For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM
CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, FL – SpaceX is all set to launch its 4th Falcon 9 rocket of this month on Thursday evening, January 27, carrying the COSMO-SkyMed radar remote sensing satellite (CSG-2) mission to low Earth orbit flying southwards from Florida’s Spaceport following a successful static fire test of the recycled first stage booster on pad 40 on Sunday, Jan 23 – thus continuing an absolutely blistering launch pace this year that could very well exceed the record setting 31 liftoffs achieved in 2021.
Furthermore, beyond flying on a rare southerly trajectory it also features a daring and dramatic propulsive soft land landing of the first stage Falcon 9 booster back at the Cape just minutes after sunset screaming sonic booms too some eight minutes later – for the 2nd time this month!
Sunset is at 5:58 p.m. EST.
But it all depends on the weather – which is iffy at the moment with thick overcast clouds and rain swirling over Florida’s Space Coast
Launch of the ‘flight-proven’ Falcon 9 rocket and the COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation FM2 Earth observing radar mission (CSG-2) payload to polar orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida is slated for an instantaneous launch window at 6:11 p.m. EST, or 1811 GMT.
A backup opportunity is available on Friday, January 28 at the same time.
COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation (CSG-2) will launch on a south polar trajectory and be delivered to a sun-synchronous polar orbit to an altitude of about 385 miles (620 km) and an inclination of 97.8 degrees
The path to launch was cleared following a successful hold down static fire test conducted by SpaceX engineers on Sunday, Jan. 23 at precisely 12 Noon – as witnessed by this author.
I watched the noontime engine test Sunday from nearby in Titusville, Fl, about a dozen miles away across the Indian River lagoon and observed the exhaust plume and vapor cloud emanating from the bottom of the booster blowing southwards from the flame trench – just barely visible in the afternoon haze and glare.
The brief hot fire test of all nine first stage Merlin 1D engines lasted for a duration of about eight seconds and appeared normal from my perspective.
SpaceX confirmed the successful test via tweet a few hours later.
Static fire test of Falcon 9 complete – targeting Thursday, January 27 at 6:11 p.m. EST for launch of COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation FM2 to orbit from SLC-40 in Florida
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 23, 2022
Enjoy our gallery of the static fire test taken by Ken Kremer for Space UpClose.
You can watch all the action via a SpaceX live webcast that will begin about 15 minutes prior to liftoff – starting around 5:55 p.m:
The COSMO-SkyMed radar remote sensing satellite is sponsored by the Italian government, the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the Italian Ministry of Defense and will serve civilian, government, institutional and military needs.
2nd #COSMOSkyMed Second Generation satellite will be launched soon! Designed to meet the requirements of both commercial & institutional customers, COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation system is a crown jewel in @Thales_Alenia_S’ fleet of radar #EarthObservation observation satellites pic.twitter.com/T4fbMXM9If
— Thales Alenia Space (@Thales_Alenia_S) January 24, 2022
COSMO-SkyMed was built by prime contractor Thales-Alenia.
It is a state of the art Earth observing satellite with dual civilian and military uses
COSMO-SkyMed is an Italian built Earth observation satellite program. These satellites are equipped with state-of-the-art radar technology, synthetic aperture radars, which will help provide data on a global scale for a variety of different applications. This means improved ocean monitoring, cartography, environmental protection, and more.
"2nd COSMO-SKYMED Second Generation satellite our company has built will be launched soon. It is a state-of-the-art radar-based Earth Observation satellite with a dual-use mission that is dedicated to @ASI_spazio & @MinisteroDifesa"@massimoc_square #BBESpaceConf pic.twitter.com/twjLhciwss
— Thales Alenia Space (@Thales_Alenia_S) January 26, 2022
Following stage separation, the Falcon 9 will reverse course and flip 180 degrees using cold gas thrusters and then refire a subset Merlin 9 engines to slow down and target a soft landing at the Cape about 9 miles south of the launch pad.
The payload will continue to orbit on the thrusting second stage.
About eight minutes after liftoff, Falcon 9’s first stage will land on SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida.
“There is the possibility that residents of Brevard, Orange, Osceola, Indian River, Seminole, Volusia, Polk, St. Lucie, and Okeechobee County counties may hear one or more sonic booms during the landing, but what residents experience will depend on weather and other conditions. Additionally, Falcon 9 will fly along Florida’s eastern coast over the ocean and may be visible from the ground,” SpaceX announced.
Recovery ship Bob had been dispatched and will attempt to retrieve the payload fairing halves roughly 600 km downrange towards Cuba
The weather outlook is a bit problematical
The official Space Force meteorologists forecast projects only a 60% chance of acceptable conditions at launch time, which has deteriorated since yesterday
The primary concerns are the Cumulus Cloud Rule and Liftoff winds
Furthermore, the booster recovery risk is rated as moderate
In case of a 24-hour delay to Friday, the forecast remains at 60% GO
Falcon 9 will amazingly fly on a rare southerly trajectory for the 4th time this month.
For many years there were no south polar trajectory launches from the Cape
Most recently the Transporter-3 mission concluded with a land landing at LZ-1 on Jan. 13
Normally launches from Kennedy and the Cape avoid the southerly trajectory to avoid populated areas and thus prevent polar launches.
In fact the Space Force issued a ‘Southerly Trajectory Launch Alert’!
‼ SOUTHERLY TRAJECTORY LAUNCH ALERT ‼
Tomorrow evening, SLD 45 will support the COSMO-SkyMed launch, which will feature a southerly trajectory. This means launch hazard areas will contain different locations than previous launches & will be larger than normal for your safety. pic.twitter.com/tU5ttQL9ew
— Space Launch Delta 45 (@SLDelta45) January 26, 2022
If you’re a member of our flying or boating community, make sure you check our launch hazard and airspace closure areas at https://t.co/nWgTbtgMnB prior to taking off or setting sail.
Liftoff is scheduled for 6:11 p.m. EST (23:11 UTC) tomorrow, Jan. 27.
— Space Launch Delta 45 (@SLDelta45) January 26, 2022
However improvements in rocket maneuvering technology and innovation by SpaceX has enabled the use of the southern corridor and south polar launches favored for science and some surveillance missions because they provide a different global view of Earth.
The first southerly launch from the Cape involved Saocom-1B in 2019 and they have flown four more since then.
The southeasterly route is also more favorable for booster landings and fairing recoveries in the winter months says SpaceX compared to the harsher weather off the Carolina’s coast
Watch Ken’s continuing reports about SpaceX Starlink , SpaceX Crew and Cargo Dragons, Artemis, SLS, Orion and NASA missions, DART, Lucy Asteroid mission, Blue Origin and Space Tourism, Commercial Crew and Starliner and Crew Dragon and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Crew 1 & 2 & 3, ISS, Solar Orbiter, Mars 2020 Perseverance and Curiosity rovers, NRO spysats and national security missions and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com
Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events
Please consider supporting Ken’s work by purchasing his photos and/or donating at Patreon: