Twenty minutes after it’s scheduled launch time, the Delta II rocket launched the GLAST spacecraft off a launch pad in Cape Canaveral, FL and into a clear, beautiful Florida sky headed for space.
GLAST is a powerful space observatory that will open a wide window on the universe. With a huge leap in all key capabilities, GLAST data will enable scientists to answer persistent questions across a broad range of topics, including supermassive black-hole systems, pulsars, the origin of cosmic rays, and searches for signals of new physics.
The mission is an astrophysics and particle physics partnership, developed by NASA in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, along with important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and the U.S.
According to NASA engineers, GLAST is now on its own with its solar arrays deployed and placed into a circular orbit 350 miles above the Earth, prepared to monitor the universe and the mysterious gamma-ray bursts. This low-Earth orbit was chosen to minimize the effects of charged particles that surround Earth, and which would create additional unwanted background signals in the detectors, while still ensuring the full mission lifetime. At that altitude, the observatory will circle Earth every 90 minutes. In sky-survey mode, GLAST will be able to view the entire sky in just two orbits, or about 3 hours.
With high sensitivity GLAST is the first imaging gamma-ray observatory to survey the entire sky every day. It will give scientists a unique opportunity to learn about the ever-changing universe at extreme energies. GLAST will detect thousands of gamma-ray sources, most of which will be supermassive black holes in the cores of distant galaxies.
NASA’s next scheduled launch is the Delta 2 • GPS 2R-20 (M7) on July 16 @ noon edt. The United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket will launch the seventh modernized NAVSTAR Global Positioning System Block 2R military navigation satellite. The launch will be run by the U.S. Air Force. The rocket will fly in the 7925 vehicle configuration.
For an entire launch schedule…