NASA’s SMAP Launch Delayed 24 Hours for Rocket Repair

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WASHINGTON — Launch of NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite has again been another 24 hours, this time because of an issue with the satellite’s Delta 2 rocket, launch provider United Launch Alliance announced late Thursday (Jan. 29).

This is the second scrub this week for SMAP, which had to stand down Thursday morning because of high winds in the upper atmosphere. Launch from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base is now scheduled for Saturday at 6:20 a.m.local time (9:20 a.m. Eastern ).

ULA said some of the insulating material in the Delta 2 booster stage, which keeps the rocket’s liquid oxygen oxidizer chilled at the cryogenic temperatures required for launch, had essentially come unglued.

“During inspections following the Jan. 29 launch attempt, minor debonds to the booster insulation were identified” ULA wrote in a statement on its website. “These insulation debonds are associated with cryogenic conditions experienced during tanking operations and a standard repair will be implemented.”

SMAP is headed to a 685 kilometer near-polar sun-synchronous orbit to observe the moisture level of soil around the globe to a depth of five centimeters over a three-year primary mission.

A worker is seen Jan. 28 preparing the launch gantry to be rolled back from the Delta 2 rocket with NASA's SMAP observatory onboard, at Vandenberg's Space Launch Complex 2.  Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
A worker is seen Jan. 28 preparing the launch gantry to be rolled back from the Delta 2 rocket with NASA’s SMAP observatory onboard, at Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 2. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls