SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launched the joint NASA/CNES Floor Water and Ocean Topography satellite tv for pc mission from House Launch Complicated 4E at Vandenberg House Pressure Base at 3:46 AM PST (11:46 UTC) on Friday, Dec. 16, after a 24-hour delay to permit groups to finish additional knowledge overview and evaluation after moisture was recognized in two of the primary stage’s Merlin engines.
The primary stage carried out a Return to Launch Website touchdown at Touchdown Zone 4 throughout the mission.
The Floor Water and Ocean Topography mission, in any other case often called SWOT, is a joint venture being led by NASA and the French Centre Nationwide d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) to watch and accumulate knowledge on our bodies of water across the globe. The UK House Company (UKSA) and the Canadian House Company (CSA) are additionally contributing to this system.
SWOT goals to conduct the primary world research of freshwater our bodies, measuring the peak of water in particular person rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. The information it gathers will permit scientists to additional research the results of local weather change on our planet. It will present a extra thorough understanding of how seawater absorbs carbon and atmospheric warmth that are the causes of local weather change itself and the rise of worldwide temperatures.
The power to measure the peak of water on a worldwide scale and perceive local weather change with SWOT can even allow scientists to know additional sea degree rise.
To conduct science and accumulate the wanted knowledge for the mission, the SWOT satellite tv for pc options a number of devices. These embrace the wide-swath Ka-band Radar Interferometer (KaRIn) which was designed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) with its radio frequency meeting constructed by Thales Alenia House and CNES.
KaRIn can view 60-kilometer-wide strips on all sides of the bottom observe of the satellite tv for pc as soon as in orbit, utilizing two Ka-band artificial aperture radar antennas on both finish of a 10-meter increase. The instrument has a horizontal decision of fifty to 100 meters.
The spacecraft is powered by a pair of photo voltaic arrays which had been constructed by Boeing-owned Spectrolab Inc. Throughout all six panels, the arrays have a complete of three,360 NeXt Triple Junction (XTJ) photo voltaic cells.
SWOT’s satellite tv for pc bus was constructed by Thales Alenia House for prime contractor CNES. The science devices provided by JPL had been built-in with the satellite tv for pc bus on the CNES meeting facility throughout last meeting, which started a few 12 months earlier than SWOT was shipped to america for launch.
After meeting was accomplished, SWOT was put by a number of environmental assessments by CNES to test that it was prepared for launch. With these accomplished, it was transported from Good, France to Vandenberg House Pressure Base utilizing a U.S. Air Pressure Lockheed C-5 Galaxy plane. After arriving in California on the night of Oct. 16, the satellite tv for pc was transported to the Astrotech House Operations Facility, on base at Vandenberg.
Last checks on the satellite tv for pc had been accomplished at Astrotech earlier than SWOT was moved to a SpaceX facility the place it was encapsulated with two fairing halves. After encapsulation, the satellite tv for pc was horizontally built-in with the remainder of the Falcon 9 rocket contained in the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) at House Launch Complicated 4 East (SLC-4E).
On Dec. 9, launch managers from NASA, the SWOT group, and SpaceX met to conduct the Flight Readiness Assessment, or FRR, to go over all elements of the mission and certify that every one groups had been able to launch.
SpaceX had been awarded the contract to launch SWOT on Nov. 22, 2016, with the launch then focused for April 2021. When the contract was awarded, the whole value for NASA to launch the car was estimated to be round $112 million. In line with NASA, this value included “the launch service; spacecraft processing; payload integration; and monitoring, knowledge and telemetry assist.”
SpaceX’s launch and touchdown amenities at Vandenberg House Pressure Base, which embrace SLC-4E and Touchdown Zone 4 (LZ-4) have been used for quite a few launch autos earlier than their present kind below SpaceX facilitating Falcon 9 operations.
SLC-4E was initially constructed between 1962 and 1964 as Level Arguello Launch Complicated 2-4 or PALC2-4. On Aug. 14, 1964, the complicated launched its first rocket, an Atlas Agena D.
Between 1964 and June 1967, a complete of 27 Atlas Agena D rockets had been launched from the pad, many carrying KH-7 Gambit reconnaissance satellites for the Nationwide Reconnaissance Workplace (NRO). The positioning was repurposed for the Titan program within the late Sixties. Between 1971 and 1982, a complete of twenty-two Titan IIID missions had been launched from SLC-4E, adopted by seven Titan 34D missions between 1983 and 1988, carrying KH-9 Hexagon and KH-11 Kennen satellites for the NRO.
After Titan 34D was retired, eight Titan IVA rockets had been flown from SLC-4E between 1991 and 1997. These had been adopted by the final Titan variant to launch from the pad – the Titan IVB. A complete of 5 Titan IVB launches occurred from SLC-4E, concluding with Titan IVB B-26 on Oct. 19, 2005, the ultimate flight of the Titan rocket household, which carried a KH-11 satellite tv for pc.
After SpaceX took over the positioning, the launch umbilical and cell gantry towers at SLC-4E had been demolished. The primary SpaceX launch from SLC-4E was made on Sept. 29, 2013, by a Falcon 9 v1.1.
SpaceX makes use of Touchdown Zone 4 to recuperate Falcon 9 boosters flying return-to-launch-site (RTLS) missions. It was constructed on the positioning of House Launch Complicated 4 West (SLC-4W), which like SLC-4E was initially used as an Atlas Agena D launch pad – working on this position between 1963 and 1965.
SLC-4W was additionally utilized by Titan rockets, starting with the Titan IIIB which held its first launch from the positioning in July 1966. The final commonplace Titan IIIB was launched from SLC-4W on June 3, 1969, giving option to upgraded variations of the rocket which might proceed to make use of the pad till February 1987. It then was used to launch the Titan II SLV, or Titan 23G, in September 1988.
The ultimate mission from SLC-4W, which additionally marked the ultimate launch of Titan II, occurred on Oct. 18, 2003. This rocket featured a primary stage transformed from an LGM-25C Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile that had been stood on alert at McConnell Air Pressure Base in Kansas between 1967 and 1986.
Touchdown Zone 4 was used for the primary time throughout the SAOCOM 1A mission on Oct. 7, 2018, to recuperate Falcon 9 booster B1048-2 after a profitable launch from SLC-4E.
After finishing the combination of Falcon 9, the rocket was moved to the launch pad utilizing the Transporter Erector (T/E) and raised to the vertical in preparation for the launch try.
SWOT was launched aboard a flight-proven Falcon 9. The primary stage, B1071-6, has been used for 5 earlier missions with its first launch being that of the NROL-87 mission in February. It has since been used for an additional NRO launch in April, Germany’s SARah-1 in June, and extra not too long ago a pair of Starlink missions in July and October. It was recovered once more after launch through an RTLS profile and touchdown at LZ-4.
Three seconds earlier than launch, the 9 Merlin 1D engines that energy Falcon 9’s first stage ignited. Burning liquid oxygen (LOX) and RP-1 kerosene, these engines energy the early phases of ascent. As soon as the engines have constructed as much as full thrust, the hold-down clamps on the response body of the T/E launched and Falcon 9 lifted off from SLC-4E.
After clearing the pad, Falcon rolled to align itself onto the correct launch azimuth to take it to a 77.6-degree inclined orbit and subsequently pitch downrange. A couple of minute after liftoff, the car handed by most aerodynamic stress, or Max-Q, the purpose of the flight at which the stresses on the Falcon 9 are at their biggest.
About two and a half minutes into the flight, the primary stage engines shut down, in an occasion designated important engine cutoff (MECO). Three seconds later, the booster separated from the second stage, with the ignition of the second stage’s single Merlin Vacuum (MVac) engine occurring seven seconds after separation.
Whereas the second stage carried on in the direction of orbit, the primary stage performed a flip maneuver utilizing chilly gasoline thrusters to reorient itself for its return to the launch website. Shortly after, the payload fairing separated from the second stage, exposing SWOT to the atmosphere of house for the primary time.
The primary stage subsequent performed a boostback burn, utilizing its engines to place it on a trajectory again in the direction of Vandenberg House Pressure Base and on observe for its touchdown at LZ-4. The 4 grid fins steer the car because it descends by the dense parts of the environment will probably be deployed.
After the boostback burn was accomplished, the booster carried out its entry burn, with three Merlin-1D engines igniting to assist defend the primary stage from the searing warmth of reentry, utilizing their exhaust plumes as an efficient warmth defend. Lastly, the middle engine lit for the touchdown burn, guiding the primary stage to a gentle landing at LZ-4.
Whereas the primary stage was performing its return to the launch website, the second stage continued its journey to insert the SWOT payload into its deliberate orbit. SWOT separate from the second stage to start its mission.
(Lead picture: Falcon 9 launch from SLC-4E with SWOT. Credit score: Michael Baylor for NSF)
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