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Only 58 launches...Why? Let's Look (an opinion)



First of all please note that this is an observation and may not be
entirely based on fact.

There were 4 launch platforms that are in trouble and undergoing
investigation (Pegasus, Taurus, and H-2, and Ariane 5)  
Three of those will hopefully be returning soon, Ariane 5, Pegasus, and
H-2, although the H-2 is still undergoing pre-operation flights.
Next, one of the big launch reasons is for GPS and Iridium.  GPS is
currently "healthy" and we know the problem with Iridium, though it
looks like it will be saved for now.
There is also a "cascade effect" when one launch is postponed on a
launch pad past a certain time, it pushes the next one down, whenever
there is just 1 launch pad that supports that vehicle.
Also we now have larger rockets that can: A. Launch 1 large spacecraft
into geosynch orbit or, B. Multiple smaller spacecraft into multiple
orbits.  Saves money.
>From my viewpoint, there we also the launch industry suffered from the
recession a little bit earlier than the rest of the world. (Definitely
an opinion only)
We are also coming out of a solar max, who would want to launch a
satellite just to have it burned out by radiation? (Remember the delay
for PCSAT?)
We also are making satellites to have a longer operational lifetime 15
to 20 years, and we have not had any catastrophic failures this year,
although there were some problems with WX satellites.

Now lets look to the future.

According to Spaceflightnow.com, there will be 66 launches carrying 66
satellites (excluding Shuttle-Iss, Soyuz-Iss, and Progress flights
though that adds into the number of launches.)
But some of these are ones postponed from last year, and I'm sure there
will be additions/deletions this coming year.
But this may be NASA's last "great" year for shuttle flights.  As you
may have heard, the Young report recommends a reduction to only
4 flights per year.  This would go into effect after fiscal year 2003.
And the rumors on Space.com, and others, this may be 
Columbia's swan song as a launch vehicle, as it is too heavy to launch
to ISS and would cost too much to refurbish.  This would be a shame.
We still have the economy to worry about and then there is the events of
Sept 11.
On thinking of that event, I do not know if it will be a boon or a bane
to the launch industry.
On one side, I'm sure the CIA and the NRO will want to put more spy sats
in orbit, on the other hand,
We (the gov't) may say "I'm sorry but your satellite was not made in
America and so we can't let it be launched from here" (and vice-versa)

On a somewhat brighter note, we have new launch vehicles coming online,
like the Delta 4 and the Delta Heavy.
This year a third nation, China, could launch a human into orbit.
TDRSS is at it's operational limit (the original ones) and they are to
be replaced over the next couple of years, while the others may be used
to support other operations, like TDRSS-1 is doing with McMurdo.
Science-wise, this next year seems to be a good one, although none at
this time will be going beyond the immediate earth vicinity (e.g. Mars)

This last year and the next year will be crucial to the launch industry,
with the recession, the War on Terrorism, and now with tensions high
between Pakistan and India are factors to consider.
Also, although it is waning, solar max could still be a problem for the
next year, though I put that at a lower possibility than others.

Please remember that this is just one person's opinion, and lets hope
this next year will be better than the last in ALL aspects.

Happy New Year
Les
KD4SFD


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