Featured Image Source: CONAE
SpaceX is preparing to conduct a mission for CONAE, the ‘National Space Activities Commission’ of Argentina; It is the government’s space agency in charge of space programs. The mission will consist of deploying SAOCOM-1B, an Earth-imaging satellite into Polar Orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Florida’s coast has not conducted rocket flights to Polar Orbit in a bit over half a century.
The mission was previously scheduled to liftoff in March but was postponed amid the Coronavirus outbreak that swept the globe. Due to travel restrictions, Argentinian engineers were unable to travel to prepare the satellite before launch. Now, SpaceX is scheduled to launch SAOCOM-1B next week, on Thursday, August 27 at 7:19 a.m. Eastern Time.
This week, CONAE engineers shared they verified SAOCOM-1B performs well, after nearly three months waiting for launch. SpaceX teams helped integrate the satellite atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket’s fairing. During integration, CONAE shared a photograph showcasing the missions insignia printed on Falcon 9’s fairing and engineering teams holding Argentina’s flag, pictured below. – “We have been progressing very well, beyond the change in the launch date, which made us re-plan the entire campaign plan. We complete all tasks on time and smoothly. The satellite is in optimal condition,” said Pablo Ordoñez, head of Integration, Testing and Launch Operations of CONAE’s SAOCOM-1B [translated from Spanish]. “It was exciting to be able to turn it on again and verify its correct operation. It is as if we had awakened him and had him with us again,” he said.
The 6,600-pound SAOCOM-1B radar satellite was manufactured in Argentina. It will serve to generate early warning systems for floods, crop loss risk, monitor their country’s sea against illegal fishing, and also to support the management of environmental emergencies, such as detection of oil spills at sea and monitoring of water coverage during floods, among other applications. The satellite is equipped with complex Earth observation technology featuring advanced optical sensors, known as Synthetic-aperture radar (SAR). SAR is a radar that creates 2D images or 3D visuals of landscapes on our planet. It will create 225 images per day of Argentina’s surface.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will deploy the satellite into Polar Orbit, an orbit in which SAOCOM-1B will operate around Earth’s poles at an altitude of approximately 620-kilometers. Once SAOCOM-1B is operational, it will be capable of detecting any weather condition on our planet’s surface, it will serve as a forecast system for flooding by detecting moisture levels within the soil. Detecting soil moisture will also help Argentinian producers know the best time for planting, also give them insight on fertilization and irrigation in crops such as sunflower, wheat, soybeans, and corn.
Satellite will also provide support concerning the use of chemicals for disease control in crops. The radar’s microwaves will be able to “see” at any time of the day, pass through the clouds both during the day and at night, even if it is cloudy. These characteristics make the SAOCOM 1B satellite especially useful for monitoring and mitigating natural or anthropic catastrophes.
During Thursday’s SpaceX launch, the SAOCOM-1B satellite will also be accompanied atop Falcon 9’s fairing by a 220-pound commercial radar imaging satellite owned by Capella Space, a San Francisco-based company. A radio occultation microsatellite for PlanetiQ will also ride along with SAOCOM-1B and Capella’s radar satellite.