SpaceX launched its fifth Falcon 9 rocket in 22 days on Saturday, beginning a mission to deploy 52 more Starlink internet satellites and two rideshare payloads for Capella Space and Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems. Liftoff from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida occurred at 6:56 p.m. EDT (2256 GMT), and SpaceX successfully landed the first stage on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
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.
Nine small Chinese satellites, including a technology experiment to test out ways to capture space debris, rode a Long March 6 rocket into orbit April 27 on a rideshare mission managed by China Great Wall Industry Corp., the government-owned enterprise charged with selling Chinese launch services on the commercial market.