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 three days.
ULA is targeting 5:36 p.m. EDT Tuesday to launch its Atlas V rocket with SES 20 and 21 communication satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Base.
The Atlas V rocket will send the satellites into geosynchronous orbit for satellite operator SES.
SpaceX and NASA are working toward launching 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.
NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina will launch on top of the Falcon 9 in a Crew Dragon spacecraft.
To wrap up the week, another SpaceX Falcon 9 will launch the Galaxy 33 and Galaxy 34 commercial communications satellites for Intelsat at 7:07 p.m. EDT Thursday from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Base.
The Falcon 9 will deliver the satellites for Intelsat to geosynchronous orbit, providing communication services throughout North America.
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 next week for Florida’s Space Coast.
ULA has an 80% chance of favorable launch weather for Tuesday’s communication satellite launch. The primary concern will be cumulus clouds. The backup launch opportunity on Wednesday has a better forecast with 90% favorable conditions.
NASA’s Crew-5 launch with SpaceX will continue to benefit from the cool, dry air from Hurricane Ian. The primary concerns are Cumulus clouds and rain with greater than a 90% chance of favorable conditions.
The Galaxy 33 and 34 satellite launch on a Falcon 9 this Thursday should have excellent weather with more than a 90% chance of favorable liftoff conditions. The primary concern will be cumulus clouds.