WISE Spacecraft is Launched Successfully

VANDENBURG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., Dec. 14 (UPI) — NASA’s newest spacecraft lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California Monday morning, ready to seek out previously undiscovered cosmic objects.

Space agency scientists said the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, named WISE, is on a mission to map the entire sky in infrared light using cutting-edge equipment designed to uncover hidden objects that include stars, asteroids and even galaxies.

WISE was launched at 9:09 a.m. EST Monday atop a Delta II rocket after two previous delays caused by a malfunctioning booster steering engine that was spotted during pre-launch testing Friday. The launch was then moved to Saturday, but finally space agency engineers decided to remove and replace the component.

WISE will circle Earth over its poles, scanning the entire sky one-and-a-half times during its nine-month-mission. After its first month in space, during which WISE’s instruments will be calibrated, it will begin the task of surveying the whole sky, NASA said. That will take about six months, after which the spacecraft will begin to sweep the sky a second time, covering about one-half before its frozen coolant — used to expedite the infrared photography — is exhausted.

The mission’s primary lifetime is expected to be about 10 months.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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