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]

SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launch signature

June 25th, 2019 |

16-panel images of all GOES-16 ABI spectral bands [click to enlarge]

16-panel images of all GOES-16 ABI spectral bands [click to enlarge]

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launch of the STP-2 mission occurred at 0630 UTC (2:30 am EDT) on 25 June 2019. 16-panel images showing all GOES-16 ABI spectral bands (above) revealed visible and thermal signatures — ranging from hot thermal signals of air superheated by the rocket exhaust (perhaps best seen in Water Vapor bands 8, 9 and 10) to signatures of the low-altitude exhaust plume cloud drifting slowly southward just off the Florida coast.

A magnified view of the 16-panel image at 0630 UTC is shown below. Note that there was a rocket signal seen in all 16 spectral bands — even the “Blue” Visible (0.47 µm) Channel 1, with a very subtle 0.1% reflectance value.

16-panel images of all GOES-16 ABI spectral bands at 0630 UTC [click to enlarge]

16-panel images of all GOES-16 ABI spectral bands at 0630 UTC [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.