NASA selects Elon Musk’s SpaceX to launch GOES-U Mission

US space agency has decided to award the contract regarding launch services for its GOES-U Mission to Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies or SpaceX. The GOES-U Mission or the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-U Mission of NASA aims to provide advanced imagery as well as atmospheric measurements of the weather, environment and oceans on the Earth. The mission also aims to map in real time total lightning activity as well as monitor solar activity and space weather in a better manner. NASA has said that the total cost to launch the mission – including launch service and other costs related to the mission – comes to about $152.5 million.

NASA is targeting to launch the GOES-U Mission in April 2024, and as a result of the awarded contract, the mission would be launched aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket that would be provided by SpaceX. The launch is slated to take place from the Florida-based Kennedy Space Centre, and it would mark the fourth as well as the final spacecraft to be launched as part of the GOES-R Series of geostationary weather satellites.

The GOES-R Series is a collaborative effort of US’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA and NASA, and the four satellites launched (or to be launched) under the series – GOES-R, GOES-S, GOES-T, and GOES-U – are operated by the NOAA.

Under the mission, the first satellite – GOES-R – had been launched in November 2016, and became the GOES-16 satellite once it was positioned in the geostationary orbit. The following spacecraft in the mission – GOES-S – had been launched in March 2018, and once it reached its position, it was renamed to GOES-17. While the GOES-16 satellite replaced the GOES-13 satellite to function as the GOES East Satellite in December 2017, GOES-17 replaced GOES-15 to operate as the GOES West Satellite for NOAA in February 2019.

While GOES-U is scheduled to launch in April 2024, GOES-T, the third and penultimate satellite in the series, is slated to launch in January 2022. If the launch and the following on-orbit checkout is successful, GOES-T would become GOES-18 and replace GOES-17 (or GOES-S) as NOAA’s operational GOES West Satellite.

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