SpaceX 2022 launched a few days ago with a bright night launch from California to carry an Israeli reconnaissance satellite into orbit.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched Israel’s EROS C-3 Earth-imaging satellite into orbit from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California late Thursday night (Dec. 29), launching the payload into orbit about 15 minutes after leaving Earth. Liftoff occurred at 11:38 p.m. PT at the launch site (2:38 a.m. EST/0738 GMT), with the Falcon 9 first stage returning to land at the nearby SpaceX platform about 8 minutes into the flight.
“This is our 61st and final SpaceX launch of 2022,” said Jesse Anderson, Director of Production and Engineering for SpaceX, during a live webcast.
EROS C-3, short for Earth Resources Observation Satellite C3, is an Earth observation satellite built to enable “defence and intelligence organizations to conduct operations under strict secrecy and data protection,” according to Israel-based ImageSat International. . (Opens in a new tab). It cost about $186 million, according to Spaceflight Now (Opens in a new tab).
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The first ever EROS satellite, EROS A, was launched in 2000 and re-entered Earth’s atmosphere in 2006. Little information is available about the active members of the fleet (EROS-B, EROS-C1 and EROS C2), presumably because to security concerns.
The EROS-C3 has a resolution of about 1 foot (30 cm) for grayscale images and 2 feet (60 cm) for multispectral images, according to Everyday Astronaut. By the end of the decade, it will form part of a quartet of EROS satellites that will operate alongside two synthetic aperture radar satellites.
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SpaceX’s Falcon 9 was launched to retrograde (reverse) Earth’s rotation and deploy EROS-C3 into low Earth orbit. The first stage then performed three burns (a boost back maneuver, an entry burn and a landing burn) to land on Earth at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 4 in Vandenberg.
It was the eleventh flight of the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket. It has previously flown two astronaut flights for NASA, two online Starlink satellite missions and six assorted uncrewed commercial and NASA missions. His successful landing marked the 160th landing of a SpaceX orbiting rocket, including both the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.
The launch of EROS C-3 also marks SpaceX’s second launch in as many days. On Wednesday (December 28), the company brought the first of its second-generation Starlink satellites online from Cape Canaveral Space Force Base in Florida, delivering 54 next-generation Starlinks into orbit.
revision: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the first stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 would land on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean. It launched from and landed at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
Elizabeth Howell is co-author of “Why am I taller (Opens in a new tab)? (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book on space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @tweet (Opens in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @tweet (Opens in a new tab) or Facebook (Opens in a new tab).
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