surface will keep the marine layer at bay, with the thermal trough axis over SLC-4W pushing through from 1200 to 1800 (GMT) winds will shift from an easterly to northeasterly direction, once again from 10-15 kts. Upper level winds will be southwesterly, reaching a maximum of 30 knots near 35,000 feet. Temperatures will be in the upper 50's to low 60's, with no precipitation expected."
1556 GMT (11:56 a.m. EDT)
Officials will meet later today to determine how to resolve the problem and decide when the launch can be rescheduled.
When it finally does fly, the Titan 2 will loft a U.S. military weather satellite. The $450 million mission has been delayed since January 2001 by an assortment of technical difficulties.
1544 GMT (11:44 a.m. EDT)
We are still standing by for official word from the Air Force with details on the problem that scrubbed today's countdown.
1512 GMT (11:12 a.m. EDT)
The launch weather officer has just verified that conditions are acceptable for moving the tower. Winds are currently calm.
1445 GMT (10:45 a.m. EDT)
A new launch date has not been established. "Future actions are to be determined," launch team members were told.
1438 GMT (10:38 a.m. EDT)
1431 GMT (10:31 a.m. EDT)
1417 GMT (10:17 a.m. EDT)
"DMSP is in its fourth decade of service and continues to be an invaluable resource for successfully planning, executing and protecting military operations on land, at sea and in the air," said Col. Randy Odle, the system program director.
"Once operational F16 will deliver unparalleled global weather and space environmental information in support of users worldwide," Odle said. "F16 will be the best DMSP satellite ever launched."
The satellite is the first to carry a larger, more sophisticated package of sensors and instruments known as the Block 5D3 upgrade.
"We believe (the sensors) are going to provide a lot more capabilities once calibrated. Their calibration effort will go for about 18 months beyond the launch date to fully calibrate these new science and information sensors. We believe those will help improve our models and certainly help improve forecasting and the weather capability support to the warfighters and other users," Odle said.
"The time has come to unleash F16's tremendous potential. Let's make it so!"
1347 GMT (9:47 a.m. EDT)
1334 GMT (9:34 a.m. EDT)
1328 GMT (9:28 a.m. EDT)
The 200-foot tall mobile service tower is a massive wheeled structure that serves as a rocket assembly building and cocoon-like shelter for the Titan 2 vehicle at Space Launch Complex-4 West.
The tower provides the primary access and weather protection for the rocket while at the seaside pad overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It also has a 30-ton crane used to lift stages of the rocket and the satellite payload for stacking operations.
1315 GMT (9:15 a.m. EDT)
The structure takes about a half-hour to roll 180 feet away from the Titan 2.
1312 GMT (9:12 a.m. EDT)
1247 GMT (8:47 a.m. EDT)
1227 GMT (8:27 a.m. EDT)
For launch time, winds are expected to be 10 knots from 330 degrees. The temperature is forecast between 54 and 55 degrees F.
1205 GMT (8:05 a.m. EDT)
The mission has gotten this close to launch on three previous occassions -- January 20 and 21, 2001, and yesterday. Technical troubles spoiled each attempt.
Right now at the Space Launch Complex-4 West pad, preparations are underway to retract the mobile service tower away from the Titan 2 rocket. Workers are awaiting approval from mission managers to proceed with this milestone event in the countdown.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2003
"The weather pattern for Thursday is still zonal aloft with the marine layer once again forming in the lower levels. Above the marine layer expect clear skies. The surface gradient tightens slightly, as a result surface winds will increase to 8-12 knots from the northwest. Upper level winds continue to flow from the west, reaching a maximum of 65 knots near 45,000 feet. Temperatures will remain in the upper 50's and low 60's, and no precipitation is expected," Launch Weather Officer Lt. Breea Lemm reported.
The forecast for Friday also predicts a 90 percent chance of meeting the weather rules. Winds are still the only threat.
"Friday's weather shows an upper-level ridge building in from the Pacific and with off shore flow at the lower levels the marine layer will stay mostly to the south, with only patches of marine layer over SLC-4W. Winds at the surface will be easterly from 8-12 knots. Upper level winds will be westerly, reaching a maximum of 70 knots near 45,000 feet. Temperatures will be in the mid to upper 50's, with no precipitation expected," Lemm said.
1645 GMT (12:45 p.m. EDT)
Today's countdown was scrubbed at sunrise after pre-launch activities fell behind schedule at the Space Launch Complex-4 West pad at Vandenberg Air force Base, California. While preparing to roll the mobile service tower away from the Titan 2, an air conditioning line feeding into the rocket's nose cone became unhooked, creating unplanned work in the busy countdown timeline.
"The launch this morning was delayed after an air conditioning duct became detached from the payload fairing. The duct is required to maintain environmental conditions for the satellite inside the fairing before launch," Lockheed Martin spokesman Evan McCollum said.
"After it became detached, they discovered that and technicians reattached it. But just before tower roll, it became detached again. By the time they were able do troubleshooting and reattach the duct, they determined there was not sufficient time remaining to do all the steps that would have to be done before launch."
With a launch window only 10 minutes long, officials had little margin to deal with countdown delays.
Officials aren't sure why the duct detached, but they expect the issue to be resolved in time to support another launch attempt on Thursday.
Liftoff is rescheduled for 9:17 a.m. local time (1617 GMT; 12:17 p.m. EDT). The window remains 10 minutes in length.
1435 GMT (10:35 a.m. EDT)
Today's planned flight of the last Titan 2 rocket carrying a U.S. Air Force weather satellite has been scrubbed after launch preparations fell behind schedule.
Liftoff is being re-targeted for 1617 GMT (9:17 a.m. local time, 12:17 p.m. EDT) Thursday from the Space Launch Complex-4 West pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
1430 GMT (10:30 a.m. EDT)
Plans are being put in place to try again tomorrow.
1424 GMT (10:24 a.m. EDT)
1417 GMT (10:17 a.m. EDT)
1345 GMT (9:45 a.m. EDT)
1317 GMT (9:17 a.m. EDT)
1249 GMT (8:49 a.m. EDT)
Flying over a downrange position in the Pacific Ocean, the aircraft will receive live telemetry data from the DMSP spacecraft during the apogee kick motor firing some 14 minutes after liftoff and send that information back to Vandenberg. The motor burn occurs outside of Vandenberg's tracking station coverage, and without the aircraft's support, officials would not be able to monitor in real-time the firing that will give the satellite the final boost needed to enter orbit.
1230 GMT (8:30 a.m. EDT)
1217 GMT (8:17 a.m. EDT)
It was January 2001 when DMSP F16 was this close to launch. On January 20, it reached T-minus 28 seconds before a glitch scrubbed the liftoff and began a long-running series of problems that have kept the mission grounded.
But officials hope today will finally be the day to get the DMSP F16 spacecraft into polar orbit where it will monitor global weather conditions for use in strategic and tactical planning by U.S. military forces deployed around the world.
"The time has come to unleash F16's tremendous potential. Let's make it so," said Col. Randy Odle, the DMSP system program director.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2003
1900 GMT (3:00 p.m. EDT)
0401 GMT (12:01 a.m. EDT)
MONDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2003
This story recaps the saga of the DMSP F16 satellite and the series of problems that have kept it grounded. Read the story here.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2003
Launch of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program F16 spacecraft atop a Titan 2 missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is scheduled for 1617 GMT (12:17 p.m. EDT; 9:17 a.m. PDT) Wednesday. The day's available launch window extends for 10 minutes.
"The launch processing, from the satellite side, is going extremely well. We have essentially one more thing to do as a major processing event, and that is to pressurize our propulsion system to about 4,500 psi. We expect to do that Saturday," Col. Randy Odle, the DMSP system program director, said in an interview Thursday.
"We are looking forward to staying on schedule for the 15th of October, and everything that we are seeing today indicates that we can keep that schedule intact. We will keep our fingers crossed and hopefully at T-0 on the 15th at 9:17 (local time) we will see the spacecraft lift off from the pad."
A converted Cold War Titan 2 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, originally built in the 1960s and stationed inside a Kansas silo from 1967 to 1986, will boost the satellite on its journey to orbit around Earth's poles.
The spacecraft will separate from the rocket's second stage six-and-a-half minutes after launch while on a sub-orbital trajectory above the Pacific Ocean. About seven minutes later, a kick motor attached to the satellite will ignite for a 51-second firing, boosting the craft into a stable, 421-by-460 nautical mile orbit. Ten seconds after the motor burns out, a 21-second orbit trim maneuver begins using the spacecraft's hydrazine-fueled thrusters to achieve the operational orbit circling 458 nautical miles above the planet.
The motor burn occurs after the satellite travels beyond the coverage zone of Vandenberg's tracking station. Therefore, two Navy P-3 telemetry relay aircraft have been requested to lend support by flying to downrange positions over the Pacific. One plane will monitor the firing, while the other will look at later spacecraft events.
The planes receive the spacecraft data and transmit the information back to Vandenberg. Without the P-3 support, officials cannot monitor the crucial rocket firing in real-time.
"For this mission, the P-3's are not mandatory. So we will not stop (the) launch because the P-3's were not available. But we would sure like them if at all possible," Odle said.
After a month-long checkout, the Lockheed Martin-built satellite is expected to be declared ready for service, replacing DMSP F15 as the primary spacecraft in the so-called "mid-morning orbit" of the DMSP constellation.
The DMSP F16 and Titan 2 launch vehicle have a combined value of $450 million, the Air Force said.
We will provide complete coverage of this launch over the next week. Watch this page on Monday for a comprehensive launch preview and a look back at the troubles that have plagued this mission. On Wednesday, live play-by-play updates on the countdown and launch will be posted right here. After liftoff, we'll wrap it up with a look at the satellite and the vital support it will provide military forces around the globe.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2003
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 13, 2003
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