GOES-16 signatures of a SpaceX rocket launch

December 22nd, 2017 |

GOES-16 Near-Infrared

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm, top), Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm, middle) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, bottom) images, with plots of 01 UTC surface observations [click to play animation]

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm), Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images (above) revealed signatures of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch at 01:27 UTC on 23 December 2017 (5:27 PM Pacific time on 22 December). The arrows on the 01:27:24 UTC images indicate the bright pixels on the 0.64 µm and 1.61 µm images, as well as the warm thermal anomaly (black pixels) on the 3.9 µm image. GOES-16 was scanning that exact location at 01:28:01 UTC.

The GOES-16 Shortwave Infrared signature was noted by a couple of NWS offices:

Signatures of another SpaceX rocket launch in Florida were captured by GOES-16 on 16 March 2017.

GOES-16 visible and thermal signatures of SpaceX EchoStar 23 rocket launch

March 16th, 2017 |

GOES-16 Visible (0.64 µm, left), Near-Infrared (1.61 µm, center) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, right) images [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 Visible (0.64 µm, left), Near-Infrared (1.61 µm, center) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, right) images [click to enlarge]

** The GOES-16 data posted on this page are preliminary, non-operational data and are undergoing testing. **

Visible and thermal signatures of the SpaceX EchoStar 23 rocket launch were seen with GOES-16 imagery on 16 March 2017. The set of 3 images above consists of 5-minute CONUS sector scans at 05:54:33 UTC (about 5 minutes before launch), 05:59:33 UTC (around launch time) and 06:04:33 UTC (about 5 minutes after launch). The 05:59:33 UTC image was actually scanning the NASA Kennedy Space Center (station identifier KXMR)  area at 06:00:38 UTC, just after the 06:00 UTC launch time. A faint bright glow of the rocket booster was seen on the 0.5-km resolution Visible (0.64 µm) image; the 1-km resolution Near-Infrared (1.61 µm) rocket signature was much brighter, because this spectral band senses radiation from both visible and infrared portions of the electromagnetic radiation spectrum (which of the two was a stronger contributor to the bright signal is difficult to determine); the 2-km resolution Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) image displayed a warm (dark black enhancement) “hot spot”, although it was not exceptionally warm (with a 306.8 K maximum brightness temperature).

A “warm signal” was also observed on the three GOES-16 ABI Water Vapor bands: Lower-Level (7.3 µm), Mid-Level (6.9 µm) and Upper-Level (6.2 µm), as shown below. While water vapor is certainly a by-product of rocket booster combustion, it is important to remember that the Water Vapor bands are first and foremost Infrared bands that sense the brightness temperature of a layer of moisture (which can vary in both altitude and depth, depending on the temperature/moisture profile of the atmosphere and/or the satellite viewing angle). In this case, the atmosphere was relatively dry over the region, with little moisture aloft to attenuate the rocket signature — shifting the roughly-corresponding GOES-13 Sounder (had the GOES-13 Sounder instrument been operational)  water vapor weighting functions (available from this site) to lower altitudes. However, moisture considerations aside, the rocket signature seen on the 05:59:33 UTC water vapor imagery was primarily a thermal anomaly.

GOES-16 Lower-Level Water Vapor (7.3 µm, left), Mid-Level Water Vapor (6.9 µm, middle) and Upper-Level Water Vapor (6.2 µm, right) images [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 Lower-Level Water Vapor (7.3 µm, left), Mid-Level Water Vapor (6.9 µm, middle) and Upper-Level Water Vapor (6.2 µm, right) images [click to enlarge]

McIDAS-V images of GOES-16 Near-Infrared (1.6 µm and 2.2 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) data at 05:59:33 UTC (below; courtesy of William Straka, SSEC) provided another view of the rocket launch signature.

GOES-16 Near-Infrared (1.61 µm and 2.2 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 Near-Infrared (1.61 µm and 2.2 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images [click to enlarge]

Satellite signatures of a SpaceX rocket launch

April 11th, 2019 |

GOES-16 Low-level Water Vapor (7.3 µm), Mid-levell Water Vapor (6.9 µm), Upper-level Water Vapor (6.2 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) and

GOES-16 Low-level Water Vapor (7.3 µm), Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm), Upper-level Water Vapor (6.2 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images from 2231-2251 UTC [click to enlarge]

The launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida occurred at 2235 UTC on 11 April 2019. Warm thermal signatures of pockets of air (which had been superheated by the booster rocket exhaust) were seen northeast of the launch site in GOES-16 (GOES-East) Low-level Water Vapor (7.3 µm), Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm), Upper-level Water Vapor (6.2 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images (above). In addition, closer to the launch site a (thermally-cooler) signature of the lower-altitude rocket exhaust condensation plume was evident — for example, see an annotated comparison of the 2236 UTC images below (GOES-16 was scanning that exact location at 22:37:22 UTC, a little more than 2 minutes after launch).

GOES-16 Low-level Water Vapor (7.3 µm), Mid-levell Water Vapor (6.9 µm), Upper-level Water Vapor (6.2 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images at 2236 UTC [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 Low-level Water Vapor (7.3 µm), Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm), Upper-level Water Vapor (6.2 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) and “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images at 2236 UTC [click to enlarge]

Two portions of the lower-altitude rocket condensation plume — one moving northeastward, and one moving westward — were seen in higher-resolution GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images (below).

GOES-16 "Red" Visible (0.64 µm) images [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images [click to enlarge]

The different directions of rocket condensation plume motion were due to directional shear of wind within the lowest 2 km or 6500 feet of the atmosphere, as shown in a plot of 00 UTC rawinsonde data from Cape Canaveral, Florida (below).

Plot of 00 UTC rawinsonde data from Cape Canaveral, Florida [click to enlarge]

Plot of 00 UTC rawinsonde data from Cape Canaveral, Florida [click to enlarge]

Similar signatures of other rocket launches have been seen using GOES-16 and GOES-17.

Thermal signature of an Antares rocket launch

November 17th, 2018 |

GOES-16 Near-Infrared

GOES-16 Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm, left), Near-Infrared “Cloud Particle Size” (2.24 µm, center) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, right) images [click to play animation | MP4]

An Antares rocket was launched from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia (Space.com article) at 0901 UTC (4:01 AM local time) on 17 November 2018. At 0902 UTC a subtle thermal signature was seen just southeast of the launch site on GOES-16 (GOES-East) Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm). Near-Infrared “Cloud Particle Size” (2.24 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images (above). The thermal signature appeared at the center of each 0902 UTC image (where map outlines have been erased for clarity).

A corresponding thermal signature was also evident on 0902 UTC GOES-16 Low-level (7.3 µm). Mid-level (6.9 µm) and Upper-level (6.2 µm) Water Vapor images (below) — since the Water Vapor spectral bands are essentially Infrared bands, the signal was due to superheated air from the powerful First Stage rocket (which burned for 3.5 minutes after launch).

GOES-16 Low-level (7.3 µm, left). Mid-level (6.9 µm, center) and Upper-level (6.2 µm, right) Water Vapor images [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Low-level (7.3 µm, left), Mid-level (6.9 µm, center) and Upper-level (6.2 µm, right) Water Vapor images [click to play animation | MP4]

Taking a closer look with AWIPS, similar thermal signatures could be seen. Note that for the hottest pixel southeast of Wallops KWAL, the 3.9 µm Shortwave Infrared brightness temperature increased from 3.4ºC to 7.3ºC between 0857 and 0902 UTC — while the corresponding 10.3 µm “Clean” Infrared Window brightness temperature only increased from 3.7ºC to 4.0ºC.

GOES-16 Near-Infrared "Snow/Ice" (1.61 µm, left). Near-Infrared "Cloud Particle Size" (2.24 µm, center), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, right) and "Clean" Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm, top left),. Near-Infrared “Cloud Particle Size” (2.24 µm, top right), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, bottom left) and “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm, bottom right) images [click to play animation | MP4]

A 4-panel comparison of Near-Infrared and Water Vapor bands is shown below. The difference between spatial resolution is quite evident: 1 km at satellite sub-point for the 1.61 µm band vs 2 km for the Water Vapor (and all other Infrared) spectral bands.

GOES-16 Near-Infrared "Snow/Ice" (1.61 µm, top left). Low-level Water Vapor (7.3 µm, top right), Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm, bottom left) and Upper-level Water Vapor (6.2 µm, bottom right) images [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm, top left), Low-level Water Vapor (7.3 µm, top right), Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm, bottom left) and Upper-level Water Vapor (6.2 µm, bottom right) images [click to play animation | MP4]

A thermal signature was also apparent using the Split Water Vapor (6.2-7.3 µm) and Split Fire (2.24-1.61 µm) band differences.