At press time, all remained on schedule for a launch at 7:49 a.m. from the spaceport at Narrow Cape, on the east side of Kodiak Island.
While Kodiak’s weather has been good for the last few days and isn’t expected to present problems today, space weather conditions are another matter.
Early Monday morning, a solar storm hit Earth’s atmosphere, generating an aurora visible as far south as Lake Michigan. According to Spaceflightnow, which tracks satellite launches around the world and has a reporter in Kodiak, officials are concerned that charged particles from the solar storm could cause problems with the rocket’s guidance systems and computers.
The rocket’s countdown was scheduled to begin at 2:45 a.m. this morning, with the final go-ahead just minutes before launch.
Today’s launch would be just the third rocket in the history of the Alaska spaceport to put an object into orbit around the earth. Most launches from the facility have been intended to test the U.S. missile defense system and did not reach orbit.
The satellite atop today’s rocket is TacSat 4, a prototype communications satellite designed to allow soldiers to communicate via satellite while still on the move or in locations where normal satellite phones aren’t useful, such as deep valleys or high latitudes.
“It protects your soldiers, it protects your location by being able to communicate without showing your position,” said Operationally Responsive Space Office spokeswoman Valerie Skarupa.
The space office is funding the rocket used in today’s launch, the Air Force is managing the launch, and the satellite was built by the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research.
The gates to the launch complex were to close at 5 a.m., but places to view the launch were set up along Pasagshak Point. The last launch to take off from Narrow Cape was visible as far away as Palmer and Juneau.
The U.S. Coast Guard announced that it will enforce a safety zone off Narrow Cape and Ugak Island from 7:40 to 10 a.m. The cutter Long Island will patrol the area. For more information about the closure, contact Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Kodiak at 486-5918 or 654-4069.
Contact Mirror Editor James Brooks at email@example.com.
For live video and updates about the launch as it happens, visit http://bit.ly/TacSat.