GRAIL Launch Slips to Saturday Sept. 10

 

The Delta II rocket with the GRAIL spacecraft, currently the last scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station - is now slated to launch on Saturday, Sept. 10. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / awaltersphoto.com

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla – High upper-level winds have caused the launch of the final scheduled Delta II rocket to slip from Thursday Sept. 8 to Saturday Sept. 10. This was first reported on Spaceflightnow.com and NASAspaceflightnow.com. Official confirmation from NASA was released some time later. 

Initially NASA had decided to scrub the launch on the following day, Friday, Sept. 9 – but after review and wanting to inspect propulsion system data the launch date slipped again – to Saturday. There are two launch opportunities at 8:29:45 a.m. and 9:08:52 a.m. EDT. The weather forecast for Saturday gives a 60 percent chance of favorable conditions.

When GRAIL does launch it will left off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 17 (SLC-17). GRAIL is a mission operated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to survey the Moon, in an effort to provide not only a better understanding of the Moon’s history – but to also provide a better understanding concerning the makeup of other terrestrial bodies as well. 

Upper level winds pushed out storm clouds that would have prevented Thursday's launch - but they also violated launch constraints - causing the launch to slip until Saturday, September 10. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian

GRAIL or Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory are two spacecraft that fly in tandem with one another as they scan the Moon from its core – all the way out to its crust. The probes are supposed to provide the most accurate map of the lunar gravitational field to date. 

The launch of GRAIL will mark the second of three planned planetary missions that NASA has on scheduled to lift off this year. The first, Juno launched on Aug. 5 and the next, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover or “Curiosity” as it is more commonly known is currently planned for a Nov. 25 launch. As the media was being bused backed to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Press Site – the Atlas rocket which will power MSL to Mars – was being lifted into place, hinting at how quickly one mission – is leading to the next. 

As the media was ferried back to the NASA KSC press site they caught a glimpse of NASA's next planetary mission, Mars Science Laboratory's rocket, an Atlas, being hoisted in preparation for a November launch. Photo Credit: Julian Leek/Blue Sawtooth

 

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