NATIONAL SPACE SOCIETY
Western Spaceport Chapter
October 13, 1997
CASSINI LAUNCH DELAYED
Upper Atmospheric Winds and Technical Glitches
Stall Seven-Year Journey to Saturn
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL (October 13 [3:30 a.m. Pacific]) -- NASA has decided to delay today's launch a controversial nuclear-powered space probe because of technical problems and high winds over Cape Canaveral. A spokesman says the Cassini probe will not take off until Wednesday.
A U.S. Air Force Titan rocket was to have carried the probe aloft at about 5:55 a.m. EDT, but that launch was pushed back for an hour before the second postponement was announced. In addition to strong high-level winds, NASA cited problems with ground support equipment and an onboard computer in announcing the delay.
Cassini is scheduled to make a seven-year trip to the ringed planet in 2004 or a four-year study of the planet Saturn. However, anti-nuclear groups holding a candlelight vigil in Washington, D.C. and "bearing witness" in front of the White House on Sunday say its plutonium-238 power source used in Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs) would be a threat to the environment if the rocket explodes at launch, or during a planned "fly-by of Earth in 1999.