NASA announced that it has signed a contract with SpaceX for the launch of the Falcon Heavy’s U Geostationary Operational Environmental (GOES) spacecraft. Launch is scheduled for April 2024 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The agency said the contract is valued at $152.5 million.
GOES-U is the fourth and final satellite in the GOES-R series of satellites, which monitor Earth and space weather from geostationary orbit. The GOES-R was launched in November 2016 and has been renamed GOES-16, operating from the GOES East slot at 75 degrees West on GEO.
GOES-S was launched in March 2018 and became the GOES-17, operating from the GOES West slot at 137 degrees West. The GOES-T is scheduled to launch in January 2022 and will replace the GOES-17 due to problems with that satellite’s main instrument, the Advanced Baseline Imager.
GOES-R and GOES-S were each launched in an Atlas 5, and GOES-T is scheduled to launch in an Atlas 5. NASA’s contract announcement did not reveal the reason for SpaceX’s selection to launch the GOES-U.
The GOES-U contract value is slightly less than the award made to ULA in December 2019 for the launch of the GOES-T, $165.7 million.
The GOES-U victory increases the Falcon Heavy’s rollover for SpaceX. In July, NASA awarded SpaceX a contract to launch the Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter’s icy and potentially habitable moon, also slated for 2024.
Other NASA awards include the Psyche asteroid mission, the first two moon portal elements, and the Gateway Logistics Services Agreement, where SpaceX will use the Falcon Heavy for two Dragon XL spacecraft launches to transport cargo to the moon portal.
SpaceX also won a Falcon Heavy contract from Astrobotic in April to launch its Griffin lunar module carrying NASA’s VIPER rover as part of the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program.
The Falcon Heavy is part of SpaceX’s National Security Space Launch Phase 2 contract awarded in August 2020, making the vehicle eligible for future national security launches.
The Falcon Heavy has been launched three times, all successfully, but the last release was the Space Test Program 2 mission in June 2019. The next release of the Falcon Heavy, on a US Space Force mission designated USSF-44, is scheduled for no earlier than October.