Spaceflight Insider

Going back to Cali! SpaceX launches RADARSAT for Canadian Space Agency

Archive photo of SpaceX Falcon 9 launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base photo credit USAF

Archive photo of SpaceX Falcon 9 launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Space Launch Complex 4E. Photo Credit: USAF

LOMPOC, Calif. — SpaceX successfully completed the company’s second launch of 2019 from Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Space Launch Complex 4 East in California. Today’s flight continues pushing the company’s busy 2019 flight manifest.

One of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets ferried the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (or “RCM” for short) on the first leg of its journey on behalf of the Canadian Space Agency. Three of the satellites made up the payload for today’s flight. 

Each of the RCM satellites sent aloft weigh in at about 3,150 pounds (1,429 kg) and were built by MDA. RCM-1 was deployed 54 minutes after it had left the pad with the other two satellites released in four minute intervals after that. The last of the trio was deployed one hour and two minutes after lifting off. The satellites launched today are identical C-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Earth observation satellites.

CSA photo of RCM satellites being prepared for flight. Photo Credit: Canadian Space Agency

CSA photo of RCM satellites being prepared for flight. Photo Credit: Canadian Space Agency

The mission got underway at 10:17 a.m. EDT (7:17 a.m. PDT; 1417 GMT) using the B1051.2 first stage core to lift its precious cargo off the pad. 

This booster core was last used on SpaceX’s DM-1 mission. Not satisfied that it had made history sending the first commercial crew-rated spacecraft to the International Space Station, the NewSpace company refurbished it and used it again today.

After it had completed its part of the flight B1051.2 conducted a safe landing back on the ground at Landing Zone 4 (LZ-4) about eight minutes after it lifted off (so far this year SpaceX has launched seven times and recovered every first stage booster used).

If there is one near constant at Vandenberg – it’s fog. A bank submerged the area in a white haze with visibility described as being about 200 feet (61 meters).

Oh what a difference a day can make. A blinding blanket of fog covered the launch site at Vandenberg, with visibility estimated at being around 200 feet. Side-by-side images of how much an impact this had on visibility. Photo Credit: Hunter Kilpatrick / SpaceFlight Insider

Oh what a difference a day can make. A blinding blanket of fog covered the launch site at Vandenberg, with visibility estimated at being around 200 feet. Side-by-side images of how much an impact this had on visibility. Photo Credit: Hunter Kilpatrick / SpaceFlight Insider

Today’s launch window only lasted about 13 minutes, but SpaceX got the flight underway at the very opening of that window. There’s no rest for the wicked however. SpaceX now has to prepare for a planned June 24 launch of the Space Test Program Flight 2 (STP-2) from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. The payload’s size requires one of the company’s huge Falcon Heavy rockets to get it underway.

The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) rocket (at lift off) Block 5 rocket sent the trio of satellites to a sun-synchronous orbit. Each of the spacecraft will be included in a constellation of satellites that started taking shape in 1995, when the first satellites under the program were sent to orbit.

The last time SpaceX used SLC-4E was to launch the Iridium NEXT-8 mission back in January of this year (2019). At present, there are no other West Coast missions on its 2019 launch manifest. So far, the Hawthorne, California-based company has conducted seven flights in 2019 – a rate of more than per a month.

Video courtesy of SpaceX via YouTube

 

 

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Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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