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Titan 4 rollout
The Titan 4 rocket emerges from the Solid Motor Assembly and Readiness Facility at Cape Canaveral at about 5:45 a.m. August 25 for rollout to the Complex 40 pad. (3min 58sec file)
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On the launch pad
Riding on its mobile launching platform, the Titan 4 rocket arrives at the pad just before sunrise. (5min 22sec file)
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Sunrise over Titan 4
As dawn breaks over Cape Canaveral, these daylight scenes show the Titan 4 on Complex 40 in preparation for the final Florida launch of this heavy-lift rocket. (2min 11sec file)
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Shuttle engine tested
One of the three liquid-fueled main engines that will power Discovery into orbit during the space shuttle return-to-flight mission is test-fired at Stennis Space Center. (2min 57sec file)
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Delta 4-Heavy preview
Preview what a Boeing Delta 4 rocket launch will be like with this animation package of a "Heavy" configuration vehicle. (1min 41sec file)
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New water clues
Spirit's examination of rock outcropping at Gusev Crater has yielded new clues about the history of water there, as explained by Doug Ming, a rover science team member from Johnson Space Center. (5min 59sec file)
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Spirit on a hill
A stunning new picture from the Mars rover Spirit taken from the hillside shows the sweeping plains of Gusev and the crater's rim on the distant horizon. Expert narration is provided by Steve Squyres, the rover lead scientist. (1min 22sec file)
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Radar test may help space shuttle return
Posted: August 25, 2004

Radar tracking data gathered during the Delta 2 launch of the MESSENGER spacecraft earlier this month has provided promising results that may benefit NASA's space shuttle program and Discovery's return to flight.

An X-band (left) and a C-band radar antenna are prepared to observe the MESSENGER launch. The antennas are on loan to KSC from the USNS Pathfinder, a U.S. Navy instrumentation ship. They have been installed at site north of Haulover Canal where the National Center for Atmospheric Research previously had a radar for thunderstorm research. Credit: NASA-KSC
A pair of radars installed at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., tracked the launch of the Delta 2. They tracked separation of the nine solid rocket boosters and jettison of the first stage and the payload fairing, the "nose" of the rocket that protected the MESSENGER spacecraft during launch.

"This test was quite successful for us in proving a concept," said NASA project manager Tony Griffith. "The use of high- resolution wide-band and Doppler radars allows us to observe almost any possible debris during ascent, and means we can observe the space shuttle without regard to limitations of visibility, cloud cover and darkness," he added.

More importantly, the tandem radars "saw" -- in significant detail -- normal Delta launch events, such as ice shedding from the Delta first stage, ejection of the solid rocket booster nozzle throat plugs, and contents of their exhaust. For the space shuttle program, the test showed that the radars, working together, were effective in visualizing the vehicle elements in high resolution and the ability to attain speedy interpretation of the images for initial data analysis after a shuttle launch.

The antennas have been on loan to NASA from the USNS Pathfinder, a U.S. Navy instrumentation ship. The 30-foot- diameter C-band wide-band radar antenna and the smaller X- band Doppler radar worked together to image the Delta in flight. The Navy operated the radars for NASA during the MESSENGER launch. NASA was responsible for analyzing the imagery.

"This turned out to be a successful and mutually beneficial partnership with the Navy that we will pursue," Griffith said.

Later this fall, a 50-foot-diameter C-band wide-band radar will be installed on this site for a similar return-to-flight application and for use by the Navy. The radar is being relocated to KSC from the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Puerto Rico.

The radars used for the test are being returned to the USNS Pathfinder, though the C-band radar used in this test could return as a backup for return to flight, if available from the Navy. NASA is evaluating the procurement of two X-band Doppler radars for use on ships downrange, including one of the solid rocket booster retrieval ships.