The Thursday before the launch of SMAP was a day of much anticipation and excitement. We were ready to go, but high upper winds caused the cancellation of the launch four minutes before lift-off. You might be wondering how we monitor wind conditions at high altitudes (in this case, thirty four thousand feet). We do it by sending up weather balloons ahead of time to make these measurements where the rocket will be flying. The last balloon data came down just minutes before launch indicating that the winds exceeded conditions for a safe launch. Afterwards, inspections to the rocket found minor “debonds” to the booster insulation, which were promptly fixed on Friday.
Postponements are common during launches, and we prepare for these in case weather or technical concerns arise so we can address them and have confidence in a successful launch.
The last thing to happen before launch will be the removal of the gantry, a 12-story scaffold-like structure surrounding the rocket on the launch pad. I saw the first roll back on Wed. and here is an 8 second link to a great time-lapse video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTVBAsQbF9Q&feature=youtu.be
We will receive our first communication a couple of minutes after SMAP separates from the rocket, which happens at 56 minutes 51 seconds. I might break the world record for holding one’s breath.
Go Delta II, Go SMAP!