EDITOR’S NOTE: Updated March 24, March 25 and 26 with new launch dates.
Rocket Lab’s light-class Electron launcher is set to take off on its fifth flight from New Zealand, aiming for a 264-mile-high (425-kilometer) orbit with DARPA’s R3D2 technology demonstration satellite.
The two-stage, 55-foot-tall (17-meter) rocket is scheduled for liftoff during a four-hour window opening at 6:30 p.m. EDT (2230 GMT) Thursday from Rocket Lab’s commercial launch complex on Mahia Peninsula on New Zealand’s North Island.
The privately-developed Electron launcher is making its fifth flight after its maiden flight in May 2017 reached space, but faltered before reaching orbit, followed by four successful missions in a row that deployed nanosatellites into low Earth orbit.
Last week’s successful launch of a Vega rocket with a European re-entry technology demonstrator marked the first of at least 11 flights planned this year by Arianespace to put communications satellites, Earth observatories and research probes into space.
Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken undocked from the International Space Station Saturday aboard a Crew Dragon capsule, heading for a parachute-assisted splashdown Sunday in the Gulf of Mexico to wrap up a 64-day test flight of SpaceX’s commercial human-rated spaceship.
A Russian Soyuz rocket lifted off Friday night from a tropical spaceport in French Guiana with a commercial communications satellite setting off on a dual mission to demonstrate new space technologies and bridge the Atlantic with data, video and voice relays. Launch occurred at 0103:34 GMT Saturday (8:03:34 p.m. EST Friday).