Orbital Launch Statistics for 2016

The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Ryzhikov, Kimbrough, and Borisenko will spend the next four months living and working aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)
The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

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There were 85 orbital launches in 2016, not including the Falcon 9 that exploded on launch pad prior to a pre-flight engine test. The launches break down as follow:

  • United States: 22 (22-0)
  • China: 22 (20-1-1)
  • Russia: 19 (18-1)
  • Europe: 9 (9-0)
  • India: 7 (7-0)
  • Japan: 4 (4-0)
  • Israel: 1 (1-0)
  • North Korea: 1 (1-0)

For a more detailed description of these launches, please read US, China Led World in Launches in 2016.

Let’s look at launches by booster and spaceport and the flights that were required for human spaceflight.
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USA, China Led World in Launches in 2016

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)

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The United States and China led the world in orbital launch attempts in 2016 with 22 apiece. The combined 44 launches made up more than half of the 85 flights conducted around the world.

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NASA Looks Ahead to Major Milestones for Orion Program

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — From the beginning of assembly work on the Orion crew module at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to testing a range of the spacecraft systems, engineers made headway in 2016 in advance of the spacecraft’s 2018 mission beyond the moon. A look at the important milestones that lie ahead in the next year give a glimpse into how NASA is pressing ahead to develop, build, test and fly the spacecraft that will enable human missions far into deep space.
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Will Trump Refocus NASA on the Moon?

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)
Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

After a meeting with president Donald Trump on Wednesday, historian Douglas Brinkley told reporters the president elect “was very interested in a man going to the moon and the moon shot so we were talking a little bit about that.”

This could mean that Trump will refocus NASA’s deep space exploration on the moon rather than Mars. On the other hand, it might mean nothing.

Some observers have noted that Trump’s position on issues often reflects what he discussed with the last person he talks to. Brinkley is from Rice University in Houston, a city that is home of NASA’s Mission Control.

Trump also has a habit of disavowing things he has said, even if the tweeted it for anyone to see or said it on television with millions of people watching.

So, it’s possible that at some point in the near future, Trump will say he never said anything about sending astronauts to the moon, accuse Brinkley and the journalists who quoted him of lying, and threaten the launch the whole lot of them into the sun.

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Video of 3 SpaceX Employees Being Struck By Car Outside Headquarters

A news report about three SpaceX employees who were hit by a car on Dec. 17 after leaving work. The incident occurred at 2:15 a.m. About three hours later, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk posted the following Tweets:

A source tells Parabolic Arc that traffic on Crenshaw Boulevard where the employees were struck is heavy. During the day, crossing guards help guide people across the street. Musk has wanted a tunnel built under the street to make it easier and safer for employees to cross.

The Tweets set off a wave of media speculation that envisioned a frustrated Musk sitting in LA traffic devising a way of disrupting the tunneling business. Some speculated the tunneling was needed for the Hyperloop rapid transit systems; others thought it would be useful for underground martian settlements.

The source said it was disturbing that Musk was tweeting about how much traffic was bothering him, and talking about a new business venture, while making no reference to the accident or his injured employees in the hospital. The tweets came off as crass and unfeeling.

The three female employees survived the accident. Two of them were back in the hospital on Thursday for additional surgery, according to the NBC News 4 report. You can read more here: http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Hit-and-Run-Video-Hawthorne-Crosswalk-Search-SpaceX-408680785.html

China Space Program White Paper Outlines Lunar & Mars Missions

china_flagA white paper outlining China’s space policy for the next five years calls for a sample return mission to the moon, a landing on the far side of Earth’s closest neighbor, and the launch of an orbiter and lander to Mars by 2020.

China will also begin constructing a permanent space station and research and development work on a heavy-lift launcher, reusable boosters and satellite servicing systems.

The nation also wants to expand international cooperation in areas that include remote sensing, space applications, lunar and planetary exploration, and human spaceflight.

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NASA’s Exploration Year in Review

BEAM module (Credit: NASA TV)
BEAM module (Credit: NASA TV)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2016, NASA drove advances in technology, science, aeronautics and space exploration that enhanced the world’s knowledge, innovation, and stewardship of Earth.

“This past year marked record-breaking progress in our exploration objectives,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We advanced the capabilities we’ll need to travel farther into the solar system while increasing observations of our home and the universe, learning more about how to continuously live and work in space, and, of course, inspiring the next generation of leaders to take up our Journey to Mars and make their own discoveries.”
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Chinese Rocket Places Remote Sensing Satellites in Wrong Orbits

SuperView-1 satellite (Credti:
SuperView-1 satellite (Credit: Beijing Space View Technology Co.)

China’s launch of two commercial remote sensing satellites went awry on Wednesday, leaving the spacecraft in the wrong orbit.

The pair of SuperView-1 satellites lifted off aboard a Long March 2D from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center bound for an orbit of 500 km.

Space-Track.org data show four objects in elliptical orbits with apogees of 524 km (325.6 miles) and perigees ranging from 212 to 216 km (131.7 to 134.2 miles). One of the other objects was a 2U amateur radio CubeSat.

Unless the perigees of the SuperView-1 satellites can be raised using on-board propellant, it might only be months before they re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up.

The satellites are part of a constellation of remote sensing spacecraft being launched by the Beijing Space View Technology Co., Ltd.  The company plans to launch two more SuperView-1 spacecraft in 2017 and additional ones through 2022.

It was second launch mishap this year for China’s space program. In August, a Long March 3C booster failed to orbit the Gaofen-10 remote sensing satellite after launch from the Taiyuan spaceport.

Study Recommends Civilian Agency Take Over Space Traffic Management

In addition to active satellites, a large number of items of debris that originated from collisions, decommissioned satellites or the spent upper stages of launch vehicles are currently in Earth orbit.  Credit: ESA.
In addition to active satellites, a large number of items of debris that originated from collisions, decommissioned satellites or the spent upper stages of launch vehicles are currently in Earth orbit. Credit: ESA.

A report on space traffic management prepared for NASA recommends that the responsibility for tracking satellites and orbital debris be transferred from the Department of Defense (DOD) to a civilian agency, but it does not recommend which one.

The analysis, titled “Orbital Traffic Management,” was done by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) under a NASA contract. Congress ordered the study as part of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015.

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China Claims Testing of EmDrive in Space

EmDrive (Credit: Satellite Propulsion Research Ltd.)
EmDrive (Credit: Satellite Propulsion Research Ltd.)

China claims it is testing an EmDrive propulsion system in space.

Dr. Chen Yue, Director of Commercial Satellite Technology for the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) announced on December 10, 2016 that not only has China successfully tested EmDrives technology in its laboratories, but that a proof-of-concept is currently undergoing zero-g testing in orbit (according to the International Business Times, this test is taking place on the Tiangong 2 space station).

Unlike traditional engines (such as combustion and ion engines) that expel mass from the system to produce thrust, reactionless engines like the EmDrive use only electricity to generate movement. In the EmDrive, first proposed by Roger Shawyer, the microwave cavity is an asymmetric container, such as a truncated cone, with one end much larger than the other. At the narrower end, a source of electromagnetic energy (such as a magnetron) bombards the cavity with microwaves. These waves are contained and bounce off the cavity’s walls, creating electromagnetic resonance. Due to the imbalanced resonance from the complex geometry of a truncated cone, the electromagnetic field in the EmDrive becomes directionally dependent (anisotropic). In this case, the anisotropic electromagnetic field ‘pushes’ the EmDrive away from the direction of the cavity’s larger area end.

Read the full story.

Space Florida Approves Terms of Deal With Made in Space

space_florida_logoThe Space Florida Board of Directors has approved a $3.5 million deal with Made in Space to finance the manufacturing of advanced fiber optic cable aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The board gave approval earlier this month to changes in the terms of Project ICE, which members had originally approved in January. Florida Today reports that Made in Space has confirmed it is the partner in the deal.

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Commercial Crew Year in Review

Launch_America_Commercial_Crew
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Boeing and SpaceX made numerous advances on their crew transportation systems set to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Both companies began building the spacecraft that will fly the flight tests for the program before beginning crew rotation missions. Boeing is building the CST-100 Starliner to fly on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, and SpaceX is building its Crew Dragon spacecraft to launch atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket.

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