Update for 8 PM EST November 10: JPSS-2 satellite initially had difficulty deploying its solar power
Work on the West Coast Atlas V rocket is complete.
The workhorse of United Launch Alliance (ULA) rocket lifted off today (November 10) from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 4:49 a.m. EST (0949 GMT; 1:49 a.m. local California time), carrying two payloads to Earth orbit .
The Atlas V rocket lifted off 24 minutes late due to refueling issues, which forced the ground control team to briefly interrupt the countdown. After liftoff, Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2) separated perfectly from the rocket’s Centaur upper stage about 28 minutes into flight.
Shortly after launch, NASA began working on a possible telemetry issue because it had not confirmed whether the satellite’s solar array had deployed as expected. “Mission managers for NOAA’s JPSS-2 confirm that the satellite has acquired the signal and is receiving and responding to commands. The satellite is currently positively powered (obtaining power) and in a safe and stable configuration for as crews assess the condition of the solar array.,” NASA wrote (opens in a new tab)after launch.
JPSS-2, owned by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will collect a variety of weather and climate data once it becomes operational. The second spacecraft, an inflatable heat shield technology demonstrator called LOFTIDcould help NASA land super heavy payloads on March down the road.
Related: New powerful JPSS-2 Earth monitoring satellite to study the “butterfly effect” of weather
The Atlas V flew today in the most stripped down configuration of the rocket, without any solid rocket boosters. JPSS-2 and LOFTID were also housed in a 13-foot-wide (4-meter) payload fairing, the smallest available for an Atlas V.
The rocket’s first-stage RD-180 engine burned for approximately 4 minutes before a nominal main engine shutdown and first-stage separation, followed by a series of Atlas V Centaur upper-stage burns to continue to carry both payloads in the air. JPSS-2 was deployed approximately 28 minutes after liftoff into a polar orbit 710 kilometers above Earth. LOFTID is to deploy to a highly elliptical orbit at T+75 minutes, then descend for a fiery re-entry test in earth’s atmosphere.
The fact that this is the last Atlas V launch from the West Coast symbolizes a shift forward for ULA’s California launch facilities. Following today’s mission, the Vandenberg 3-East Space Launch Complex will begin upgrades to facilitate launches of the new Rocket Vulcan Centaurwhich is expected to debut in the first quarter of 2023.
Launch of a weather station
Today’s mission also represents a breakthrough for the respective technologies of the two payloads. JPSS-2 – a joint effort of NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – is essentially a weather satellite, but the rather unremarkable nomenclature doesn’t do the spacecraft’s capabilities justice. JPSS-2 joins two other polar-orbiting weather satellites and will be an Earth monitoring powerhouse.
The first satellite of the JPSS program, the Suomi-NPP spacecraft, was launched in 2011. The second, NOAA-20, followed suit in 2017. (NOAA-20 was known as JPSS-1 until until it reaches its final orbit.) JPSS-2 joins them to help scientists collect and better understand massive amounts of weather data that will improve global weather models, among other uses.
“NOAA 20, Suomi-NPP, and soon JPSS-2 help our meteorologists meet the National Weather Service’s mission for all Americans,” said Jordan Gerth, meteorologist and satellite scientist for NOAA’s National Weather Service, during an interview. a pre-launch press briefing on Tuesday. evening (Nov. 8). “First, JPSS data is a major contribution to numerical weather prediction modeling systems in the United States and around the world.”
Gerth used a tropical storm as a hypothetical example to explain what kind of data the science instruments of JPSS-2 will collect.
“The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, or VIIRS instrument, provides images at a spatial resolution of 375 meters, or about a quarter of a mile, and enables the detection of thunderstorm features such as overshoot tops,” Gerth said. The overshoot of peaks, he explained, can help determine the severity of a storm. VIIRS can also detect mesospheric gravity waves emanating from the center of tropical systems.
JPSS-2 also carries Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS), which can see through cloud canopies to determine interior structures of hurricane eye walls. The cross-track infrared sounder (CrIS) on board the spacecraft will work in tandem with ATMS to convert temperature and humidity data at different altitudes into 3D representations for atmospheric models.
In its polar orbit, JPSS-2 will circle the globe 14 times every 24 hours, providing comprehensive coverage of the entire planet twice a day. In addition to its meteorological work, the satellite, which will be operated by NOAA, is designed to monitor sea ice, ocean color, temperature and biodiversity changes, as well as forest fires, floods and even economic recovery efforts in areas affected by natural disasters. .
Related: Climate change: causes and effects
Testing heavy landing technology on Mars
JPSS-2 is designed to collect data from orbit for at least seven years. The other payload that’s mounted on the Atlas V today, LOFTID (short for “Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator”), didn’t work for nearly as long.
LOFTID is based on Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Deceleration (HIAD) technology. It tested the capabilities and performance of an expandable heat shield during re-entry into a planetary atmosphere. According to NASA officials, expandable heat shields have high potential benefits for future spaceflight, potentially allowing much heavier payloads to land safely on the surface of Mars than is currently possible. currently possible. The agency will need such landing technology to build a research outpost on the Red Planet, which it hopes to start doing in the late 2030s or early 2040s.
LOFTID is loaded with sensors, which will help mission team members characterize the vehicle’s spirited return to Earth. LOFTID likely reached a top speed of nearly 18,000 mph (30,000 km/h) during this descent, which ended in a parachute-assisted drop a few hundred miles off the coast of Hawaii. 110 minutes after takeoff today as planned.
“Upon entry,” Joe Del Corso, LOFTID project manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia, said during Tuesday’s briefing, “LOFTID will also take a number of measurements on a suite of instruments, including temperatures through the aeroshell, pressures and heat flux over the nose cap, as well as 360 degree video from six video cameras and IR data from 12 infrared cameras. We will also be able to get mapping air temperature from the fiber optic strain sensor, or FOSS, which will be on the nose of the vehicle.”
LOFTID was also designed to eject an additional data core when it falls to Earth, so team members have access to this information even if the primary vehicle is damaged or destroyed.
Although no other Atlas V vehicles will be launched from Vandenberg, the rocket is not yet ready for retirement. There are still plenty of Atlas V missions on ULA’s books, but all will fly from Florida’s Space Coast.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3:00 PM EST to include new details on the power status of JPSS-2.
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