SpaceX Will Build Radar Wind Models for NASA, Mars Rocket Tests

This is not investment advice. The author has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. WCCF TECH INC has a disclosure and ethics policy.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) plans to generate radar-based wind models for its test facility in Boca Chica, Texas. This reveal comes courtesy of a filing SpaceX made with the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Office of Experimental Technologies (OET) last week. The filing outlines the company's plans to "Generate historical wind models at the Boca Chica Range," using a third-party manufacturer's tropospheric radar wind profiler. SpaceX is testing its next-generation launch vehicle (rocket) platform dubbed Starship in Texas. Through Starship, the company hopes to take NASA astronauts to the Moon and conduct interplanetary missions to Mars.

SpaceX Will Plan Starship Tests By Using Boca Chica Wind Profiles

If approved by the FCC, the plan will enable SpaceX to manage one of the biggest hurdles towards maintaining a successful launch cadence for modern-day spaceflight. Its Crew and Cargo missions to the International Space Station (ISS) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are often rescheduled due to wind conditions at the launch and recovery sites. Both have to be perfect for a crewed launch since the Dragon capsule needs to have an emergency landing site available in case of a mission abort.

NASA Astronaut Shows Bent Spine After Spending Six Months In Space

To create wind models for Boca Chica, SpaceX will use Colorado-based Radiometrics Corp.'s FBS-T (Full Beam Steering - Troposphere) tropospheric radar wind profiler. According to information listed on the manufacturer's website, this profiler is capable of reading wind activity for altitudes as high as 8 kilometers. It uses the 400Mhz - 500Mhz frequency band for this purpose, utilizing Yagi antennas scalable to meet the customer's budget and project requirements.

For instance, in Florida, NASA's Kennedy Space Center uses the FBS - MST (Full Beam Steering - Mesosphere, Stratosphere, Troposphere) system, which is 150 meters in diameter and uses 640 Yagi elements. It is capable of generating 640 kilowatts of peak power and has a range of 20 kilometers.

Technical specifications for Radiometrics' different radar wind profilers. Image: Radiometrics Corp.

SpaceX's application to the FCC reads as follows:

This experimental program aims to generate wind models of the Boca Chica Range using data from a "Tropospheric Radar Wind Profiler". This instrument depends on the scattering of a transmitted signal by irregularities in the index of refraction of the air. The irregularities are caused by turbulent eddies created by the wind. By receiving the scattered signal and determining the Doppler frequency, the speed of the wind can be determined.

It then explicitly links the use of the wind profiler to the company's aim of making humans an interplanetary species.

According to SpaceX:

SpaceX Dragon Jump Starts Sensory Experience Outlines NASA Astronaut

The experimental use of the Radar Wind Profiler will contribute to the development of the Starship program, with the ultimate goal of making mankind a multi-planetary species, in the areas of flight safety and reliability by providing accurate, reliable wind speed/direction data.

The filing requests the Commission to grant SpaceX temporary authorization for two years. It comes as the company is gearing up to test the Starship SN15 prototype in Texas. This will be the fifth high-altitude test of the upper-stage rocket, with the previous four delivering a mix of successes and failures.

SpaceX has made a host of upgrades on the SN15 and its engines, with its chief Mr. Elon Musk confident that these should prove sufficient to recover a prototype in one piece post-landing successfully.

The company also upgraded its Crew Dragon capsule which flew NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough, Shannon McArthur, European Space Agency Astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide to the ISS last week. These include changes to the spacecraft's propulsion system to allow it to navigate stronger launch site winds and strengthening its hull to withstand stronger secondary ocean currents.