2018 could see return of US human spaceflight

By Jerry Hume, Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, January 12, 2018, 3:29 PM EST

The year 2018 could provide for some exciting, history making moments on Florida’s Space Coast.

  • NASA expected to send astronauts on spacecraft in 2018
  • SpaceX and Boeing hired to develop spacecraft
  • First crewed flight on Boeing's CST-100 Starliner scheduled Nov. 2018

The highlight of the year, and perhaps the decade will be the return of human spaceflight, launching from U.S. soil.

NASA is expected to send astronauts on American spacecraft from the Space Coast in 2018.

“All launches are awesome, but when there are humans on board, it’s a much more personal and visceral engagement by everybody,” said Space Florida Vice President Dale Ketcham. “So that will be a huge, momentous event for the nation and certainly those of us here on the Space Coast.”

NASA hired both SpaceX and Boeing to develop spacecraft that can send astronauts to the International Space Station.

Both companies continue testing.

NASA’s website says the first crewed flight on Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner is scheduled for Nov. 2018. SpaceX’s first manned launch on Crew Dragon is set for Dec. 2018.

The return of human spaceflight would be welcomed news for local businesses after the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011.

Things haven’t been the same, according to Brenda Mulberry, the president of Space Shirts on Merritt Island.

“Slow, steady, but not overwhelming like the space shuttle,” said Mulberry.

The year 2018 will also see the inaugural launch of the Falcon Heavy.

SpaceX says it’s the world’s most powerful rocket, capable of sending humans to the moon or Mars one day.

For the test launch, SpaceX plans to send a red Tesla roadster to Mars’ orbit.

Blue Origin will start manufacturing rockets in the new year, and OneWeb is expected to begin building satellites.

“It will be the first time we’re launching satellites and rockets from the cape that have been built here at the cape, so that’s very exciting to all of us,” said Ketcham, who believes diversifying the Space Coast’s economy is a key to the area’s success.

As for other launches, this summer United Launch Alliance will use a Delta IV rocket to send a probe on a first of its kind mission to the sun.

According to the 45th Space Wing, ULA is planning eight launches from the cape this year, and SpaceX is aiming for 24 launches.

That’s a record 32 launches from the Space Coast.

It’s music to the ears of Mulberry.

“It’s hopeful for the future,” said Mulberry.