Recently, an Antonov An-124 cargo aircraft believed to be carrying an Atlas V booster took off from Huntsville, Alabama on its way to Lompoc, California.
First spotted on flight tracking by Thomas Burghardt, the aircraft is likely carrying the Atlas V booster for ULA’s launch of NASA’s Landsat-9 satellite. The launch of Landsat-9, as early as September this year, will be the first launch of an Atlas V from Vandenberg since InSight launched in May of 2018. The use of a plane for this delivery is unsurprising. Rocketship is still on its way back to Alabama, following the delivery of the Atlas V booster for the Crew Flight Test of Boeing’s Starliner. ULA often delivers rocket boosters by Antonov when Rocketship is otherwise occupied.
Landsat-9 is the latest in NASA’s Sustainable Land Imaging program satellites. The satellite, manufactured by Northrop Grumman, includes visible, infrared and shortwave infrared imagers, in addition ot thermal imagery. The satellite will increase the frequency of information gathered, by being 8 days out of from Landsat-8. With the knowledge gathered, NASA hopes to improve land use optimization. This includes properly informed urban expansion and water use, while monitoring climate change and glacier retreat.
As of writing this, the plane is still en-route, so more information and confirmation from ULA may come once the plane lands safely in California.
Atlas V has Arrived
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