NASA has selected 14 companies for contracts of more than $370 million to advance technology for human missions to the moon and Mars. Most of the money will support flight demonstrations by SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, and other companies that could lead to in-space refueling and propellant depots for reusable lunar landers and deep space transportation vehicles.
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.
Views from an airliner, close-up high-speed launch pad cameras, and photographers around the Guiana Space Center in the jungle of South America show the twilight launch of a European Ariane 5 rocket Saturday with three commercial satellites heading for orbits more than 22,000 miles over the equator.
Another set of Starlink Internet satellites launched Tuesday from Cape Canaveral aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Powered by a reusable first stage booster making its sixth flight, the Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 10:31 a.m. EDT (1431 GMT). Three SkySat Earth-imaging satellites for Planet accompanied SpaceX’s 58 Starlink relay stations into orbit.
The last planned batch of high-resolution SkySat commercial Earth-viewing reconnaissance satellites owned by Planet will accompany 58 Starlink broadband relay stations on a climb into orbit Tuesday from Cape Canaveral on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, adding to the world’s two largest commercial satellite fleets.
An Ariane 5 rocket delivered a robotic space tug and a pair of commercial communications satellites into orbit Saturday following a fiery blastoff from French Guiana, debuting new upgrades in Arianespace’s first mission since temporarily suspending launch operations earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.