The SMAP satellite lifting off atop a Delta II rocket (Photo NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) satellite was launched on a Delta II rocket from Space Launch Complex 2 7320-10LC (SLC-2) of the base of Vandenberg, California. The spacecraft successfully separated from the rocket’s last stage after almost an hour and was placed in a sun-synchronous almost polar orbit that will have an altitude between 660 and 685 km (between 410 and 426 miles).