SpaceX’s final launch of the year has blasted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, with a Falcon 9 rocket boosting a $186 million Earth-imaging satellite into orbit for the Israeli company ImageSat International. Liftoff occurred at 11:38 p.m. PST Thursday (2:38 a.m. EST; 0738 GMT Friday), and the Falcon 9 booster returned to Vandenberg for landing less than 10 minutes later.
Two Pléiades Neo Earth observation satellites are set to join Airbus’s constellation of high-resolution optical imagers with a launch Tuesday night from French Guiana on the first commercial flight of Europe’s Vega C rocket, a mission delayed from November to change out suspect hardware on the launcher’s payload fairing.
Unfavorable upper level winds kept Rocket Lab’s Electron launcher on the ground Sunday night in Virginia. Overnight the company announced it would not try again on Monday due to a continuing forecast for strong upper level winds. The Electron rocket is to carry into orbit three commercial radio frequency monitoring satellites for HawkEye 360.
Rocket Lab said Saturday that the company received final approval from NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration to launch their first mission from the United States on Sunday, clearing final regulatory and technical hurdles with a new autonomous range safety destruct unit that delayed the launch more than two years.