Credit: United Launch Alliance
By Jonathan Stroud
Saturday November 19, 2016 United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully launched the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) into orbit from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Utilizing the Atlas V rocket, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather satellite marks the 10th launch for ULA this year and the 113th successful launch since ULA was founded in 2006.
The GOES-R satellite is designed to improve current detection and observation of environmental phenomena to include improved hurricane tracking, real-time mapping of lightning, increased thunderstorm and tornado warning lead time, and improved detection of heavy rainfall and flash flooding. The satellite will also monitor space weather, improving geomagnetic storm forecasting and solar flare warnings that affect communications and navigation systems.
NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan commented on the satellite: “The next generation of weather satellites is finally here…GOES-R will strengthen NOAA’s ability to issue life-saving forecasts and warnings and make the United States an even stronger, more resilient weather-ready nation.”
The Atlas V used for this mission was the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) 541 configuration, which included a 5-meter large Payload Fairing (PLF), four solid rocket boosters powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine, and a Centaur upper stage powered by the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C engine, as seen below.
The thin nose cone, payload fairing, of the rocket protects the spacecraft during the ascent through Earth’s atmosphere.
Why Should I Care?
You should care because GOES-R will give scientists more accurate atmospheric data that allows them to better predict weather patterns, enhancing public safety and potential protection of property. The spacecraft is also equipped with a special transponder that detects distress signals from emergency beacons, potentially saving many lives.
Why Is This Cool?
This is cool because in order to send GOES-R into orbit, the Atlas V rocket used 1.17 million pounds of thrust (about 5204 kN). This is the same amount of thrust as five and a half of Falcon 9’s Merlin engines, which have about 209,972 pounds (934 kN) of thrust per engine.
NASA Continues Social Media Outreach
As part of NASA’s on going public outreach, the agency hand-selected social media influencers to attend the launch through their NASA Social program. The NASA Social attendees were granted access to areas of NASA that some employees have never been. Access included visiting the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), an interaction with Skylab 4 commander Gerald Carr, various facility location tours, and a special viewing area for the launch.
Through the NASA Social program, the agency gives social media influencers an experience that leaves a lasting impression on the participant. This impact can be seen by social media influencer, Cosmic Carol. She shared her experience with Journalists For Space: “The feeling when the rumble hits! The intensity of the white light as it ignites. That’s something I’ll remember forever.”
By allowing non-traditional media special access to events, the agency’s message resonates through the participants personal digital networks, helping to potentially engage an audience outside of NASA’s traditional space enthusiast.
Recapping the events, NASA Social attendee Nathan Barker commented his experience: “The GOES-R NASA Social was an incredible event…This one was of particular interest since I have a passion for meteorology. The launch countdown was extremely dramatic with a last minute technical issue followed by an issue with the range. The culmination of the anticipation ended with a spectacular night time launch that lit up a perfectly clear night sky disappearing into the stars.”
If you are a social media influencer and have a passion for space or a unique following, you can apply for future NASA Social events on their website by Clicking Here.
Check out a video of the launch here:
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