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The Spaceport Boom

Licensed and proposed commercial spaceports are popping up across the U.S.

1 min read
The Spaceport Boom
Infographic: John MacNeill; Source: Federal Aviation Administration

Rocket and spacecraft company SpaceX recently announced its plans to open a spaceport in Texas, while Virgin Galactic is making noises that it expects to conduct a flight into space from the Mojave Air & Space Port in California in the next several months. But these aren’t the only places where people are hoping to grab a piece of the nascent commercial space age. The United States’ Federal Aviation Administration has already licensed a number of other spaceports, with several more locations also expressing interest in getting licensed. Just how big the commercial space market would have to be to support all these launch sites is an open question.

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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.

NASA

For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

The Webb’s comms aren’t flashy. Rather, the data and communication systems are designed to be incredibly, unquestionably dependable and reliable. And while some aspects of them are relatively new—it’s the first mission to use Ka-band frequencies for such high data rates so far from Earth, for example—above all else, JWST’s comms provide the foundation upon which JWST’s scientific endeavors sit.

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