A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off Thursday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida with the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B mini-shuttle, an unpiloted orbiting military laboratory. Liftoff occurred at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT), and the Falcon 9’s first stage booster successfully landed at Cape Canaveral a few minutes later.
With an eye on dangerous Hurricane Irma’s forecast path toward Florida, SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force are proceeding with preparations to launch an unpiloted reusable military spaceship Thursday on a mission to conduct experiments in orbit, deploy multiple small satellites and glide back to Earth for a runway landing after months or years in space.
The launch of a European Ariane 5 rocket was aborted moments after its main engine ignited Tuesday. The dramatic last-second hold was the first time an Ariane rocket launch was aborted after engine start since March 2011. Arianespace has not set a new target launch date for the mission, which will loft two U.S.-built communications satellites for Intelsat and B-SAT.