The POT launched a new weather satellite, JPSS-2, into polar orbit around the Earth. But this launch was special as it also included a trial of a new inflatable heat shield called LOFTID.
The launch, using a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, took place from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California early on the morning of Thursday, November 10.
The Low Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID) is a heat shield designed to autonomously inflate when a payload enters an atmosphere, keeping heat from friction with the atmosphere away from delicate components inside . It could be used to land heavier payloads like rovers on other planets, or also to land heavier components on Earth.
LOFTID was tested by releasing it after the satellite had been deployed, high above the Earth, where it inflated and re-entered the atmosphere. Within minutes, it fell into the Pacific Ocean, from where the heat shield and data module were recovered. Each of these components contains a set of data on how the heat shield performed during the test that can now be analyzed to see how effective it was.
The Joint Polar Satellite System or JPSS-2 satellite had a minor problem during deployment when one of its four solar panels did not deploy properly. But the teams could solve the problem and fully deploy the array, with the satellite operating as expected. JPSS-2 will be part of a weather monitoring and forecasting network led by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
“NOAA is an important partner to NASA in providing essential data on climate change, climate prediction and environmental modeling for the benefit of citizens both in the United States and around the world,” said NASA Associate Administrator. NASA, Bob Cabana, in a release. “Our Launch Services Program has successfully launched its 100th prime mission, and on this very flight allowed us to test a new technology for atmospheric reentry with the LOFTID demonstration.”