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Space

QuikScat on course after launch

launch
Saturday's launch

  

June 21, 1999
Web posted at: 12:33 p.m. EDT (1633 GMT)

PASADENA, California (CNN) -- NASA's latest ocean-wind monitoring satellite has deployed it solar arrays and established contact with ground controllers following a successful weekend launch, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement.

The Quick Scatterometer (QuikScat) was lofted into space at 7:15 p.m. Saturday from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base atop a U.S. Air Force Titan II rocket.

The satellite was launched in a south-southwesterly direction, soaring over the Pacific Ocean at sunset as it ascended into space to achieve an initial elliptical orbit with a maximum altitude of about 800 kilometers (500 miles) above the Earth's surface.

Just off the coast from Mozambique, about 59 minutes after launch, the QuikScat satellite separated from the Titan II's second stage booster and was pushed into a looping orbit over Earth's poles that will bring it as close as 279 kilometers (173 miles) from Earth's surface and as far away as 807 kilometers (501 miles).

During the next two weeks, QuikScat will fire its thrusters as many as 25 times to circularize and fine-tune its polar orbit.

QuikScat
Artist's depiction of QuikScat   

The scatterometer science instrument on QuikScat will be turned on for the first time 18 days into flight. About 30 days after launch, QuikScat will formally begin its primary mission of mapping ocean wind speed and direction.

The $98 million, two-year mission is intended to improve weather forecasting and detect the onset of conditions like El Niño by measuring winds blowing over Earth's oceans.

It will cover 90 percent of the Earth's ice-free oceans each day, rain or shine, cutting a 1,100-mile swath during polar orbits as the Earth turns under it.

In addition to leading to improved weather forecasting and increased knowledge of such abnormalities as El Niño and La Niña, data gathered by the satellite also could help scientists determine the location, structure and strength of Atlantic hurricanes, Asian typhoons and cyclones worldwide.


RELATED STORIES:
Launch of NASA's QuikScat satellite delayed
June 17, 1999
NASA's next El Niño-watcher to launch Friday
June 15, 1999
NASA set to launch Earth-watching satellite
April 1, 1999

RELATED SITES:
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
California Institute of Technology Press release on QuikScat
SeaWinds on QuikSCAT
  •  Winds: News: SeaWinds Instrument Shipped for QuikSCAT Integration
Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp - QuikSCAT
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