Satellite signatures of the SpaceX Starship 2 test launchOverlapping 1-minute Mesoscale Domain Sectors provided 30-second interval GOES-16 (GOES-East) images from all 16 of the ABI spectral bands plus a Rocket Plume RGB (above) — which displayed signatures of the SpaceX Starship 2 rocket that was launched from the Starbase facility in Boca Chica Beach, Texas at 13:02:53 UTC on 18 November 2023. The Stage 1 rocket booster condensation cloud was evident in images from all 16 spectral bands, as it began to drift slowly southeastward away from the Texas coast — and the ascending rocket booster’s thermal signature was seen in Near-Infrared and Infrared spectral bands 03-16, as well as the Rocket Plume RGB.
A close-up view using 16-panel displays of all GOES-16 ABI spectral bands (below) showed that a reflectance signature of the Stage 1 rocket booster was evident in most of the Visible and Near-Infrared bands (01/02/03/05/06) at 13:02:55 UTC, along with a warm thermal signature in Infrared bands 07 and 11-15. After that time, warm thermal signatures then became apparent in all Near-Infrared and Infrared spectral bands (03-16) as the rocket began its ascent.A larger-scale look at GOES-16 Upper-level Water Vapor (6.2 µm), Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm), Low-level Water Vapor (7.3 µm) and Rocket Plume RGB images (below) allowed a signature of the Stage 2 rocket booster to be followed farther east across the Gulf of Mexico. In a series of toggles between GOES-16 Upper-level Water Vapor (6.2 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images at 13:05:25 UTC, 13:06:25 UTC, 13:07:25 UTC and 13:09:25 UTC (below) a small cluster of warm 3.9 µm pixels (darker shades of orange-red) marked the exit point of hot exhaust from the Starship booster engines — and in 6.2 µm images, the trailing exhaust plume extended southwestward then westward from those warm 3.9 µm pixels. Note the change in exhaust plume shape with time and atmospheric layer: at altitudes of 61-101 km (where the Mesosphere and lower Thermosphere had more density, and higher ambient pressure), the plume was more linear — but at higher altitudes of 128-149 km (where the Thermosphere was much less dense, with lower ambient pressure) the plume was able to expand outward into more of a curved shape. Thanks to Todd Beltracci, The Aerospace Corporation, for his analysis of Starship 2 test flight telemetry and how it related to the various GOES-16 image features.