The Air Force’s 30th Space Wing and Space Exploration Technologies conducted the first launch of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg AFB, Calif. During the Sept. 29 mission from Vandy’s Space Launch Complex 4, the new Falcon 9 v.1.1 configuration carried Canada’s Cassiope technology demonstration satellite into orbit, along with five other smaller payloads, according to the company. The launch was part of SpaceX’s activities to gain Air Force certification to carry national security satellites into space. This was the sixth Falcon 9 launch overall; the previous five took place at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. The new v.1.1 configuration features stretched first and second stages and a new arrangement for the first stage’s nine Merlin engines. (See also Vandenberg release and Los Angeles Times report.)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.