The Space Coast of Florida witnessed a remarkable number of launches in 2022, with a record-breaking total of 57. Looking ahead to 2023, Space Launch Delta 45 commander Maj. Gen. Stephen Purdy predicted a potential range of 86 to 92 launches for the region.
In November, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a cargo Dragon spacecraft on the CRS-29 mission. The objective was to transport supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). The cargo Dragon was loaded with 6,500 pounds of essential items for the Expedition 70 crew. The mission also included scientific experiments, such as NASA’s Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE), which aimed to study atmospheric gravity waves and their impact on Earth’s climate. Another experiment, the Integrated Laser Communications Relay Demonstration Low-Earth-Orbit User Modem and Amplifier Terminal (ILLUMA-T), focused on testing laser communication between the ISS, a relay satellite, and an Earth-based observatory.
In December, the highly anticipated first-ever launch of the United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur was scheduled to take place from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The launch aimed to deploy Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander to the moon. Additionally, a human remains payload was onboard, including the ashes of prominent figures like “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry and actor James Doohan, who played “Scotty” in the TV series.
Looking ahead to 2024, SpaceX has plans for several significant launches. In January, a Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch the Intuitive Machines IM-1 lunar lander, which will carry five robotic NASA payloads to the moon’s surface. Axiom Space is also planning a mission called Axiom-3, which will bring four crew members, commanded by a former NASA astronaut, to the ISS for a 14-day stay. The mission will utilize one of SpaceX’s Crew Dragons.
Other notable launches include NASA’s Plankton, Aerosol Cloud Ocean Ecosystem (PACE) satellite on a SpaceX Falcon 9 in January 2024, and the SpaceX Crew-8 mission from Kennedy Space Center in mid-February 2024. Additionally, United Launch Alliance has plans for an Atlas V launch in the first quarter of 2024, while Sierra Space Dream Chaser will conduct a test flight aboard a Vulcan Centaur from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
These upcoming launches highlight the Space Coast’s continued importance as a hub for space exploration and innovation. The region remains at the forefront of advancing our understanding of the universe and facilitating scientific breakthroughs.