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A nearly 200-foot Atlas V rocket rolled out to its pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Tuesday, setting the stage for back-to-back launches on the same day this week, something the Space Coast hasn’t seen in decades.
If schedules hold, United Launch Alliance will launch a military surveillance satellite aboard an Atlas V rocket first thing in the morning on Thursday, Aug. 4. Less than thirteen hours later, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will also fly from a nearby Cape Canaveral pad with South Korea’s first lunar mission.
That both launches will bookend the day – Atlas V just before sunrise, Falcon 9 before sunset – is a rare occurrence for the Space Coast. That kind of rapid-fire cadence was seen during the Space Race nearly 60 years ago, but today it’s considered more of a potential need rather than a one-time accomplishment.
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With the Space Coast projected to host up to 50 launches this year and even more in years to come, back-to-back launches are likely to become more commonplace moving forward.
First launch: Atlas V
First up are United Launch Alliance teams at Launch Complex 41: Atlas V is scheduled to launch a military surveillance satellite, known as SBIRS GEO-6, at 6:29 am EDT. Weather is likely to be 70% “go” for the attempt.
“Isolated showers are expected to develop over the nearshore Atlantic waters toward sunrise, and there is a small concern for a cumulus cloud rule violation during the initial launch attempt,” Space Launch Delta 45 forecasters said Tuesday.
In the event of a delay to Friday, conditions worsen to 50% “go” due to increased chances of morning storms.
The Space Force’s sixth and final Space-Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellite is primarily designed to detect ballistic missile launches as part of a larger warning system. The satellites for the multibillion-dollar Department of Defense program were built by Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale, California, before air transport to the Space Coast.
Atlas V will fly east.
Second launch: Falcon 9
Thirteen hours after Atlas V’s smoke clears, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at neighboring Launch Complex 40 is slated to fly South Korea’s first lunar mission at 7:08 pm EDT.
Weather for the attempt, according to the Space Force, is expected to be 80% “go.”
“A passing Atlantic shower or more developed cumulus clouds can’t be ruled out … but models suggest the threat is small for the early evening launch window on Thursday,” forecasters said.
The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, or KPLO, is a satellite designed to orbit the moon with a suite of South Korean experiments and one US-built instrument, according to NASA. It will study the lunar environment and topography, identify potential landing sites for future missions, and demonstrate “space internet” capabilities.
Falcon 9 will also fly east, then drop off its first stage booster for a drone ship landing in the Atlantic Ocean. It should sail into Port Canaveral for checkouts and refurbishment before the end of the weekend.
For the latest, visit floridatoday.com/launchschedule.
Contact Emre Kelly at email@example.com or 321-242-3715. Follow him on TwitterFacebook and Instagram at @EmreKelly.
Launch Thursday, Aug. 4
- Rocket: ULA Atlas V
- Mission: SBIRS GEO-6 military surveillance satellite
- Launch Time: 6:29 a.m. EDT
- Launch Complex: 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
- Weather: 70% “go”
- Trajectory: East
Launch Thursday, Aug. 4
- Rocket: SpaceX Falcon 9
- Mission: Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter
- Launch Time: 7:08 p.m. EDT
- Launch Complex: 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
- Liftoff Weather: 80% “go”
- Trajectory: East
- Landing: Drone ship
- Landing Weather: Low-risk