Relativity Space, a small launch startup aiming to fly its orbital rocket from Cape Canaveral for the first time next year, announced Wednesday it has signed a contract with Iridium for up to six launches of the company’s spare communications satellites. Relativity also announced it plans to develop a second launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to allow for missions to polar orbits.
The sixth and final satellite in the U.S. military’s network of ultra-secure, nuclear-hardened AEHF communications relay stations has arrived in Florida for final preparations for liftoff in March on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, the first of nearly 20 U.S. Space Force missions planned for launch in the first year of operations for the new military service.
After unusual concentrations of hydrogen around the rocket foiled a launch attempt Dec. 19, United Launch Alliance said Friday that the company’s powerful Delta 4-Heavy launcher and a U.S. government spy satellite will remain grounded in California until at least Jan. 6 as engineers troubleshoot a small fuel leak.
United Launch Alliance called off the planned liftoff of a Delta 4-Heavy rocket and a classified National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Wednesday after indications of elevated hydrogen concentrations around one of the launcher’s main engines. Three previous launch attempts were scrubbed by technical concerns and bad weather.