SpaceX’s first Falcon Heavy launch for the U.S. Air Force took a major step closer to liftoff with a hold-down engine firing Wednesday night at launch pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Liftoff with a cluster of experimental satellites and weather monitoring craft is set for June 24.
A flight demonstration of an inflatable heat shield that could be used to retrieve reusable engines from United Launch Alliance’s next-generation Vulcan rocket, and for the delivery of heavier cargo to the surface of Mars, is planned for launch in late 2021 or early 2022 as a piggyback payload on an Atlas 5 rocket with a NOAA weather satellite.
Europe’s MetOp-C weather satellite launched aboard a Russian-built Soyuz rocket toward polar orbit Tuesday night from French Guiana, joining an international fleet of meteorological observatories critical for global weather forecasting. Liftoff occurred at 7:47 p.m. EST Tuesday (0047 GMT Wednesday).