NASA launches mission to study the sun
August 25, 1997
Web posted at: 1:20 p.m. EDT (1720 GMT)
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (CNN) -- A $200 million mission to
study the sun was launched on Monday after a one-day delay
caused by stray shrimp fishermen.
An unmanned Delta II rocket lifted NASA's Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) solar observatory skyward at 10:39 a.m. EDT.
The satellite is to be hurtled to a point 1 million miles
from Earth where the gravities of Earth and the sun balance
each other. There, it will study atomic particles streaming
from the sun as well from the far reaches of the Milky Way.
Sunday morning's scheduled liftoff was postponed just minutes
before launch because of two shrimp boats in harm's way in
the Atlantic Ocean near Cape Canaveral.
Although the U.S. Coast Guard was able to contact one shrimp
boat before the end of the 25-minute launch window, it could
not contact the other, which NASA said appeared to be either
anchored or dead in the water.
Both were within the launch pad's security zone; the area
must be cleared and secured for safety reasons before
spacecraft can blast off.
The ACE craft is primarily designed to collect several
different types of data on matter in outer space, and it will
monitor solar winds and solar quiet and active periods.
It will also provide a practical use for the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Among the
spacecraft's secondary payload is a tool that will alert NOAA
to severe solar storms that are about to hit Earth.
Before the spacecraft can begin its work, it must travel
almost 1 million miles (1.5 million km) to escape the effects
of the Earth's magnetic field.
Scientists hope the data the craft collects on different
types of matter in space will aid their investigations of the
origin and evolution of solar and galactic matter.
And NOAA officials hope their project, the Real Time Solar
Wind data format, will help them pinpoint approaching storms
from outer space. Severe geomagnetic storms cause
communications problems, abruptly increase drag on
spacecraft, and can cause electric utility blackouts over a