6/10/2011 – VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Team Vandenberg launched a Delta II rocket carrying the Aquarius/SAC-D (Satelite de Aplicaciones Cientificas) observatory from Space Launch Complex-2 here at 7:20 a.m. PDT.

Col. Richard Boltz, 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority.

“Team Vandenberg performed brilliantly once again in ensuring safe and successful launch operations,” said Colonel Boltz. “We wish our mission partners at NASA well as they begin their important work with Aquarius.”

The Aquarius/SAC-D observatory is a collaboration between NASA and Argentina’s space agency, Comision Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE).

Aquarius is the NASA-built primary instrument on the SAC-D spacecraft, built by CONAE. Aquarius will map global changes in salinity – the concentration of dissolved salt – at the ocean surface.

Salinity is a key measurement for understanding how changes in rainfall, evaporation, and the melting or freezing of ice influence ocean circulation and are linked to variations in Earth’s climate. According to NASA officials, the three-year mission will provide new insights into how variations in ocean surface salinity relate to these fundamental climate processes.

See www.nasa.gov/aquarius for updates on post-launch Aquarius mission status.