It’s one of Florida’s busiest days in space in half a century, and it’s not the only place where launches are taking off.
A new set of civilian astronauts, including at least one YouTuber, as well as a couple of military spacecraft and one nation’s first mission to the moon, are all leaving the planet in less than 24 hours on Thursday (unless you live in the western United States, where the first one was still Wednesday night).
The day in space began early with a Rocket Lab Electron small-payload mission from New Zealand to orbit a spy satellite for the US National Reconnaissance Office. This was the second of two NRO missions for the American-Kiwi firm.
The mission took off Thursday at 1 a.m. ET, or 5 p.m. in New Zealand.
Following that was a United Launch Alliance mission, which used an Atlas V rocket to launch an SBIRS (space-based infrared system) satellite into geosynchronous Earth orbit to perform missile detection and early warning for the US Space Force from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
The launch occurred before dawn in Florida at 6:29 a.m. ET, and the mission has thus far gone as planned.
On Thursday, the ULA launch will be followed by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter on Florida’s space coast.
The spacecraft is South Korea’s first space exploration mission, and it will image the surface and map potential future landing sites in low lunar orbit.
According to Korean media, the plan is to test the radio connection between the moon and Earth by broadcasting BTS’s song Dynamite back to Earth.
The SpaceX launch is scheduled for 7:08 p.m. ET, approximately twelve and a half hours after the previous orbital launch from Cape Canaveral, the shortest period between two such launches from the space hub since 1967, during the height of the Apollo program.
A Blue Origin New Shepard rocket is set to launch from the company’s west Texas launch pad as early as 9:50 a.m. ET, sandwiched between all the action in Florida.
The sixth crewed mission for Jeff Bezos’ space company will include the first Egyptian and Portuguese astronauts and the world’s first trick-shot Guinness world record holder to visit space.
Blue Origin’s crew includes Coby Cotton, co-founder of the YouTube trick shot sensation channel Dude Perfect, Portuguese entrepreneur Mário Ferreira, British-American mountaineer Vanessa O’Brien, technology leader Clint Kelly III, Egyptian engineer Sara Sabry, and telecommunications executive Steve Young.
The group will make the now-familiar journey from the Texas desert to the edge of space, where they will experience weightlessness and a panoramic view before returning to Earth.
On top of all of this, there is some speculation that China may conduct an experimental and unannounced spacecraft test flight on Thursday.
All of this adds up to one of the busiest days in spaceflight history, but it may only be the beginning as SpaceX and NASA ramp up their plans to send more astronauts to orbit, the moon, and beyond in the coming years.