India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle lifted off Thursday and deployed in orbit a hyperspectral Earth-imaging satellite designed to assess vegetation, soil conditions and pollution in rich detail, then maneuvered to a lower altitude to release 30 more smallsats, including reinforcements for Planet and Spire’s commercial Earth-observing constellations.
Rocket Lab’s Electron booster launched six small satellites and a drag sail demonstrator to orbit Sunday from New Zealand, a success on the company’s first commercial mission that officials said should pave the way for a launch carrying NASA CubeSats next month and up to 16 flights of the light-class rocket next year.
Fifteen CubeSats owned by NASA, Spire Global, and U.S. research institutions launched aboard a Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo ship in May have been released into orbit, beginning missions to demonstrate miniaturized, low-cost Earth science instruments and join a commercial network of weather-monitoring nanosatellites.
Problems with a downrange tracking station kept Rocket Lab’s Electron launcher on the ground in New Zealand Friday, U.S. time, and the company ordered a two-day delay to resolve the issues and wait for improved weather. Rocket Lab pushed back the launch again to Tuesday because of unfavorable weather.