Busy Florida space week with 3 rocket launches and 1 Dragon landing on tap

The Space Coast could see a lot of action this week with the first-ever launch of the 3D-printed rocket from Relativity Space, a couple of SpaceX Falcon 9 launches, and the return of four crew members from the International Space Station.

First up is the scheduled launch of Relativity’s Terran 1 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s Launch Complex 16 during a three-hour window that opens at 1 p.m. Wednesday

Space Launch Delta 45′s weather squadron gives the window a 90% chance for favorable conditions, and 95% chance if there’s a 24-hour delay.

Terran 1, which is about 85% 3D-printed, is a smaller rocket compared with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 or United Launch Alliance’s Atlas rockets, standing at just 110 feet tall. It’s capable of sending 2,756 pounds of payload to low-Earth orbit of about 310 miles. The small satellite market is its target customer.

This is a test flight dubbed “GLHF,” as in “Good Luck, Have Fun,” carrying a symbolic 3D-printed metal object that was one of the company’s first-ever 3D-printed items from the first generation of its Stargate metal 3D printers.

The company will live stream the launch on its YouTube channel.

Thursday could be a busy day for SpaceX with both a launch from Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40 and the return of the Crew Dragon Endurance with its four passengers from the International Space Station.

The Falcon 9 launch from Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40 has a launch window from 2:05-2:26 p.m., according to the SLD 45 forecast, which gives the mission a 95% chance for favorable weather conditions, which drops to 85% in the event of a push to Friday.

This would be the third and final of SpaceX’s missions for British company OneWeb, a competitor to SpaceX’s Starlink satellites. Subsidiary OneWeb Satellites builds the satellites in partnership with Airbus at a facility in Brevard County that opened in 2019.

OneWeb shifted plans in 2022 to get launch assists from both SpaceX and India’s space agency after a contract to launch on Russian rockets was put into disarray following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This launch marks the 17th OneWeb launch to date with 40 more low-latency broadband communication satellites as part of the company’s plans for an array of 648 in orbit. A final launch from India is expected this month as well.

Thursday could also see the splashdown return of the Crew-5 mission from the ISS, although NASA has yet to announce an official departure time from the station and target landing. When it does, Crew Dragon Endurance, which arrived to the ISS last October and has finished its five-month run, can bring back home its four crew that were awaiting their replacements with the arrival of Crew-6 last week.

Returning to Earth targeting a landing off the coast of Florida either in the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico will be NASA astronaut and mission commander Nicole Mann, NASA astronaut and pilot Josh Cassada, Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata.

Mann was the first woman to command a Crew Dragon flight and the first Native American woman to fly into space. It was the first space mission for Mann, Cassada and Kikina while Wakata was making his fifth trip to space. Kikina was the first cosmonaut to ride on a Crew Dragon.

The departure of the Crew Dragon capsule makes room for a Cargo Dragon capsule slated to fly up from Kennedy Space Center as early as March 10.

The CRS-27 resupply mission is part of regular runs by SpaceX and Northrop Grumman that fly up from the U.S. while Russia and Japan also send up supplies to the station.

SpaceX has been the only launch provider to fly from the Space Coast so far in 2023 sending up 11 rockets so far through nine weeks. Elon Musk’s company will make up the lion’s share of as many as 92 launches from the two Space Coast launch facilities at KSC and Canaveral.

Relativity Space has just the single Terran 1 launch slated so far in 2023, but ULA has both an Atlas V launch on the first crewed mission of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner slated for mid- to late-April and the first Vulcan Centaur launch in early May.