|A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket, with the Air Force’s AFSPC-4 mission aboard.(Photo: United Launch Alliance)|
Excerpt from news-press.com
With two dozen rockets projected to blast payloads into orbit, Cape Canaveral this year hopes to claim the title of “world’s busiest spaceport,” the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing said Tuesday.
“It’s a great time to be here,” said Col. Thomas Falzarano, commander of the Wing’s 45th Operations Group. “Business is booming.”
Falzarano presented the Eastern Range launch forecast to several hundred guests at the National Space Club Florida Committee’s meeting in Cape Canaveral.
Weather, technical issues and program changes frequently delay launches, so it’s likely some of the missions will slip into next year. But the forecast shows the Space Coast launching at an increasingly busy clip even without human spaceflight missions, which aren’t expected to resume for several years.
The 2015 forecast anticipates United Launch Alliance matching last year’s total of 10 Cape launches, including eight by Atlas V rockets and two by Delta IV rockets.
And it assumes as many as 14 launches by SpaceX. Last year had six Falcon 9 flights.
That was SpaceX’s most launches in a calendar year, but five fewer than was projected last January.
This year the company hopes to activate a second launch pad, complementing its existing one at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The debut of the Falcon Heavy rocket from a former Apollo and shuttle pad at Kennedy Space Center would be one of this year’s most highly anticipated launches.
In addition, SpaceX plans to launch more ISS resupply missions, and commercial and government satellites.
ULA’s first launch of the year is coming up Tuesday, with an Atlas V targeting a 7:43 p.m. liftoff with a Navy communications satellite.
The Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture has its usual slate of high-value science and national security missions. The manifest includes a roughly $1 billion NASA science mission, an X-37B military space plane and more Global Positioning System satellites.
Overall last year, the 45th Space Wing supported 16 space launches — five less than projected last January (all attributed to SpaceX) — plus two Trident missile tests launched from submarines.
That ranked the Cape No. 2 behind the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan, Falzarano said.
But with 24 missions potentially on the books this year and more than 30 in various planning stages for 2016, Falzarano said the Eastern Range is facing its busiest two-year stretch in more than two decades.
“The Cape, right here, is going to be the busiest spaceport in the world,” he said.
Growing launch rate
•2015: 24 (projected)
Source: U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing