SpaceX Again Aims for High Launch Cadence

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX’ is hoping the fourth time will be a charm.

For the fourth year in a row, SpaceX is trying to significant increase its launch rate.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp, better known as SpaceX, plans to launch its Falcon 9 rockets every two to three weeks, its fastest rate since starting launches in 2010, once a new launch pad is put into service in Florida next week, the company’s president told Reuters on Monday.

“We should be launching every two to three weeks,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

During each of the past three years, the company tried to vastly improve its launch cadence only to hit significant setbacks.

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SpaceX to Launch Dragon Supply Ship from Historic Launch Pad 39A

SpaceX’s 300-foot long processing hangar, which stands at the base of Launch Pad 39A, and the upgraded launch infrastructure will support the needs of astronauts and ground support staff who will access SpaceX’s Crew Dragon as it stands on the pad for launch to the International Space Station. (Credit: SpaceX)

NASA’s historic Launch Complex 39A will see its first flight in nearly six years in mid-February when a SpaceX Falcon 9 launches a Dragon resupply ship to the International Space Station.

The California-based company announced over the weekend that the launch of the EchoStar 23 communications satellite, set to be the first from the renovated pad, would be delayed until after the CRS-10 Dragon supply flight.

SpaceX is leasing the historic launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center under a 20-year agreement with NASA. The company has been modifying the launch complex for launches of the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters.

SpaceX’s main launch complex at the adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station has been out of action since September when a Falcon 9 caught fire and exploded as it was being fueled for a pre-flight engine test. Repairs are still under way.

Pad 39A last saw a launch in July 2011 with the 135th and final space shuttle mission. Atlantis flew a nearly 13-day logistics flight to the space station. Prior to the start of the shuttle program in 1981, the complex hosted Saturn V launches for the Apollo program.

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Next Cygnus Resupply Mission Set for March

The Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter is seen moments after being released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Credit: NASA TV)
The Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter is seen moments after being released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Credit: NASA TV)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Orbital ATK has completed a significant mission milestone for NASA’s next International Space Station cargo mission.

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USA, China Led World in Launches in 2016

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)

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The United States and China led the world in orbital launch attempts in 2016 with 22 apiece. The combined 44 launches made up more than half of the 85 flights conducted around the world.

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Commercial Crew Year in Review

Launch_America_Commercial_Crew
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Boeing and SpaceX made numerous advances on their crew transportation systems set to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Both companies began building the spacecraft that will fly the flight tests for the program before beginning crew rotation missions. Boeing is building the CST-100 Starliner to fly on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, and SpaceX is building its Crew Dragon spacecraft to launch atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket.

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Space Florida Pleads With Trump to Continuing Funding Major NASA Programs

Space Florida President Frank DiBello
Space Florida President Frank DiBello

Statement from Space Florida President Frank DiBello Regarding President-Elect Donald Trump

“On behalf of Space Florida, I welcome President-Elect Trump’s incoming administration and look forward to continuing our positive relationship with NASA. I have been encouraged by what I have heard of President-Elect Donald Trump’s plans for our national space program. As the incoming administration develops policies and priorities for the upcoming term, Space Florida  encourages President-Elect Trump’s incoming administration to sustain the balance of programs of record, including NASA’s Commercial Cargo and Crew programs, Space Launch System (SLS), Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion), and affiliated Ground Systems Development and Operations.

Collectively, these programs sustain the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida, this nation’s premier gateway to a great future in space.”
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Hurricane Matthew Bears Down on Cape Canaveral

Video Caption: Cameras on the International Space Station captured new views of Hurricane Matthew at 4 p.m. Eastern time Oct. 5 as the Category 3 storm moved to the north of Cuba toward the Bahamas at about 12 miles an hour, packing winds of 120 miles an hour. After inflicting major damage to western Haiti and eastern Cuba, Matthew is heading toward the east coast of Florida where it could pass close to or over NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The National Hurricane Center has issued hurricane warnings from north of Golden Beach, Florida to the Flagler/Volusia county line to Lake Okeechobee.

Editor’s Note: There’s a lot of concern that Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Base could get hit pretty hard by this storm. Both facilities are being evacuated and will be shut down the rest of the week. There’s concern the Vehicle Assembly Building and other structures could be damaged by the high winds.

SpaceX Pad Explosion Endangered NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft

Credit: USLaunchReport.com
Credit: USLaunchReport.com

“No sooner had we accomplished the securing of the pumps when I was approached by another one of our range users who explained they were losing pressure on the chillers at a neighboring launch complex. Without those chillers the spacecraft for the next launch would be lost. [Emphasis added] Needless to say at this point I had to reestablish our priorities and get a team working on a way to get our IRT into Space Launch Complex 41 to allow access for technicians to enter in order to make the necessary repairs.”

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx was sitting on top of an ULA Atlas V on Space Launch Complex 41. Read the full story below.

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NASA Q&A on Commercial Crew Program

Bob Cabana, Kennedy Space Center director, from left, Kathy Lueders, Commercial Crew Program manager, astronauts Eric Boe and Suni Williams discuss talk about the development of a new generation of human-rated spacecraft. (Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett)
Bob Cabana, Kennedy Space Center director, from left, Kathy Lueders, Commercial Crew Program manager, astronauts Eric Boe and Suni Williams discuss talk about the development of a new generation of human-rated spacecraft. (Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

By Steven Siceloff,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

There are few days that are the same for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program astronauts as they train for flight tests aboard the next generation of human-rated spacecraft, astronauts Eric Boe and Suni Williams told an audience at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Thursday.

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SpaceX Tests Technology at Pad 39A

Credit: SpaceX
Credit: SpaceX

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — A critical piece of large equipment is being tested at Launch Complex 39A this week as SpaceX raises and lowers the transporter erector that will be used to move the Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket to the launch pad for missions. Standing 212 feet high – more than 20 stories – the TE, as SpaceX calls the machine, will move launch-ready rockets and spacecraft from the processing hangar at the base of the pad up to the pad surface and into a vertical position over the flame trench.

The lift and lowering of the transporter erector are part of routine tests conducted on the pad to ensure all ground systems are prepared to launch astronauts to the International Space Station. The TE is a much larger and stronger version of the erector the company uses at Space Launch Complex 40, as it will also be used for processing and launching future Falcon Heavy rockets.

FedEx Makes First Commercial Landing on Space Shuttle Runway

Video Caption: When a FedEx 757 landed at Kennedy Space Center’s three-mile shuttle runway, it accomplished something no other commercial aircraft has done before. It became the first commercial carrier to land on the strip, marking the start of a new collaboration between FedEx and the space industry.

Commercial Crew Progress on Display in Florida

Media view Pad 39A. (Credit: NASA)
Media view Pad 39A. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Commercial Crew team members with NASA and our aerospace industry partners showed what a season of advances has meant for the launch sites where NASA astronauts will lift off on missions to the International Space Station in the near future.

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Stratolaunch Eyes Operations From Kennedy Space Center

Stratolaunch vehicle. (Credit: Stratolaunch)
Stratolaunch vehicle. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch Systems is eying the Kennedy Space Center as its base of operations, beginning with a demonstration flight of the air-launch system from the former Shuttle Landing Facility in 2017, CEO Gary Wentz tells Florida Today:

Stratolaunch, which was publicly introduced in December 2011, hopes to provide lower-cost launches by freeing itself from ground-based range infrastructure and weather restrictions and enabling quicker flight turnarounds.

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Florida Seeks to Run Shuttle Landing Facility, Build Commercial Launch Complex

The Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida. (Credit: NASA)

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

The state of Florida is looking to not only build a new commercial launch complex at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) but also to manage and develop the center’s Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) as an airport/spaceport.

In a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Transportation Secretary Roy LaHood, Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll requested the conveyance 150 acres of unused land at the north end of KSC near the former citrus community of Shiloh for the new launch complex. She also asked NASA to transfer the SLF to Florida.

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Closer Look: XCOR’s Florida Deal Worth More than $5.7 Million

XCOR’s Lynx suborbital vehicle

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Various Florida agencies put up more than $5.7 million in “incentive value and financing” to help lure XCOR to set up a production facility and operational base for its Lynx space plane in the Sunshine State, according to the head of the state’s space development organization.

The funding and incentives are being put up by Space Florida, Brevard Workforce, Enterprise Florida Inc., and the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, according to a presentation by Space Florida President Frank DiBello during the announcement of the deal last month.

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