KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — This year is off to a fast start in the space arena, and the pace is picking up on Florida's Space Coast and across the country.

What You Need To Know

  • Launches, tests, and milestones are happening quickly

  • On Saturday, Orion capsule moved to Kennedy Space Center facility 

  • On Sunday, Virgin Orbit launch Launcher One to low-Earth orbit

  • Schedule of upcoming Florida rocket launches

Launches, tests and milestones, are happening quickly in the new year, and we're only halfway through January.

For the first launch of 2021, a Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Pad 40 on January 7 with SpaceX sending up a Turkish communications satellite. Eight minutes after launch, the rocket's first-stage booster landed on SpaceX's drone ship positioned 400 miles off Cape Canaveral in the Atlantic Ocean.​​

NASA continues to prepare for the historic moon launch of the most powerful rocket ever built.

On board will be the uncrewed Orion capsule headed up on a key flight test later this year, the first phase of a program called Artemis. On Saturday, the capsule made the move to a Kennedy Space Center processing facility to prep it for mating with the rocket this spring.

"It's such an important day for our nation, to have the capability," said Howard Hu, Johnson Space Center's Deputy Orion Program Manager. "We're going back to exploration in a lunar program."

Also Saturday, the Artemis SLS engine test fired up at NASA Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Unfortunately, the four engines shut down just one minute into the eight-minute test.

"Although the engines did not fire for the full duration, the team successfully worked through the countdown, ignited the engines, and gained valuable data to inform our path forward," NASA Administrator​ Jim Bridenstine said.

This was a key milestone for the mission to stay on track, but it may mean the test launch scheduled for this fall could be pushed back.

Then on Sunday, Virgin Orbit for the first time successfully launched its Launcher One to low-Earth orbit from the Mojave Air and Space Port. On board were nine CubeSat missions for NASA. The flight paves the way for cheaper, reliable access to space.

The next Florida launch is now set for 8:02 a.m. ET Wednesday from Kennedy Space Center. SpaceX is set to send up another 60 Starlink satellites for its growing, worldwide broadband internet service.