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Air Force set to launch cutting-edge science satellite

Artist's rendering of the deployed ARGOS   

January 12, 1999
Web posted at: 5:56 p.m. EDT (1756 GMT)

(CNN) -- This the U.S. Air Force is preparing to launch its most advanced research and development satellite ever on a three-year mission to collect data on the environment and test new space technology.

The Advanced Research and Global Observation Satellite (ARGOS) mission is scheduled to liftoff Friday at 2:39 p.m. (5:39 a.m. EST; 1039 GMT) from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base aboard a Delta 2 rocket.

The nearly 3-ton ARGOS -- a heavyweight, by science satellite standards -- responds to the periodic need to fly Department of Defense payloads that are too large and complex or require too much time in orbit to be flown aboard the space shuttle or small launch vehicles.

According to the Boeing Co., builder of ARGOS, its science payloads will collect data on the Earth's upper atmosphere for use in military and environmental programs.

The satellite will also test advanced space technologies, some intended for use on the International Space Station.

ARGOS carries a total of nine payloads that will: demonstrate high-temperature superconductivity; conduct upper atmospheric imaging and environment studies; demonstrate electric propulsion; and investigate X-ray navigation and timing concepts. The experiments are sponsored by various government agencies, including the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and U.S. Army.

The launch, originally scheduled to take place Thursday, was postponed for 24 hours while ground controllers corrected a faulty telemetry link detected during final launch preparations.

Two secondary spacecraft also will be carried aboard the Delta 2 rocket, the Orsted spacecraft for Denmark and the SUNSAT for South Africa.

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