Dueling Events for SpaceX and ULA Make for a Major Monday

As NASA and SpaceX are counting down to the planned 4:33 PM EDT CRS-6 cargo flight to the International Space Station on Monday, April 13th., United Launch Alliance is counting down to a press conference introducing its new rocket which will be held at nearly the same time.

The ULA press conference at which President and CEO Tory Bruno will introduce what it is calling America’s Next Generation Launch system is scheduled for 2:00 PM MT, and will take place at the 31st Space Symposium being held at The Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The timing of the highly anticipated reveal is intriguing given ULA’s bitter rivalry with SpaceX, whose growing success with the low cost Falcon 9 series is almost certainly responsible for the decision to develop a new booster in the first place. While the introduction of the new booster family, and announcement of its name, which was put to an on-line vote, will no doubt go off as planned, the same cannot be said for the CRS-6 Falcon 9. Current weather forecasts for the Titusville area call for an 80% chance of storms on both Monday and the backup opportunity on Tuesday.

If the launch, which must take place with split second timing, finds favorable weather conditions, the first stage landing attempt will take place in mostly favorable conditions as well. The offshore marine forecast in the landing zone is projecting mild seas at 4-5 feet, and brisk but manageable winds at 15 -20 kts.

As for the conflicting timing, if it is in fact intentional, it is a decision which could backfire rather badly for ULA.  Unless the company is planning a major surprise in the form a definitive commitment and time-frame for a reusable version of its new booster, there is a very real chance that it could be obsolete before the press conference is even over.

Here’s hoping Monday brings clear weather in Florida, a major surprise in Colorado and a double barreled beginning of a new space age.

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  1. Did anyone guess to themselves if Falcon would be able to make the barge landing last time. My guess was that Falcon would make some kind of contact with the barge but not stick the landing. My guess for Monday if the weather is good, is a perfect landing with at least one leg touching the inner circle.

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