Main Engine Cut Off

SpaceX to Fly to Polar Orbit from Florida

Huge news breaking in the last day or two. Sandra Erwin, for SpaceNews:

The Eastern Range could in the future launch missions to polar orbits, which typically are done from Vandenberg, he said. “SpaceX is working a mission to do a polar launch from the Eastern Range, and we are supporting that. I think that gives us more flexibility if something happened at Vandenberg.”

I’ve been harping on the limited polar-capable launch sites here in the US for a while now, and have been curious about flights out of Florida since talk of this resurfaced in January 2018.

SpaceX has scheduled SAOCOM-1B for a flight to Sun-synchronous orbit from Florida. Flying polar out of Florida imposes a performance hit, because you have to fly a pretty aggressive dogleg, but with SAOCOM-1B being so light, Falcon 9 has sufficient payload margin to do it.

This will be a great pathfinder flight profile for vehicles with sufficient margin to make use of it effectively.

And there are currently a few major launch vehicles in operation or development that have large payload figures but don’t have a west coast launch site—notable Falcon Heavy, New Glenn, and Starship.