Watch video of the Launch at

NASA’s TIMED (Thermosphere,
Ionosphere, Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics) spacecraft ? en route to explore
one of the last frontiers in Earth’s atmosphere ? successfully launched today
at 7:07 a.m. PST, aboard a Delta II rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Designed and built for NASA
by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), in Laurel,
Md., the 1,294-pound (587-kilogram) spacecraft was placed into its 388-mile
(625-kilometer) circular orbit, inclined 74.1 degrees from the equator, 2 hours
and 5 minutes after launch. TIMED, which shared the launch vehicle with the
Jason-1 spacecraft, was the second of the two spacecraft to be jettisoned from
the Delta II rocket. After making initial contact with the ground station in
Kiruna, Sweden, 3 hours and 2 minutes after liftoff, TIMED’s APL-based Mission
Operations Center reported the solar arrays deployed and began providing power
to the spacecraft.

TIMED is the first mission
in NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Probes Program, part of the agency’s initiative
to lower mission costs and provide more frequent systematic studies of the sun-Earth
system. “This is a terrific beginning for the Solar Terrestrial Probes Program,”
says Dr. Stamatios (Tom) Krimigis, head of APL’s Space Department. “We’re very
excited about working with the broader science community and our colleagues
at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center as we begin to explore this uncharted
region of our atmosphere.”

Studying a New Frontier

The 2-year TIMED mission
will study the influences of the sun and humans on the least explored and understood
portion of Earth’s atmosphere ? the Mesosphere and Lower Thermosphere/Ionosphere
(MLTI), a gateway between Earth’s environment and space. TIMED will focus on
a portion of this atmospheric region located approximately 40-110 miles (60-180
kilometers) above the surface, studying its basic structure and how energy is
transferred into and out of this area.

Through advances in remote-sensing
technology, this mission will be the first global study of the MLTI and will
establish a baseline for future studies of this area. “TIMED’s instrument suite
will work with a worldwide network of ground-based observation sites to obtain
an unprecedented set of comprehensive global measurements of the region’s temperature,
pressure, wind, chemical composition and energy inputs and outputs,” says Dr.
Sam Yee, TIMED project scientist at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics

“With society becoming
increasingly dependent on satellite technology and communications, through devices
such as cell phones and pagers, it’s vital to understand the ever-changing nature
of this region,” continues Yee. “TIMED’s comprehensive study of the MLTI as
an integrated system will help the space community predict its effects on communications,
satellite tracking, spacecraft lifetimes and on spacecraft reentering Earth’s

TIMED’s science payload
consists of four instruments, each controlled independently from four Payload
Operations Centers located across the country. TIMED’s instrument package includes
a spatial scanning, far-ultraviolet spectrograph that will globally measure
the composition and temperature profiles of the MLTI region and auroral energy
inputs; a multi-channel infrared radiometer designed to measure heat emitted
by the atmosphere, and the temperature and composition of the MLTI region over
a broad altitude and spectral range; a spectrometer and a suite of photometers
designed to measure solar ultraviolet radiation ? the primary energy deposited
into the MLTI; and an interferometer that will globally measure the wind and
temperature profiles of the MLTI.

The TIMED mission is sponsored
by NASA’s Office of Space Science in Washington, D.C., and managed by the NASA
Goddard Space Flight Center’s Solar Terrestrial Probes Program Office, Greenbelt,
Md. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory operates the spacecraft,
leads the project’s science effort and manages the mission’s Science Data Center
for NASA.

For more information about
the TIMED mission, or to view images from today’s launch,visit