VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE — Two Earth-monitoring satellites blasted into orbit on a Boeing Delta II rocket Tuesday on missions to monitor the planet’s atmosphere, forests, urban centers and oceans.
NASA’s Earth Observing 1 and the multinational satellite SAC-C lifted off into clear skies at 10:24 a.m.
The launch was delayed for several days because of discrepancies in preflight test documentation that turned out to be paperwork rather than system problems.
Ninety minutes after blastoff, both satellites were in orbit and communicating with ground controllers.
The 1,260-pound EO-1 was placed into a 438-mile polar orbit. The smaller co-payload was put in a 436-mile polar orbit.
As part of NASA’s New Millennium Program, EO-1 will test several advanced technologies that, if successful, could be used on other missions. Among them is a land imager that is cheaper, lighter and more powerful than current equipment.
The $193 million EO-1 will fly within two miles of the existing Landsat 7 and take the same images as the older satellite.
Scientists will compare the pictures to determine how well the new imager is working, NASA officials said.
The $45 million SAC-C carries 11 scientific instruments designed to study the Earth’s surface, atmosphere and magnetic field. It is a joint venture of NASA, Argentina, Brazil, Denmark, France and Italy.
One of the instruments will watch the migration of the Franca whale, which was nearly hunted to extinction early in the 20th century.
The satellite will pick up the signals of transmitters being attached to the large ocean mammals.
On the Net: EO-1: http://www.gsfc.nasa.gov/gsfc/earth/eo1/eo.html