Satellite signatures of the SpaceX/NASA Crew-3 launch

November 10th, 2021 |

GOES-16 ABI spectral bands 1-16 [click to play animated GIF | MP4]

On 10 November 2021, SpaceX and NASA launched the Crew-3 mission to the International Space Station from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 7:03 pm EDT (0203 UTC on 11 November). GOES-16 (GOES-East) Mesoscale Domain Sector 1 provided images at 1-minute intervals (above) — reflectance and/or thermal signatures of the Falcon-9 rocket booster were seen in 15 of the 16 ABI spectral bands during the initial portion of its northeastward trajectory. The hottest Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) brightness temperature was 70.63ºC at 0205 UTC (which was around the time of Second Stage ignition).

A zoomed-in comparison of GOES-16 Visible and Near-Infrared images at 0204 UTC (below) provided a better view of the signatures just off the coast of Florida — an AWIPS cursor sampling indicated that there was even a 0.13% reflectance signal in the 0.47 µm “Blue” Visible image (but this value was not bright enough to be seen using the default enhancement). 

Comparison of GOES-16 Visible and Near-Infrared images at 0204 UTC [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 Plume RGB images (below) highlighted a bright thermal signature of the Falcon-9 rocket booster ascent, as well as the darker signature of low-altitude condensation clouds (resulting from the rocket launch) which moved slowly eastward.

GOES-16 Plume RGB (credit: Tim Schmit, NOAA/NESDIS) [click to play animated GIF]

A toggle between Plume RGB images from GOES-16 and GOES-17 at 0205 UTC (below) revealed a significant eastward parallax displacement of the yellow/orange thermal anomaly signature on the GOES-17 image. At that time, the rocket was at an altitude of about 70 km.

Plume RGB images from GOES-16 and GOES-17 at 0205 UTC (credit: Tim Schmit, NOAA/NESDIS) [click to enlarge]

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