For Full Story: WRAL Tech Wire

Article By: Renee Wright


The prospect of manned flights resuming from the Cape has changed the mood of the region from respectful awe of the past to one of excited anticipation of the future. Musk’s SpaceX regularly launches its Falcon rockets on resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS), with manned flights aboard the Crew Dragon scheduled to begin in Spring, 2019.

The first launch of the Falcon Heavy Rocket, carrying Musk’s personal Tesla into space, attracted more than 100,000 viewers to the Space Coast to watch its spectacular takeoff, and the simultaneous soft landing of two of its boosters, in February, 2018. The Falcon Heavy (known to rocket watchers as the BFR, an acronym we won’t explain – use your imagination) is eventually headed for Mars.

Bezos’ company Blue Origin is aiming at manned flight as well, and will launch its New Glenn rocket from the Cape’s Launch Complex 36 as early as 2020. Moon Express, founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, is pursuing plans to deliver commercial payloads to the moon at Launch Complexes 17 and 18. Orion is yet another manned space effort, with Lockheed Martin and Airbus working on development in partnership with NASA. Test flights have already begun.

Meanwhile, United Launch Alliance (ULA), a cooperative venture by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, continues to launch satellite payloads atop its reliable Atlas V. ULA also plans manned flights in the near future, with an unmanned test of Boeing’s Starliner scheduled for later this year and manned flights to the ISS in 2019.

NASA is anxious to get the Boeing and SpaceX spaceships certified for manned flight. Buying space aboard Russian rockets for ISS astronauts is currently costing the agency $82 million per seat – and the contract runs out this year.