SpaceX wins contract to launch weather satellite after ULA withdraws

NASA selects SpaceX to launch the last in a series of geostationary weather satellites that had earlier been launched by the United Launch Alliance.

NASA announces on 10th September that it awards a contract to SpaceX for the Falcon Heavy launch of the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) U spacecraft. The launch is in pipeline for April 2024 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The agency says that the contract is worth $152.5 million.

About Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite

  • GOES-U is the fourth and last satellite in the GOES-R series of satellites, which examines terrestrial and space weather from geostationary orbit.
  • The launch of GOES-R was in November 2016 and was renamed GOES-16
  • It operated from the GOES-East slot at 75 degrees west in GEO.
  • GOES-S launched in March 2018 and became GOES-17, operating from the GOES-West slot at 137 degrees west.
  • GOES-T is in pipeline to launch in January 2022 and will replace GOES-17. This is due to concerns with that satellite’s main instrument, the Advanced Baseline Imager.
  • GOES-R and GOES-S each is in pipeline on an Atlas 5 and GOES-T is in pipeline to launch on an Atlas 5

The NASA contract statement did not reveal the cause for selecting SpaceX to launch GOES-U. The value of the GOES-U contract is a little less than the award made to ULA. This is in December 2019 for the GOES-T launch. The value of the ULA launch is $165.7 million.

ULA representative Jessica Rye says that the firm withdrew its bid to launch GOES-U. This is because it did not have any Atlas 5 vehicles accessible. “All of the remaining 29 rockets are offered to customers for upcoming launches. Hence, we had to leave our bid for NASA’s GOES-U launch service,” she adds.

ULA is planning to transition to the Vulcan Centaur rocket, whose introductory launch is in pipeline for 2022. Tory Bruno is the chief executive of ULA. He says that lately the firm is no longer offering the Atlas 5 after a final series of contract announcements earlier this year. These are such as an order for nine Atlas 5 launches by Amazon in April to launch part of its Project Kuiper broadband constellation.

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