December shaping up to be a busy month for rocket flights
December is shaping up to be a very busy launch month for the U.S. On the East Coast, three different satellites are expected to take to the skies, providing improved services and weather monitoring. Additionally, on the West Coast, SpaceX hopes to fly their Falcon 9 after being grounded for over three months.
First up on the East Coast is the Pentagon’s latest Wideband Global Satcom, WGS-8. It is scheduled for a Dec. 7 flight. The satellite will be the first to carry upgraded electronics, allowing WGS-8 to handle 45 percent more traffic than the previous integration in the fleet. The cutting-edge satellite will also feature anti-jamming technology in the form of several spot beams.
WGS-8, atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta 4 Medium+ (5,4) rocket, is looking to leave the pad at 6:53 p.m. EST (23:53 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex (SLC) 37.
On Dec. 12, the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) will launch on an Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rocket slung below their L-1011 carrier airplane. The constellation consists of eight microsatellites.
CYGNSS will use both direct and reflected GPS signals during the mission. Navigation will be performed via direct signals while the reflected ones will give the satellites ocean surface roughness data, which is an indicator of wind speed. The CYGNSS launch vehicle will depart from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Four days after the CYGNSS flight, EchoStar 19 is scheduled to fly skyward. ULA will have a two-hour window, opening at 1:22 p.m. EST (18:22 GMT) Dec. 16, to send an Atlas V carrying the latest satellite in the EchoStar series to space. Liftoff will be from SLC 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
EchoStar 19, also known as Jupiter 2, is a Ka-band satellite that will bring enhanced consumer broadband to HughesNet’s internet service.
On the same day as EchoStar 19 – assuming schedules hold and SpaceX finishes its investigation into the Sept. 1 pad explosion – SpaceX will attempt to return their Falcon 9 rocket to flight. The company is currently targeting 3:36 EST (20:36 GMT) from the West Coast’s Vandenberg Air Force Base to launch 10 Iridium NEXT satellites. Iridium Communications aims to replace its existing communication constellation over seven launches, placing 70 satellites in low-Earth orbit.
Joe Latrell is a life-long avid space enthusiast having created his own rocket company in Roswell, NM in addition to other consumer space endeavors. He continues to design, build and launch his own rockets and has a passion to see the next generation excited about the opportunities of space exploration. Joe lends his experiences from the corporate and small business arenas to organizations such as Teachers In Space, Inc. He is also actively engaged in his church investing his many skills to assist this and other non-profit endeavors.