Antares rocket launch from Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia

November 2nd, 2019 |

Sequence of individual GOES-16 ABI spectral bands, from 1358-1406 UTC [click to play animation | MP4]

Sequence of GOES-16 ABI spectral band images, from 1358-1406 UTC [click to play animation | MP4]

A sequence of 1-minute Mesoscale Domain Sector GOES-16 (GOES-East) images from all 16 of the ABI spectral bands during the period 1358-1406 UTC on 02 November 2019 (above) revealed signatures of the launch of an Antares rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility along the eastern shore of Virginia. The signature that was seen in all 16 spectral bands was that of the low-altitude rocket exhaust condensation cloud, which originated at the launch site then drifted northeastward over the Chincoteague area.

In addition, a thermal signature of air that was superheated by the rocket exhaust was evident in Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) and Water Vapor (6.2 µm, 6.9 µm and 7.3 µm) images — initially about 2-3 miles east-northeast of Chincoteague at 1401 UTC, and then about 50 miles due east of Wallops Island at 1402 UTC (below). Also apparent on the 1402 UTC Water Vapor images was the cooler signature of the low-altitude exhaust condensation cloud near Chincoteague.

GOES-16 Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) and Water Vapor (6.2 µm, 6.9 µm and 7.3 µm) images at 1402 UTC [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) and Water Vapor (6.2 µm, 6.9 µm and 7.3 µm) images at 1402 UTC [click to enlarge]

An animation of 16-panel images displaying all of the GOES-16 ABI spectral bands is shown below.

16-panel images of GOES-16 ABI spectral bands from 1400-1406 UTC [click to play animation]

16-panel images of GOES-16 ABI spectral bands from 1400-1406 UTC [click to play animation]

GOES-16 Cloud Top Temperature and Cloud Top Phase products [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 Cloud Top Temperature and Cloud Top Phase products [click to enlarge]

Regarding the northeastward-moving low-altitude rocket exhaust condensation cloud, GOES-16 Cloud Top Temperature and Cloud Top Phase products (above) indicated that the feature was composed of water droplets, exhibiting cloud top temperature values in the 8ºC to 10ºC range. According to 12 UTC rawinsonde data from Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia (below), those temperatures existed at altitudes of 1.8-2.1 km (5900-6900 ft) where there were southwesterly winds of 18-25 knots.

Plot of 12 UTC rawinsonde data from Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia [click to enlarge]

Plot of 12 UTC rawinsonde data from Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia [click to enlarge]

Because of the low early-morning sun angle, the exhaust condensation cloud was casting a shadow farther inland over Virginia, as seen in GOES-16 Visible images (below).

GOES-16

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images (courtesy of Tim Schmit, NOAA/NESDIS/ASPB) [click to enlarge]