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GOES East Catches Glimpse of SpaceX Launch

April 12, 2019
Water vapor imagery of Cape Canaveral and exhaust from Falcon heavy rocket launch

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful operational rocket, launched the communications satellite Arabsat-6A into orbit for a Saudi Arabian firm just after 6 p.m. ET on Thursday. While most of us probably weren’t lucky enough to watch the launch from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., we can still get a glimpse of the rocket’s condensation trails or contrails thanks to GOES East.

Imagery sequence of the trail left from the Falcon Heavy rocket launching

GOES East caught a glimpse of the condensation trail of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket from yesterday's launch.

Using GOES East’s “Upper-level Water Vapor" Band (Band 8) we can see the streak Falcon Heavy left behind as it hoisted the commercial satellite into its orbit at 30.5 degrees East. While this band is typically used for mid-latitude storm forecasting, hurricane tracking and jet stream identification, it is also capable of detecting localized areas of warm air. In this case, the satellite likely picked up on this area of warm air just after the rocket passed through.