As SpaceX prepares to launch a new crew to the International Space Station from one pad at the Kennedy Space Center, it is starting work to upgrade another pad at Cape Canaveral as a backup.
Long the busiest space launch complex in the United States, Cape Canaveral and Kennedy extended their combined five-year streak as the busiest commercial, civil and military launch range in the world.
The Space Force lacks spare parts for much of the equipment needed to support launches from the Eastern and Western Ranges, an issue that could loom larger as launch activities at both spaceports increase.
The U.S. Space Force is consolidating oversight of space launch activities under a two-star general who will be the deputy commander of Space Systems Command.
As launch activity grows on the Eastern Range in Florida, companies and government agencies are looking at ways to add capacity, largely through incremental improvements.
Brig. Gen. Stephen Purdy has been named commander of the U.S. Space Force’s 45th Space Wing and and director of the Eastern Range at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.
Despite the successful demonstration of a launch to polar orbit from Cape Canaveral, the U.S. Space Force doesn’t foresee shifting launches to those orbits there from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The 45th Space Wing that oversees the space launch ranges in Florida will no longer be a wing, it will be a space delta.
Brig. Gen. Doug Schiess: Three launches in a week has not been done in Florida since 2001
SpaceX is proposing a significant increase in launch activity in Florida over the next few years, including missions to polar orbits and those that will require the use of a new vertical payload integration tower.
Also under consideration is what to call the space wings.
The rapid growth in Starlink missions means the 48 launch target could be attained in 2020.
A SpaceX launch of Starlink satellites scheduled for Jan. 6 will be the 45th Space Wing’s inaugural launch as part of the U.S. Space Force.
Brig. Gen. Schiess: “We have to improve turnaround both with new technology and processes."
The Air Force 45th Space Wing is gearing up for three high-profile space launches at Cape Canaveral over the coming months.
Firefly Aerospace announced agreements with state and federal agencies Feb. 22 to build a new factory for producing and launching its rockets from Florida’s Space Coast.