SpaceX’s launch of NASA’s newest Earth observation satellite provided a stunning show for photographers.
NASA’s PACE mission (short for Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, Ocean Ecosystem) lifted off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on February 8, 2024 at 1:33 a.m. EDT (0633 AM). GMT). .
The night launch provided the perfect opportunity to capture some great photographs of the launch, as the following shots show.
Related: SpaceX launches NASA’s PACE satellite to study Earth’s oceans, air and climate (video)
Once operational, PACE will study Earth’s atmosphere and other climate parameters to provide an unprecedented picture of how carbon is exchanged between the oceans and the atmosphere. The mission will continue to investigate the interaction between sunlight and molecules in seawater to learn more about what’s happening inside our world’s oceans as well.
“PACE’s unprecedented spectral coverage will provide the first-ever global measurements designed to determine phytoplankton community composition,” NASA officials wrote in the PACE mission description. “This will greatly improve our ability to understand Earth’s changing marine ecosystems, manage natural resources such as fisheries and identify harmful algal blooms.”
PACE was launched into what is known as sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) at an altitude of about 420 miles (677 kilometers) above Earth, higher than the International Space Station’s altitude of 250 miles (402 kilometers). This orbit, which takes the satellite above Earth’s poles, allows PACE to study the same locations on Earth during the same solar time each day.
The PACE launch was the first polar-orbit-bound launch conducted from Florida since November 30, 1960. On that day, a rocket launched from the Cape failed, sending debris falling on Cuba and killing a cow, according to a New York newspaper. times. Following that incident, the United States began flying all polar launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base (now Vandenberg Space Force Base) in California.
After the launch lit up the night sky over Florida’s Space Coast, the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage booster descended for a beautiful landing at Landing Zone 1, a SpaceX facility on the Cape.
This was the fourth launch and landing of this particular booster, according to SpaceX’s mission description.
NASA’s PACE satellite launch marks the 11th launch this year for SpaceX, all of which used Falcon 9 rockets. The 12th launch is scheduled for Friday (February 9) to put 22 of the company’s Starlink satellites into orbit
SpaceX launched 74 orbital missions in 2023, breaking the previous record of 61 set in 2022. The company intends to increase this number in 2024, and said it aims to launch 144 missions this year.