Thursday, July 18, 2024

Rocket carrying UArizona student-built CatSat lights up Arizona’s western sky

PHOENIX (AZFamily) — We’ve seen plenty of Space X rockets soaring through our western skyline in the past few months, but Wednesday night, we witnessed a launch carrying a bit of Arizona ingenuity rocketing into orbit!

After a scrub for the last two nights, the launch of Firefly Aerospace’s Noise of Summer” went off from Vandenburg Space Force Base just after 9 p.m.

Based on calculations from the private aerospace company, optimal viewing in Arizona was looking low on the western horizon at about two minutes after launch.

Viewers from all of Arizona sent us photos and videos of the rocket’s plume.

The Firefly rocket is much smaller than SpaceX’s Falcon9 so it wasn’t as spectacular in the night sky.

However, it still had the “jellyfish effect,” where the setting sun illuminates the rocket’s plume.

Riding atop the Alpha FLTA005 booster, the Firefly launched eight shoe-box size CubeSats, selected through NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI).

According to the company, the CSLI provides universities and nonprofits across the country, along with small, private satellite developers, with low-cost access to conduct scientific research and technology demonstrations in space.

One of the tiny satellites has been dubbed “CatSat” designed and produced by students and professors from the University of Arizona.

At around 52 minutes after lift-off, the “CatSat” will be placed into orbit, and a one-of-a-kind balloon antenna will be inflated to test high-speed communications.

According to NASA, once inflated, the CubeSat is set to transmit high-definition Earth photos to ground stations at 50 megabits per second, more than five times faster than typical home internet speeds.

Officials say CatSat will orbit around Earth every 95 minutes for about six months, gathering data about space weather.

“Firefly” launch timeline.(Firefly Aerospace)
"CatSat" is set to test high speed communications using a unique, balloon antenna.
“CatSat” is set to test high speed communications using a unique, balloon antenna.(NASA)
"CatSat" devopers from University of Arizona.
“CatSat” devopers from University of Arizona.(NASA)

If you saw tonight’s launch, share with us your photos and make sure to tag where you are across the state.

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