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Friday, February 12, 2010

Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Should Become the 4th Human Orbital Spaceport

The United States space policy is shifting to change from government designed large and costly rockets to a multitude of cheaper and smaller commercial design rockets to achieve human transport to space in this decade. But where will all these newly designed FAA-approved orbital rockets be lofted to orbital space?

Today there are only three locations in the world that humans have been launched into space: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Kennedy Space Center/Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, USA, and Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, China. It is expected that India will add another in this decade. Perhaps the European Space Agency will add human launch capability at the Guiana Space Centre, Kourou, French Guiana too.

If the United States proceeds to privatize the nation's space program launching several commercial spacecraft vehicle types with humans aboard to low earth orbit, then it may be time for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, VA. to advance as a redundant human orbital spaceport. Wallops Island could provide a realistic expectation for the commercial launch industry to avoid many technical delays, inclement weather, and conflicting range priorities associated with Florida.

There are 26 spaceports in the world that have boosted satellites into orbit. Yet within the United States there is only Florida and Virginia with the inclination and capability to serve the International Space Station through 2020 and beyond. Virginia should fully engage the fledgling commercial and NASA crews to orbit opportunity.


Michael Turner said...

Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of Wallops, it's The Little NASA Outpost That Could. However, there's not just political inclination to be considered, but orbital inclination as well: it's pretty far north. Baikonur is at 45 deg N, Wallops at 37. And remember: ISS went into "the wrong orbit" mainly to be reachable by the Russians from Baikonur. Not a very good compromise, really, but most bad things in space programs are politically motivated. The Russian will soon be able to launch Soyuz from Kourou, where there's appropriate infrastructure, but more important: much closer to the equator.

JackKennedy said...

Enjoyed your comment; nonetheless, it is because the ISS went into "the wrong orbit," that the FAA-AST licensed commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport enables commercial space launch firms to burn less fuel to dock with the ISS as compared to Florida.

I am eager to see what partnerships are formed between ESA and the Russians when launching the Soyuz from Kourou. I believe it will be scientifically exciting in this decade.

Orbital mechanics favors equatorial launches indeed but not to the ISS per se.

Barrie said...

Regarding the launch of manned Soyuz from Kourou (actually nearer to Sinnemary, a little way up the coast): The current showstopper is that the Soyuz capsule is designed to come down on dry land. In the event of a launch abort from Sinnemary, it would come down over ocean. So they need to develop a new variant of the Soyuz capsule capable of a water landing.

Also, the Russians won't have unconstrained use of that launch site, they would need French cooperation.