Florida’s Space Coast on track after Ian, scheduled for 3 launches in 3 days
Hurricane Ian cut a devastating swath across Florida this week, and its core passed directly over Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral on Thursday.
However, by then Ian had weakened to a moderately strong tropical storm, with most of its heaviest rainfall north of the launch pads along the Atlantic coast. As a result, damage to NASA launch facilities at Kennedy Space Center and Space Force launch pads at Cape Canaveral was minimal.
As a result, on Friday, work was already underway at facilities along Florida’s “Space Coast” for a rapid-fire succession of three launches in three days.
SES-20 and SES-21
The first stage is a commercial mission on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket to launch the SES-20 and SES-21 satellites for Luxembourg satellite operator SES. Stacked in its “531” configuration, this Atlas rocket has a payload fairing five meters in diameter, three solid rocket boosters and one engine on the Centaur upper stage.
On Friday, United Launch Alliance said that everything continues to progress towards launching this mission on Tuesday, October 4 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The launch is scheduled for 5:36 p.m. EST (21:36 UTC). Weather conditions are expected to be favourable, with a 70% chance of favorable conditions for launch.
After launch, the Atlas V rocket will deliver the pair of communications satellites into near-circular, near-geosynchronous orbits. Once separated, the satellites will use onboard propulsion systems to circularize their orbits 35,900 km above the equator.
Next in Florida is NASA’s Crew-5 mission, which will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station. NASA officials have confirmed that this mission remains scheduled for noon EST (4:00 p.m. UTC) on October 5 from Launch Complex-39A at Kennedy Space Center.
The crew of four – NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina – remained at Johnson Space Center in Houston while waiting the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. However, they will now fly to Florida on Saturday for the launch.
SpaceX, meanwhile, will taxi its Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the launch pad Friday night or Saturday, before a static firing test on Sunday. There don’t appear to be any major technical issues to work out before the launch next Wednesday.
Galaxy 33 and 34
Finally, on October 6, SpaceX is planning an additional launch. For this mission, from Space Launch Complex-40 in Cape Canaveral, a Falcon 9 rocket will bring Intelsat’s Galaxy 33 and 34 communications satellites into geostationary transfer orbit. Launch is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. EST (23:07 UTC).
Note for this mission, this Falcon 9 first stage booster will perform its 14th launch. It’s the first time a SpaceX rocket has carried a purely commercial payload on its 10th flight or later. This strongly suggests that the commercial satellite market is becoming more comfortable with SpaceX’s refurbishment process, even for the most used rockets.
NASA also said Friday that its Artemis I hardware survived Hurricane Ian just fine, safely inside the large vehicle assembly building at Kennedy Space Center. The agency will aim to have the rocket ready for a launch attempt in about six weeks.
“As crews complete storm recovery operations, NASA has determined that it will focus launch planning efforts for Artemis I during the launch window that opens Nov. 12 and ends Nov. 27. “, said NASA in a blog post. “Over the next few days, officials will assess the extent of the work to be done in the VAB and identify a specific date for the next launch attempt.”
In the coming days, engineers and technicians will extend access platforms around the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft inside the Vehicle Assembly Building to perform inspections and begin prepare for the next launch attempt, including retesting the flight termination system.
The rocket and spacecraft have been in this fully-stacked state for over 11 months, so NASA wants to make sure all the various batteries, stored propellants and other “limited life items” on the vehicles are still in good condition. working condition before rolling back to the dashboard again.