Hurricane Ian cut a devastating swath through Florida this week, passing its core directly over the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral on Thursday.
However, by that time, Ian had weakened into a moderately strong tropical storm, with the bulk of the torrential rainfall north of the launch pads along the Atlantic coast. As a result, damage to NASA’s launch facilities at Kennedy Space Center, and the Space Force’s launch pads at Cape Canaveral, was minimal.
Accordingly, by Friday, work was already underway at facilities located along the “Space Coast” in Florida for rapid, consecutive fire for three launches within three days.
SES-20 and SES-21
First, a commercial mission on the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket to launch the SES-20 and SES-21 satellites of the Luxembourg satellite operator SES. Stacked in its “531” configuration, this Atlas missile has a five-meter-diameter payload, three solid rocket boosters, and one Centaur upper stage engine.
On Friday, the United Launch Alliance said everything continues to progress toward the launch of this mission on Tuesday, October 4, from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The launch is planned for 5:36 PM EDT (21:36 UTC). Favorable weather is expected, with a 70 percent chance of favorable conditions for launch.
After launch, the Atlas V rocket will move a pair of communications satellites into semi-circular geosynchronous orbits. Once separated, the satellites will use the onboard propulsion systems to spin their orbits 35,900 km above the equator.
Next up in Florida is NASA’s Crew-5 mission, which will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station. NASA officials have confirmed that this mission remains on schedule for noon EST (16:00 UTC) October 5 from Launch Complex-39A at Kennedy Space Center.
The crew of four — NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Casada, JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos astronaut Anna Kekina — remained confined to Johnson Space Center in Houston, awaiting the outcome of Hurricane Ian. However, they will now head to Florida on Saturday in preparation for the launch.
Meanwhile, SpaceX will spin a Falcon 9 rocket with its Crew Dragon spacecraft to the launch pad Friday or Saturday night, ahead of Sunday’s steady-fire test. It looks like there are no significant technical issues to work on before the launch next Wednesday.
Galaxy 33 and 34
Finally, on October 6, SpaceX is planning an additional launch. For this mission, from Space Launch Complex-40 in Cape Canaveral, the Falcon 9 rocket will transfer Intelsat’s Galaxy 33 and 34 telecommunications satellites to a geostationary transfer orbit. The launch is set for 7:07 PM EDT (23:07 UTC).
Of note for this mission, this first stage of the Falcon 9 booster will make its 14th launch. This is the first time a SpaceX rocket has flown a purely commercial payload on or after its tenth flight. This strongly suggests that the commercial satellite market is becoming increasingly comfortable with SpaceX’s revamp even for well-used rockets.
NASA also said Friday that its Artemis I instruments survived Hurricane Ian just fine, as they were safely housed inside the large vehicle assembly building at the Kennedy Space Center. The agency will aim to have the missile ready for a launch attempt in about six weeks.
“As teams complete post-storm recovery operations, NASA has decided that they will focus Artemis I efforts to launch planning efforts in the launch period that begins on November 12 and ends on November 27,” NASA said in a blog post. “Over the coming days, the directors will assess the scope of work to be done while he is at the VAB and set a specific date for the next launch attempt.”
In the coming days, engineers and technicians will expand the access platforms around the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft inside the Vehicle Assembly Building to conduct inspections, and begin preparations for the next launch attempt, including retesting the flight termination system.
The rocket and spacecraft have been in this fully-stacked state for more than 11 months, so NASA wants to make sure all of the different batteries, stored propellants, and other “limited life items” on the vehicles are still in good working order by putting up on the launch pad again. other.