Delayed a year by a launch failure, the coronavirus pandemic and a stretch of stiff upper level winds this summer, an Italian-made Vega rocket vaulted into orbit from French Guiana on Wednesday night and deployed 53 small satellites from 13 countries to punctuate a flawless return to flight mission.
After an unusual stretch of excessive high-altitude winds prevented launch from French Guiana of 53 small satellites on a Vega rocket in June — and no sign of a letup in winds in the coming days — Arianespace said Wednesday that the mission will be delayed to Aug. 17 to allow time for teams to recharge launcher and payload batteries.
After months of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Arianespace scrubbed back-to-back Vega launch attempts Saturday and Sunday due to unfavorable high-altitude winds over the European-run Guiana Space Center in South America. The Vega rocket is awaiting launch on a rideshare mission carrying 53 small satellites into orbit for 21 customers in 13 countries.
Firing through a veil of fog blanketing California’s Central Coast, a Falcon 9 launcher climbed into orbit Wednesday with 10 more satellites for Iridium’s voice and data relay constellation, pushing the upgraded network closer to completion as SpaceX accomplished another landing of the rocket’s first stage booster.
Ten more satellites for Iridium’s commercial communications network flew into orbit Friday aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, raising the total number of upgraded Iridium spacecraft launched to 50 and clearing the way for liftoff of a SpaceX supply ship Monday from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station.