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SpaceX is preparing to conduct a mission for the Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE - which translates to the 'National Space Activities Commission') of Argentina - it is the government's space agency in charge of space programs. The mission will consist of deploying SAOCOM-1B, an Earth-imaging satellite into Polar Orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket. The mission was previously scheduled to liftoff on March 30, but was postponed amid the Coronavirus outbreak that swept the globe. There were travel restrictions a couple of months ago, so, Argentinian engineers were unable to travel to California to prepare the satellite before launch. Now, the satellite is rescheduled to launch from pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station between July 25 and July 30. The launch time each day is set for approximately 7:19 p.m. EDT. according to Argentina’s space program officials.
CONAE officials shipped the SAOCOM 1B satellite on February 21st to SpaceX facilities situated in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The satellite was transported to the United States aboard an Antonov AN124 aircraft, which took off from Argentina on Saturday, February 22. The SAOCOM 1B is undergoing final preparations.
Conocé cómo se preparan las y los profesionales que participan en la campaña de lanzamiento del satélite de observación #SAOCOM1B, previsto para fines de julio.— CONAE (@CONAE_Oficial) July 18, 2020
Seguí la historia en la web: https://t.co/3v1ezVuHu8 🇦🇷 🛰 pic.twitter.com/Q01eXOcVuO
Last week, CONAE engineers traveled from Argentina to SpaceX’s facility at the Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral. The team quarantined for a week to ensure they were not ill of the COVID-19 respiratory illness. All SAOCOM-1B engineers tested negative for the COVID-19 virus before departing Argentina, and were tested a second time in the United States before they were permitted to enter SpaceX facilities, according to CONAE. They are all taking the necessary precautions as they resume operations to prepare the satellite ahead of launch. “Due to the particularities of this campaign, we had to assemble a strategic group that could travel to the United States to attend the launch in Cape Canaveral, minimizing the risks of contagion and optimizing the development of activities, which are very specific. Each professional was chosen for their technical background, their experience, and their personal situation, which also includes their families,” CONAE said in a press release.
Bitácora SAOCOM 1B. Primer día de campaña de lanzamiento en facilidades de SpaceX en Cabo Cañaveral, EEUU ¿Querés saber cómo continuará implementándose el protocolo de seguridad e higiene de la misión espacial más importante de la Argentina?👉https://t.co/sVGCM96KyZ🛰️🇦🇷#HayEquipo pic.twitter.com/rUihsSGsAE— CONAE (@CONAE_Oficial) July 13, 2020
The 6,600-pound SAOCOM-1B satellite was manufactured in Argentina. It will serve to generate early warning systems for floods, crop loss risk, monitor their country's sea against illegal fishing, and also to support the management of environmental emergencies, such as detection of oil spills at sea and monitoring of water coverage during floods, among other applications. The satellite is equipped with complex Earth observation technology featuring advanced optical sensors, known as Synthetic-aperture radar (SAR). SAR is a radar that creates 2D images or 3D visuals of landscapes on our planet. It will create 225 images per day of Argentina's surface.
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket will deploy the satellite into Polar Orbit, at an altitude of approximately 620-kilometers above Earth. Once SAOCOM 1B is operational, it will be capable of detecting any weather condition on our planet's surface, it will serve as a forecast system for flooding by detecting moisture levels within the soil. Detecting soil moisture will also help Argentinian producers know the best time for planting, also give them insight on fertilization and irrigation in crops such as sunflower, wheat, soybeans, and corn. Satellite will also provide support concerning the use of chemicals for disease control in crops. The radar's microwaves will be able to "see" at any time of the day, pass through the clouds both during the day and at night, even if it is cloudy. These characteristics make the SAOCOM 1B satellite especially useful for monitoring and mitigating natural or anthropic catastrophes.
The SAOCOM-1B satellite will also be accompanied by a 220-pound commercial radar imaging satellite owned by Capella Space, a San Francisco-based company, atop the Falcon 9 rocket. A radio occultation microsatellite for PlanetiQ is also booked with SpaceX to launch with SAOCOM-1B and Capella’s radar satellite.