GRAIL and its Delta II launch vehicle at LC-17B on September 8, 2011. Photo credit: NASA/Ken Thornsley.

So, I am up and it is around 8:48 a.m. Watching NASA TV in an attempt to see the twin probes GRAIL launch to their lunar destination. GRAIL is a set of two probes destined for the moon, and will be measuring the moon’s gravity fields in an unprecedented lunar mission. I believe this will be the last launch from LC-17 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

8:50 a.m.: Waiting for next weather balloon data set to come in shortly after 9:00 a.m. The launch has already been scrubbed several times due to pesky high level winds. 

8:53: Apparently now we have a yellow indication on fuel tank pressure. I don’t like that line of thinking. However, range is currently go. Just got news that latest weather balloon was GREEN. This is all according to NASA TV…launch director Tim Dunn will give the final word I suppose.  

8:58: NASA team is ready for launch. Countdown will resume after planned T-4 hold. Currently GO for launch. 

9:03: GRAIL is now on internal power. Standing by for release of the planned hold in 30 seconds. 

9:05: Counting down! Yay!

9:06: Spacecraft is go. Things (hopefully) are going swimmingly now.  

9:07: Range go for launch. Go GRAIL!

9:08: GO! We have launch! 

9:12 – 9-13: Four minutes into flight, now at MECO. Now at stage separation and fairing separation. Hey there GRAIL!

9:17: GRAIL’s probes are now in a parking orbit; in an hour, another burn will take place in order to send the probes to the moon. The launch went fantastically and of course NASA delivered the wonder yet again. 

GRAIL launch video from NASA.


Emily Carney is a writer, space enthusiast, and creator of the This Space Available space blog, published since 2010. In January 2019, Emily’s This Space Available blog was incorporated into the National Space Society’s blog. The content of Emily’s blog can be accessed via the This Space Available blog category.

Note: The views expressed in This Space Available are those of the author and should not be considered as representing the positions or views of the National Space Society.

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