Another Atlas V rocket set to launch from Cape Canaveral on Thursday

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CAPE CANVERAL, Fla. - Another Atlas V rocket is set to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Thursday, and Channel 9's Melonie Holt learned it could be a busy year for launches.

This year's launch manifest has nearly doubled since last year, and Thursday's launch from Complex 41 will play a key role in modernizing NASA's communications network.

The Atlas V rocket will carry NASA's newest tracking and data relay satellite into orbit.


LINK: NASA Launch Schedule


"All the beautiful video of the earth from the ISS comes through TDRS or the tracking data relay satellite network," said Kennedy Space Center news chief Michael Curie.

The same is true of the photos and video coming from the Hubble telescope.  

And the satellite set to launch Thursday night will update NASA's fleet of tracking and data relay satellites in what will be a very busy year for the space agency.

"We have about 17 launches between mission that are going to ISS, five earth science missions that are launching this year. There are four SpaceX launches to ISS from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station," said Curie.

Not all of NASA's launches will be from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, but, there will still be plenty of other payloads launched from the Space Coast in 2014.  In all, 21 launches are on the manifest this year, compared to 12 last year.

There's also the first scheduled test flight for the Orion capsule, NASA's next exploration spacecraft.

Area business owner Brenda Mulberry said the more recent launches haven't been met with the same enthusiasm as the shuttle launches, but they're still significant.

"We're hopeful and I leave it that," she said.

You can watch Thursday launch live on WFTV.com.