(Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., January 4, 2022) – Space Launch Delta 45 leaders are encouraging the public to pay attention and be responsive to new local launch hazard areas as polar orbit and southerly trajectory launch attempts become more frequent from the Eastern Range.
SLD 45 finished 2021 by supporting its 37th successful launch, which included two launch missions from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station to feature polar trajectories. Polar orbit launch trajectories differ greatly from typical flight paths from the Eastern Range, with rockets flying south over land, meaning launch hazard areas are dramatically different for public safety.
The majority of launches from Cape Canaveral place spacecraft and astronauts into prograde orbits where they travel in the same direction as the Earth’s rotation. However, polar launches place satellites into an orbit that loops around the Earth’s poles, which is required for satellites desiring to see the whole planet and often requires a southerly launch trajectory.
The chance of a launch scrubbing due to a range violation is increased if the public is not aware of the expanded safety measures. Boaters and aircraft operators are directed to consult the advisories for each launch that contain detailed maps, coordinates, timing, and status of the area restrictions and closures. Last year, a polar launch attempt scrubbed due to a range violation when a private aircraft strayed into the restricted airspace prior to launch.
“The 2022 launch pace is going to be exceptionally busy with up to five polar, and seven total launches, projected for the month of January alone. While three polar missions successfully launched in the past year and a half, Cape Canaveral has never had five southern trajectory launches in a single month,” said Maj. Jonathan Szul, Director of Operations, 1st Range Operations Squadron at CCSFS. “Due to the unique southerly trajectories, there will be a larger potential impact to air and sea traffic along the southeast coast of Florida. We ask that all pilots and mariners double-check their Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) and Notices to Mariners (NOTMAR) to ensure they are fully aware of all pending launch activities in this historic month on the Space Coast.”
In the past, the majority of polar orbit launches occurred at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, but recent technology advancements have allowed CCSFS to launch polar and southerly trajectory missions on a more frequent basis – and the pace is only increasing. SLD 45 supported the launch of the SpaceX SAOCOM-1B satellite mission in August of 2020, which returned the polar orbit launch capability to Florida.
“It has been an amazing opportunity to support a new era of space launch from Cape Canaveral. The team’s ability to adapt and thrive in a more dynamic environment is a testament to our Guardian’s and Airmen’s commitment to ensuring the United States maintains its assured access to space, in an increasingly contested space environment,” said 1st Lt. Brendan Kennedy, Range Operations Commander Instructor with the 1st Range Operations Squadron.
The first launch of 2022 to feature a southerly trajectory will be the SpaceX Falcon 9, Starlink 4-5 mission currently targeting a launch date of January 6, 2022.
SLD 45 posts the Launch Hazard Area for mariners and the Airspace Closure Area for aviators for each launch on its website (www.patrick.spaceforce.mil) in the “Upcoming Launches” section of the homepage.
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Space Launch Delta 45 is the World’s Premier Gateway to Space. Based at Patrick Space Force Base in Florida, SLD 45 operates the Eastern Range and provides safety and mission assurance for all rocket launches from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. For more information visit: Space Launch Delta 45 website; SLD 45 on Facebook; SLD 45 on Twitter