Kennedy Space Center Looks at a Busy 2024

Another jam-packed year is in store for NASAs Kennedy Space Center in Florida as the momentum of a busy 2023 is carried forward into the new year. On the horizon are missions to the Moon, multiple crew and cargo flights to the International Space Station, and several spaceport upgrade projects.

The first mission of the CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) initiative of NASA with the Astrobotics Peregrine lunar lander is scheduled to begin work in 2024 after the launch of the inaugural launch of the United Launch Alliances Vulcan Centaur rocket. These missions will help the agency develop the capabilities needed to explore the Moon under Artemis before sending astronauts to the lunar surface.

Another CLPS mission, set to launch early this year aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, will send the Intuitive Machines Nova-C lander to a landing site in the Moons South Pole region. The mission will carry NASA payloads focusing on plume-surface interactions, space weather/lunar surface interactions, radio astronomy, precision landing technologies, and a communication and navigation node for future autonomous navigation technologies.

Progress toward Artemis II, NASA’s first crewed test flight of the moon-oriented Artemis program continues throughout Kennedy. The SLS (Space Launch System) hardware, including twin solid rocket boosters and a 212-foot-tall core stage for the Artemis II mission, will begin stacking and integration within the Vehicle Assembly Building in the coming months, which after this the teams start a series. to test before launch. Processing also continues on the core stage for Artemis III.

The Artemis II Orion crew and service modules will continue prelaunch processing inside the Kennedys Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building along with the crew modules for Artemis III and Artemis IV NASA’s first missions to land the next humans on the lunar surface.

NASA and its commercial partners, Boeing and SpaceX, have three Commercial Crew Program missions scheduled to launch from Florida’s Space Coast, setting up a busy year of traffic for the International Space Station in 2024. The teams are preparing for the short-duration Crew Flight Test of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner not earlier than April. Meanwhile, NASA and SpaceX will continue crew rotation missions to the orbiting laboratory with Crew-8 expected no earlier than mid-February and Crew-9 to follow in mid-August.

Other crewed missions to the space station include SpaceX and Axiom Spaces short-duration Axiom Mission 3 and Axiom Mission 4 private astronaut missions.

SpaceXs Polaris Dawn, the second private short-duration orbital flight will also depart from Kennedy with four individuals planning to attempt the first ever commercial spacewalk.

Along with the crewed flights, three of the agency’s Commercial Resupply Services missions hosted by SpaceXs Dragon cargo spacecraft, Northrop Grummans Cygnus, and the debut flight of Sierra Spaces cargo spaceplane, Dream Chaser, are scheduled to take off from Kennedy next year to deliver thousands of pounds. of supplies, equipment, and scientific investigations in the orbiting laboratory.

NASAs Launch Services Program based at Kennedy has several science and CubeSat missions slated to fly on commercial rockets next year. They represent a mix of some of the agency’s most complex robotic and scientific missions, as well as smaller cost-effective missions, and missions sponsored by NASAs CubeSat Launch Initiative.

The first of the three primary missions is NASAs PACE (Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, Ocean Ecosystem) spacecraft that will be launched early next year on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. PACE’s science goals include expanding ocean color, atmospheric aerosol, and cloud data records for Earth system and climate studies.

GOES-U (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-U) is scheduled to launch in April on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, the fourth and final satellite in NOAAs GOES-R Series of advanced geostationary weather-observing satellites. Scheduled for an October launch aboard a Falcon Heavy, the agency’s Europa Clipper mission will investigate Jupiter’s moon Europa to determine if it has conditions suitable to support life.

Among the small spacecraft and CubeSat missions scheduled for launch in 2024 are two dedicated Rocket Labs Electron launches for PREFIRE (Polar Radiant Energy in Infrared Experiment), which aim to give researchers a more accurate picture of energy entering and exiting the Earth. The Blue Origins New Glenn rocket will host NASAs EscaPADE (Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers) mission that will send two spacecraft to study solar wind energy and momentum through Mars unique hybrid magnetosphere.

While the next year’s expected cadence of nearly 100 launches from Florida’s Space Coast is likely to mirror 2023’s record-setting pace, another thing to look out for is upgrading and sustaining efforts around at the spaceport.

The construction project of the Indian River Bridge, which opens the first of two spans in June of 2023, and the solar site 6 project of the Utility Energy Services Contract, are expected to be completed and become fully operational next year.

Restoration and beautification efforts throughout Kennedy also include considering some areas for development into natural wildflower prairies. In the spring, the Spaceport Integrations sustainability team will work on Project Arbor at the Spaceport. It will focus on planting native Florida trees and a seedling from the Artemis Moon Tree project along the Fitness Trail near the Operations Support Building II to provide shade, benefit wildlife, and help improve air quality.

A historical marker sponsored by NASA and the Florida Department of State will be installed in early 2024 at the site of the Kennedys original Headquarters Building making it the first to be located within the Kennedys secure area.

As 2023 draws to a close, the Kennedy Space Center is preparing to support several groundbreaking missions that will expand human knowledge about Earth and our solar system while protecting local ecosystems and natural resources.

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