As the sun rises over Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the first stage of the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket that will carry the Aquarius/SAC-D satellite into low Earth orbit is prepared for its move to Space Launch Complex-2 (SLC-2).
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