May 24, 2022

Live coverage: Atlas 5 blasts off with NOAA weather satellite

Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket from pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The mission will launch the GOES-T weather satellite toward geostationary orbit for NOAA and NASA. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.

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A new observatory to monitor storms, wildfires, and ever-changing weather conditions over the Pacific Ocean and the Western United States launched Tuesday from Cape Canaveral aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. The NOAA weather satellite lifted off at 4:38 p.m. EST (2138 GMT).

The GOES-T weather satellite is heading for a position more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) over the equator for an observing mission expected to last at least 15 years.

The spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, was tucked inside the nose cone of an Atlas 5 rocket awaiting liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Four strap-on solid rocket boosters and a Russian-made RD-180 core engine combined to generate 2.3 million pounds of thrust to power the Atlas 5 off the pad.

The 196-foot-tall (59.7-meter) rocket headed due east over the Atlantic Ocean, setting up for GOES-T’s eventual equatorial orbit.

You can watch a replay of our live launch coverage on this page.

The rocket flew in the Atlas 5’s “541” configuration with a 5.4-meter (17.7-foot) diameter payload fairing, four strap-on boosters, and a single RL10 upper stage engine.

The launch with NOAA’s GOES-T weather satellite marked the 92nd flight of an Atlas 5 rocket since August 2002, and the eighth flight to use the “541” version, following two previous GOES satellites, NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance Mars rovers, and three spy satellite launches for the U.S. government.

The GOES-T satellite weighs more than 11,000 pounds (5 metric tons) fully fueled.

After three burns with the Centaur’s RL10 engine, the Atlas 5 deployed the GOES-T satellite in an elongated orbit ranging between 5,515 miles (8,876 kilometers) and 21,925 miles (35,286 kilometers). The orbit was tilted at an angle of 9.4 degrees to the equator.

Deployment of the GOES-T satellite from the Centaur upper stage occurred around T+plus 3 hours, 33 minutes.

GOES-T’s own propulsion system will circularize the satellite’s orbit more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) over the equator. At that altitude, in geosynchronous orbit, the satellite’s movement will match the Earth’s rotation, giving the spacecraft a constant view of one hemisphere.

NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites take regularly-updated images of clouds and storm systems, providing real-time views of tropical cyclones and severe weather. The first GOES satellite launched in 1975, and NOAA maintains two operational GOES spacecraft — one covering the Pacific and Western United States, and another over the East Coast, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic Ocean.

GOES-T will be renamed GOES-18 after launch, and will take position in the GOES-West location, replacing the GOES-17 spacecraft as the nation’s primary West Coast weather satellite.

Read our mission preview story for details.

ROCKET: Atlas 5 (AV-095)

MISSION: GOES-T

PAYLOAD: GOES-T weather satellite for NOAA and NASA

LAUNCH SITE: SLC-41, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida

LAUNCH DATE: March 1, 2022

LAUNCH WINDOW: 4:38-6:38 p.m. EST (2138-2338)

WEATHER FORECAST: 80% chance of acceptable weather; Primary concerns are cumulus clouds and liftoff winds

BOOSTER RECOVERY: None

LAUNCH AZIMUTH: East

TARGET ORBIT: Apogee of 21,925 miles (35,286 kilometers); Perigee of 5,515 miles (8,876 kilometers); Inclination of 9.4 degrees

LAUNCH TIMELINE:

  • T-00:00:02.7: RD-180 ignition
  • T+00:00:01.0: Liftoff
  • T+00:00:05.3: Begin pitch/yaw maneuver
  • T+00:00:35.3: Mach 1
  • T+00:00:48.0: Maximum aerodynamic pressure (Max-Q)
  • T+00:01:50.7: Solid rocket booster jettison
  • T+00:03:30.2: Payload fairing jettison
  • T+00:04:22.8: Atlas booster engine cutoff (BECO)
  • T+00:04:28.8: Atlas/Centaur stage separation
  • T+00:04:38.7: Centaur first main engine start (MES-1)
  • T+00:12:05.6: Centaur first main engine cutoff (MECO-1)
  • T+00:23:39.1: Centaur second main engine start (MES-2)
  • T+00:28:14.3: Centaur second main engine cutoff (MECO-2)
  • T+03:28:28.4: Centaur third main engine start (MES-3)
  • T+03:30:07.3: Centaur third main engine cutoff (MECO-3)
  • T+03:32:56.3: GOES-T spacecraft separation

MISSION STATS:

  • 674th launch for Atlas program since 1957
  • 375th Atlas launch from Cape Canaveral
  • 263rd mission of a Centaur upper stage
  • 240th use of Centaur by an Atlas rocket
  • 509th production RL10 engine to be launched
  • 39th RL10C-1 engine launched
  • 98th flight of an RD-180 main engine
  • 92nd launch of an Atlas 5 since 2002
  • 22nd NASA use of an Atlas 5
  • 3rd NOAA weather satellite launched on an Atlas 5
  • 10th-13th GEM-63 solid rocket boosters flown
  • 76th launch of an Atlas 5 from Cape Canaveral
  • 2nd Atlas 5 launch of 2022
  • 134th Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle flight
  • 149th United Launch Alliance flight overall
  • 84th Atlas 5 under United Launch Alliance
  • 107th United Launch Alliance flight from Cape Canaveral
  • 34th 500-series flight of the Atlas 5
  • 8th Atlas 5 to fly in the 541 configuration
  • 103rd launch from Complex 41
  • 76th Atlas 5 to use Complex 41
  • 9th orbital launch overall from Cape Canaveral in 2022
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