When it was quietly announced in December 2017 that U.S. Space Command and the 45th Space Wing of the Air Force at Cape Canaveral had certified a polar launch corridor from Florida’s east coast, the news was met with quiet regard.
While the newly reestablished polar launch corridor would open up options for launch providers from Florida, many wondered if anyone would actually opt to launch a polar mission from Florida and compete with a growing launch cadence and demand from the Florida spaceport instead of utilizing the optimally-placed and designed Vandenberg Air Force Base for polar launches.
Since 1960, nearly all U.S.-launched polar mission have occurred from Vandenberg – with some augmentation provided by Kodiak Island, Alaska.
The last polar mission from Florida launched in 1960; on that flight, a Thor rocket stage impacted into Cuba, reportedly killing a cow.
From that point on, the Florida polar launch corridor was discontinued, and all U.S. polar launch operations shifted to the U.S. west coast.
Since that 1960 mission, the only flight to come closest to a polar inclination from Florida was the STS-36 classified DoD (Department of Defense) flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis.
On that mission, Atlantis rolled herself onto ...