BY SPACEFLIGHT NOW
Follow the countdown and launch of a Boeing Delta 2 rocket with the QuickBird commercial Earth-imaging satellite. Reload this page for the very latest on the mission.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2001
Here are some video clips of today's launch for our Spaceflight Now Plus subscribers:
2100 GMT (5:00 p.m. EDT)
In an interview this week DigitalGlobe's president and CEO, Herb Satterlee, explained what is planned for QuickBird to get the craft ready for commercial Earth-imaging work.
"For the first three weeks, we are going to be flying the spacecraft and testing all the maneuvering and operational systems but not doing any imaging.
"The design of our telescope is such that it is a composite material that has to dry out. It absorbs a little bit of moisture out of the atmosphere when it is on the ground. When it gets in space the moisture begins to seep back out. We try to speed that process up by leaving some heaters on and leaving the cover closed on the imaging system. That takes about three weeks and then we open it up and start imaging.
"We plan about 75 or 80 days after that to dial it in and make sure we have images that meet the quality specs we need to serve our customers. So we expect to be operational about the first of February."
1952 GMT (3:52 p.m. EDT)
The satellite, built by Ball Aerospace for DigitalGlobe of Longmont, Colorado, should become operational by the first of February to provide the highest resolution pictures of the Earth's surface available on the commercial market.
This completes our live launch coverage. We will post a full wrap-up story, some pictures and movie clips later today.
1948 GMT (3:48 p.m. EDT)
1947 GMT (3:47 p.m. EDT)
1946 GMT (3:46 p.m. EDT)
1942 GMT (3:42 p.m. EDT)
1937 GMT (3:37 p.m. EDT)
1921 GMT (3:21 p.m. EDT)
1906 GMT (3:06 p.m. EDT)
The rocket is now passing out of range from any tracking station or aircraft. The next station to cover the launch is the Hartebeesthock tracking site in South Africa to watch as the second stage is restarted. The Malindi, Kenya station will relay data from the rocket during the release of QuickBird.
1903 GMT (3:03 p.m. EDT)
The Delta rocket is now in a coast period that will last until the second stage restarts at about T+plus 55 minutes.
1902 GMT (3:02 p.m. EDT)
1900 GMT (3:00 p.m. EDT)
1859 GMT (2:59 p.m. EDT)
1858 GMT (2:58 p.m. EDT)
1857 GMT (2:57 p.m. EDT)
1856 GMT (2:56 p.m. EDT)
1856 GMT (2:56 p.m. EDT)
1856 GMT (2:56 p.m. EDT)
1855 GMT (2:55 p.m. EDT)
1854 GMT (2:54 p.m. EDT)
1853 GMT (2:53 p.m. EDT)
1852:31 GMT (2:52:31 p.m. EDT)
1852:21 GMT (2:52:21 p.m. EDT)
1852:06 GMT (2:52:06 p.m. EDT)
1851:46 GMT (2:51:46 p.m. EDT)
1851:26 GMT (2:51:26 p.m. EDT)
1850:56 GMT (2:50:56 p.m. EDT)
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 three solid rocket motors then light at T-0 for liftoff.
1850:26 GMT (2:50:26 p.m. EDT)
1849:56 GMT (2:49:56 p.m. EDT)
1849:26 GMT (2:49:26 p.m. EDT)
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.
1848:26 GMT (2:48:26 p.m. EDT)
1847:26 GMT (2:47:26 p.m. EDT)
Launch of the QuickBird satellite remains set to occur at 1851:26 GMT (2:51:26 p.m. EDT; 11:51:26 a.m. PDT) from SLC-2 West at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. No problems are standing in the way of the 288th Delta rocket launch, the 99th for a Delta 2 and sixth of 2001.
1846 GMT (2:46 p.m. EDT)
1842 GMT (2:42 p.m. EDT)
1837:26 GMT (2:37:26 p.m. EDT)
During the hold officials will poll the various team members behind the scenes, in the "soft blockhouse", Range Operations Control Center and Mission Directors Center.
At this point there are no problems being reported and weather remains "go" for launch. Although it is cloudy at Vandenberg, the conditions are within allowable limits. The upper level winds are also acceptable today.
1833 GMT (2:33 p.m. EDT)
1831 GMT (2:31 p.m. EDT)
For this launch, Boeing is using a model 7320-10 Delta 2 rocket. The expendable launch vehicle consists of two stages, three strap-on solid rocket boosters and a 10-foot diameter payload fairing. The rocket stands 126 feet tall. See our rocket fact sheet for more.
1829 GMT (2:29 p.m. EDT)
1821 GMT (2:21 p.m. EDT)
Given the lack of audio from the Air Force today, our usual play-by-play coverage of the countdown has been impossible. However, we will be able to follow the these final minutes of the countdown and the entire hour-long flight of the Delta rocket. So stay tuned!
1801:26 GMT (2:01:26 p.m. EDT)
1756 GMT (1:56 p.m. EDT)
The launch team is currently performing "slew" or steering checks of the first and second stage engines. These tests are gimbal checks of the nozzles on the first stage main engine and twin vernier engines and second stage engine to ensure the engines will be able to steer the rocket during launch.
And in the next few minutes RF link tests between the Range and rocket are scheduled.
1745 GMT (1:45 p.m. EDT)
According Boeing spokesman Robert Villanueva the countdown is proceeding on schedule for launch at 1851:26 GMT (2:51:26 p.m. EDT; 11:51:26 a.m. PDT). So by this point in the countdown the rocket should be fully fueled for launch.
We'll update as best as possible today.
1551:26 GMT (11:51:26 a.m. EDT)
The countdown is being controlled from the "soft blockhouse" located about 8 miles from the Space Launch Complex-2 West pad. Senior launch officials are stationed in the Mission Directors Center located on South Base of Vandenberg, a good distance from the pad.
With the countdown underway, the activities planned over the next hour include clearing the hazard danger area, activating the rocket's Redundant Inertial Flight Control Assembly guidance computer, pressurizing the first and second stage helium and nitrogen systems and second stage fuel tanks and checking the C-band tracking beacon on the rocket.
The loading of super-cold liquid oxygen into the rocket's first stage is slated to begin 1706 GMT (1:06 p.m. EDT; 10:06 a.m. PDT).
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2001
The 15-minute launch window opens at 1851:26 GMT (2:51:26 p.m. EDT; 11:51:26 a.m. PDT).
"We just completed the Launch Readiness Review and the vehicle and satellite, their ground system, our ground system, everything is in good shape," Jay Witzling, the Boeing mission director, said in an interview today. "So no issues and everybody's got thumbs up."
Workers are due to arrive at the launch pad at around 11 p.m. local time tonight (2 a.m. EDT) to begin final pre-flight preparations.
The rocket's first stage will be fueled with RP-1, a highly refined kerosene, between 1 and 2 a.m. PDT (4 to 5 a.m. EDT). The fueling will occur earlier than normal as a measure to weight down the relatively light vehicle that has only three strap-on solid rocket motors vs. the usual nine. The extra weight of the nearly 10,000 gallons of fuel will give the rocket more stability once the protective mobile service tower is rolled away. The tower retraction is scheduled to be completed by 5 a.m. PDT (8 a.m. EDT).
The Terminal Countdown is slated to begin at 8:51:26 a.m. PDT (11:51:26 a.m. EDT) from the T-minus 150 minute mark. Two built-in holds are planned during count. The first will occur at T-minus 20 minutes for a duration of 20 minutes; the second happens at T-minus 4 minutes and should last 10 minutes, leading to liftoff at 11:51:26 a.m. PDT (2:51:26 p.m. EDT).
Launch Weather Officer Christy Crosiar is now calling for a 40 percent chance that thick clouds will prohibit liftoff on Thursday. Here is her summary issued this morning:
"The atmosphere over the eastern Pacific is characterized by an area of low pressure off the coast of California. This feature is quasi stationary from Wednesday to launch day through Friday. This low pressure area entrains subtropical moisture that will produce mid and upper level clouds over Vandenberg."
The launch time forecast calls for stratus clouds at 1,200 feet with complete overcast conditions and tops at 2,000 feet, broken altocumulus clouds with 6/8ths sky coverage at 18,000 feet and tops at 22,000 feet, scattered cirrostratus clouds at 28,000 feet with 3/8ths sky coverage and tops at 30,000 feet, visibility of 7 nautical miles, a temperature of 58 to 62 degrees F, north-northwesterly surface winds from 330 to 360 degrees at 10 to 15 knots and the maximum upper level winds from west-southwest at 35 knots at an altitude of 45,000 feet.
Should the launch slip to Friday the probability remains 40 percent "no go" due to thick clouds.
"Upper and mid level clouds are expected to increase and therefore, remain a concern. Upper level winds should increase slightly with a maximum of 45 knots from the west southwest at 45,000 feet," Crosiar said.
We will have complete live coverage of the final countdown and 64-minute flight of the Delta 2 rocket on Thursday. Watch this page for play-by-play updates.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2001
Flight Data File
Vehicle: Delta 2 (7320-10C)
Launch date: Oct. 18, 2001
Launch window: 1851-1906 GMT (2:51-3:06 p.m. EDT)
Launch site: SLC-2W, Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
Satellite broadcast: Galaxy 11, Ku-band, Freq.: 11960 H
Launch preview - Our story giving a complete report on the upcoming launch.
Launch timeline - Chart with times and descriptions of events to occur during the launch.
Delta 2 rocket - Overview of the Delta 2 7320-model rocket used to launch QuickBird.
QuickBird - A look at the spacecraft and its mission.
SLC-2W - The launch pad where Delta rocket fly from Vandenberg.
Delta directory - See our coverage of preview Delta rocket flights.
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