The stars are aligning for Tuesday to be quite the bookend to a transformational year for commercial space exploration.
Four different companies have rocket launches slated for 18 December: Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, France’s Arianespace and United Launch Alliance, the joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Assuming the weather holds up and last-minute technical issues can be avoided, it will be the first time so many rockets will fly on a single day.
First up on the schedule is SpaceX, which plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket at around 9.11am local time (4.11pm South African time) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The payload is a satellite for the US Air Force, and vice President Mike Pence has said he’ll attend.
Blue Origin expects its New Shepard rocket to lift off about 19 minutes later.
Third up will be Arianespace, which is flying one of Russia’s Soyuz rockets and launching a satellite from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana at roughly 6.37pm South African time.
Lastly, United Launch Alliance has scheduled its Delta Heavy rocket to lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California’s central coast at 3.57am South African time on Wednesday (Tuesday evening local time).
Update: The stars didn’t quite align for a record day for rocket launches. Three missions scheduled for Tuesday were scrubbed. SpaceX postponed a launch of a GPS satellite citing a technical issue involving its rocket sensors. Blue Origin halted a launch from Texas because of “a ground infrastructure issue”. And Arianespace said weather conditions forced it to delay a mission in French Guiana. United Launch Alliance still has a mission scheduled for Tuesday evening. For the others, Wednesday is now the big potential day for launches. — Reported by Dana Hull and Brendan Case, (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP