The inaugural flight of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter took place Friday at 12:44 CST at Lockheed Martin’s Forth Worth, Tex., production facility. Company chief test pilot Jon Beesley noted in a company release that the new fighter “performed beautifully” and called it a “great start for the flight test program. Beesley took the conventional take-off and landing variant of the F-35 through a series of maneuvers, flying for about 30 minutes. It now enters a 12,000-hour flight-test program, adding to some 10,000 hours of lab tests. Dan Crowley, Lockheed’s F-35 point man took aim at concerns that the Pentagon is “buying before testing” the JSF, saying, “The F-35 will enter service as the most exhaustively tested, most thoroughly proven fighter system in history.”
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.