Menu

Air & Space

Aquarius Ocean-Mapping Satellite Blasts Off

  • NASA Aquarius satellite launch

    The Aquarius/SAC-D satellite soared into space at 7:20 a.m. PDT (1420 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California atop an unmanned Delta 2 rocket.Fox News

  • NASA Ocean Mapping Mission

    An artist's conception of the Aquarius/SAC-D spacecraft, a collaboration between NASA and Argentina's space agency, with participation from Brazil, Canada, France and Italy.AP Photo/NASA

It's the age of Aquarius.

NASA launched a rocket Friday morning ferrying an Earth-observing satellite on a mission to measure the saltiness of the ocean from the depths of outer space.

The Delta 2 rocket blasted off at 7:20 a.m. (10:20 a.m. EDT) Friday from Vandenberg Air Force Base after a 24-hour delay so crews could review an issue with the rocket's flight plan. 

"Aquarius is a critical component of our Earth sciences work, and part of the next generation of space-based instruments that will take our knowledge of our home planet to new heights," said NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver in a statement released after the launch. 

"The innovative scientists and engineers who contributed to this mission are part of the talented team that will help America win the future and make a positive impact across the globe."

Aquarius, the NASA-built primary instrument on the spacecraft, will take the space agency's first space-based measurements of ocean surface salinity, a key missing variable in satellite observations of Earth that links ocean circulation, the global balance of freshwater and climate.

Weather looked good for liftoff prior to liftoff, NASA said, with a zero percent chance of storms, clouds, or other conditions that could affect the launch.

The Argentine-built satellite carries a NASA instrument that will chart changes in ocean salt levels over three years. Other instruments from Canada, France and Italy will collect environmental data.

"Data from this mission will advance our understanding of the ocean and prediction of the global water cycle," said Michael Freilich, director of NASA's Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at agency headquarters in Washington.

Scientists hope the $400 million mission will help better predict future climate change and short-term climate phenomena such as El Nino and La Nina.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.