The joint Argentine/US satellite Aquarius/SAC-D (Satellite de Aplicaciones Cientaficas) mission was successfully launched Friday from Vandenberg military air base in California. Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said the Argentines “on this day should feel happy and proud”.
The launch was initially programmed for Thursday, but it was postponed on Wednesday afternoon due to “minor inconsistencies” found in the “launch information system” at NASA, Delta II.
Following new verifications and checks, everything was cleared by officials and satellite SAC-D maintained in “perfect operating conditions,” according to the Foreign Ministry when they announced the postponement of the mission on Wednesday.
The grand 1,400 kilo satellite was developed by Argentina’s CONAE (National Commission for Space Activity) in conjunction with NASA. The North American space agency invested 260 million US dollars to the project and 60 million were invested by the Argentine Ministry of Science and Technology.
Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman was present at the launch and assured that mission SAC-D/Aquarius, developed by Argentina and the United States, “marks a historic milestone” for Argentina, being able to take place thanks to “State politics” and “because of many scientists who supported the country.”
Timerman further affirmed that the data that the satellite sends back to Earth will “contribute by making use of the ground, the seas, and help give a better understanding of the climate.”
The Foreign Minister was accompanied by the Technical and Executive director of CONAE, Conrado Varotto and the vice-minister of Science and Technology, Ruth Ladenheim. The vice-minister said that the mission was “the result of many scientists’ hard work.”
Ladenheim furthered, “we give sincere thanks to the investigation that they have carried out; today we are here and it is a historic moment, not only for Argentina, but for Latin America, whom with we are going to share the results the satellite brings.”
The joint US/Argentine satellite mission will map the salinity at the ocean's surface, providing information critical to improving our understanding of two major components of Earth's climate system: the water cycle and ocean circulation.
The 36-step protocol in preparation for the launch was rehearsed twice prior to the launch, the last being on Monday, when they simulated a series of contingencies, or possible situations such as the breaking up of communication with the Space Centre in Córdoba, Argentina which is in charge of receiving data from the satellite, the engineer Caruso informed.
Almost 200 people were involved in the preparation for the launch, which usually has a duration window of about 5 minutes, under the supervision of a member of the United Launch Alliance (ULA), also in charge of giving the last series of commands before the satellite launching.
In Buenos Aires President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner praised the “formidable effort and investment” that the government made to develop the countries’ scientific and technologic sectors as she participated from the Government House in the launching of the satellite SAC-D/Aquarius.
“Today is a grand day for all Argentines. I feel immensely proud. I will continue to support these kinds of developments, because this is the future of Argentina,” expressed the head of State, after participating in the launch via telephone conference with Vanderberg US Air Force base in California.
We can now say that, since 2003, we have invested in and supported sectors such as the CONICET, CONAE and universities. I feel very proud and hopeful regarding what can be done by Argentines, she added.