Delta IV rocket set for Wednesday launch
Launch will mark 3rd in 25 days from Cape Canaveral
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – After lofting four Global Positioning System satellites into orbit last year, the Air Force and United Launch Alliance will pick up where they left off next week.
A ULA Delta IV rocket is targeting a 2:36 p.m. Wednesday liftoff from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, at the opening of an 18-minute window.
On top of the 206-foot rocket is the ninth in a series of 12 Boeing-built GPS satellites known as IIF, or 2F, that are modernizing a constellation with more than 30 active spacecraft, Local 6 News partner Florida Today reported.
The satellite labeled GPS IIF-9 is the first of three GPS launches planned this year.
The launch would be the third in 25 days from Cape Canaveral.
Until recently it was expected to be the fourth. SpaceX, however, postponed its planned launch of a communications satellite Saturday.
Company officials reported finding a problem with components used to pressurize propellant tanks on Falcon 9 rockets. The problem originated in a factory, not on the rocket being readied for launch .
The mission for Thales Alenia Space is now planned after SpaceX's next launch of cargo to the International Space Station, which is targeted for no earlier than April 10.
Mini-shuttle chases resupply contract
Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Dream Chaser mini-shuttle lost a bid to fly NASA astronauts, but could still fly from Florida to the International Space Station as an unmanned cargo craft.
The Colorado company this week publicly unveiled a modified version of the Dream Chaser it has proposed for NASA resupply contracts expected to be awarded in June to multiple companies.
Those contracts could offer another path for the company to find a home at Kennedy Space Center, where SNC sees itself carrying on the shuttle's legacy, despite its loss to Boeing's CST-100 and SpaceX's Dragon in the crew competition.
SNC would plan to launch from Cape Canaveral and land on KSC's former shuttle runway. The company had previously identified KSC's Armstrong Operations and Checkout building as a site for processing the space planes.
The most noticeable difference in the cargo Dream Chaser is a separate module with solar arrays that attaches to a port at the back of the vehicle. Also, its wings fold up to fit inside payload fairings for Atlas V and other rockets.
SNC is competing against the same companies it lost to in the crew competition, plus Orbital ATK — a current cargo provider along with SpaceX — and a new system proposed by Lockheed Martin.
XCOR taps new chief
XCOR Aerospace, a California company that plans to test and potentially build its suborbital Lynx space plane at Kennedy Space Center, has named John H. "Jay" Gibson II its new CEO.
Gibson previously was a senior executive at Beechcraft Corp. and is a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Air Force and deputy under secretary of defense in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
He takes over from Jeff Greason, a high-profile figure in the commercial space industry who served on the White House panel that reviewed NASA's human spaceflight strategy in 2009.
"Jay delivers the depth and breadth of leadership and experience necessary to elevate XCOR to the next level," Greason said in a statement. "With the commencement of the Lynx flight test program on the horizon, Jay's arrival allows this team to focus on getting Lynx in the air, moving forward on plans for our orbital vehicle, and transitioning XCOR to a more efficient and effective company."
Greason remains chair of the company's board and has taken on the role of chief technology officer, focusing on development of the two-seat Lynx, an orbital system and other projects.
XCOR plans to perform test flights of early Lynx models from Kennedy Space Center's former shuttle runway, possibly next year. It would also build additional vehicles at KSC as demand for suborbital flights of space tourists or research payloads develops around the world.
The company announced those plans in 2012, then hoping to bring a Lynx to the Space Coast by 2014.
United Launch Alliance this week snared a nearly $400 million contract from NASA to launch a solar probe from Cape Canaveral on a Delta IV Heavy rocket in 2018.
The Solar Probe Plus mission will send the first spacecraft to study the sun's outer atmosphere. The probe will circle the sun 24 times, flying within 3.9 million miles of its surface, on a trajectory that includes seven flybys of Venus.
The Delta IV Heavy will incorporate a third stage from Orbital ATK for extra power. The launch is targeted for July 31, 2018, the opening of a 20-day launch period.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland is the mission's lead manager, with Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory designing and building the spacecraft. Kennedy Space Center's Launch Services Program is responsible for the launch.
Copyright 2015 by ClickOrlando.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.