A camera on the second stage of the Delta II rocket captured this footage as the SMAP spacecraft pushed itself away from the rocket to complete the delivery of the Earth-observing spacecraft to its proper orbit.
NASA Launch Manager Tim Dunn reports all is well with the SMAP spacecraft following a successful countdown and flawless launch this morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
“We’re in contact with SMAP and everything looks good right now,” Dunn said. “Deployment of the solar arrays is underway. We just couldn’t be happier.”
He went on to compliment the teams that worked in tandem to bring the launch to fruition.
“I just can’t say enough about the team that we have. We had zero launch vehicle problems on Delta II. We had zero spacecraft problems. The 30th Space Wing continues to provide rock-solid support,” he said. “Absolutely spectacular performance from all agencies contributing to the SMAP mission.”
NASA’s SMAP spacecraft is flying solo following a successful separation from the Delta II rocket. This is a 411-by-425-mile injection orbit. During the next few weeks, the spacecraft will make adjustments until it reaches its operational orbit of 426 miles.
Once operational, the observatory will sweep above Earth in a near-polar orbit at an altitude of 426 miles. Its 19.7-foot-wide, rotating antenna will allow the spacecraft to observe a 620-mile-wide swath. This means SMAP will be able to map the planet’s equatorial regions every three days, and the higher latitudes every two days.
The next milestone is the start of solar array deployment.