It may happen this month. Eric Berger has the story. But this seems just wrong for the 21st century:
it can occur no earlier than March 29, because the launch of an Atlas V rocket has slipped to March 27, and it requires about 48 hours for the Air Force to reconfigure its downrange tracking system for a launch from a different pad.
There was a panel at the satellite conference a couple weeks ago on the need not to just rethink the range, but get rid of the concept entirely, as it becomes more like an airport. Like “human rating,” a “range” is an archaic concept from the early days of launching things into space on ordnance.
[Update a while later]
More thoughts from Chris Petty:
If the SES-10 launch proceeds without problems many of the doubters may be silenced and SpaceX could truly be on the brink of a real revolution in spaceflight – a tipping point at which expendable rockets become the exception for a launch company rather than the rule as they have been since the dawn of the space age in 1957. But can reusability really work? It has become something of a fashionable mantra from some within NASA to state that the Shuttle proved reusable vehicles couldn’t be economically competitive with expendable launchers. Whilst this was certainly the case for the hugely expensive shuttle, this single example shouldn’t be taken as a rule that can be broadly applied to reusable vehicles per-se. There were many factors inherent within the shuttle’s design that conspired to mean that the planned high flight rates could never be attained, nor could the aspiration of ‘aircraft-like operations’ with highly automated check-out procedures and rapid turnarounds between flights ever be achieved. Many of these had their roots in the restricted post-apollo budgets from which the compromised design for the Space Transportation System emerged.
With the Falcon 9, SpaceX has been able to iteratively design a launch system that could gradually test elements of reusability while still carrying out the all important revenue generating work of delivering payloads to orbit. Unlike the shuttle, failure during recovery was an option for the Falcon 9 during its development. This points to one of the key differentiators that SpaceX and fellow reusable commercial launch company Blue Origin, have on their side. With founders coming from the technology startup culture, both firms have concepts of lean, agile development ingrained into their corporate DNA. Functioning as space launch OEMs, they have developed their own vehicles and propulsion technologies from scratch. The risk in these new developments has been met partly by the significant financial resources of their founders, but also by clients willing to chance their fortunes with less-proven technology in return for reduced launch costs. While some still refer to SpaceX and Blue Origin as ‘New Space’ both are now well into their second decade of operation, so perhaps it is more appropriate to refer to Commercial Space as compared to the more established Government Space represented by NASA, where the cost-plus contract is still king and development takes place at a far slower pace, insulated to a large extent from market forces.
And at some point, as he notes, SLS will become so obviously ridiculous that it won’t survive.
[Update a few minutes later]
Sorry, solved the missing link.
[Update a few minutes later]
— Chris G – NSF 📎 (@CwG_NSF) March 21, 2017