July 14, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA
Discovery

Falcon Heavy launches GOES-U weather satellite

WASHINGTON – A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket lifted off June 25 carrying the latest spacecraft in a series of geostationary weather satellites that also features several firsts.

The Falcon Heavy lifted off from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A at 5:26 p.m. Eastern Time, 10 minutes into a two-hour window, as launch directors encountered favorable weather despite forecasts the day before that They predicted only a 30% chance of acceptable weather.

The rocket's payload, the GOES-U weather satellite, is scheduled to deploy from the Falcon Heavy's second stage four and a half hours after liftoff, once the stage completes a sequence of three burns to place the satellite into orbit. geostationary transfer.

GOES-U is the fourth and final satellite in the GOES R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) series of satellites built by Lockheed Martin for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The spacecraft, which will be renamed GOES-19 once in geostationary orbit, will undergo in-orbit commissioning and then move to 75 degrees east in GEO and replace GOES-16 as the operational satellite GOES- East.

The satellite carries a suite of ground and space science instruments similar to the three previous GOES-R satellites, but It also includes the Compact Coronagraph (CCOR) instrument for observing the sun.. CCOR will monitor the solar corona for flares and coronal mass ejections that affect space weather, replacing the nearly 30-year-old Solar and Heliospheric Observatory spacecraft.

Meteorologists say observations provided by the first three GOES-R weather satellites have significantly improved weather forecasting. “The GOES-R series of satellites has been a game-changer for us,” Ken Graham, director of the National Weather Service, said at a pre-launch briefing on June 24. “Since the series' first release in 2016, the latest GOES series has enabled new and improved forecasts, warnings and services to help save lives and protect property.”

Among the new capabilities of the GOES-R series is a ray mapper. “I think it took a while for meteorologists to realize what it could do,” Pam Sullivan, GOES-R program manager at NOAA, said in another briefing on June 24. She said lightning data allows meteorologists to better understand the severity of a storm and issue warnings accordingly. “The main thing I hear from meteorologists is that they have more confidence in a forecast.”

NOAA is working on a new generation of geostationary weather satellites, called GeoXO, scheduled to launch in 2032. NASA, which supports NOAA in the development of weather satellites, has awarded contracts to Lockheed Martin will build the satellites and BAE Systems (formerly Ball Aerospace) to build probe and ocean color Instruments for spacecraft.

GOES-U “is the bridge that connects today's geostationary satellite technology with tomorrow's technology that promises to be even more sophisticated and impactful,” said Steve Volz, assistant administrator for NOAA's Satellite and Information Service, GeoXO.

Falcon Heavy Landings
The two Falcon Heavy side boosters make synchronized landings at Landing Zones 1 and 2 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station following the GOES-U launch.

The launch also marked the first time NOAA launched a GOES weather satellite on a SpaceX rocket. The three previous GOES-R satellites were launched on United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5 rockets, but NASA awarded SpaceX a $152.5 million contract for a GOES-U Falcon Heavy launch in September 2021. ULA withdrew its offer because it had no Atlas rockets available.

One advantage of using the Falcon Heavy is the extra performance it provides. Julianna Scheiman, NASA's science mission manager at SpaceX, said at a prelaunch briefing on June 24 that the extra performance is measured in the form of delta V, or change in velocity, that the spacecraft itself needs to provide to reach its final geostationary orbit.

Mission requirements were for a delta V of no more than 987 meters per second, while Falcon Heavy will place GOES-U into a transfer orbit with a delta V of 566 meters per second. “A lower number means less energy is required to get the spacecraft to that orbit, allowing them to save that propellant,” he said.

Those propellant savings translate into a longer operational life for GOES-U. The spacecraft has a 15-year design specification, NOAA's Sullivan said. “With the additional capacity that Falcon Heavy gives us, we expect to have more than 20 years of fuel life.”

The launch was on the 10thth for the Falcon Heavy overall and the second contracted by NASA, following the mission to the asteroid Psyche that launched in October 2023. Another Falcon Heavy will launch the Europa Clipper mission for NASA this October.

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