SpaceX's big Falcon Heavy rocket just got another gig.
NASA has picked Falcon Heavy to launch the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-U (GOES-U), with a planned liftoff in April 2024 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, agency officials announced on Friday (Sept. 10). The total launch cost for NASA will be about $152.5 million, they added.
"GOES-U will provide advanced imagery and atmospheric measurements of Earth’s weather, oceans and environment, as well as real-time mapping of total lightning activity and improved monitoring of solar activity and space weather." NASA officials said in a statement Friday.
GOES-U will be the fourth and final spacecraft in the GOES-R series, a collaboration between NASA and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These highly capable weather satellites, which are operated by NOAA, eye Earth from geostationary orbit, 22,236 miles (35,785 kilometers) above the planet's surface.
Falcon Heavy has just three liftoffs under its belt to date, but it's poised to get quite a workout in the near future. The powerful rocket is scheduled to launch two classified missions for the U.S. Space Force over the next few months, for example. It will also loft, among other payloads, NASA's Psyche asteroid probe in August 2022, the agency's Europa Clipper mission in October 2024 and the first big piece of NASA's Gateway moon-orbiting space station in November 2024.
And we can now add GOES-U to the docket as well.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.