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Raumfahrt - Startvorbereitung von SpaceX Falcon Heavy mit NOAAs GOES-U Mission

11.06.2024

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Florida's new sentinel in the sky': NOAA's GOES-U satellite to help hurricane forecasters

An L3Harris-developed imager on the GOES-U weather satellite will soon launch from Cape Canaveral and settle into orbit 22,236 miles above Earth, serving as "Florida's new sentinel in the sky" monitoring the atmosphere for tropical cyclones and severe weather.

"It's of local interest — especially in Florida — because one of the primary missions is for tracking hurricanes. Whenever these hurricanes form, say as waves coming off of Africa, we don't have surface radars out there. There's only a few ships around. How do we know about them?" asked Dan Lindsey, a NOAA program scientist.

"We know about them because of the GOES satellites. They sit above the equator about 22,000 miles above the Earth and keep a constant watch," Lindsey said.

"The reason it's at that altitude above Earth is because it needs to orbit at the same rate that the Earth spins. That's the definition of geostationary. The advantage of doing that: If you can take a picture every, say, 10 minutes — or every five minutes, or every one minute — of the Earth, when you string those photos together it's sort of like time-lapse photography from space," he said.

"And you can see the hurricane spinning. You can see the hurricane moving," he said.

NOAA operates an orbiting network of four GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) weather satellites. NASA will launch GOES-U, the last in the series, aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket at 5:16 p.m. EDT June 25 from pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center. The mission was pushed back after crews discovered a liquid oxygen leak in February during Falcon Heavy center-core booster testing.

Thursday, NASA hosted a media "meet-and-greet" so journalists could stand a few feet from the spacecraft — which measures the size of a small school bus — inside a towering white clean room at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville.

Participants donned zip-up gowns, gloves, disposable shoe booties, hairnets and beard covers to protect the satellite's delicate electronic componentry.

Lindsey labeled GOES-U "Florida's new sentinel in the sky" that will replace an aging satellite that launched in November 2016. The GOES-U updated instrument suite adds a compact coronagraph to capture images of the sun's corona, detecting and analyzing coronal mass ejections. The spacecraft will monitor weather across the contiguous United States, Central America, South America and the Atlantic Ocean.

Florida may be heading into a destructive above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, which lasts until Nov. 30. NOAA experts predict:

  • 17 to 25 named storms.
  • Eight to 13 hurricanes.
  • Four to seven major hurricanes.

A major hurricane is a Category 3, 4 or 5 storm, packing maximum sustained winds of 111 mph or stronger.

Beyond hurricanes, Lindsey said GOES-U sports a geostationary lightning mapper that will help meteorologists analyze intensifying severe storms. He said that could impact "lightning holds" for planes taking off from Orlando International Airport, for example.

"Say that there is a University of Florida football game happening in Gainesville, and you've got storms potentially forming. The product, based on the input from the GOES data, will tell you, 'What are the chances of having lightning in the next 60 minutes?' " Lindsey said.

L3Harris develops the GOES-U imager

Daniel Gall, an L3Harris GEO Imagers payload architect, stood near the spacecraft wearing clean-room garb Wednesday inside the Astrotech facility.

"If you see this mirrored side here, at the very top there's kind of a line there. Everything above that line basically is the advanced baseline imager. It's about a 6-foot cube," Gall said, gesturing toward the satellite with a gloved hand.

Every day, Gall said GOES-U will transmit about a terabyte of data to an antenna network in Wallops, Virginia. This data will be processed, then transmitted to L3Harris teams in Melbourne and sent to the National Weather Service and other agencies. He said several hundred company employees work on the program, the roots of which date to the mid-1990s.

"We want to get that (data) rapidly out to forecasters because of things like severe weather, hurricanes. It's less than a minute between that photon coming in the aperture of the ABI and it being out to users in images and products," Gall said.

In March 2023, L3Harris announced it had secured a $765 million NASA contract to design and build high-resolution imagers for NOAA's next-generation GeoXO weather satellites. This new system is slated to start launching in 2032 and operate through the mid-2050s.

Lockheed personnel travel to Florida

Matt Kettering, a Lockheed Martin assembly, test and launch operations manager, said his company constructed the GOES-U aluminum-and-graphite body frame that houses its scientific instruments, antennae and solar wing.

The defense contractor manufactured the satellite's "bus" in Littleton, Colorado. The spacecraft was shipped to the Space Coast in January within the belly of a U.S. Air Force C-5 Super Galaxy transport.

Kettering said 40 to 45 Lockheed personnel traveled from Colorado with GOES-U. They remain in Brevard County five months later as the launch date approaches.

"Everybody is doing local condos or Airbnbs between Cocoa Beach, Cape Canaveral and Titusville. Any off-days, we're hitting all the local spots and kayaking or paddle boarding or hanging out at the local beach, or hitting all the restaurants. It's great," Kettering said, standing near GOES-U.

Including instruments, Kettering said GOES-U weighed about 6,400 pounds before fueling. Now, it weighs about 10,900 pounds.

Lightning detector can spot wildfires

Will Ulrich is the warning coordination meteorologist at the NWS station at Melbourne Orlando International Airport. He labeled the GOES satellites "game-changers" that provide minute-by-minute data for weather forecasting in Brevard and the surrounding region.

"We're actually sometimes able to detect wildfires and pass that information along to first responders and fire weather managers throughout East-Central Florida to let them know that there's a new ignition source. It might be from a thunderstorm: lightning. Or it could have been human-induced," Ulrich said.

"There have been multiple times where we've actually seen a fire pop up, and we've called our partners with the St. Johns River Water Management District and South Florida Water Management District," he said.

Quelle: Florida Today

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