SpaceX is set to launch its RADARSAT Constellation Mission today, on June 12 out of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The mission will send three Canadian satellites into orbit, where they will remain about 400 miles up in order to observe Canadian land and waters. Scientists say they are hoping to collect data on sea ice both in the Great Lakes and in nearby oceans. The information is expected to be invaluable for both scientists studying climate change and for mariners who need to navigate through Arctic waters. The data is also expected to be useful for tracking marine populations and for assisting in rescue operations.
Today’s launch is set for 10:17 Eastern Time. You can watch it live right here; the broadcast will start about 15 minutes before takeoff. The launch window opens at 10:17 ET and closes at 10:30 ET. A backup launch window opens tomorrow on Thursday, June 13 at 10:17 ET and closes at 10:30 Eastern Time.
There were some signs that the launch might not take place today, June 12. Meterologists warned that there were going to be periods of intense fog during the launch window. They also said that wind gusts of up to 20 miles an hour were possible.
The satellites are expected to deploy approximately 54 minutes after the rocket launch. Following the separation, SpaceX says it will try to land the rocket on a landing pad, right next to the launch site. That should be worth watching, since it’s a relatively new endeavor for SpaceX. If the attempt succeeds, it will be only the second time that SpaceX has landed a rocket in California.
The rocket launch — if successful — could create spectacular sights and sounds for people in Southern California. Base officials have said that the launch could create one or more sonic booms that will be heard in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. The launch window opens this morning at 10:17AM, Eastern Time. It closes at 10:30 Eastern Time. If conditions are not right for a launch, a new window will open tomorrow, Thursday, June 13 at 10:30.
Crowds gathered ahead of the launch, preparing to watch the takeoff:
The three satellites being sent into space today were built by MDA, a Maxar company. They will provide daily data on Canada’s territory and its waters, surveying the Arctic up to four times a day. The data will be used to create highly detailed sea ice maps of Canada’s oceans and of the Great Lakes; the maps are expected to help maritime navigation. The satellite data is also expected to help in disaster recovery efforts by providing precise information about the location of natural disasters.