2013 to see several launches from Space Coast

By Jerry Hume, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, January 03, 2013, 8:02 AM EST

Space will be a big destination once again in 2013.

Both NASA and commercial companies are preparing for several launches in the new year, many originating from Cape Canaveral.

Although there will be no manned mission launching from U.S. soil in 2013, we will be seeing Atlas V rocket launches.

Produced by United Launch Alliance, the first one will carry a NASA communications satellite. It’s called the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System and is set to take off Jan. 29 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

“It will enable very large bits of data to be transferred from the Earth to the spacecraft and back. It’s how we talked to the shuttle astronauts. It’s how we talk today to the space station astronauts and it’s how we get pictures and video down from space,” said NASA spokesman Mike Curie.

The Mars Curiosity Rover will continue to bring back images of the red planet in 2013. Another Mars mission is set to launch from the Space Coast in November, with a spacecraft that will study the Martian upper atmosphere.

Also at the Kennedy Space Center, NASA is working on the Orion Capsule, designed to one day bring humans to deep space, like Mars or an asteroid.

"A lot of work is under way and preparing that capsule, we'll be getting more hardware in, in 2013," Curie said.

Commercial companies will also have a big year.

SpaceX has a couple of launches from the Cape with cargo for the International Space Station. The first of the year is set for March 1.

SpaceX, along with Boeing and Sierra Nevada, will also continue testing their spacecrafts to eventually carry humans onboard, sometime in the coming years.

For United Launch Alliance, which builds the Atlas V and Delta rockets, 2013 will be a lucky year.

"In 2013, we already have 13 launches on the manifest, nine of those are from the Cape right here where we are standing, and of course the other four will be at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California," said ULA spokeswoman Jessica Rye.

Later this year, NASA will be awarding more money to companies that can prove they can send humans safely to the ISS.

Those companies are looking at some time after 2015 before they send astronauts to the space station.