The 20th flight of a Rocket Lab Electron launcher appeared to run into trouble a few minutes after liftoff at 7:11 a.m. EDT (1111 GMT) Saturday from New Zealand, when video showed the rocket’s upper stage tumbling and shutting off its engine prematurely. The rocket was carrying two commercial BlackSky Earth observation satellites into orbit.
The scheduled launch Saturday of two commercial BlackSky Earth-imaging satellites from New Zealand will double as an opportunity for Rocket Lab to test an enhanced heat shield on its Electron booster, an upgrade that should allow the company to recover rockets in better condition for eventual reuse.
An Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle placed Brazil’s Amazonia 1 satellite into orbit Sunday to begin a mission monitoring deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, then released 18 smaller spacecraft at a lower altitude, marking a successful start to India’s 2021 launch schedule that could see as many as seven orbital-class rocket missions.
SpaceX launched the first in a series of small satellite rideshare missions Sunday from Cape Canaveral, providing transportation for 143 U.S. and international spacecraft to low Earth orbit, a record number of satellites on a single flight. Liftoff occurred at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT) Sunday after bad weather forced SpaceX to scrub a launch attempt Saturday morning.
A Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle lifted off Saturday with India’s EOS 1 radar imaging satellite and nine rideshare payloads for customers based in the United States, Luxembourg, and Lithuania. The successful mission was India’s first launch in nearly a year due to delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.