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Florida’s Space Coast on track after Ian, scheduled for 3 launches in 3 days

Enlarge / United Launch Alliance moves its Atlas V booster to the Vertical Integration Facility adjacent to Space Launch Complex-41 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Monday, August 26.

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Hurricane Ian tore through Florida this week and its core passed directly over the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral on Thursday.

By then, however, Ian had weakened to a moderately strong tropical storm, with most of its heaviest precipitation north of launch pads along the Atlantic coast. As a result, damage to NASA’s launch facilities at Kennedy Space Center and Space Force launch pads at Cape Canaveral was minimal.

Consequently, by Friday, work was underway at facilities along Florida’s “Space Coast” for a quick succession of three launches in three days.

SES-20 and SES-21

The first is a commercial mission on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket to launch the SES-20 and SES-21 satellites for Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES. Stacked in its “531” configuration, this Atlas rocket has a five-meter-diameter payload fairing, three solid rocket boosters, and an upper-stage Centaur motor.

On Friday, the United Launch Alliance said all progress continues toward the launch of this mission on Tuesday, October 4, from Space Launch Complex-41 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The launch is scheduled for 17:36 EST (21:36 UTC). The weather is forecast to be favorable, with a 70 percent chance of favorable conditions for launch.

After launch, the Atlas V rocket will place the pair of communications satellites into near-circular, near-geosynchronous orbits. Once separated, the satellites will use onboard propulsion systems to circularize their orbits to 35,900 km above the equator.

Crew-5

The next step in Florida is NASA’s Crew-5 mission, which will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station. NASA officials confirmed that this mission remains scheduled for noon EST (16:00 UTC) on October 5 from Launch Complex-39A at the 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, have been waiting at the Johnson Space Center in Houston awaiting the result of Hurricane Ian. However, they will now fly to Florida on Saturday in preparation for the launch.

Meanwhile, SpaceX will roll its Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the launch pad on Friday night or Saturday, before a static-fire test on Sunday. It looks like there are no significant technical issues to work on before the release next Wednesday.

Galaxy 33 and 34

Finally, on October 6, SpaceX plans an additional launch. For this mission, from Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral, a Falcon 9 rocket will place Intelsat’s Galaxy 33 and 34 telecommunications satellites into geostationary transfer orbit. The launch is scheduled for 7:07 pm EST (23:07 UTC).

It should be noted that for this mission, this Falcon 9 first stage booster will make its fourteenth launch. This is the first time a SpaceX rocket has flown a purely commercial payload on its 10th flight or later. This strongly suggests that the commercial satellite market is becoming increasingly comfortable with SpaceX’s refurbishment process, even for well-used rockets.

Artemis I

NASA also said Friday that its Artemis I hardware survived Hurricane Ian very well, safely hidden inside the large Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center. The agency will try to have the rocket ready for a launch attempt in about six weeks.

“As crews complete post-storm recovery operations, NASA has determined that it will focus Artemis I launch planning efforts on the launch window beginning November 12 and ending November 27.” NASA said in a blog post.. “In the coming days, managers will assess the scope of work to be done while at VAB and identify a specific date for the next launch attempt.”

In the coming days, engineers and technicians will extend the access platforms around the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft inside the Vehicle Assembly Building to conduct inspections and begin preparing for the next launch attempt, which includes retesting the flight termination system.

The rocket and spacecraft have been fully stacked for more than 11 months, so NASA wants to make sure all the batteries, stored propellants and other “limited-life items” on the vehicles are still in good working order. before. rolling to the launch pad again.

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