In 2021, the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and Kennedy Space Center hosted 31 orbital rocket launches, a new annual record.
That number jumped to 57 launches last year – a new record that represents a robust 84% increase.
SpaceX is aiming for the space coast’s record 58th launch so far this year at 10:17 pm EDT Saturday. If necessary, five backup release opportunities are available from 11:07 pm to 2:15 am EDT Sunday.
If the Falcon 9 Starlink mission goes as planned, the CAP’s annual launch record will come on Oct. 21 or 22, with two months left in 2023.
“I have seen great growth and change. “We’ve been happy with eight or more spacecraft launches a year,” said Dan Platt, director of the Spaceport Graduate Center at the Florida Institute of Technology in Titusville.
“Then it will be replaced by what we call unmanned launches, which are essentially ULA launches. And that will get us in 20 or so years,” said Platt, who has worked at the spaceport base since 1998.
“So it’s a very different beast now,” he said.
SpaceX forecast: 95% ‘go’ to launch
The Cape Canaveral Space Force Station reported a mostly clear sky Saturday night with a low of 64 and a north wind around 5 mph, becoming west after midnight, according to the National Weather Service.
The Space Force 45th Weather Squadron predicted a 95% chance of “go” weather for the launch.
“During the evening, it will be difficult to spot a cloud in the sky except for some upper-level cirrus clouds, and the only concern is a very small chance of bumping against windward barriers due to the westerly flow,” the force’s forecast said.
The Starlink 6-24 mission will put another batch of the company’s Internet-beaming satellites into low-Earth orbit.
After liftoff from Launch Complex 40, the 230-foot Falcon 9 will follow a southeast course along Florida’s Atlantic coast before targeting the first-stage booster to land on a drone ship near the Bahamas.
In 2008, Platt covered annual space events as a consulting editor for McGraw Hill, which publishes an annual “Yearbook in Science and Technology”. That year, the United States — including from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California — sent 24 objects into space, followed by Russia with 21 and China with 16, according to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.
In the coming years, Platt said, Florida alone may host more releases than the entire world did during that era.
“It’s a lot of modernization, not just the missile facilities, but the so-called safety monitoring capability to keep rockets from going out of control and into populated areas. All of that has been advanced and greatly improved,” Platt said.
“Obviously, SpaceX is leading the way,” he said.
SpaceX has launched 53 of 57 missions
SpaceX accounts for all but four of the 57 rockets launched from the Cape this year. Exceptions:
On October 13, the SpaceX crew launched NASA’s Psyche spacecraft on its six-year journey to the asteroid belt using a Falcon Heavy rocket. Eight hours and 42 minutes later, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket near sunset from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
That Friday the 13th double rendezvous marked the shortest time between Earth orbits since the Gemini 11 agent target vehicle and Gemini Titan-11 launched from the East Coast in 1966, space launch Delta 45 officials announced.
“When you’re doing two launches in a day, and both launches are SpaceX, it’s a lot easier than SpaceX launching in the morning and ULA or somebody else trying to do one in the afternoon or evening.” Platt said.
“So in some ways, it’s a lot easier to have multiple releases when they’re all coming from one corporate entity,” he said.
90 minutes before FLORIDA TODAY’s Space Team will follow live launch coverage. For the latest schedule updates from the Cape, visit floridatoday.com/launchschedule.
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