NASA Rocket Launch Photos: Ocean-Watching Aquarius Satellite Blasts Off

A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket blasts off from Space Launch Complex-2 at 7:20 a.m. PDT, June 10, 2011, with the Aquarius/SAC-D observatory for NASA and the Space Agency of Argentina.
A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket blasts off from Space Launch Complex-2 at 7:20 a.m. PDT, June 10, 2011, with the Aquarius/SAC-D observatory for NASA and the Space Agency of Argentina.
(Image: © United Launch Alliance/William G. Hartenstein)

When NASA launched a new satellite Friday (June 10) to map the salt content of Earth's oceans in more detail than ever before, the space shot created some spectacular views.

By all accounts, the satellite launch was an stunning success, with a smooth ascent into space and a flawless separation from the unmanned Delta 2 rocket that lofted the Aquarius/SAC-D satellite in orbit.

The $400 million Aquarius/SAC-D satellite blasted off at 7:20 a.m. PDT (1420 GMT) from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base on a mission to the role that sea salt plays in Earth's climate and oceans. The mission is a partnership between NASA and the Argentina space agency, with contributions from Brazil, Canada, France and Italy. [Video: Blast Off of Sea Salt-Mapping Satellite]

See photos of the Aquarius/SAC-D satellite launch from NASA and the United Launch Alliance, which provided the Delta 2 rocket:

A Delta 2 rocket launches with the Aquarius/SAC-D spacecraft payload from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. on June 10, 2011. The joint U.S./Argentinian Aquarius/SAC-D mission will map the salinity at the ocean surface to improve understanding of two major components of Earth's climate system: the water cycle and ocean circulation.Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

A video camera shows the ocean-observing satellite Aquarius/SAC-D separating from its rocket booster after reaching orbit on June 10, 2011 after its launched atop a Delta 2 rocket. The camera that caught this view was mounted to the booster's upper stage. Credit: NASA TV

A United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket blasts off from Space Launch Complex-2 at 7:20 a.m. PDT, June 10, 2011, with the Aquarius/SAC-D observatory for NASA and the Space Agency of Argentina. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

A Delta 2 rocket soars toward space carrying the Aquarius/SAC-D satellite in this still from a NASA tracking camera and display during the June 10, 2011 launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Credit: NASA TV

Artist's concept of the Aquarius/SAC-D spacecraft, a satellite designed to study the salt levels in Earth's oceans. Credit: NASA

A Delta 2 rocket launches with the Aquarius/SAC-D spacecraft payload from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. on Friday, June 10, 2011. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Hector Timerman, Foreign Minister of Argentina, Buenos Aires, left, Michael Freilich, NASA Earth Science Division Director, NASA Headquarters, Washington, center, and Conrado Varotto, CONAE Executive and Technical Director, Buenos Aires, laugh at the start of the Aquarius/SAC-D post-launch press conference on Friday, June 10, 2011 at the NASA Resident Office, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

A United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket stands ready to launch NASA's Aquarius/SAC-D mission from Space Launch Complex-2.Credit: United Launch Alliance.

A close up view of the Delta 2 rocket nose cone containing the Aquarius/SAC-D satellite ahead of its June 10, 2011 launch from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Credit: United Launch Alliance.

The mission emblem for the Aquarius-SAC-D satellite mission is seen here in this NASA image that combines the logo with a video still of the spacecraft's June 10,2011 launch.

Another version of the mission emblem for the Aquarius-SAC-D satellite mission is seen here in this NASA image that combines the logo with a video still of the spacecraft's June 10,2011 launch.

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