Argos-4 Environmental, Wildlife Tracking Instrument Poised for Fall Launch

An artist’s rendering of the General Atomics GAzelle satellite, carrying the Argos-4 instrument. (Credit: NOAA)

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — NOAA and CNES, the French space agency, are just two months away from the planned launch of Argos-4, an advanced satellite instrument that will track the movement of wildlife, particularly marine mammals and sea turtles, while also collecting critical environmental data around the world. 

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Rocket Arrives in California for NASA Launch of Polar-Orbiting Satellite

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V booster is offloaded from its water transport at Vandenberg Space Force Base (VSFB) in California on July 11, 2022, for NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2) satellite mission. (Credit: NASA/Randy Beaudoin)

VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. (NOAA PR) — Flight hardware for the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 401 rocket slated to launch the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2) has arrived in California. The rocket’s boattail and interstage adapter arrived at Vandenberg Space Force Base July 28 for processing ahead of launch. The payload fairings arrived Aug. 8.

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JPSS-2 Weather Satellite Gets its Solar Array Installed

JPSS-2 solar panel deployment. (Credit: NOAA)

GILBERT, Ariz. (NOAA PR) — On July 26, in a clean room at the Northrop Grumman facility in Gilbert, Arizona, NOAA’s JPSS-2 satellite let out several loud pops as each of the five panels of its solar array detached from the body of the satellite and then unfolded, stretching out to its full 30-foot length. Under each panel, an engineer clad in a bunny suit flashed a thumbs up as latches clicked into place. 

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SpaceX Rockets U.S. Launches to New Heights in 2022

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites on June 17, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Powered by 33 flights of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster, the United States leads all nations with 48 launch attempts through the first seven months of the year. The total is three short of the number of U.S. launches attempted last year, and far ahead of the 27 launches conducted by second place China through the end of July. The U.S. has conducted more launches than the 43 flights conducted by the rest of the world combined.

A number of notable flights were conducted. SpaceX launched two Crew Dragons to the International Space Station (ISS), including the first fully privately funded mission to the orbiting laboratory. United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched Boeing’s CST-100 Starship crew vehicle on an automated flight test to ISS, a crucial step before astronauts to fly on the spacecraft. Small satellite launch provider Rocket Lab conducted its first deep-space mission by sending a spacecraft the size of a microwave to the moon.

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NASA Awards Contracts to Lockheed Martin and Maxar for NOAA GeoXO Spacecraft Phase A Study

Credit: NOAA

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — On behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA has selected two firms for the Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO) Spacecraft Phase A Study. These contracted firms will help meet the objectives of NOAA’s GeoXO Program.

The firms selected are Lockheed Martin Space of Littleton, Colorado, and Maxar Space LLC of Palo Alto, California. The total value of each of these ten-month firm-fixed-price contracts is approximately $5 million. The work will be performed at the contractors’ facilities.

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Spire Global Awarded $1.7 Million NOAA Contract to Deliver Space Weather Data

Spire’s data will be used to demonstrate the quality and impact of commercial data on NOAA’s space weather forecast models

VIENNA, Va. (Spire Global, Inc.)Spire Global, Inc. (NYSE: SPIR) (“Spire” or “the Company”), a leading global provider of space-based data, analytics and space services, today announced that it has been awarded a Commercial Weather Data Pilot (CWDP) space weather contract as part of the Commercial Data Program (CDP) issued by the National Oceanographic and Oceanic Administration (NOAA). Spire will provide near real-time radio occultation (RO) data for NOAA’s space weather forecast models to measure ionospheric conditions that impact activities such as aviation, satellite operations, navigation, and communications.

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NOAA Releases RFP for Radio Occultation Data Buy (RODB) IDIQ-2

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — Today, Wednesday, July 20, 2022, NOAA released a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the second purchase of space-based commercial radio occultation (RO) data for use in NOAA’s operational weather forecasts.

View RFP at SAM.gov

The RFP is open for 34 days and follows the December 2021 release of a draft Statement of Work for public comment. This is a follow-on to the Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts that were awarded in November 2020.

NOAA is soliciting commercial near-real-time satellite-based Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) RO and ionospheric measurements that will be processed into neutral atmosphere and space weather products. These derived products will be fed into NOAA’s operational data systems, including weather and space weather analysis and prediction systems, and used for weather, climate, and atmospheric research purposes. All data and products will be archived by NOAA.

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NOAA Awards Commercial Space Weather Pilot Contracts

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — NOAA awarded three Commercial Weather Data Pilot (CWDP) space weather contracts to GeoOptics Inc. (Pasadena, CA), Space Sciences and Engineering LLC, dba PlanetiQ (Golden, CO), and Spire Global Subsidiary, Inc (San Francisco, CA).

NOAA’s Commercial Data Program (CDP) supports CWDP studies to demonstrate the quality and impact of commercial data on NOAA’s weather forecast models. These contract awards constitute the next round of NOAA’s CWDP studies with a particular focus on space weather data.

GeoOptics, PlanetiQ and Spire will provide near real-time radio occultation measurements from Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receivers that will enable NOAA to derive ionospheric products that meet the current and anticipated needs of operational space weather models and applications.

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NOAA Contracts with Planet to Gain Situational Awareness of Oil Spills, Marine Debris, and Marine Life

SAN FRANCISCO (Planet Labs PBC PR)Planet Labs PBC (NYSE: PL), a leading provider of daily data and insights about Earth, today announced a new contract with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The organization is leveraging Planet’s PlanetScope and SkySat products to evaluate oil spills, track marine debris, detect vessels, and identify large marine mammals like whales.

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Michael C. Morgan Confirmed as Deputy NOAA Administrator

Michael C. Morgan, Ph.D., is NOAA’s assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction, and deputy NOAA administrator. (Credit: University of Wisconsin, Madison)

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — Michael C. Morgan, Ph.D., has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction, and also deputy NOAA administrator. In this role, Morgan will be responsible for providing agency-wide direction with regard to weather, water, climate, and ocean observations, including in situ instruments and satellites, and the process of converting observations to predictions for environmental threats.

“Dr. Morgan will be an invaluable addition to the Department and to our NOAA leadership team,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo. “His decades of world-renowned atmospheric and oceanic scientific expertise and dedicated service to the community make him ideally qualified to help guide NOAA’s lifesaving observation and prediction activities.”

Morgan brings over 25 years of demonstrated scientific leadership to this position. He most recently served as a professor and associate department chair in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where his research was focused on the analysis, diagnosis, prediction, and predictability of mid-latitude and tropical weather systems. 

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Projected Increase in Space Travel May Damage Ozone Layer

New Shepard (NS-14) lifts off from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One in West Texas. (Credits: Blue Origin)

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — Projected growth in rocket launches for space tourism, moon landings, and perhaps travel to Mars has many dreaming of a new era of space exploration. But a NOAA study suggests that a significant boost in spaceflight activity may damage the protective ozone layer on the one planet where we live. 

Kerosene-burning rocket engines widely used by the global launch industry emit exhaust containing black carbon, or soot, directly into the stratosphere, where a layer of ozone protects all living things on the Earth from the harmful impacts of ultraviolet radiation, which include skin cancer and weakened immune systems in humans, as well as disruptions to agriculture and ecosystems.

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Xplore’s Major Tom Software Delivers Satellite Operations Testing for NOAA with Microsoft Azure Orbital

Major Tom dashboard showing pass timeline for satellites over ground stations around the world. (Credit: Xplore)

Xplore’s Major Tom ground station solutions utilize the cloud and demonstrate sustainability and resiliency capabilities

REDMOND, Wash., June 23, 2022 (Xplore PR)  — Xplore Inc., a commercial space company providing Space as a Service®, completed a satellite testing initiative using Microsoft Azure Orbital to conduct satellite operations for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s NOAA-18 satellite. Xplore is operating over a dozen satellites on orbit; the company completed its work with Azure and became one of the first cloud-based ground control software to operate a NOAA satellite.

Xplore integrated Azure Orbital as part of a first-ever Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to demonstrate how commercial services and cloud operations can be used to securely control satellites and acquire data with NOAA satellites.

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NASA to Launch 6 Small Satellites to Monitor, Study Tropical Cyclones

An image of Tropical Cyclone Batsirai over Madagascar captured by the TROPICS Pathfinder satellite in February of 2022. (Credit: NASA)

Update: The launch aboard an Astra Space Rocket 3.3 booster failed after the vehicle’s second stage shut down prematurely on Sunday. NASA said in an update that the TROPICS constellation can still improve the monitoring of tropical cyclones with four satellites. Astra Space has the contract to launch the four additional TROPICS spacecraft on two launches.

By Sofie Bates
NASA’s Earth Science News Team

NASA is launching the first two of six small satellites no earlier than June 12 that will study the formation and development of tropical cyclones almost every hour – about four to six times more often than is possible with current satellites. This is the first of three CubeSat launches for NASA’s Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) mission. The remaining satellites will be placed into their orbits during two subsequent launches this year. If successful, the TROPICS satellites will be spread across three orbital planes to cover more of the globe more frequently.

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Astra to Launch NASA TROPICS No Earlier Than Sunday

Rocket 3.3 lifts off from Kodiak Island on March 15, 2022. (Credit: Astra Space/NASASpaceflight.com webcast)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. (NASA PR) — Astra Space Inc. is targeting no earlier than June 12, pending issuance of a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration, for the first launch of NASA’s Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS), a constellation of six CubeSats. Two CubeSats, each about the size of a loaf of bread, will launch aboard Astra’s Rocket 3.3 from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

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Rocket Lab selected by Ball Aerospace to Power NASA’s GLIDE Spacecraft

Rocket Lab will supply the Solar Array Panel (SAP) for the GLIDE Heliophysics mission.

Electron launches on May 3, 2022. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a leading launch and space systems company, has been selected by Ball Aerospace to manufacture the Solar Array Panel (SAP) to power NASA’s Global Lyman-Alpha Imager of Dynamic Exosphere (GLIDE) mission spacecraft planned to launch in 2025. GLIDE is a heliophysics mission intended to study variability in Earth’s atmosphere.

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