3 liftoffs planned today with 2 Space Coast rockets, 1 Space Coast tourist – Orlando Sentinel

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It’s the busiest planned day for launches ever for commercial companies in the United States with 3.4 millions pounds of combined thrust among three rockets planning to punch their way into space on Thursday with payloads of one military satellite, one lunar probe and six space tourists.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V, Blue Origin New Shepard and SpaceX Falcon 9 could all blast off in less than 13 hours.

Two of them, the ULA and SpaceX launches, plan to take off just 1 1/2 miles apart from one another at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station while Blue Origin’s space tourism flight is on tap from West Texas.

First up is ULA’s Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the U.S. Space Force set to launch from Space Launch Complex 41 during a 40-minute window that opens at 6:29 a.m. It’s bringing up the SBIRS GEO-6 satellite, the last of six in a constellation of missile detection satellites, the first of which went to orbit in 2011.

Space Force’s Space Launch Delta 45 weather squadron predicts a 70% chance for good conditions Thursday morning for the ULA launch.

Later Thursday morning, Blue Origin aims to send up its NS-22 mission with six civilians on its sixth launch ever with human passengers. Among them is Brevard County’s Steve Young, the former CEO of Young’s Communications LLC. He’s also the owner of Pineapples, a restaurant in the Eau Gallie Arts District in Melbourne. Young could become the third Central Floridian to fly on a Blue Origin mission following the March flight of Winter Park power couple Marc and Sharon Hagle.

The launch window opens at 9:30 a.m. EDT.

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Blue Origin has sent up 25 people on the flights that last just over 10 minutes since the first passenger flight in July 2021. That one includes company founder Jeff Bezos. Others who have flown include Star Trek’s William Shatner, NFL Hall of Famer Michael Strahan and Laura Shepard Churchley, the daughter of Alan Shepard, for whom the New Shepard rocket is named.

The rocket takes them past the Karman line — about 62 miles high — the internationally recognized altitude for someone having gone into space for a few minutes of weightlessness and a view that lets them see the blackness of space and curvature of the Earth.

The last launch of the day is planned for at 7:08 p.m. by SpaceX from Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40 with a Falcon 9 carrying South Korea’s first lunar mission, the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, to space. The probe is set to orbit the moon for one year with a spate of experiments and seek potential future landing sites. The first-stage booster is flying for the sixth time, and the company will attempt another recovery on its droneship Just Read the Instructions in the Atlantic.

SLD 45′s weather squadron gives an 80% chance for good conditions for the attempt.

Both ULA and SpaceX have roughly 24-hour backup launch attempt windows for Friday if necessary.

The three launches in one day would tie both March 29, 2018 and Dec. 21, 2005, according to records maintained by astronomer Jonathan McDowell, although none of those were from the U.S., but involved launches from Russia, China, India and French Guinea.

Follow Orlando Sentinel space coverage at Facebook.com/goforlaunchsentinel.

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