News from Cape Canaveral
Updated June 29, 2018

 

 

June 29, 2018

Falcon 9 Wows Spectators With Awesome Views And Halo Effect

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

Sometimes, all of the stars line up. They did this morning as a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carried the CRS-15 payload into space. At first it seemed like a routine night launch with darkness prevailing, but then something wonderful happened. A few minutes after liftoff, the pre-dawn sunrise caught the smoky trail of the rocket as it lofted high above the Atlantic Ocean. Not only did a brightly colored trail emerge, but so did a rare event – the development of a bright white halo around the rocket. It started as a bright white teardrop, but then expanded to a large white circle with the rocket’s second stage burn highly visible at its bottom. Indeed, the rocket was visible for over 8 minutes after launch, a very rare occurrence. This was the most spectacular unmanned launch I have ever seen in my 40 years covering the Cape. Thanks to SpaceX and NASA for the show!

 

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Halo Begins To Surround Falcon 9 Rocket, Photo Courtesy Cliff Lethbridge/Spaceline

 

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Halo Broadens Around Falcon 9 Rocket, Photo Courtesy Cliff Lethbridge/Spaceline

 

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Halo Grows Larger Around Falcon 9 Rocket, Photo Courtesy Cliff Lethbridge/Spaceline

 

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Halo Peaks in Size Around Falcon 9, Photo Courtesy Cliff Lethbridge/Spaceline

 

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Halo Dissipates As Falcon 9 Continues Its Flight, Photo Courtesy Cliff Lethbridge/Spaceline

 

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June 29, 2018

Falcon 9 Successfully Launches CRS-15 Payload For NASA

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched the CRS-15 payload for NASA at 5:42 a.m. EDT today from Launch Pad 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The CRS-15 payload consists of a SpaceX Dragon capsule carrying about 6,000 pounds of supplies and equipment bound for the International Space Station (ISS). The Dragon capsule was successfully deployed about 9.5 minutes after launch. Dragon is set to arrive at ISS on July 2. Two of the main elements of the Falcon 9 were flown previously. The first stage booster was flown on the NASA TESS mission in April, 2018 while the Dragon capsule was flown on the CRS-9 mission in July, 2016. The first stage booster flown today was not recovered as it had a design life of just two launches. The Dragon capsule will return to Earth carrying 4,000 pounds of cargo in a month.

 

Falcon 9 CRS-15 Launch, Photo Courtesy NASA

In addition to supplies and experiments, the Dragon capsule carries a new Canadian-built Latching End Effector (LEE). LEE will replace a failed unit astronauts removed from the Canadarm2 robotic arm in 2017. Each end of Canadarm2 has an identical LEE, used to grapple payloads and cargo spaceships and walk to various ISS locations. In collaboration with the National Park Service, a toy dog representing a Newfoundland that accompanied Lewis and Clark on their historic expedition is being flown to help NASA and the National Park Service celebrate two important anniversaries in 2018. The National Park Service commemorates 50 years since the beginning of the National Trail System in 1968 and NASA commemorates 60 years since the start of the space agency in 1958.

 

Falcon 9 CRS-15 In Flight, Photo Courtesy NASA

 

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June 5, 2018

Veteran Cape Photographer Captures Stunning Falcon 9 Photo

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

Veteran Cape photographer Lloyd Behrendt has released a stunning photo of Monday’s Falcon 9 flight. Behrendt, who has photographed hundreds of launches at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the Kennedy Space Center, captured the photo below a few minutes after the launch of the Falcon 9, which was launched at 12:45 a.m. EDT Monday June 4 into crystal clear skies. The photo captures the Falcon 9 in flight just seconds before booster engine cutoff. The extreme color of the rocket’s fiery trail and the distinctive “fan” of the rocket’s nine first stage engines make this one of the most outstanding rocket photos we have ever seen. Behrendt and his business partner Liz Allen are contributing photographers for Spaceline. You can see more of their work at www.thespacecoast.net.

 

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Falcon 9 SES-12 At Main Engine Cutoff, Photo Courtesy Lloyd Behrendt, www.thespacecoast.net

 

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June 4, 2018

SpaceX Falcon 9 Successfully Launches SES-12 Satellite

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

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Falcon 9 SES-12 Launch View From Launch Pad 40, Photo Courtesy SpaceX

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched the SES-12 commercial communications satellite at 12:45 a.m. EDT today from Launch Pad 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Launch was originally scheduled for May 31 but was postponed to allow engineers time to troubleshoot a potential problem with the rocket’s second stage. The Falcon 9 first stage booster was previously flown on the OTV-5 mission in September, 2017. An attempt to recover the booster today was not made, as it had a design life of two launches. Today’s launch was flawless, and the SES-12 satellite was successfully deployed on a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) about 32 minutes after liftoff.

 

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Falcon 9 SES-12 Launch Streak Shot, Photo Courtesy SpaceX

Owned and operated by Luxembourg-based SES, SES-12 will allow the company to provide high performance capacity, greater reliability and flexibility for video, data, mobility and government services to the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions. Employing six wide beams and 72 high throughput user spot beams, SES-12 is one of the largest satellites owned by SES. The satellite also employs a Digital Transparent Processor to provide customizable bandwidth services to SES customers. The all-electric SES-12 satellite was built by Airbus Defense and Space, and employs electric propulsion for orbit raising and on-orbit maneuvers. The electric propulsion system dramatically reduced the weight of the satellite as it does not require fuel tanks and liquid fuel. Once operational, SES-12 has a design life of 15 years.

 

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Falcon 9 SES-12 In Flight, Photo Courtesy Liz Allen/Lloyd Behrendt, www.thespacecoast.net

 

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May 11, 2018

SpaceX Falcon 9 Successfully Launches Bangabandhu-1 Satellite

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

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Falcon 9 Bangabandhu-1 Launch, Photo Courtesy Liz Allen/Lloyd Behrendt, www.thespacecoast.net

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched the Bangabandhu-1 satellite from Kennedy Space Center Launch Pad 39A at 4:14 p.m. EDT today. Launch was postponed 24 hours due to a ground system abort triggered during the countdown of a launch attempt on May 10. The Falcon 9 first stage booster successfully landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship on the Atlantic Ocean about 340 miles southeast of the Cape. The Bangabandhu-1 satellite, operated by the Bangladesh Communications Satellite Company Limited, is the first geostationary communications satellite for the nation of Bangladesh. Built by Thales Alenia Space, the satellite weighed about 8,000 pounds fully fueled and has a design life of 15 years. It will provide a variety of communications services to the Asia region.

 

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Bangabandhu-1 Artist Conception, Photo Courtesy Thales Alenia Space

This was the first launch of the Falcon 9 Block 5 version. The Falcon 9 Block 5 Version incorporates innovations to help increase the speed of production and enhanced re-usability. Block 5 first stage boosters are designed to fly ten times with only inspections in between launches, and might be able to fly up to 100 times with periodic refurbishment. This dramatically increases the pool of available first stage boosters, allowing SpaceX to provide a larger flight manifest with quicker turnaround between launches. The Block 5 version looks in every way similar to previous versions of the Falcon 9, with the exception that the interstage between the first and second stages is unpainted and appears black.

 

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Falcon 9 In Flight, Photo Courtesy Liz Allen/Lloyd Behrendt, www.thespacecoast.net

Specific Block 5 enhancements include an increase of seven to eight percent thrust made possible by uprating the Falcon 9 Merlin engines. An improved flight control system for booster landings decreases the amount of fuel needed for descent. Endurance for first stage re-usability is provided by a re-usable heat shield which protects the engines and plumbing at the base of the rocket, more temperature resistant titanium grid fins and a thermal protection coating on the first stage to limit damage from re-entry. A set of retractable landing legs affords rapid recovery and shipping. The Block 5 incorporates improvements necessary to assure its use in the NASA Commercial Crew Program and various U.S. National Security missions.

 

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Falcon 9 Launch View From Press Site, Photo Courtesy Cliff Lethbridge/Spaceline

 

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May 10, 2018

Falcon 9 Bangabandhu-1 Satellite Launch Scrubbed

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

Launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Bangabandhu-1 communications satellite for the nation of Bangladesh has been scrubbed. Launch was originally scheduled for 4:12 p.m. EDT today. The launch time was delayed twice, the first time to 4:42 p.m. EDT and the second time to 5:47 p.m. EDT. A specific reason for the delays was not announced. A “standard ground system auto abort” was triggered just 60 seconds before the scheduled 5:47 p.m. EDT launch attempt. With the launch window set to expire at 6:22 p.m. EDT there was not enough time for engineers to determine the cause of the abort and a scrub was called. The next launch opportunity is Friday, May 11 at 4:14 p.m. EDT with the launch window extending to 6:21 p.m. EDT. There is a 60% chance of favorable weather for a Friday launch attempt, with a concern for possible thick cloud cover at launch time. Launch will be from Kennedy Space Center Launch Pad 39A.

 

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Falcon 9 On Launch Pad 39A, Photo Courtesy Liz Allen/Lloyd Behrendt, www.thespacecoast.net

 

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April 18, 2018

Falcon 9 Successfully Launches TESS Mission For NASA

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

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Falcon 9 TESS Launch View From Launch Pad 40, Photo Courtesy NASA

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) for NASA at 6:51 p.m. EDT today from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Pad 40. Launch was delayed two days to give engineers time to study issues related to the rocket’s guidance, navigation and control system. TESS is scheduled to fly by the Moon on May 17 and use the body as a slingshot toward its ultimate High-Earth Orbit, a highly elliptical orbit with a low point of 67,000 miles by a high point of 233,000 miles. TESS should be able to achieve its working orbit by mid-June. The Falcon 9 first stage booster launched today was successfully recovered on the “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship located in the Atlantic a few hundred miles east of the Cape.

 

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Falcon 9 TESS Launch View From Press Site, Photo Courtesy Cliff Lethbridge/Spaceline

TESS is an Explorer-class planet finder. In the first-ever spaceborne all-sky transit survey, TESS will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, orbiting a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances. The principal goal of the TESS mission is to detect small planets with bright host stars in the solar neighborhood, so that detailed characterization of the planets and their atmospheres can be performed.

 

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Falcon 9 TESS In Flight, Photo Courtesy NASA

TESS will monitor the brightness of more than 200,000 stars during a two-year mission, searching for temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits. Transits occur when a planet’s orbit carries it directly in front of its parent star as viewed from Earth. TESS is expected to catalog more than 20,000 transiting exoplanet candidates. TESS should provide prime targets for further, more detailed characterization with the upcoming James Webb Telescope, as well as other large ground-based and space-based telescopes in the future.

 

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Falcon 9 TESS Ascent Backlit By Local Sunset, Photo Courtesy Cliff Lethbridge/Spaceline

The legacy of TESS will be a catalog of the nearest and brightest stars hosting transiting exoplanets, which will comprise the most favorable targets for detailed investigations in the coming decades. TESS team partners include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Orbital ATK, NASA Ames Research Center, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the Space Telescope Science Institute.

 

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Artist Conception Of TESS, Photo Courtesy NASA

 

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April 16, 2018

Falcon 9 TESS Launch For NASA Scrubbed

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

Launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the NASA Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) payload previously scheduled for 6:32 p.m. EDT today has been scrubbed. SpaceX said a scrub was called to allow engineers to perform additional testing of the rocket’s guidance, navigation and control system. Additional information was not released. Launch has been tentatively rescheduled for Wednesday, April 18 at 6:51 p.m. EDT. Launch will be from Launch Pad 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. TESS is a NASA satellite designed to locate planets orbiting stars in the solar neighborhood.

 

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Falcon 9 Rocket With TESS Payload On Launch Pad 40, Photo Courtesy SpaceX

 

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April 14, 2018

Atlas V Launches AFSPC-11 Mission For Air Force Space Command

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

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Atlas V AFSPC-11 Launch, Photo Courtesy Liz Allen/Lloyd Behrendt, www.thespacecoast.net

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket successfully launched the Air Force Space Command-11 (AFSPC-11) payload at 7:13 p.m. EDT today from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Pad 41. The Atlas V was launched in the 551 configuration, featuring a five-meter payload fairing, five solid rocket boosters and a single-engine Centaur second stage. This is the most powerful version of the Atlas V, capable of producing about 2.6 million pounds of thrust at launch. The ASPC-11 payload consists of two satellites sent directly to geosynchronous orbit, bypassing a geostationary transfer orbit typically employed in this type of mission. The satellites reached their proper geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles above Earth about six hours after launch.

 

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Atlas V In Flight, Photo Courtesy Liz Allen/Lloyd Behrendt, www.thespacecoast.net

The forward satellite is the Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM (CBAS), considered the primary satellite of the two launched. CBAS is designed to augment existing military satellite communications capabilities by broadcasting military data continuously through space-based satellite communications relay links. The aft satellite is the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) Augmented Geosynchronous Laboratory Experiment (EAGLE), which carries a variety of Space Test Program (STP) experiments. ESPA incorporates six slots capable of holding up to six separate attached small payloads.

 

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Atlas V Five Solids Separate, Photo Courtesy Liz Allen/Lloyd Behrendt, www.thespacecoast.net

One of the more interesting EAGLE experiments is a small, free-flying satellite named Mycroft, after the brother of fictional sleuth Sherlock Holmes. Mycroft will be released and fly to a distance of about 21 miles from EAGLE, then return to rendezvous with EAGLE at a distance of about 3,300 feet. The experiment will study methods of surveying, cataloging and inspecting satellites in geosynchronous orbit. The AFSPC-11 mission is managed by Air Force Space Command, based at Los Angeles Air Force Base, California.

 

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Atlas V Exhaust Backlit By Local Sunset, Photo Courtesy Cliff Lethbridge/Spaceline

 

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April 2, 2018

Falcon 9 Successfully Launches CRS-14 Mission For NASA

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched the CRS-14 mission for NASA at 4:30 p.m. EDT today from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Pad 40. The rocket carried a Dragon capsule bound for the International Space Station (ISS) under the NASA Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract. The Dragon capsule is set to be berthed at ISS on Wednesday, April 4. Both the Falcon 9 first stage booster and Dragon capsule flown today are flight proven. The first stage booster supported the CRS-12 flight in August, 2017 and the Dragon capsule supported the CRS-8 flight in April, 2016. The first stage booster flown today was not recovered, but was successfully used to test recovery methods for future launches. The Dragon capsule will splash down in the Pacific Ocean carrying about 4,000 pounds of cargo after a month-long stay at ISS.

 

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Falcon 9 CRS-14 Launch View From Launch Pad 40, Photo Courtesy NASA

The Dragon capsule launched today carries nearly 6,000 pounds of supplies, equipment and scientific research elements to crew members living and working aboard ISS. Scientific investigations carried will examine severe thunderstorms on Earth, the effects of microgravity on the production of high-performance products from metal powders, and growing food in space. Dragon also carries cargo for research in the National Laboratory, operated by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), which includes testing of how the harsh environment of space affects materials, coatings and components, identifying potential pathogens aboard ISS and studying an antibiotic releasing wound patch.

 

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Falcon 9 CRS-14 Launch View From Press Site, Photo Courtesy NASA

Specific scientific investigations include the Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) which from its perch outside the European Space Agency Columbus module will study severe thunderstorms and lightning in Earth’s atmosphere and upper atmosphere. Metal Powder Fabrication will be studied by the NASA Sample Cartridge Assembly (MSL-SCA-GEDS) while the Testing of Materials in Space will be studied by the Materials ISS Experiment Flight Facility (MISSE-FF). The patching up of wounds with a patch containing an antimicrobial hydrogel that promotes healing and growth of regenerating tissue is carried and methods of developing drugs in space will also be studied.

 

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Falcon 9 CRS-14 In Flight, Photo Courtesy NASA

Other CASIS experiments flown include Budweiser Barley Germination designed to test methods for growing barley in microgravity, Comparative Real-time Metabolic Activity Tracking, Genes In Space Education Program, as well as other scientific investigations. A small satellite to be deployed from ISS is also being carried. The RemoveDebris experimental satellite, built by British company Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, employs a net and a harpoon to capture space debris which will be hauled to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. The satellite will itself deploy two smaller satellites which will act as space debris targets. RemoveDebris will employ a dragsail to provide aerodynamic resistance in the upper atmosphere. The satellite should be deployed from ISS later this year.

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March 6, 2018

Falcon 9 Successfully Launches HISPASAT 30W-6 Communications Satellite

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

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Falcon 9 Launch View From Launch Pad 40, Photo Courtesy SpaceX

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched the HISPASAT 30W-6 commercial communications satellite at 12:33 a.m. EST today from Launch Pad 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Launch was originally scheduled for February 25 but was postponed to allow troubleshooting of a payload fairing pressurization issue. The rocket’s first stage booster was not recovered, but it did, however, fire its landing burn engines which were visible several hundred miles away in a crystal clear sky. The booster was not expected to survive its ocean “landing”. Recovery on a barge at sea was not possible due to high seas in the Atlantic Ocean which did not allow the landing barge to leave Port Canaveral over the weekend. This was a bit disappointing to SpaceX, as the first stage booster used in this launch was being flown for the first time.

 

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Falcon 9 Launch Streak Shot, Photo Courtesy SpaceX

Built by Space Systems/Loral and having a design life of 15 years, HISPASAT 30W-6 is a commercial communications satellite operated by Madrid-based Hispasat, the world’s leading provider in the distribution of Spanish and Portuguese content. The satellite will be deployed in a geosynchronous orbit at 30 degrees West and will offer a range of services, including television, broadband, corporate networking and other telecommunications products. It features 40 Ku band transponders, 6 Ka band beams and 10 C band transponders. HISPASAT 30W-6 will serve Europe, the Mediterranean, the Americas and northwest Africa. Fully fueled, the satellite weighed about 13,000 pounds at launch. Roughly the size of a city bus, SpaceX says this is the largest satellite they have ever launched.

 

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Falcon 9 Nine Engine Fan In Flight, Photo Courtesy Liz Allen/Lloyd Behrendt, www.thespacecoast.net

 

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March 1, 2018

Atlas V Successfully Launches GOES-S Weather Satellite

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket successfully launched the GOES-S weather satellite at 5:02 p.m. EST today from Launch Pad 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Launch was on time with no delays either to the launch date or launch time. The 197-foot tall Atlas V was launched in the Version 541 configuration, featuring a five-meter fairing, four solid rocket boosters and a single-engine Centaur second stage. The vehicle can produce over 2 million pounds of thrust at launch, and can carry a maximum 18,270-pound payload to Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) or a maximum 38,400-pound payload to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO).

 

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Atlas V Launches GOES-S Weather Satellite From Launch Pad 41, Photo Courtesy NASA

GOES-S is the second in the most sophisticated family of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) known as the GOES-R Series. The first satellite in the family, named GOES-R, was launched from Cape Canaveral on November 19, 2016. The series is designed to provide advanced imagery and atmospheric measurements of Earth’s Western Hemisphere, real-time mapping of lightning activity and improved monitoring of solar activity and space weather. GOES-R, renamed GOES-16 when it achieved geostationary orbit, serves as NOAA’s operational GOES-East satellite. GOES-S, which will be renamed GOES-17 upon reaching geostationary orbit, will serve as NOAA’s operational GOES-West satellite. The two satellites combined will be able to monitor from the west coast of Africa west as far as New Zealand.

 

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Atlas V Launches GOES-S Weather Satellite View From Launch Pad 41, Photo Courtesy NASA

The GOES-R Series of satellites can scan the Earth five times faster with four times the resolution and three times the number of channels over previous GOES satellites, supporting more accurate and reliable forecasts and severe weather warnings. Images taken include weather patterns, hurricanes and severe storms updated as frequently as every 30 seconds. The satellites carry the first operational lightning mappers flown in geostationary orbit, providing data on both in-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning in support of increased lead time for severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings. The satellites also host a suite of instruments that improve the forecasting and detection of approaching space weather hazards such as solar eruptions and magnetic field variations which could potentially disrupt power utilities, communication and navigation systems and cause radiation damage to orbiting satellites.

 

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Atlas V In Flight, Photo Courtesy Liz Allen/Lloyd Behrendt, www.thespacecoast.net

As GOES-West, GOES-17 will be positioned to monitor the western United States, Hawaii, Mexico, Central America, parts of South America and much of the Pacific Ocean. GOES-17 will also greatly improve geostationary coverage of Alaska and surrounding high-latitude areas. “Advertised” advantages of GOES-17 include more and better data covering the northeastern Pacific Ocean where many of the weather systems affecting the continental United States originate, better fire detection and intensity estimation, improved detection of low clouds and fog, improved tropical cyclone track and intensity forecasts, advanced monitoring of atmospheric river events that may cause flooding and mudslides, better monitoring of smoke and dust, improved air quality monitoring as well as support of improved transportation safety and aviation route planning.

 

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GOES-S Satellite Artist Conception, Photo Courtesy NASA

 

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