The 20th flight of a Rocket Lab Electron launcher appeared to run into trouble a few minutes after liftoff at 7:11 a.m. EDT (1111 GMT) Saturday from New Zealand, when video showed the rocket’s upper stage tumbling and shutting off its engine prematurely. The rocket was carrying two commercial BlackSky Earth observation satellites into orbit.
The scheduled launch Saturday of two commercial BlackSky Earth-imaging satellites from New Zealand will double as an opportunity for Rocket Lab to test an enhanced heat shield on its Electron booster, an upgrade that should allow the company to recover rockets in better condition for eventual reuse.
The launch of another 60 Starlink internet spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Sunday thrust SpaceX past a major milestone in rocket reuse: the 10th successful flight of a Falcon 9 booster. The mission marked the fourth SpaceX launch from Florida in 16 days, with the next batch of Starlink satellites due to blast off next Saturday.
SpaceX has launched its fourth Falcon 9 rocket from Florida’s Space Coast in less than 16 days. A Falcon 9 rocket blasted off with 60 more Starlink internet satellites at 2:42 a.m. EDT (0642 GMT) Sunday. The reusable booster, making its 10th flight, landed on a drone ship parked in the Atlantic Ocean.
A Falcon 9 rocket and 60 more Starlink internet satellites set for launch early Sunday at Cape Canaveral will mark the first time SpaceX has flown a first stage 10 times, reaching a milestone that the company once said could be a limit for reusing boosters. Now SpaceX plans to keep flying reused rockets on Starlink missions until one fails.