The first three months of the year were all business as usual for space launches, but on Thursday, NASA and the private sector will once again take a page from the space industry playbook and launch a record number of cargo and crew missions into low-Earth orbit, a milestone that will make SpaceX’s rocket and spaceplane programs a lot more viable in the future.
With the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy launching on July 18, the company announced its first cargo delivery since October and two flights in the past six months.
In the three months since the first flights, the Delta IV has sent more than 5,000 pounds of supplies into low Earth orbit than the entire previous record set by the Atlas V rocket.
The latest mission, however, will likely be the last one for the Delta Heavy.
With two Delta IVs, a United Launch Council Delta IV-Heavy rocket and a ULA Atlas V, ULA will launch more than 7,000 kilograms of cargo to low Earth and space from its launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, where the Delta is based.
The Atlas V-HIGH rocket will launch another 1,400 kilograms to low-earth orbit in 2018.NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is also expecting more launches in 2017.
SpaceX plans to launch more of its Dream Chaser spacecraft to the International Space Station in 2018, and Boeing has been working on a new crewed capsule called CST-100 that will be sent to the space station in 2021.
The company has been developing its new crew capsule, which is scheduled to launch in 2021, with a new design that includes a capsule’s first crew module.
NASA has approved the design, but Boeing has said that it will have to design its capsule itself.
The Boeing CST-200 capsule is designed to ferry crew members and supplies to the orbiting outpost.
NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program has also begun work on a crewed crew capsule called the CST-21.
Both missions are expected to be powered by the new Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) used for the Orion crew capsule and Delta IV heavy.
Both missions will be powered from a new propulsion system called the RL10 engine, which will be used to power the Delta and CST rockets.NASA and Boeing have also announced a new mission for the United States Air Force’s Delta IV rocket called Delta IV Integrated Mission, or DIMM.
The Delta IV is scheduled for launch in 2022 and is powered by a new booster called the Atlas 5 rocket.NASA is also expected to launch the Delta V rocket from Vandenberg and will use its new RD-180 engine for its crew capsule.
The Atlas V will be the first rocket to use the RD-181 engine, and will be flown by NASA’s commercial crew program.
The RD-191 engine will be a separate vehicle for NASA’s cargo and human exploration programs.
While the Delta 4 rocket has already launched six times and launched more than 9,500 pounds of cargo into low earth orbit, the new rocket will likely take the record for most cargo and cargo deliveries to orbit.
The Falcon 9 rocket will be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Thursday and will lift off on Friday morning.