SMAP launch scrubbed by high winds aloft

CBS News

A United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket carrying a NASA climate research satellite was grounded Thursday by high winds above the Vandenberg Air Force Base launch site northwest of Los Angeles.

There were no technical problems with the rocket and its satellite payload and NASA managers told the launch team to recycle the countdown for a second attempt Friday at 9:20 a.m. EST (GMT-5; 6:20 a.m. local time), the opening of a three-minute window. Forecasters are predicting good weather.

Launch of a Delta 2 rocket carrying NASA's SMAP soil moisture satellite was scrubbed Thursday by high winds aloft. (Credit: NASA TV)

Conditions appeared ideal at Space Launch Complex 2 on Thursday, but weather balloons indicated a sharp wind shear 34,000 feet above the pad. NASA and ULA continued the countdown in hopes conditions would improve, but subsequent balloons showed no significant change and managers ordered a 24-hour delay.

The Soil Moisture Active Passive -- SMAP -- satellite perched atop the Delta 2 is the centerpiece of a $916 million program to map water, frozen and liquid, in the top few inches of soil around the world to help researchers improve near-term weather forecasts, better understand the causes and impacts of droughts, floods and other natural disasters and to improve long-range climate change projections.

The 2,000-pound satellite, featuring a spinning 19.7-0foot-wide reflector to collect moisture-detecting microwave radiometer and radar pulses, was built at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It is expected to operate for at least three years.