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March 9, 2000

[Avalanche News release] [Sandia National Laboratories]

Launch of DOE satellite OK'd for Sunday

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Vandenberg Air Force Base officials today gave the green light for an early Sunday morning, March 12, launch of a Department of Energy research satellite designed and built at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico.

The satellite has been sitting atop a rocket on a Vandenberg launch pad since Feb. 25, the day a planned Feb. 28 launch was postponed by base safety officials. Although the U.S. obtained permission to conduct the launch from the French Polynesian government several months ago, the French withdrew the permission Feb. 25 because of uncertainties about whether a small Tahitian island is inhabited or uninhabited. The island is within an imaginary ellipse that defines the area where the rocket's third-stage booster would fall after it separates from the rocket during launch.

Late Wednesday (March 8) the French Polynesian government deemed the launch safe and reinstated its permission to conduct the launch.

The Multispectral Thermal Imager (MTI) satellite, designed and built by a government and industry team led by Sandia, includes a sophisticated telescope that collects day and night ground images in 15 spectral bands. The telescope, calibrated at Los Alamos National Laboratory, gives the satellite the ability to photograph light and heat patterns not visible to the human eye.

The satellite also carries a High-energy X-ray Spectrometer (HXRS), sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), that will study a type of solar flare that can endanger astronauts and damage space equipment.

More information about MTI and downloadable color images are available at http://www.sandia.gov/media/NewsRel/NR2000/launch.htm. The Air Force Space & Missile Center plans to launch the satellite into polar orbit between 1:23 and 1:50 a.m. PST Sunday using an Orbital Sciences Corp. Taurus rocket.

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin Company, for the United States Department of Energy under contract DE-AC04-94AL85000. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major research and development responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

Media contact:
John German, jdgerma@sandia.gov, (505) 844-5199

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