SpaceX’s second launch for the U.S. military in three days is set to blast off from Florida and deliver a GPS navigation satellite into orbit Wednesday, reinforcing the global positioning and timing network as four more GPS spacecraft are in storage at a Lockheed Martin factory in Colorado to be launched as needed over the next few years.
A U.S. military data relay satellite and a rideshare platform with its own suite of payloads rocketed into a sunset sky over Florida’s Space Coast Sunday on a Falcon Heavy launcher, putting on a dazzling show for local residents and visitors as the rocket’s two side boosters returned to Cape Canaveral for landing.
SpaceX’s fifth Falcon Heavy rocket lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 5:56 p.m. EST (2255 GMT) Sunday with a U.S. Space Force communications satellite and a rideshare spacecraft hosting five military payloads. The Falcon Heavy’s two reusable side boosters returned to Cape Canaveral for landings about eight minutes after launch. The launch was delayed from Saturday after preparations ran behind schedule.
Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Space Force say converted launch vehicle payload adapter rings, upgraded with power and propulsion to create full-fledged satellites, are proving effective in more rapidly delivering military instruments and sensors to orbit. Another such mission is set to launch on SpaceX’s next Falcon Heavy rocket.
Russian space agency and NASA officials said Wednesday they will accelerate the launch of the next Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station, and fly it to the complex next month without anyone on-board to replace a Soyuz crew ferry ship damaged Dec. 14 by a high-speed impact, likely from a tiny particle from deep space. The schedule shuffle will mean two Russian cosmonauts and one U.S. astronaut will stay in space several months beyond their planned return to Earth in late March.