Saturday, October 24, 2020
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SpaceX launches its first Polar Orbit Mission from Florida

SpaceX reached a milestone and launched the Polar Orbit Mission from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The mission Falcon 9 carried SAOCOM-1B satellite and two American secondary payloads.

Elon Musk Trust owned and backed SpaceX was able to launch the Polar Orbit Mission amidst the weather not conducive for them. The weather report stated that there is only 40% of chances to launch the space flight. Not deterred by the discouraging weather conditions, the scientists found the time gap to complete the mission. 

This was the first, Polar Orbit Mission launched from Florida since 1969. Before the launch on August 30th, the last polar orbit mission from Cape Canaveral was of Delta rocket on February 26th, 1969 – weather satellite ESSA 9 was launched five decades ago.  

During the launch, nine Merlin engines were used to shut down for two and a half minutes after the launch. This was done to provide the thrust for the launch.  

Talking about the mission, Wayne Monteith, associate administrator of the FAA’s office of commercial space transportation and the former commander of the 45th Space Wing said that SpaceX should be successful in 2 aspects – one is booster flyback and second, autonomous flight safety. The architecture of the command destruct systems is designed to set up terrestrially and you’d be looking right up the plume, and you get signal attenuation, and you may not be able to … send command destruct.

“So with autonomous flight safety and booster flyback, we were able to provide for them what appeared to be a notional safe corridor from a safety perspective.” 

SpaceX worked with the US Space Force’s 45th Space Wing to launch the Polar Orbit Mission. The 45th Space Wing controls the eastern range of Cape Canaveral. Cape Canaveral was preferred to that of Vandenberg even though the conditions being not suitable is because of its closeness to the equator. It is also beneficial in terms of rocket performance to low inclination orbits but reduces the performance when it comes to the high inclination orbits.  

SAOCOM-1B was scheduled to launch in March, but the mission was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The main target of SAOCOM satellites is to provide information for the agriculture sector because taking advantage of the L-band capabilities, one of the things we develop is soil moisture maps, so we can measure the soil moisture 1 meter the surface of the land, – said Raúl Kulichevsky, executive and technical director of CONAE. 

The initial plan was to launch two Falcon 9 on the same day, which was previously done back in 1966. However, the scattered thunderstorms didn’t allow the launch of the second one. The other Falcon 9 was boarded with 60 Starlink satellites, which was launched on September 4th.

The company is set to launch a joint project between NASA, NOAA, the European Space Agency, and other European institutions. It is set to take off from Vandenberg with the Sentinel 6 Michael Freilich oceanography satellite in November. Also, another Falcon 9 will launch into a polar sun-synchronous orbit from Cape Canaveral on a rideshare mission with numerous small satellites in December. 

Varun Aithal
Varun Aithal
A keen observer of polity, football and cricket, Varun is a Mechanical Engineer by profession and a content developer by passion. Being an Engineer, he loves to teach and learn Mathematics. He is a firm believer of learning new things every day. He also enjoys reading books related to self-help, philosophical and fantasy thrillers.
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