SpaceX and Arianespace recently announced plans to launch rideshare missions to sun-synchronous and geostationary orbit, dedicating big rocket capacity for small satellites as the U.S.-based launch broker Spaceflight committed to using a new Indian microsatellite launcher set to debut later this year.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket fired through a dense shroud of coastal fog and climbed into orbit Wednesday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, deploying a trio of radar observation satellites to begin a $900 million mission surveying the Arctic, maritime waters, forests and farmland for the Canadian government.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 10:17:10 a.m. EDT (7:17:10 a.m. PDT; 1417:10 GMT) Wednesday with the Radarsat Constellation Mission for the Canadian government. The Falcon 9’s first stage successfully landed back at Vandenberg around eight minutes later.
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.