A Vega rocket fired into orbit Thursday night from French Guiana with Italy’s PRISMA hyperspectral Earth-imaging satellite, commencing a busy period for the Vega launcher program as engineers prepare for the debut of the more powerful Vega-C booster in early 2020 and study a lighter variant to better compete in the growing smallsat launch market.
In a major shift, NASA is considering using two commercial launchers to send an unpiloted Orion crew capsule and its European-built service module on a test flight around the moon next year, maintaining the lunar test flight’s schedule despite fresh delays in the development of the multibillion-dollar Space Launch System that jeopardize the heavy-lifter’s 2020 inaugural flight, the agency’s administrator said in a congressional hearing Wednesday.
Singed and blackened from three fiery trips to the edge of space and back, a Falcon 9 rocket returned to Cape Canaveral on Sunday after a mission last that week carried the Israeli Beresheet moon lander into orbit, ready for inspections before attempting a fourth — and likely final — launch this spring.
An Israeli-built moon lander aiming to become the first privately-funded mission reach another planetary body rocketed away from Cape Canaveral on Thursday night aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, riding piggyback with an Indonesian communications spacecraft and an experimental U.S. Air Force space surveillance microsatellite.
Russian commander Sergey Prokopyev, German flight engineer Alexander Gerst, and NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor closed out a nearly 197-day space mission with a landing in Kazakhstan aboard their Soyuz MS-09 crew carry ship at 0502 GMT (12:02 a.m. EST) Thursday. The Soyuz crew undocked from the International Space Station at 0140 GMT (8:40 p.m. EST Wednesday) to begin their return to Earth.
Eight days after a dramatic spacewalk to inspect the site of a leak in the hull of his Soyuz ferry ship, Russian commander Sergey Prokopyev, German flight engineer Alexander Gerst and NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor geared up to depart the International Space Station Wednesday for a fiery plunge back to Earth.