The business of sending humans into space has not yet risen to the levels seen during the space shuttle program, but 2024 could see the most U.S.-based orbital launches in 15 years.
There are seven missions slated from either Kennedy Space Center or Cape Canaveral Space Force Station that look to place 26 humans into orbit. It’s the highest number of crew launching from the Space Coast since 2009. That year saw five shuttle launches with 35 humans on board.
The seven planned launches would also be the most since the eight space shuttle launches in 1997.
The shuttle era finished with only three launches in 2010 and 2011 before its retirement, and U.S.-based launches did not happen again until the successful May 2020 liftoff of SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission flying the Crew Dragon Endeavour to the International Space Station with humans on board for the first time.
Since then, SpaceX has been the only orbital U.S.-based launcher of humans in the game mixing up a combination of missions under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to the ISS as well as private missions to both the station and standalone orbital flights.
“This is a pretty exciting time in space,” said SpaceX’s William Gerstenmaier, formerly NASA’s chief of human spaceflight. “There’s a lot of commercial interest in spaceflight activities, and I think we feel really lucky on the SpaceX side to be able to support this activity moving forward.”
But 2024 could see three more crewed vehicles flying from the Space Coast on SpaceX commercial crew and private flights. Also the first crewed flight of NASA’s Artemis program and its Orion spacecraft and the long-delayed first crewed test flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner could happen.
Outside of Florida, Russia and China will continue to fly up their crews to orbit while private suborbital flights could continue from Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin.
5 SpaceX flights set
SpaceX, which has since 2020 flown up 40 people across 11 flights of four Crew Dragon spacecraft, is teeing up a record five missions in 2024. Launches will come from either KSC’s Launch Pad 39-A or Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40, where SpaceX recently added a crew access arm to allow for double the crew capability on the Space Coast.
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