" /> " /> " />

Atlas 5 rocket rolls to launch pad with weather satellite – Spaceflight Now

United Launch Alliance plans to deploy an Atlas 5 rocket to its launch pad at Cape Canaveral on Monday, moving the launch vehicle into position for liftoff Tuesday afternoon with a NOAA weather satellite intended to cover the western United States and the Pacific Ocean.

The move is expected to begin shortly after 10:00 a.m. EST (1500 GMT) with the emergence of Atlas 5 from its vertical integration facility at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

The 196-foot-tall (59.7-meter) Atlas 5 will make the trip atop a mobile launch pad pushed by locomotives along railroad tracks leading to the launch pad. The transfer should take less than an hour.

Stacking of the Atlas 5 rocket began in the VIF last month, when ground crews lifted the launcher’s bronze first stage onto its moving platform on January 31, 10 days after Atlas’ previous launch 5. ULA then installed four solid rocket boosters built by Northrop Grumman around the center stage of Atlas 5, then raised the Centaur upper stage to the top of the first stage on February 7. The weather satellite payload was elevated to the top of Atlas 5 on February 17.

The rocket will fly in the Atlas 5 “541” configuration with a 5.4 meter (17.7 ft) diameter payload fairing, four strap thrusters and a single RL10 upper stage engine.

The two-hour launch window on Tuesday, March 1 opens at 4:38 p.m. EST (21:38 GMT).

The launch with NOAA’s GOES-T weather satellite will mark the 92nd flight of an Atlas 5 rocket since August 2002, and the eighth flight using the “541” version, following two previous GOES satellites, the Curiosity and Perseverance rovers from the NASA, and three spy satellite launches for the US government.

The GOES-T satellite, with a launch mass of more than 11,000 pounds (5 metric tons) fully fueled, was built by Lockheed Martin and arrived in Florida from its Colorado factory in November. Astrotech technicians tested the satellite to make sure it survived the cross-country trip, then loaded liquid propellants into the spacecraft for its main engine.

After three burns with the Centaur’s RL10 engine, Atlas 5 will deploy the GOES-T satellite into an elongated orbit between 5,515 miles (8,876 kilometers) and 21,925 miles (35,286 kilometers). The orbit will be inclined at an angle of 9.4 degrees to the equator.

GOES-T’s own propulsion system will circularize the satellite’s orbit more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) above the equator. At this altitude, in geosynchronous orbit, the motion of the satellite will match the rotation of the Earth, giving the spacecraft a constant view of a hemisphere.

NOAA’s geostationary operational environmental satellites take regularly updated images of cloud and storm systems, providing real-time views of tropical cyclones and severe weather. The first GOES satellite was launched in 1975, and NOAA maintains two operational GOES spacecraft – one covering the Pacific and western United States, and the other over the East Coast, Caribbean and The Atlantic Ocean.

NOAA’s polar-orbiting weather satellites collect data for medium- and long-range forecasts.

GOES-T will be renamed GOES-18 after launch, when it begins a nearly year-long series of verifications and tests before NOAA declares the satellite operational. The first weather images from GOES-18 could drop in May, and data from the new satellite could be provided to National Weather Service forecasters on an interim basis as early as July, said Pam Sullivan, director of NOAA’s GOES-R program.

The GOES-R series is NOAA’s next generation of geostationary weather satellites, and GOES-T is the third of four satellites in the group, following the launches of GOES-R and GOES-S — now called GOES-16 and GOES- 17 — in 2016 and 2018.

In early 2023, GOES-18 will transition to the GOES West position to take over from GOES-17, which NOAA will transition to a fleet backup role. GOES-16 will remain the active GOES East satellite.

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

About Jun Quentin

Check Also

Call for Government Support for Daugavpils Industrial Plant / Article

In early May, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov sent a letter to Latvian Transport Minister …