After Hurricane Ian delays, Florida to see 3 launches in 4 days
SpaceX has two Florida launches this week, including NASA's Crew-5 astronaut mission on Wednesday at noon. ULA launched two communications satellites from Cape Canaveral on Tuesday. SpaceX has a third launch on Friday after an attempt Thursday was scrubbed.
Florida's spaceport will have a busy week after Hurricane Ian jammed up launches for a few days until the weather cleared.
Ahead of Ian's landfall in Southwest Florida, NASA's Artemis-1 rocket, the Space Launch System, was forced to roll back into the hangar at Kennedy Space Center. Even with landfall on the Gulf Coast, Central Florida's Space Coast saw major flooding, hurricane-force winds and rain.
The launch delay by Hurricane Ian means NASA is now targeting November to launch the moon rocket for the first time. In the meantime, ULA, SpaceX and NASA have plans for unrelated back-to-back launches this week that will keep the Space Coast busy for four days.
ULA was up first in the busy launch week.
ULA launched its workhorse rocket the Atlas V at 5:36 p.m. EDT Tuesday with SES 20 and 21 communication satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Base.
After about six hours, Atlas V Centaur sent the satellites into geosynchronous orbit about 22,000 miles above Earth for satellite operator SES. Each satellite will provide digital TV signals to homes across the continental U.S.
Crew-5 astronaut launch on Wednesday
SpaceX and NASA launched four astronauts at noon Wednesday from Kennedy Space Center. The Crew-5 launch, comprised of American, Russian and Japanese space explorers, will be a 6-month mission to the International Space Station.
The launch was delayed from Oct. 3 to allow more time to assess KSC facilities for any potential damage from Ian.
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NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina launched on top of the Falcon 9 in a Crew Dragon spacecraft.
After more than 24 hours in orbit, the Dragon docked at the ISS.
Three launches for SpaceX from coast-to-coast
To wrap up the week, SpaceX will launch the Galaxy 33 and Galaxy 34 commercial communications satellites for Intelsat from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Base.
SpaceX was targeting Thursday evening to launch the Galaxy 33 and 34 satellites on a Falcon 9 rocket. However, 30 seconds before liftoff the mission was aborted.
After the scrub, Elon Musk wrote on Twitter that a "tiny helium leak (just barely triggered abort), but we take no risks with customer satellites. Standing down to investigate."
SpaceX could try again Friday at 7:06 p.m. if they resolve the issue.
When it happens, the Falcon 9 will deliver the satellites for Intelsat to geosynchronous orbit, providing communication services throughout North America.
This will mark the company's third launch this week, a batch of Starlink satellites launched from California on Wednesday, just hours after SpaceX sent up the four astronauts from Florida.
Florida's wet season ends with Ian
Weather plays a big role in any rocket launch. The Space Force's 45th Weather Squadron works with ULA, SpaceX and NASA to provide launch forecasts days, hours and minutes ahead of any liftoff.
After being drenched by Ian's record-setting rainfall, Florida is experiencing a welcome dry stretch ending the wet season, but scattered showers are forecast to return later in the week.
For those who get to see this triple-launch week in person or even one liftoff, the weather couldn't be better. The FOX Forecast Center is tracking highs just below or above 80 degrees through the weekend with a partially cloudy sky. A solid chance of rain doesn't appear in the forecast until early next week for Florida's Space Coast.
Excellent weather is forecast for Friday's SpaceX launch with a 90% chance of favorable liftoff conditions. The primary concern will be cumulus clouds.