Technicians guide the first stage of the Delta II rocket that will carry NASA's Aquarius satellite into low Earth orbit onto the launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base's Space Launch Complex-2 (SLC-2) in California. While the Delta II rocket is stacked on SLC-2, teams for NASA's Glory spacecraft and Orbital Sciences Taurus XL rocket are in launch preparation mode at Vandenberg's nearby Space Launch Complex 576-E.
Scheduled to launch in June, Aquarius' mission will be to provide monthly maps of global changes in sea surface salinity. By measuring ocean salinity from space, Aquarius will provide new insights into how the massive natural exchange of freshwater between the ocean, atmosphere and sea ice influences ocean circulation, weather and climate. Also going up with the satellite are optical and thermal cameras, a microwave radiometer and the SAC-D spacecraft, which were developed with the help of institutions in Italy, France, Canada and Argentina. Photo credit: NASA/VAFB