NASA Scrubs Launch of CloudSat, CALIPSO Satellites Due to High Winds

NASA Scrubs Launch of CloudSat, CALIPSO Satellites Due to High Winds
NASA's CloudSat and CALIPSO satellites sit atop a Boeing Delta 2 rocket at Launch Complex 2 of California's Vandenberg Air Force Base in preparation for an April 25, 2006 launch. The attempt was ultimately scrubbed. (Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls.)

Two NASAsatellites designed to make unprecedented measurements of Earth's clouds andatmosphere must wait yet another day to begin their mission after a high winds preventedtheir launch early Tuesday.

The high upper levelwinds were detected just four minutes before liftoff, forcing flight controllers to scrub the latest launch attempt for NASA'sCloudSatand CALIPSO satellites and their Delta 2 booster. The two satellites were scheduledto rocket spaceward from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base precisely at6:02 a.m. EDT (1002 GMT).

"We are inthe process of preparing for a 24-hour recycle," NASA launch commentator BruceBuckingham said after the scrub, which occurred after what had been a nearlyflawless countdown before the high winds were detected.

Launchcontrollers are now preparing to launch NASA's CloudSat and CALIPSO satelliteson April 26 at 6:02 a.m. EDT, Buckingham said. Because the space shot mustlaunch exactly on time, there is little room to accommodate last minute issuessuch as high upper level winds, he added.

A similarlast-minute glitch - a communications problem with the CALIPSO spacecraft - scrubbedan initial April 21 launch attempt just 48 seconds before liftoff. The unavailabilityof a refueling plane for a radar tracking aircraft required to monitor thelaunch also prevented Saturday and Sunday launch plans, NASA said.

CloudSatand CALIPSO are designed to study clouds and aerosols - fine particlessuspended in Earth's atmosphere - in three dimensions.

The $185million CloudSat mission will use a powerful, 90 gigahertz radar to penetrateclouds and identify individual cloud particles, water and snow. The $223million CALIPSO - or Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder SatelliteObservations - mission a cooperative effort between NASA and the French SpaceAgency (CNES), and features a laser-ranging lidar instrument and two othertools to study aerosol distribution in the Earth's atmosphere.

Oncelaunched, CloudSat and CALIPSO are expected to reach an orbit of 438 miles (705kilometers) and join France's PARASOLsatellite and NASA's Aquaand Auraspacecraft to make up the "Afternoon Train" Earth-watching system, NASA said.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.