The final Atlas V rocket to launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base took flight Nov. 10 at 1:49 a.m. PST. (United Launch Alliance Photo)
November 10, 2022 - A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Nov. 10 to deliver the Joint Polar Satellite System 2 (JPSS-2) weather satellite to orbit for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA, and the Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID) for NASA.
The Northrop Grumman-built JPSS-2 weather satellite will orbit the Earth from the North Pole to the South Pole 14 times a day, providing full global coverage twice a day to supply critical data used to inform global weather prediction models. Aerojet Rocketdyne provided four MR-111G thrusters and eight MR-106L thrusters for the satellite’s propulsion system, all built in Redmond, Washington.
The LOFTID is a demonstration flight test of a large inflatable aeroshell that could be used to create additional drag for spacecraft during atmospheric entry and also serve as a heat shield to protect the craft and its instruments from high temperatures. After JPSS-2 reaches orbit, LOFTID will be put on a reentry trajectory from low-Earth orbit to demonstrate the inflatable aeroshell’s ability to slow down and survive reentry. Aerojet Rocketdyne subsidiary ARDÉ, located in Carlstadt, New Jersey, provided two pressure tanks used for inflating the decelerator.
“The launch of the latest JPSS satellite will further advance our ability to forecast severe weather events such as blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires,” said Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Space Business Unit Senior Vice President Jim Maser. “While JPSS helps to support life here on Earth, LOFTID will help enable a variety of proposed NASA missions to destinations such as Mars, Venus, Titan as well as return to Earth.
Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL10C-1 engine, which is built in West Palm Beach, Florida, provided 22,890 pounds of thrust to propel the Atlas V’s Centaur upper stage to deliver the spacecraft to orbit and position LOFTID for its reentry test. This was the 518th RL10 engine to fly in space. Additionally, an array of 12 Aerojet Rocketdyne MR-106 reaction control system thrusters provided the Centaur with roll, pitch and yaw control.
Aerojet Rocketdyne subsidiary ARDÉ provided six composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) used to support the operation of the Atlas V. These tanks, four on the first stage and two on the second stage, hold helium at high pressure that is used to help deliver propellants to the Atlas V and Centaur engines.
“Today’s launch is also the final Atlas V rocket scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base. The existing launch pad is set to be updated for use with ULA’s new Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle that is set to replace the Atlas V,” added Maser. “ULA designed the Vulcan Centaur to provide higher performance and greater affordability while continuing to deliver unmatched reliability and precision, and we are thrilled to support this new rocket by providing two of our RL10 engines to power the upper stage during each launch.”