The French military’s newest sharp-eyed optical surveillance satellite lifted off at 1637 GMT (11:37 a.m. EST) Wednesday from French Guiana aboard a Russian-built Soyuz launcher, marking Arianespace’s 11th and final launch of 2018. The Soyuz rocket and Fregat upper stage will place the CSO 1 spacecraft into orbit around 500 miles (800 kilometers) above Earth. Managers delayed the launch from Tuesday due to unfavorable high-altitude winds.
The demands of launching the first in an upgraded line of U.S. Air Force GPS navigation satellites, including a late load of extra fuel for the spacecraft and a military policy of reserving fuel to eliminate space junk, will keep SpaceX from recovering the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket following liftoff Thursday from Cape Canaveral, according to mission managers.
Rocket Lab’s commercial Electron booster fired into orbit from New Zealand on Sunday, carrying a flock of 13 CubeSats on the company’s first mission chartered by NASA, and closing out a landmark year for the new smallsat launch provider as Rocket Lab aims to grow its flight rate to at least one per month in 2019.