With two veteran test pilots at the controls, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane climbed to the edge of space for the first time Thursday in a major achievement for Richard Branson’s long-sought ambition to begin regular commercial hops with space tourists, and the first piloted flight by a U.S. vehicle above an altitude of 50 miles since the last space shuttle mission in 2011.
Rocket Lab scrubbed a launch attempt late Wednesday (U.S. time) that was set to carry 13 CubeSats to orbit for NASA aboard an Electron rocket. Poor weather at the company’s launch base in New Zealand forced the postponement, and Rocket Lab plans to try again Saturday night (U.S. time) with a window opening at 11 p.m. EST (0400 GMT Sunday).
Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket is set to launch 10 CubeSats developed at NASA field centers and U.S. research institutions Wednesday night (U.S. time) from the company’s privately-owned spaceport in New Zealand, a pathfinder mission that could pave the way for more NASA satellites to hitch a ride on future Electron flights.
A commercial supply ship owned and operated by SpaceX arrived at the International Space Station on Saturday, delivering a pair of NASA experiments to demonstrate satellite refueling techniques and monitor changes in Earth’s forests, along with a special holiday menu of turkey, candied yams, cranberry sauce and shortbread cookies.