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The launch of twin solar research spacecraft has been delayed to mid-September to allow more time to check out the Delta 2 rocket's second stage to make sure it is safe for flight. NASA on Monday announced the launch will move back to no earlier than September 18, (21:20 GMT).

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Two nearly identical spacecraft, destined to capture the first-ever 3-D views of the sun, are scheduled for launch on Aug. 31 aboard a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 3:12 p.m. or 4:20 p.m. EDT. The window extends through Sept. 4 with two launch opportunities daily.

Built and operated for NASA by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), in Laurel, Md., the two-year STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) mission will explore the origin, evolution and interplanetary consequences of coronal mass ejections. These powerful solar eruptions are a major source of the magnetic disruptions on Earth and a key component of space weather, which can greatly affect satellite operations, communications, power systems, and the lives of astronauts in space.

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There are two launch windows for the Delta 2 STEREO mission on August 31st.
There is a 2 minute launch window that starts at 19:12 GMT, and a 15 minute launch window that starts at 20:20 GMT.

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NASA is hosting a media teleconference about the Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) mission on Thursday, August 17 at 2 p.m. EDT.

Briefing participants:
-- Madhulika Guhathakurta, STEREO program scientist, NASA headquarters, Washington
-- Michael Kaiser, STEREO project scientist, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
-- Ed Reynolds, STEREO project manager, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md.
-- Nicholas Chrissotimos, STEREO project manager, Goddard

The nearly identical twin observatories will provide 3-D views of the sun and solar wind, perspectives critical to improving understanding of space weather, its impact on astronauts and Earth systems. The satellites will launch aboard a Delta II rocket from Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, US, on Thursday, August 31, for a two-year mission.

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A NASA mission to launch a Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory satellite using a Decatur-made rocket, once scheduled for liftoff today, was postponed until at least Aug. 31.

The most recent of several delays came Friday when Boeing Co. engineers detected a leak in the second-stage oxidiser tank of a Delta II rocket at the Decatur facility.
The rocket in which the leak was detected was not scheduled for launch until November, but Boeing officials decided to evaluate other Delta IIs for similar defects.
Officials could not check for a leak in the STEREO rocket, already stacked at Cape Canaveral, Fla., without unstacking it, thus requiring the additional delay.
The STEREO is one of a pair of satellites that will study coronal mass ejections — powerful solar eruptions that can damage communications satellites and cause electrical power outages.

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The Launch windows are currently scheduled for 19:.42-19:44 or 20:50-21:05 BST on 1st August, 2006.
The Launch date may slip due to bad weather or other factors.

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-- Edited by Blobrana at 11:57, 2006-07-17

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The first spacecraft designed to capture 3-D “stereo” views of the sun and solar wind were shipped, on the 9th November, from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland., to NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Maryland., for their next round of pre-launch tests.

The nearly identical twin STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) observatories, designed and built by APL, were recently tested in APL’s vibration lab where engineers used a large shake table to check the structural integrity of the twin spacecraft. These tests simulate the ride into space the observatories will encounter aboard a Delta II launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, where they’re scheduled for launch in spring 2006.
The launch window extends from April through June 2006 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Florida. Truly an international effort, its instruments were built and shipped from the United States and several European countries.

Delivery of the twin observatories to NASA is a program milestone. Building two nearly identical spacecraft simultaneously was a technical and scheduling challenge, but one our team welcomed and tackled with extreme professionalism and dedication. With the design, construction and now delivery of the observatories to NASA Goddard, we’re very excited to help NASA get one step closer to launch and capturing the first-ever 3-D images of the sun” - Ed Reynolds, APL STEREO project manager.

During the next three months at NASA GSFC, the twin observatories will undergo additional pre-launch checks including a series of spin tests to check the spacecraft’s balance and alignment; thermal vacuum tests to duplicate the extreme temperature and airless conditions of space; and acoustic tests that simulate the noise-induced vibrations of launch. The mission team plans to transport the STEREO observatories to Florida in March 2006 for final launch preparations.
During the 2-year STEREO mission, two nearly identical space-based observatories will explore the origin, evolution and interplanetary consequences of coronal mass ejections. These powerful solar eruptions are a major source of the magnetic disruptions on Earth and a key component of space weather, which can greatly affect satellite operations, communications, power systems, and the lives of humans in space.

"STEREO is going to help us answer some of the biggest questions about the sun. Not only will we see if CMEs are moving toward Earth, but we'll see how they move through the solar system" - Dr. Michael Kaiser, Project Scientist for STEREO at the Goddard Space Flight Centre.

To obtain unique “stereo” views of the sun, the twin STEREO observatories must be placed into different orbits where they’re offset from each other and the Earth. One observatory will be placed ahead of Earth in its orbit around the sun and the other behind. Just as the slight offset between your eyes provides you with depth perception, this placement will allow the STEREO observatories to obtain 3-D images and particle measurements of the sun.

This is the first time lunar swingbys will be used to place multiple spacecraft into their respective orbits. Mission designers at APL will use the moon’s gravity to redirect the observatories to their appropriate orbits around the sun. This innovative mission design allows the use of a single launch vehicle” - Andy Driesman, STEREO system engineer.

After launch, the observatories will fly in an orbit from a point close to Earth to one that extends just beyond the moon. Approximately two months later, mission operations personnel at APL will synchronize spacecraft orbits, directing one observatory to its position trailing Earth in its orbit. Approximately one month later, the second observatory will be redirected to its position ahead of Earth.

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