July 17, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA

Photo Report: Falcon Heavy Completes Perfect GOES-U Launch

SpaceX's 10th Falcon Heavy rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39A, with the GOES-U weather satellite on board. Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace.

Florida's Space Coast was treated to a stunning sight on Tuesday As SpaceX's tenth Falcon Heavy lifted off from Launch Complex 39AAboard the rocket was NASA’s GOES-U satellite, which will continue a six-decade legacy of monitoring Earth’s climate from space. A nearly cloudless sky and a launch window that opened less than three hours before sunset combined to make for spectacular images. AmericaSpace’s photography team was on-site to capture images and video of the GOES satellite’s final ascent into orbit. As usualThe Falcon Heavy's unique configuration resulted in memorable images, which are available in the photo gallery at the end of this article.

Multiple remote cameras document GOES-U's liftoff. At 2:34, a unique view of the shock waves from the booster rockets as they decelerate to break through the sound barrier again can be seen.

At 17:26 on June 25HeThe Falcon Heavy’s twenty-seven Merlin 1D engines roared into life, lifting the rocket off the launch pad as its surroundings shuddered under the force of 5.4 million pounds of thrust. Its center core quickly slowed to preserve fuel for the latter part of its ascent, while its two side boosters lifted it above the densest regions of Earth’s atmosphere. The reusable boosters were jettisoned 2 minutes and 30 seconds into the flight. The expendable core stage, traveling too fast to return to an unmanned craft after accelerating the payload to the correct speed, was jettisoned 4 minutes and 4 seconds after launch. The second stage finished the job by placing GOES-U into a parking orbit; it then reignited its engine twice over the next four hours to place the weather satellite into a highly elliptical geostationary transfer orbit. Meanwhile, the two side boosters performed booster burns to return to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. They made almost simultaneous vertical landings in Landing zones 1 and 2 eight minutes after liftoff, where SpaceX engineers will begin preparing them for their next mission.

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, a triple-barreled rocket, blasts off on its maiden voyage in 2018. It has since completed ten flights with a 100 percent success rate. Credit: Mike Killian/AmericaSpace.

GOES-U has performed well during its first two days in space. The satellite was built by NASA, but will be operated in orbit by NASA. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) during its 15-year lifespan. Shortly after separating from the Falcon Heavy's second stage, GOES-U established contact with the communications antennas on the The Deep Space NetworkOver the next two weeks, it will use its hypergolic thrusters to maneuver into geostationary orbit, where it will maintain constant surveillance over the eastern United States.

The successful launch of GOES-U is also a major milestone for SpaceX. It marks the tenth flight of the Falcon Heavy since His long-awaited debut six years agoAlthough the Falcon Heavy may look like three Falcon 9 cores strung together, it's actually a much more complicated vehicle. For example, the center core is a single stage that's reinforced to withstand the combined force of all 27 engines. The launch of ViaSat-3 last MayElon Musk, SpaceX’s chief executive and chief designer, wrote: “I love that rocket, but it’s scary. There are a lot of state changes after liftoff.”1). The fact that The Falcon Heavy has an impeccable track record It is a testament to the talent and vigilance of the SpaceX engineering team that operates it.

One of GOES-U's Falcon Heavy side boosters uses its slatted fins to autonomously steer toward the landing zone. Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace.

Meanwhile, GOES-U will play a vital role in weather forecasting for years to come. AmericaSpace's Ben Evans provided a detailed description of the satellite's instrument suite In a pre-release feature, when meteorologists show a regional image of cloud or storm patterns over the United States on television, the background image usually comes from one of NOAA's satellites. Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES)It is no coincidence that deaths from extreme weather events have declined significantly since the dawn of the space age. In 1935, the infamous Labor Day storm in Florida claimed the lives of 422 Americans. In 2018, Hurricane Michael, another Category 5 storm, also hit Florida, but had a lower death toll (74). Because of their elevated position in geostationary orbit, GOES satellites can monitor the entire Western Hemisphere. They provide advance warnings of severe weather events, including forest firestornadoes and solar flares In addition to hurricanes, this gives local authorities ample time to plan life-saving evacuation efforts. Heavy-lift rockets, such as the Falcon Heavy, enable the deployment of the 6,500-pound satellites in the GOES constellation.

AmericaSpace photojournalists Jeff Seibert and Alan Walters were on-site to document the launch of this crucial spacecraft. Below is a gallery of their photographs, beginning with preparations for launch and ending with the landing of the two side rockets.

ALL images are copyright of their respective photographers, all rights reserved. Please contact the photographer directly for permission to use or purchase via the email addresses listed on Our “People” page.

Falcon Heavy ready for launch at Launch Complex 39A. Gleaming white side boosters like these two cores are rare due to SpaceX's extensive reuse of rocket hardware. Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace
GOES-U is encapsulated within its payload fairing. The gray paint band on the second stage helps cool the booster for multi-hour missions. Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace.
Clouds of water vapor swirl around the Falcon Heavy as T-0 approaches in this still image taken by one of our remote video cameras. Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace.
Falcon Heavy lifts off from historic Launch Complex 39A, carrying the GOES-U weather satellite into geostationary orbit. Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace.
Twenty-seven Merlin engines roar to life as GOES-U lifts off in this image from Beach Road. Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace.
The Falcon Heavy flies over the tower in this image from the rooftop of NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace.
The Falcon Heavy soars into the sky, against a crystal-blue sky. Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace.
GOES-U reaches supersonic speed 58 seconds after launch. Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace.
The Falcon Heavy tilts downward as the GOES-U mission accelerates toward orbit. Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace.
The Falcon Heavy's plume expands as it ascends into the thin upper atmosphere. Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace.
Steam condenses around one of GOES-U's side thrusters as it returns to the Space Coast. Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace.
Shock waves from returning Falcon Heavy rockets propagate through the clouds as the cores decelerate through the sound barrier. The shock waves are most evident in the video at the top of this article. Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace.
A Falcon Heavy side-boost rocket uses its slat fins to autonomously steer toward the landing zone. Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace.
One of Falcon Heavy's two side boosters deploys its landing legs shortly before touchdown. Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace.
After completing their mission, the two Falcon Heavy side boosters maneuver for a synchronized landing at LZ-1. Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace.
A Falcon Heavy side booster rocket performs a landing burn to gently decelerate and touch down at LZ-1, ending the GOES-U launch. Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace.

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