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SpaceX Hopes to Highlight a Big Year for Space Launches


A small region on central Florida's east coast is responsible for just about all of NASA's space launches, and it is going to see significant activity in the year ahead.

Known as the Space Coast, the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Station have been NASA's preferred the launch site for all space flights since 1961. The Space Coast already has 20 unmanned flights scheduled for 2016, Bay News 9 reported.

SpaceX will likely have a major presence at Cape Canaveral and the KSC, but its first launch of 2016 will take place on the other side of the country. The company will launch a Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Jan. 17 to put NASA's Jason-3 satellites in orbit.

SpaceX confirmed the launch to NBC News and stated it will try to land its rocket on a drone ship in the ocean. SpaceX successfully landed a Falcon 9 rocket last month after launch, and the company's CEO, Elon Musk, confirmed it was ready for re-use. Musk said the rocket will probably stay on Earth to be preserved.

"I think we'll probably keep this one on the ground because it's quite unique, it's the first one we brought back," NBC News quoted Musk telling reporters on a conference call.

But SpaceX is saving something even bigger for the Space Coast, Bay News 9 reported, when the company plans to debut its Falcon Heavy rocket in the spring. SpaceX hopes to one day use the Falcon Heavy rocket to launch astronauts into space.

"It will be great all around," Dale Ketcham, of Space Florida, told Bay News 9. "Another huge step forward here for the program, for human spaceflight and certainly for those of us here in Florida."

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