SpaceX pushes Falcon Heavy launch after Christmas while ULA pushes Vulcan into new year – Orlando Sentinel

SpaceX pushes Falcon Heavy launch after Christmas while ULA pushes Vulcan into new year – Orlando Sentinel

There’s no chance SpaceX or United Launch Alliance will accidentally hit Santa Claus with their big rockets over Christmas, as both companies have postponed the next launches of their Falcon Heavy and Vulcan Centaur rockets.

SpaceX announced it would target a launch of its powerful Falcon Heavy rocket no later than December 28, which came within an hour of liftoff last week from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39-A, but a “groundside issue” and then very bad weather. Circumstances forced friction and further delay.

The new launch target for the Space Force’s USSF-52 mission falls within a four-hour window that opens at 7 p.m. on Thursday between the Christmas and New Year’s weekends. Its payload is the Boeing X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, the secretive spacecraft making its seventh trip into orbit in what is expected to be a years-long mission in space.

The Falcon Heavy, making its ninth launch ever and fifth this year, is essentially three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together and produces 5.1 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, the most powerful rocket in regular use. Its side boosters will also attempt to land at nearby Cape Canaveral Space Station, which produces a pair of double sonic booms that can be heard and felt on the Space Coast and deeper into central Florida.

A second SpaceX rocket, which has been repeatedly checked due to weather, may still launch this week from Space Launch Complex 40 at Canaveral, but SpaceX has not yet announced a new launch target for it.

United Launch Alliance was also planning to send up its big new rocket, Vulcan Centaur, before the end of the year, most recently targeting a launch on Christmas Eve, but a delay in a launch rehearsal last week forced ULA to reschedule any attempt until the new year.

The Certification-1 mission could fly during a four-day window starting on Jan. 8, said Torey Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO.

The replacement for ULA’s retired Atlas V and Delta IV Heavy rockets is also more powerful than both with 4.1 million pounds of liftoff thrust.

Its main payload is Astrobotic Technology’s Peregrine lunar lander, which could be the first in a series of NASA missions to the Moon under commercial Lunar Payload Services contracts.

It’s already a busy launch window for the Space Coast with the first crewed launch of the year, a special four-person Axiom Space mission for a two-week visit to the International Space Station, targeting a possible Jan. 9 launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon spacecraft. 9 in the Freedom Dragon Crew.

This flight could come from either KSC or Cape Canaveral where SpaceX plans to complete the new crew access arm at its Canaveral site.

It’s possible that SpaceX is juggling launchpads as it is tasked with sending another NASA CLPS mission with another Falcon 9 rocket launching on January 12 flying on Intuitive Machines’ IM-1 mission with the Nova-C lunar lander.

The Space Coast has seen a record 68 orbital launches so far in 2023 with expectations of closer to 100 launches for 2024.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *