Canaveral’s Polar Express

Interesting tidbit from James Dean of Florida Today:

How could the 45th Space Wing support national security missions if fires closed Vandenberg for 12, 18 or 24 months, Monteith asked his safety and flight analysts?

First, they looked north, but Newfoundland proved too difficult an obstacle. Turning their attention south, a path materialized.

“They crunched numbers for about eight months, and I am confident we can go south,” said Monteith.

Monteith did not detail the precise trajectory, but said it involved “a little jog shortly off the pad” to turn south once offshore, “and then we’d skirt Miami.”

The rocket’s first stage would drop safely before reaching Cuba, he said. The second stage would be so high up by the time it flew over the island that no special permissions would be required.

This will only get really interesting when someone books a launch to use such a path, and any thoughts of consolidating all US launch infrastructure to a single location are nonsensical, but the possibility does enable some fun discussions for those working on Falcon Heavy and New Glenn, specifically.

Those two vehicles have quite a bit of payload margin, and their polar plans aren’t quite clear—we don’t know what if anything Blue Origin has in mind for polar launches with New Glenn, and I haven’t heard substantial discussion of Falcon Heavy support out at Vandenberg in over a year (though that could easily be explained by the amount of pad work SpaceX has on its plate right now).

Vulcan seems less likely to use such a path. ULA has a plan to transition Atlas pads to Vulcan pads on both coasts, and because of Vulcan’s solid booster-based architecture, they don’t have payload margin to spare without adding quite a bit of cost.