(ORDO NEWS) — A satellite designed to improve weather forecasting and an experimental inflatable shield to protect re-entry spacecraft were launched into space on Thursday.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2) and NASA test payload lifted off from Vandenberg Base northwest of Los Angeles.
Developed for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, JPSS-2 has been launched into an orbit that circles the Earth from pole to pole.
This allowed previously launched satellites to be combined into a system designed to improve weather forecasting and climate monitoring.
Mission officials say this new technology will improve the accuracy of observations of the atmosphere, oceans and land.
Following the launch of the satellite, the rocket’s upper stage re-energized to accommodate LOFTID for re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere and splashdown into the Pacific Ocean.
LOFTID (Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator) – a device that is an air shell that can be used to slow down and protect heavy spacecraft descending into the atmosphere, such as Mars or Venus, or payloads returning to Earth.
LOFTID inflates to approximately 6 meters in diameter. In the rarefied atmosphere of Mars, the presence of such a large air envelope would slow down the movement of the vehicle at high altitudes and reduce the intensity of heating, according to the space agency.
LOFTID landed in the ocean several hundred kilometers east of Hawaii, where a ship was waiting for it. NASA hopes to recover the device and data logger that should have been discarded before splashdown.
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