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.
NASA announced Thursday that work on the Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket and Orion crew capsule at facilities in Louisiana and Mississippi is being halted due to the spreading coronavirus pandemic, a stoppage that could force further delays on the already behind-schedule and over-budget programs. Meanwhile, NASA officials are making plans to continue working on the agency’s next Mars rover to keep it on schedule for launch later this year, even if the virus forces further closures.
After considering canceling a planned full-duration test-firing of the Space Launch System’s core stage in Mississippi ahead of the heavy-lift rocket’s first flight, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced this week that the agency will press ahead with the test next year, citing safety and reliability benefits for future astronauts riding on the launcher on missions to the moon.
A series of unprecedented back-to-back test-firings of a rocket engine originally developed for NASA’s space shuttle concluded earlier this month, giving engineers data crucial to achieving rapid 24-hour turnarounds planned for a U.S. military-funded reusable winged booster under construction at Boeing, government and industry officials said.