A satellite intended to improve weather forecasts and an experimental inflatable heat shield to protect spacecraft entering the atmosphere launched Thursday into space from California.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Joint Polar Satellite System 2 satellite and NASA’s test payload lifted off at 1:49 a.m. from Vandenberg Space Force Station northwest of Los Angeles.
Developed for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, JPSS-2 will be put into a polar-to-polar orbit around the Earth and designed to work with previously launched satellites to improve weather forecasting and climate monitoring. It has been.
NASA said it had no immediate data confirming the deployment of the satellite’s power-generating solar array, but later in the day the space agency announced that it had been fully extended.
“The operations team will continue to assess any issues with the previous solar array deployment, but at this time the satellite is healthy and operating as expected.The team will resume normal activities for the JPSS-2 mission. We did,” a NASA statement said.
The array has five panels folded into an accordion fold for activation. A fully deployed array extends 30 feet (9.1 meters).
Mission officials say the satellite represents the latest in technology and will improve the accuracy of observations of the atmosphere, oceans and land.
After releasing the satellite, the rocket’s upper stage was reignited to deploy a test payload for re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere and descent into the Pacific Ocean.
Called LOFTID, which stands for Low Earth Orbit Flight Test for Inflatable Reducers, the device is an “aeroshell” that can be used to slow down and protect heavy spacecraft descending into the atmosphere of Mars or Venus, or payloads returning to Earth. “is. .
According to NASA, to effectively slow down a heavy spacecraft, it would require greater atmospheric resistance than is created by a conventional rigid heat shield that fits within the shroud that surrounds the payload on board the rocket.
The LOFTID Shield inflates to approximately 20 feet (6 meters) in diameter.
For example, in the thin atmosphere of Mars, using such a large shield could slow down the craft at higher altitudes and reduce the intensity of the heating.
A video showed the inflated heat shield separating from the rocket and descending toward Earth. A camera mounted on a recovery vessel hundreds of miles east of Hawaii showed it landed under a parachute.
NASA said the shield was picked up by a boat and headed to retrieve a backup data module ejected during the descent.
https://www.ksby.com/news/local-news/learn-more-about-the-weather-satellites-launched-from-vandenberg-space-force-base-thursday Learn about weather satellites launched from Vandenberg Space Force Station