The much-anticipated launch of the European Space Agency's new gravity mapping satellite has been delayed until Tuesday or later as teams work to resolve issues with the probe's launch tower.

The Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE), was set to launch on Monday from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia, which lies some 800 km north of Moscow.

But the countdown to its launch was stopped seconds before lift-off because the launch tower failed to retract.

The agency hopes to attempt to launch again at 1421 GMT on Tuesday, the probe's next launch window. But a new launch date has not yet been set because ESA is still investigating what went wrong.

"We're confident that it will launch tomorrow, but we're expecting more information to come," says Robert Meisner of ESA's Earth Observation Programme.

Monday's delay is not the first for the gravity probe. The spacecraft was previously set to take off in September 2008, but the launch was delayed several times while engineers worked to correct a problem in the guidance and navigation system of the probe's Russian Rockot launcher.

Once in orbit, the €350 million probe is set to map the Earth's gravity field in unprecedented detail, a measurement which is expected to refine models of the planet's climate and ocean circulation patterns.

If you would like to reuse any content from New Scientist, either in print or online, please contact the syndication department first for permission. New Scientist does not own rights to photos, but there are a variety of licensing options available for use of articles and graphics we own the copyright to.


Post a Comment