Florida Space Industry
Florida's 2019 rocket launch lineup
- NEW GLENN
Blue Origin’s heavy-lift rocket, involving up to three stages, will take off from launch complex 36 at Cape Canaveral, not far from Blue Origin’s new rocket factory in Exploration Park just outside Kennedy Space Center.
United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, is developing the vehicle as a low-cost response to SpaceX’s lower launch-cost rockets. The Vulcan will fly with Blue Origin engines from the Cape and California.
- FALCON 9 AND FALCON HEAVY
The now iconic SpaceX reusable rockets that make up the majority of launches from the U.S. can put heavy payloads into space at attractive price points.
- SPACE LAUNCH SYSTEM
NASA says this monster rocket will be more powerful than the Saturn V, capable of hefting the equivalent of nine school buses into deep space. The space agency plans to launch it from the Cape to reach the moon in the late 2020s and Mars in the 2030s.
- NEW SHEPARD
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ suborbital tourist rocket will make 11-minute flights from West Texas.
Boeing is building its seven-passenger, low Earth-orbit crew carrier in Florida. The vehicle will transport people and supplies to the International Space Station. Riding atop United Launch Alliance’s workhorse Atlas V, it begins test flights this year from Florida.
- SPACEX CREW DRAGON
Elon Musk’s seven-passenger vehicle, also for low Earth orbit and the ISS, begins flying this year from Florida atop the Falcon 9 rocket.
- SPACEX STARSHIP
SpaceX’s 100-passenger Buck Rogers-looking crew vehicle will start with a mission around the moon in 2023 with a Japanese billionaire as the first deep-space private tourist. Elon Musk says it will be the vehicle used to travel to and from Mars. Test flights of a prototype Starship Hopper will be in Texas. The SpaceX Starship will be hoisted by the Starship Super Heavy, formerly known as the Big Falcon Rocket, which will be the largest reusable rocket.
The late Paul Allen’s giant aircraft, the world’s largest by wingspan, is being tested in Mojave, Calif. It’s at least three years from carrying its first rocket — initially Northrop Grumman’s Pegasus XL — for an airborne launch to space.
- ORION CREW CAPSULE
NASA hopes to fly its Lockheed Martin-built, long-duration transport — NASA’s first deep space people-carrier since 1972 — with a European Space Agency service module. The Orion will begin flying from Florida in 2020, but not with people aboard until at least 2022. It will be lifted by the gargantuan Space Launch System.
- VIRGIN GALACTIC
Richard Branson’s suborbital vehicle will be launched from a plane out of New Mexico’s Spaceport America, primarily to carry tourists. It was delayed after a 2014 crash in a test flight that killed a pilot. Its latest craft, VSS Unity, reached space with two pilots in December.
Founded by Greg Wyler, OneWeb aims to put a 600-satellite “constellation” in low Earth orbit that will spread broadband around the world. Satellites will be launched first from French Guiana on Soyuz rockets, then eventually from sites all over the world — but primarily from the Cape. An affiliate, OneWeb Satellites, a venture of OneWeb and Airbus, is building the satellites at a factory at Space Florida’s Exploration Park.
- AIR FORCE
The Air Force doesn’t talk much about its secret X-37B, a reusable, unmanned space plane, and what it’s up to on those long space missions. But visit the Kennedy Space Center, and you can find the name of the mini-shuttle written on the side of a building easily visible on the bus tour. Meanwhile, the National Reconnaisance Office maintains a satellite processing facility at the Cape as well —a reminder that while the Boeing Starliner and Orion grab headlines, much work at Cape Canaveral involves secret spy agency satellite launches.
Launch Pads at Cape Canaveral
Combined, Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the Cape itself are the busiest spaceport in the world. Under the aegis of Space Florida — Florida’s port authority for space — and with the considerable support of NASA and the Air Force, the area has transformed into the nation’s private space race capital, with launch complexes devoted to Blue Origin and SpaceX along with longtime stalwart United Launch Alliance and other players.
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