August 28, 2012
NASA Radiation Belt Storm Probes Mission Rescheduled Again
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
This will make the fourth attempt at launching the RBSP mission into the Van Allen Radiation Belt.
The first attempt, August 23, was scrubbed because of an "an anomalous engine condition," NASA said.
"An anomalous engine condition was identified during testing of another Atlas vehicle at the Factory in Decatur, Ala., and the delay will allow additional time for engineers to complete their assessments and verify that a similar condition does not exist on the RBSP launch vehicle engine," the space agency said in a statement following the initial delay.
The second attempt, August 24, was scrubbed because of an issue with the Air Force's Easter Range beacon indications. The delay was not because of any technical issues with the spacecraft or the Atlas V rocket.
The decision followed a series of meetings to evaluate "out-of-family" readings in the signal of a C-Band tracking device linking the Atlas V rocket and ground-based range equipment that caused a scrub early Friday morning. The C-Band Transponder is one of several systems used to track the vehicle after launch for range safety purposes.
The third attempt, Saturday August 25, was again scrubbed due to no fault of the program or the equipment. This time, it was the weather.
At 4:23am EST, the launch managers called it quits because of dangerous weather conditions: lightning, cumulus clouds and attached anvil clouds. The mission was scrubbed once again, and the process of taking the rocket out of flight readiness was begun. As with the launch attempts on Thursday and Friday, there are no issues with either the Atlas V rocket or the RBSP spacecraft.
The delay in rescheduling has been because of what was then Tropical Storm and now Hurricane Isaac. Because of the potential for damage if the storm made landfall anywhere near the Cape Canaveral facility, the launch team decided to roll the Atlas V vehicle back to the Vertical Integration Facility to ensure that the launch vehicle and probes are safe from inclement weather.
RBSP will help scientists improve the current models of how the radiation belts form and change, not only allowing NASA to help protect its spacecraft better, but its astronauts in orbit around Earth as well.
The two RBSP will have orbits that cover the entire radiation belt region, lapping each other several times during the course of the mission.
Once the probes are placed into their orbits, they will undergo a two-month "commissioning period," the time in which NASA engineers spend ensuring everything on the spacecraft are functioning properly.