Running through a practice countdown and hold-down engine firing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket passed a key checkpoint Thursday ahead of liftoff next week with the U.S. Air Force’s fifth X-37B spaceplane flight, a mission that will come with several firsts.
SpaceX’s next Falcon 9 rocket arrived at Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39A on Thursday for a hold-down engine firing ahead of launch next week with the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B spaceplane. The brief engine ignition occurred at 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT).
An Indian navigation satellite remained stuck to its launcher after climbing into orbit Thursday when the rocket’s aerodynamic payload shroud failed to jettison as planned several minutes after liftoff, dealing the country’s workhorse booster its first total failure since 1993.
NASA’s new communications satellite, launched to a preliminary orbit August 18, has ascended to geosynchronous altitude more than 22,000 miles up, deployed its giant antennas and extended twin solar arrays to begin in-space commissioning.
NASA is examining options to launch a robotic mission as soon as 2026 to pick up rock specimens from the surface of Mars and bring them back to Earth, moving forward the timeline for a sample return mission as the agency postpones plans for a new Mars reconnaissance and data relay orbiter.