The launch and orbit insertion of #GOESS (GOES17) was flawless and spectacular (my photos and video)

As many of you know, I was invited by NASA to attend the launch event today (as press) of the newest GOES-S weather satellite, which will become GOES-17 once commissioned. This trip was made possible by the generous donations of WUWT readers, for which I’m very grateful.

I had been on Twitter all during launch day about it @wattsupwiththat You’ll find some additional tidbits there. The Atlas-V carrying the satellite successfully launched at 5:02pm ET, to provide researchers, meteorologists and the public with faster, more accurate weather data. And let me tell you, that’s the truth.

There’s a tremendous amount I learned and witnessed, which I’ll write up in the days ahead. But for now, here’s the launch from 3.5 miles away via my Nikon Coolpix 900, all hand held video. BTW, That Nikon Coolpix 900 has a fantastic built in zoom of 83x, and I bought it a couple of years ago at the suggestion of Dr. Roy Spencer. Truly the best camera I’ve ever owned for photographing anything in the sky. There’s an artifact in the video that happened at the last minute I didn’t know about until afterwards. I must have bumped into another person, because the lens had a faint dab of sunscreen on it, and that made the lens flare effect. Overall, I’m still happy with it.

Video by Anthony Watts

And afterwards, the exhaust trail:

Photo by Anthony Watts

From NASA:

The second in a series of four next-generation weather satellites is now in geosynchronous transfer orbit above the Earth. NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-S (GOES-S) launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 5:02 p.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 on March 1, 2018, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES-S). Liftoff was at 5:02 p.m. EST. Photo credit: NASA/Bill White

There were no weather constraints at the time of rocket liftoff.

“It was a chamber of commerce day,” said NASA Launch Director Tim Dunn. “We’ve been working on GOES-S for about 15 months. This is a huge year for the Launch Services Program.”

GOES-S separated from the United Launch Alliance Centaur upper stage at 8:34 p.m. EST, followed shortly afterward by mission manager confirmation that the spacecraft’s Stage 1 solar array successfully deployed and the spacecraft was operating on its own power.

When it reaches geostationary orbit 22,300 miles above Earth, in approximately two weeks, it will be renamed GOES-17. It is the second in the GOES-R Series of weather satellites that includes GOES-16 (formerly GOES-R), along with -S, -T and -U. When the satellite is declared operational, late this year, it will occupy NOAA’s GOES-West position and provide faster, more accurate data for tracking wildfires, tropical cyclones, fog and other storm systems and hazards that threaten the western United States, including Hawaii and Alaska, Mexico, Central America and the Pacific Ocean, all the way to New Zealand. More information about NOAA’s GOES satellites is available at

Added: here are some photos from the day before, where I was given access right up to the gate of launch pad 41:

The control center:

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jIM a
March 2, 2018 1:37 am

splendid! congrats

Bill J
March 2, 2018 2:39 am

A successful trip and successful launch. It’s great that you were able to take advantage of the opportunity to witness it in person. You also got to ask some excellent questions!
Well done.

Reply to  Bill J
March 2, 2018 7:29 am

Not for nothing, but how did this launch compare budget-wise with recent SpaceX launch (ie. a successful launch at twice the price is not successful), secondly where’s the video of the main rocket landing? The bar has been set – no?

Bloke down the pub
March 2, 2018 2:57 am

I watched the launch online and while it is always exciting to see one go upstairs, I’m sure it was nothing like being there in person. I’m jealous, but you deserve it.

March 2, 2018 3:27 am

Look mum! Chemtrails!

Reply to  Leo Smith
March 7, 2018 3:10 am

In an era of ‘America First’ it nice to know those chemtrails are powered aloft by Russia techology —
“Each Atlas V rocket uses a Russian-built RD-180 engine burning kerosene and liquid oxygen to power its first stage and an American-built RL10 engine burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to power its Centaur upper stage.”
Not only chemtrails by a large quantity of CO2 are liberated at take-off, some of it going straight into the stratosphere.

March 2, 2018 3:34 am

Where did they fit the Tesla?

Ed Reid
Reply to  LittleOil
March 2, 2018 6:37 am

Parking lot?

March 2, 2018 3:48 am

Spectacular video.
I’ve been told you can’t really appreciate the power of the big rockets unless you experience the noise up close and personal. Like being there. Any truth in that?

Reply to  Leigh
March 2, 2018 7:12 am

not sure but I do know watching a vid of a B1B bomber taking off (shot at close range) vs being hundreds of feet away personally on live takeoff is like night and day.
shakes you to your soul when afterburners lit.
so….to digress….I would expect the same with a rocket launch.

Reply to  dmacleo
March 2, 2018 10:01 am

Having been very close to the runway for a couple of Concorde takeoffs, the noise is phenomenal.
I’ve only seen an STS launch from about 40 miles away – very impressive, but silent.
There is a film about the STS program, and it ends with short clips of the liftoffs of the first 19 or so STS launches. The theater sound system was cranked way up, and the room was hsaking every time the solids lit all the way through the end of each clip.
Big engines make a lot of noise and sub-audible vibration.

Reply to  dmacleo
March 2, 2018 11:13 am

The rocket noise reverberates in your chest it is so loud. I watched a shuttle launch, from a couple miles farther away than Anthony was here and this was still the case.

Reply to  Leigh
March 2, 2018 7:35 am

Yes, there is. You can feel the launch in you bones.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  rocketscientist
March 3, 2018 5:10 pm

Infrasound at its best.

Reply to  Leigh
March 2, 2018 2:13 pm

Absolutely true. Launch is one of those events that must be experienced in person to truly appreciate.

Reply to  Leigh
March 2, 2018 3:36 pm

I live in Simi Valley and until a few years ago Rocketdyne used to test fire engines up on the “hill”. When ever they would test them our whole house would shake. We lived about 5 miles from the stands. I was fortunate enough to be invited to a night time test fire of an SME. My fatherinlaw was a mechanic on the test stands. We were quite close and it makes your whole body vibrate. An amazing sight, especially at night.

March 2, 2018 3:50 am

What a way to start the day!
Are the four towers surrounding the launch structure lightning rods??

Reply to  RichDo
March 2, 2018 10:01 am


March 2, 2018 3:54 am

Snapshot of launch (taken by a nearby robocam?):comment image

James Bull
March 2, 2018 4:01 am

How cool was that?
Enjoy the rest of your time there and safe home.
James Bull

March 2, 2018 4:04 am

Wow that looks like an amazing experience! Thank you for taking so many photos!

Roy W. Spencer
March 2, 2018 4:26 am

Cool experience for you. Yes, the lens flare in just one direction like that is probably from a smudge, after making the final wipe of the lens in one direction. For something that bright (a rocket launch, the sun), the lens has to be absolutely clean. And even with that, you can probably expect some flare since the optical elements aren’t super-expensive in that camera.

James Schrumpf
March 2, 2018 4:27 am

Any more decals on that puppy and it’d look like a NASCAR entry!

Gunga Din
Reply to  James Schrumpf
March 2, 2018 5:29 am

The STP sticker must have been on the other side.

Reply to  James Schrumpf
March 2, 2018 4:10 pm

I remember one of the commercial launches I worked, I got to be a major battle between executives about which company’s logos went where.

March 2, 2018 4:40 am

Too cool for words. Glad you made the trip, Anthony.

Scott Wilmot Bennett
March 2, 2018 4:41 am

That is on my “bucket list” for sure, to be there and to see a space launch would “complete me”!
I’m not joking, that would be a profound experience, having read the “Right Stuff” I’m sold on the US space program.
However, I cant help but seeing the Russian rocket (Atlas V) blasting your payload into orbit. And based on the insane political environment of the US, that dictates that all things Russian are subversive, it must take some of the shine off the achievement! 😉 /wit

James Schrumpf
Reply to  Scott Wilmot Bennett
March 2, 2018 5:54 am

Well, it’s just the first stage engine (RD-180) that’s Russian-built. Everything else was made from parts available at Walmart.

Reply to  James Schrumpf
March 2, 2018 4:14 pm

So much for anti Russia sanctions, lol.
(France exports were most impacted by this hysteria.)

Reply to  Scott Wilmot Bennett
March 2, 2018 7:09 am

I saw two shuttle launches when I lived in Tampa, one of them was at night.
Still not as good as being there.

March 2, 2018 4:56 am

Thanks Anthony. Very interesting and excellent pictures with the Nikon camera.

March 2, 2018 5:04 am

… a fantastic built in zoom of 83x …

I have trouble with 1x without a tripod. I can’t even imagine 83x without a telescope. Has the technology left me behind?

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  commieBob
March 2, 2018 6:25 am

“Steadicam” or picture stabilization via software.

March 2, 2018 5:19 am

Great video, must have been really fun, thanks Anthony for this!

March 2, 2018 5:33 am

For all of us that have seen rocket launches, we know how you feel. My first was Apollo 13 100 years ago. To me it is amazing how fast they disappear. A lot of noise and smoke at first, roaring then 2 minutes later it is pretty much over. Even the smaller rockets are fun to watch, especially at night.
Safe travels back to the land of milk and Prius’s and thanks for sharing.

March 2, 2018 5:34 am

Very great. This video is spectacular. The Earth’s rotation is used to start, just great.

March 2, 2018 5:41 am

Thanks for posting these great photos of the launch! I had to take a phone call at about 5:01ET, moments before the launch, and I missed the whole thing! Such is life…

March 2, 2018 5:54 am

When I watched a shuttle launch I was told not to try to video or take photos but to just enjoy the experience fully. In my excitement I couldn’t help taking a few shots. I guess it’s different when you’re press!

March 2, 2018 6:31 am

The only thing as cool as a launch is learning the most of the buildings were built in the 60’s and have survived hurricanes and other strong winds and weather anomalies. All of them were designed and computations made using slide rules. The calculators of the day didn’t have the precision nor were they sophisticated enough for the computations needed. The engineering which went into the buildings in my mind is just as incredible!

Reply to  RHS
March 2, 2018 6:57 am

I have a “byte” from the original Apollo clock. It is a full sized circuit board probably 4″ x 8″ with 9 giant transistors on it. 8 bits plus a checksum I guess. I will say due to these constraints, the OS was pretty lean.
I remember a quote from Bill Gates saying he could never see memory needing to be more than 640K.
Now we have extremely powerful computers allowing us to create climate models that can predict the Earth’s temperature a hundred years into the future to an accuracy to tenth’s of a degree with certainties of 97%. We’ve come a long way.

Reply to  rbabcock
March 2, 2018 7:12 am

8 bits plus parity. Checksums are held in their own byte.
I thought the Apollo’s used magnetic core memory.
I saw a sample of one when I visited Huntsville. When I was there they also had the Apollo 23 command module and a couple of moon rocks.

Reply to  rbabcock
March 2, 2018 7:29 am

This was a clock from the Apollo ground control center. I got it one day while visiting the “air museum” at the Florence SC airport. I flew there with my son and brother-in-law on a day trip.
The man who ran it was in the Apollo program and great friends with one of the guys who ran the program. The museum consisted of a bunch of Vietnam era aircraft sitting outside kind of rotting away. The inside had a bunch of Apollo items like a space suit and even an actual moon rock (sent back to NASA a few years later). We were the only ones there and had about an hour talk with him. As we left he gave my son the circuit board. A simpler time.
The museum there is now history.

Reply to  rbabcock
March 2, 2018 7:35 am

That was long after Atari and Nintendo were one upping each; and Osborne and IBM’s early competitor were believers that 64k and 128k were unnecessary.

Reply to  rbabcock
March 2, 2018 9:40 am

Last time I visited the museum in Huntsville, sitting next to the moon rover, was an elderly gentleman who had been one of the engineers who had designed the rovers. That was one of the most interesting talks I’ve ever had.

Reply to  rbabcock
March 2, 2018 10:34 am

Neat, RBA.
I flew with the military copy of the Apollo LEM IBM computer, and it did, in fact, have “core” memory. I t.hink it was named PI Three. I also think it had only about 64 K of RAM, but the OS and such was on the non-volatile magnetic core donuts and likely more for its ROM. Later worked with the Draper Lab folks who programmed a lot of the Apollo stuff and had a chance to see their LEM landing sim station – was just a tv screen and the control handles/sticks up against a wall, heh heh. All of this was 90% slide rule stuff, boys and girls!!
Later in life I flew the Viper and our original computer had 128K. That was 1979 versus 1968. And then things took off!
How times have changed.
Gums recalls…

Alan Tomalty
March 2, 2018 7:02 am

Cool pics

March 2, 2018 7:21 am

When a launch is viewed from a fixed location such as yours it appears that the vehicle/rocket begins a trajectory that becomes more and more horizontal as it ascends. Question: Does the trajectory change from vertical after lift-off or is it just a result of the camera’s viewpoint and caused by the Earth’s rotation and the camera’s fixed viewpoint?

Reply to  eyesonu
March 2, 2018 8:21 am

The vehicle trajectory does begin the arc towards horizontal so it can achieve orbital speeds. Typically the “knee” in the flight trajectory is above where the atmosphere begins to thin. This allows the rocket to punch through the thickest air in the least distance travelled. This orbit is a geosynchronous one so it is very high which means that the trajectory won’t “bend over” as much as one intended for LEO.

Reply to  rocketscientist
March 2, 2018 8:23 am

Thank you

Reply to  rocketscientist
March 2, 2018 11:27 am

My kids and I have played around with a very basic space/rocket sim app for Android called Simple Rockets. The beauty of it is it does a great job of explaining (through gameplay) orbital mechanics. Stuff that I had a very elmentary understanding became clear when we played through a few of the challenges. Very fun stuff to learn about!

Pop Piasa
Reply to  rocketscientist
March 3, 2018 5:17 pm

Thank you, also.

Reply to  eyesonu
March 2, 2018 10:23 am

Actchally, the profile starts more horizontal very soon. I think they balance the max-Q with getting the most velocity as soon as they can. I can’t find my picture of the second to last shuttle lurch, but the sucker was clearly climbing at about 15 degreees or so by reaching 10,000 feet. We were north of Titusville with a host of viewers that knew where to be.
The ISS missions must head northeast ( ISS inclination), but the geostationary orbits can fully exploit the latitude velocity heading more to the east. So re-supply missions best viewed north of Titusville in that hospital parking lot, and the wx satellite lurches best viewed from the new Space X parking lot and the parking area for “the Love boats” in Port Canaveral. You also get to see the booster landing.
Neat stuff, and I am really happy that Anthony got the view and was “invited”.

Reply to  eyesonu
March 2, 2018 2:21 pm

Google “gravity turn”.

March 2, 2018 7:25 am

Amazing pics!!
Excellent video. Thanks for sharing.

March 2, 2018 7:41 am

So glad you were able to make it there, Anthony. And thanks for sharing your experience with us.
Safe travels.

Larry Hamlin
March 2, 2018 8:55 am

So glad you could have this experience!! Thanks for sharing it!!

March 2, 2018 11:55 am

Oooooo! Do another one!

Larry in Texas
March 2, 2018 12:26 pm

Looks pretty awesome. I bet it was spectacular in person, Anthony.
I wonder why it takes two weeks to achieve geostationary orbit. Maybe someone can do a piece here about how this stuff works.

Reply to  Larry in Texas
March 2, 2018 6:18 pm

Very hard to zoom straight up to the 22,000 mile +/- orbit and stabilize there. And then what do you do with that second or third stage rocket that got you there?
So the trick is to do a transfer orbit that has a high point a bit above the final altitude of 22K and a low altitude where the second stage rocket ran outta gas. You then use the onboard thrusters to give a nudge every time you get to that high point and also correct for the slight inclination of the orbit, because you didn’t launch directly from the equator. Even tho your position over the Earth seems fairly constant and your orbit takes a day, you have to go faster in real terms than the ISS and low orbit stuff. So you gradually raise the low point and eventually stabilize at the 22K altitude. Along the way you dodge all the other satellites and creep east or west to the desired longitude. Some of the suckers up there, and likely most, appear to move in a tight figure eight versus a perfect stationary spot.
Hope that helps.
Gums sends…

eddie willers
March 2, 2018 4:03 pm

No ashtrays on the desks? What would the Mercury team do?

March 2, 2018 5:36 pm

Completely awesome launch! Thanks for sharing!

March 2, 2018 7:12 pm

Thanks to all who gave directions to help with my question. I had many as answers lead to more questions. You know who you are as do I.

Eric Gisin
March 2, 2018 10:19 pm

What the heck do those signs on the fence mean? A red fireman and white spaceman.

Geoff Sherrington
March 2, 2018 10:19 pm

Wow, the acceleration from zero velocity is staggering.
For an old fossil fuel beastie, that rocket sure beats anything electrical I’ve read about.
Geoff. (not serious).

March 3, 2018 3:13 am

Very cool to have been there. Fantastic Anthony!

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