Multiple SpaceX launches to begin Thursday in Florida

SpaceX Rocket Launches — Courtesy: Shutterstock — John Huntington

SpaceX plans to begin a surge in launch activity Thursday with a Starlink launch from Florida heading south along the Sunshine State’s coastline.

Five SpaceX missions may launch within the next month on the southern polar trajectory, flying much closer to the Florida coast toward Miami than most launches, according to the U.S. Space Force.

Launch of the Falcon 9 rocket that will carry a batch of Starlink communications satellites is planned for 4:49 p.m. EST from Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center.

Officials are asking for aircraft and boaters to be especially vigilant to avoid the southern flight paths, which are announced in aviation and maritime notices, U.S. Space Force Lt. Col. Brian Eno, commander of the 1st Range Operations Squad, part of Space Launch Delta 45, said in an interview with UPI.

Space Launch Delta 45 is responsible for regional launch activities.

“We really want to make sure that the community understands that this is different because most rockets launched here travel east over the Atlantic, but we will see a lot more launching south this year, and that means a different set of conditions or awareness and for accommodating air traffic and marine traffic,” Eno said.

Boaters and aviators are required by government officials to stay away from restricted launch areas, and those areas will be changing for some of the southern launches, he said.

Thursday’s launch won’t be much different than traditional Cape launch zones, but two launches SpaceX plans in January will see restricted areas extending 172 miles south for planes and 26 miles south for boats.

SpaceX launched a record number of rockets in 2021, at 31 missions from California and Florida.

But, the Space Force expects 66 launches in 2022 from the Sunshine State alone.

“We want to make sure that nothing is taken for granted, that nobody thinks launches only happen a certain way or direction off the Cape, because there is so much more activity,” Eno said.

“Rockets are flying south from the Cape more often because they aim to achieve a polar orbit, over both the North and South Poles, rather than an equatorial orbit,” he added.

More than 1,800 Starlink satellites have been launched in dozens of missions over the past couple of years, while newer space companies like Rocket Lab have appeared. With more and more satellites in orbit, companies seek new locations to place them.

“There is really a new space race, just like with a gold rush, and we’re putting more and more of our technological infrastructure in space,” Jah said. “And so you’ve seen this increase in the launches and number of satellites for sure.”

Some space companies, such as SpaceX’s Starlink service, seek to cover a majority of the globe with their services. To do so, they must travel around the poles in order to beam signals or take images from extreme latitudes.

“Sea and air traffic may suffer as a consequence of these launches because of safety reasons, but efforts are underway to minimize the impact of interruptions,” he said.

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