Multiple launches today

Two launches today:

  • ULA’s last Delta 2 rocket launches ICESat-2 icecap tracking satellite for NASA
  • Indian’s PSLV rocket launches two British satellites

More details about ICESat-2 can be found here.

The PSLV launch raises India’s 2018 launch total to 4, tying Japan. The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:

24 China
16 SpaceX
8 Russia
5 Europe (Arianespace)

The U.S. and China are once again tied at 24 each.

ULA to trim working launchpads from 5 to 2

The competition heats up: In order to lower its fixed costs, ULA plans to reduce the number of launchpads it maintains from 5 to 2, one at Kennedy and Vandenberg respectively.

Right now they need to maintain three separate launchpads to operate the Delta 2, Delta 4, and Delta Heavy, which is the main reason the Delta family of rockets is so expensive. This is also the reason that the Delta 2 and Delta Heavy only launch from Vandenberg, as ULA has retired their launchpads at Kennedy.

It appears that ULA’s plan is to design their next generation rocket much like SpaceX’s Falcon 9, with as simple as system of launch facilities as possible.

OCO-2 in orbit

Second time’s the charm: A Delta 2 rocket successfully launched the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 (OCO-2) into orbit on Wednesday, five years after the first OCO was lost at launch when its Taurus XL rocket fell into the ocean.

The Earth-observing satellite is designed to globally track the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

I have to note that if the science of climate change was so “settled,” as President Barack Obama keeps insisting, why did we then spend half a billion dollars on this satellite? Wouldn’t it make more sense to drop the research and focus entirely on saving the planet?

The cost of launch

Two news items from NASA today:

What I find most interesting about these stories is the fees charged by the two companies. SpaceX will be paid $82 million for its one launch, while ULA will be paid $412 million for its three launches, or about $137 million per launch.
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