A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS)-2 mission for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and NASA's Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID) lifted off on Nov. 10 at 1:49 a.m. PST from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Space Force Base. To date ULA has launched 155 times with 100% mission success.
"We depend on accuracy and timeliness of weather prediction models for enhanced weather forecasting and climate observations. Our ULA team is proud to launch the JPSS-2 mission that supports advanced forecasting of extreme weather and global climate monitoring," said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. "Additionally, we look forward to reviewing the data collected from LOFTID as we explore Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) technology for engine reusability on our future Vulcan rocket. Successfully deploying these two payloads is a monumental achievement; thank you to our mission partners for their outstanding teamwork."
The Atlas V rocket delivered the JPSS-2 spacecraft to a sun-synchronous low-Earth orbit. After delivering the JPSS-2 spacecraft, subsequent burns by the Centaur upper stage lowered the altitude to a re-entry trajectory to deploy the LOFTID experiment. Once separated, LOFTID reentered Earth's atmosphere, deployed its parachute and landed off the coast of Hawaii. This experiment demonstrates how an inflatable aeroshell, or heat shield, could deliver heavy payloads safely through the atmosphere to the surface of Earth and potentially other planets.
"The NASA and ULA public-private LOFTID partnership was the ideal pairing opportunity for demonstrating our Vulcan reuse plans," said Mark Peller, ULA vice president of Major Development. "This demonstration allows ULA to focus on launch integration applications for engine recovery including parachute development, transportation and recovery, flight environments, precision navigation for landing and recovery and more."