SpaceX to launch major weather satellite with $153 million from NASA

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A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket carrying 24 satellites as part of the Department of Defense's Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) mission launches from Launch Complex 39A on June 25, 2019 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida .

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket carrying 24 satellites as part of the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) mission launches from Launch Complex 39A on June 25, 2019 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida .
Photo: Joel Kowsky/NASA (Getty Images)

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has won a $152.5 million federal contract to launch a major new weather satellite into space.

Friday, NASA announcement that he had chosen the firm Heavy Falcon heavy launch rocket to carry the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-U (GOES-U) into geostationary orbit tens of thousands of miles into space. Once up there, the satellite will collect atmospheric images and measurements of weather, oceans and environmental systems, map lightning in real time, and improve monitoring of solar activity and space weather.

The launch of GOES-U will mark the fourth and final satellite in the GOES-R series, the first of which was launched in 2016. The result of a collaboration between NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it is the most advanced fleet of weather satellites in the United States, providing an unparalleled look at Earth. While on the ground, satellites are known by letters. Once in orbit, however, they will take on a numbered name. (GOES-U will be the nineteenth GOES satellite and presumably GOES-19.)

The launch, which is expected to take place in April 2024 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is a big win for SpaceX. This come after Competing spacecraft launch service provider United Launch Alliance withdrew its bid. In 2019, ULA secured a smaller contract to launch the third satellite in the GOES-R series known as GOES-T (yes, that’s a lot of GOES), and will do so in January 2022. But the company said it didn’t have all the appropriate vehicles available for the fourth mission, opening the door for SpaceX to step in.

Missions like these are important opportunities to learn more about Earth and space. The new GOES satellite, for example, is expected to improve weather forecasting at a time when extreme weather events are becoming more common and erratic, meaning it could actually save lives. Less important but still cool is that he will also be provide great images of our planet.

SpaceX has racked up contracts for Falcon Heavy. In July, NASA chose the company send the Falcon Heavy rocket to one of Jupiter’s moons to search for signs of alien aquatic life, and in April NASA contractor Astrobiotic also choose the company send one NASA lunar lander towards the still unexplored south pole of the moon at the end of 2023. The company makes tons of money of these contracts, which gives Musk, a man already known for damn work practices, more power. While putting a satellite in space for HD weather observations is undoubtedly cool, there may be a more democratic way to send future ones.

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