Centennial-based ULA gives a boost to NASA mission to study ocean salinity

nasa salt study
When NASA's Aquarius satellite lifted off Friday to study ocean salinity, it was aboard a Delta II rocket provided by United Launch Alliance.

The Centennial-based company has six launches planned this year, with four involving Colorado aerospace firms.

"We typically spend two to four years on a given mission, with a lot of the early work occurring at our facility," said Jim Sponnick, ULA's vice president of mission operations. "So it is beneficial they are immediate to the area."

The launch schedule calls for ULA to tap its range of rockets. Destinations and weight decide what rocket and configurations are used, Sponnick said.

On the large side is the Atlas V rocket that will launch the Juno mission on Aug. 5. The 8,000-pound spacecraft was designed and built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in south Jefferson County. The NASA mission aims to understand Jupiter's origin and evolution.

GRAIL's twin spacecraft, due for launch Sept. 8 on a Delta II, also were designed and built by Lockheed. Weighing 800 pounds together, the spacecraft will study the moon's gravitational field.

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