This week, the Space Coast is set to be the site of three launches, capping off a busy summer that saw its share of historic missions, including launch of a new Mars rover and the first crewed liftoff from U.S. soil in nearly a decade.
First, in the middle of the night Thursday, United Launch Alliance will attempt to send up a national defense satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, an agency of the Department of Defense. Few details have been publicized about what exactly the satellite will do.
Codenamed NROL-44, the mission is scheduled for 2:12 a.m. from Launch Complex 37B. The satellite will ride aboard ULA’s biggest rocket, the Delta IV Heavy, that comprises three booster cores strapped together capable of 2.1 million pounds of thrust.
Also on Thursday, SpaceX is targeting 7:19 p.m. to launch a radar imagery satellite for Argentina’s space agency. Called the SAOCOM 1B, the satellite has been billed as a way to help emergency responders and monitor the environment.
The satellite will launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 40. Weather for that launch is currently at 80% “go.”
The last of the three missions is another from SpaceX that will deliver another batch of Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit as part of founder Elon Musk’s vision to set up a constellation of satellites to deliver fast, affordable internet to even remote parts of the planet.
On board there will be about 60 small satellites. After the weekend launch, almost 700 of the 12,000 satellites SpaceX has been approved to operate will be in orbit.
An exact time for the Saturday launch has not been announced, but the mission is slated to lift off from Launch Complex 39A.
In an FCC filing last month, SpaceX said there has already been an “extraordinary demand” from potential Starlink customers and Musk expects to sell in-home devices for the network to 5 million people in the United States alone.
America’s quest to once again fly humans to space and bring them back again was realized Sunday with a cannonball splash into the Gulf of Mexico.
In May, SpaceX launched Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard the Falcon 9 to the International Space Station, ending a drought without crewed launches from American soil since the Shuttle Program ended in 2011. On Aug. 2, Hurley and Behnken splashed down into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, after 63 days in space.
Also this summer, NASA and United Launch Alliance sent to Mars a new rover aboard the Atlas V rocket that will scout out signs of ancient life and, for the first time, bring back Martian rock samples to study.
The Perseverance rover, which launched July 30, is set to arrive at the Red Planet in February where it will collect samples and leave them behind for another future mission to retrieve.
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World news – GB – Three launches, one ULA and two SpaceX, scheduled from Cape Canaveral this week