The mobile service tower at Space Launch Complex 2 on Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is rolled back from the first stage of the Delta II rocket for NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive mission, or SMAP, during preparations for the arrival of the rocket's second stage.
Operations are underway to install the second stage atop the rocket's first stage. SMAP will launch on a Delta II 7320 configuration vehicle featuring a United Launch Alliance first stage booster powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-27A main engine and three Alliant Techsystems, or ATK, strap-on solid rocket motors. Once on station in Earth orbit, SMAP will provide global measurements of soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state. These measurements will be used to enhance understanding of processes that link the water, energy and carbon cycles, and to extend the capabilities of weather and climate prediction models. SMAP data also will be used to quantify net carbon flux in boreal landscapes and to develop improved flood prediction and drought monitoring capabilities. Launch is scheduled for no earlier than November 2014. To learn more about SMAP, visit http://smap.jpl.nasa.gov. Photo credit: NASA/Randy Beaudoin