This evening, SpaceX launched another rocket from Florida, but the vehicle took a very different route than most flights from the East Coast. Instead of heading east after the launch, like most Florida missions, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket went south after the liftoff, lapping at Florida’s southeastern coast and heading for Cuba.
This is because this goal led to what is known as a polar orbit – a path that runs mostly north-south over the Earth’s poles. It’s the kind of mission you don’t usually see in Florida. In fact, this will be the first time since 1969 that a rocket from Florida has turned south.
So far, the U.S. Most of the polar projections in have come from the south coast of California. In this way, rockets fly over the open sea when they go south, not on populated land. Rockets that fly east from Florida to the equator, so they also fly mostly over the open sea before going into space.
But, back in 2016, the Air Force began to study the possibility of bringing polar launches to Florida, after the wildfire came significantly closer to Vandenberg Air Force Base, the main California launch site for all polar launches. The fire damaged surrounding infrastructure and delayed a launch by two months, according to Florida Today. The Flor 45th Space Wing, which oversees launches outside Cape Canaveral, Florida, broke the numbers and saw that polar launches could occur – with some warnings.
Today, only SpaceX can fly this unique route from Florida because of how the Falcon 9 rocket was designed. The company’s rocket has an automatic flight safety system, which means the vehicle can destroy itself without input from the ground – if it blocks its way or something goes wrong. It is important to fly this polar route. Since rockets fly close to populated areas, any deviation from the flight must be carried out quickly to keep people safe on the ground. But it is possible that plumes of gas coming from rocket engines could interfere with any signals sent from the ground for self-destruction. So the Falcon 9 should be able to blow itself up without human help.
Future vehicles are expected to fly with these autonomous safety systems, which will also allow them to fly south from Florida. But for now, SpaceX is bringing a polar launch back to the Florida coast. The company’s Falcon 9 rocket took off at 7:18 a.m. outside SpaceX’s launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rocket then sailed south, off the southeastern Florida coast near Miami and then over Cuba. The 45th Space Wing claims that Miami is not in danger during this type of mission, and that Cuba should also avoid damage. “It will fly higher than Cuba, but it will be at north altitude that we are safe as we head north,” Brig said. General Douglas Skies, commander of the 45th Space Wing, said during a press call. “As we move into the northern part of North America, we’ve also begun to overrun some of the islands, but we’re safe at that time.”
Skiz said the Falcon 9 rocket has followed the right path which will ensure that people will be safe. “I know we’re meeting all the security requirements now, and it really comes down to the right itude. [and] The speed at that time – to ensure that the debris lying down will be small enough, or not affect any ground, which makes it capable of launching in a safe perspective. “
The main satellite of this launch was SAOCOM 1B, while two smaller satellites joined the ride. SAOCOM 1B is the second of two identical Earth-observation satellites contracted by SpaceX to launch for Argentina’s space agency. Together the two satellites will use radar to observe the planet to hunt for disasters that could disrupt industries such as agriculture, mining, fishing and more. The satellite is moving into a polar orbit known as a sun-synchronous orbit. The path allows satellites to pass on the same patch of the Earth at the same time each day, hoping for Earth observation satellites to track changes in places on Earth over time.
For this mission, SpaceX used the Falcon 9 rocket, which had flown into space three times before. After the liftoff, the rocket successfully returned to SpaceX’s ground landing pad near the launch site in Florida. SAOCOM 1B deploys just 14 minutes after takeoff, while both smaller satellites will deploy about an hour after launch.