The Intermediate Experimental Vehicle (IXV) launched aboard the Vega rocket from Kourou this morning, conducting the fourth successful launch for the rocket. It’s a lighter rocket than the venerable Ariane V, meant to compete in the medium-lift market. Today, it boosted the IXV technology demonstrator into a suborbital trajectory designed to validate the vehicle’s reentry system at speeds consistent with an orbital return.
I don’t yet have video of the splashdown, but here’s a nice animation showing how the mission is meant to go:
Then, as evening fell across Florida, the SpaceX Falcon 9 launched DSCOVR (formerly Triana, aka “GoreSat”) onto its cruise to the Sun-Earth L1 point. This is SpaceX’s first deep space launch (“deep space” being defined as beyond geosynchronous orbit), and the Falcon 9 performed flawlessly. The landing attempt was, however, cancelled due to high seas in the recovery area. The first stage performed a soft-landing test into open water, but was not expected to survive. The next opportunity for a landing test will be in April, during the next Dragon flight to the ISS. Falcon 9 has a few more flights scheduled between now and then, but the payloads are heavy geosynchronous satellites, so there will not be sufficient propellant margin. Those flights won’t carry landing legs or x-wing grid fins either.