SAOCOM 1B is the first polar launch attempt from the US East Coast in more than half a century after debris from a failed rocket struck and killed a cow on Cuban land in 1969.
SpaceX had been planning for two launches on Sunday, but poor weather conditions forced it to scrub the morning launch of another Falcon 9 rocket loaded with another batch of Starlink broadband satellites.
Soon after, the commercial space company led by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk posted a video showing the successful deployment of Argentina's Saocom 1B satellite. "Next launch opportunity is Tuesday, September 1 at 9:29 a.m. EDT, pending Range acceptance", SpaceX tweeted. Instead of launching eastward like every other Cape Canaveral rocket, the Falcon 9 headed south toward Cuba, close to populated areas on Florida's coast (via The Verge).
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Satellites bound for polar orbits (where a satellite passes over both the North and South Poles), usually launch from Vandenberg Air Force base in California. The "SAOCOM 1B" mission marks the first such "polar launch" from Florida since 1969, made possible by a special Air Force exemption for SpaceX.
What makes this latest mission a little different from recent ones is that SpaceX will be attempting an on-shore landing, its first since March 2020. As two small satellites are launched along with the main satellite SAOCOM 1B, these satellites will be used to observe and predict natural disasters that could disrupt industries such as agriculture, mining and fishing.
In 1960, falling debris from a malfunctioning rocket reportedly killed a cow in Cuba, prompting protests in the island nation.
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"Standing down from today's launch of Starlink due to inclement weather during pre-flight operations". The first stage even landed safely at LZ1 in Florida.
The 6,720-pound SAOCOM 1B requires a polar orbit to enable its cloud-penetrating radar to observe the entire planet as it rotates below.
"One of the things we develop is soil moisture maps, not only of the surface, but taking advantage of the L-band capabilities we can measure the soil moisture 1 meter below the surface of the land".
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