Space

Eastern Range is looking for new ways to promote further launches

Summary

Government agencies and companies are looking for ways to increase capacity on the Eastern Range in Florida, mostly through gradual changes, as launch activity increases. Brig. Gen. Stephen G. Purdy Jr., who is the commander of the 45th Space Wing as well […]

Government agencies and companies are looking for ways to increase capacity on the Eastern Range in Florida, mostly through gradual changes, as launch activity increases. Brig. Gen. Stephen G. Purdy Jr., who is the commander of the 45th Space Wing as well as director of the Eastern Range, stated the range sponsored 32 launches over the last 12 months during a discussion panel at the 47th Spaceport Summit on February 23. The 55 launch tries that “went to countdown” resulted in those launches.

During that time, however, there had been 297 requests for launch opportunities, with the range approving 225 of them. “Clearly, each of those takes a lot of time and collaboration with a lot of collaborators,” he added. “A lot of effort goes into getting those launch dates, and it will continue to increase as we get closer to those planned launch rates in the coming years.

Those estimated launch rates, he said, came from a report by The Aerospace Corporation, which predicted an increase in commercial launch operation from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station as well as the nearby Kennedy Space Center in the coming years. Bob Cabana, KSC’s director, stated, “We’re building up to over sixty launches a year.”

One breakthrough is the use of autonomous flight protection systems on launch vehicles, which remove the necessity for tracking and communications systems which can take a couple of days to reconfigure between launches. “We were able to move to from the locking down the range for about 72 to exactly 96 hours to being able to facilitate several missions in a single day,” stated Wayne Monteith, an ex-commander in charge of the 45th Space Wing as well as associate administrator for the commercial space transportation at Federal Aviation Administration.

For its Falcon 9 launches, SpaceX employs autonomous flight safety mechanisms, allowing it to keep launch schedules tight. On two occurrences, the firm tried two Falcon 9 launches within the same day from the Space Launch Launch Complex 40 as well as Launch Complex 39A, but weather or the technical problems with the rocket stopped both launches.

According to Hans Koenigsmann, who is a senior adviser for develop and flight efficiency at the SpaceX, “we came really close” to two launches in one day, such as an attempt in February when two releases were set for less than four and a half hours separated. “In the coming years, we will fire two vehicles from two different pads on the very same day. From there, it’ll just get worse.”

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