An In-depth Look at Recent Space Launches: NASA’s PACE Mission, Chinese Art Satellites, and Multiple Starlink Missions

In the month of February, space launches are taking place around the world, particularly in China and the United States. These launches involve various satellites and missions that aim to explore and observe different aspects of our planet and beyond.

On February 2nd, a Long March 2C rocket was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in China. The rocket carried 11 satellites for a Geely Constellation, which is a constellation built by the Chinese car manufacturer Geely Technology Group. These satellites are used for the company’s self-driving navigation technology. Each satellite weighs 130 kilograms and also carries ocean observation instruments. The mission was successful, with all satellites deployed to their intended orbit.

Another Chinese launch took place on February 3rd. The Jielong-3 rocket, also known as Smart Dragon-3, was launched from a barge in the South China Sea. This rocket is part of a rideshare mission for China Rocket, a commercial subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. The mission includes several payloads, including the first “art satellite” called SCA-1. This satellite is part of the Xu Bing Art Satellite Extraterrestrial Resident Project, led by artists Xu Bing and Beijing Wanhu Creation. The project aims to involve artists in creating art projects in space and exploring this futuristic field. The satellite has a display screen facing space with a selfie camera, allowing artists to participate in trials of AI software installed to generate images.

In the United States, SpaceX continues its busy launch schedule. After successfully launching a Falcon 9 from all three of its operational launch pads in less than four days, SpaceX is targeting February 3rd for the next Starlink mission from Vandenberg. This mission, known as Starlink Group 7-13, aims to launch 22 v2 Mini satellites to a 53-degree inclination orbit. The booster will land on the autonomous droneship “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, there has been a delay to this flight, and the new launch date is yet to be determined.

Following the Starlink mission, SpaceX plans to launch NASA’s PACE Earth-observation mission on February 6th from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. PACE, which stands for Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, Ocean Ecosystem, aims to provide global ocean color, cloud, and aerosol data to understand and protect our planet. The satellite will be launched to a Sun-synchronous polar orbit. It will carry instruments such as the Ocean Color Instrument and polarimeters to measure various factors affecting commercial and recreational industries, as well as weather patterns and air quality.

Overall, February is shaping up to be a busy month in the world of space launches. With missions taking place in China and the United States, scientists and researchers are pushing the boundaries of knowledge and exploration. These launches not only contribute to our understanding of Earth’s ecosystems but also pave the way for future space exploration and technology advancements.

(Lead image: NASA’s PACE arrives at the processing center ahead of launch. Credit: NASA)