Moon Landing, Asteroid Sample Return, Starship Hop & 4 Launches Scheduled for Week Ahead

Hayabusa2 return capsule’s trajectory. (Credit: JAXA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It’s going to be a very busy week for space activities. Here’s what’s on the schedule starting this evening:

  • four orbital launches by the United States, Europe, Russia and India
  • the landing of China’s Chang’e-5 sample return mission on the moon
  • the return of soil samples from the asteroid Ryugu by Japan’s Hayabusa2’s spacecraft
  • an attempt to fly SpaceX’s Starship vehicle to an altitude about 15 km (~50,000 ft).

All these schedule are subject to change except for the Hayabusa2 landing. And remember, absolutely no wagering.

November 30/December 1

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: UAE Falcon Eye 2 surveillance satellite
Launch Time: 8:33 p.m. EST on Nov. 30 (0133 GMT on Dec. 1)
Launch Site:
 Kourou, French Guiana
Webcast: www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTC3Qm5GLiE

UPDATE: Soyuz launch was scrubbed due to non-nominal reception of telemetry data. Arianespace will try again tomorrow.

UPDATE 2: Successful launch carried out on Tuesday, Dec. 1.

December 1

Possible landing date of the Chinese Chang’e-5 sample return spacecraft on the surface of the moon.

UPDATE: Successful landing on the Ocean of Storms.

December 2

Launch Vehicle: Starship 8
Payload: None
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Boca Chica, Texas

SpaceX will attempt to launch Starship 8 to an altitude of about 15 km (~50,000 ft) and land it safely back near the launch site.

UPDATE: Flight shifted to Friday, Dec. 4 at the earliest.

UPDATE 2: Flight now shifted to Monday, Dec. 7 at the earliest. Altitude reduced to 12.5 km (~41,000 ft).

December 3

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payloads: 3 Gonets M Communications satellites + secondary spacecraft
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site:
 Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia

UPDATE: Satellites successfully launched.

December 3/4

Possible liftoff of Chang’e-5 return vehicle from the surface of the moon.

UPDATE: Successful liftoff on Dec. 3.

December 5

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: SpaceX CRS 21 Dragon ISS resupply ship
Launch Time: 11:39 a.m. EST (1639 GMT)
Launch Site:
 Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Webcast: www.spacex.com

UPDATE: Static fire of first stage completed on Dec. 3. Only 40 percent chance of favorable weather for Dec. 5.

UPDATE 2: Due to weather the launch has been postponed to Sunday, Dec. 6 at 11:17 a.m. EST (1617 GMT).

December 6

Hayabusa2’s return capsule carrying samples from the asteroid Ryugu is set to land under parachute in Australia. JAXA is planning a live webcast of key return events at www.jaxa.jp according to the schedule below.

Hayabusa2 EventDate & Time JSTDate & Time GMTDate & Time EST
Capsule Separation13:30 — 16:40 (until 17:30) on Dec. 504:30 — 07:40 (until 08:30) on Dec. 511:30 p.m. — 02:40 p.m. (until 3:30 a.m.) on Dec. 4-5
Capsule Fireball02:00 — 03:10 on Dec. 617:00 — 18:10 GMT on Dec. 512:00 to 1:10 p.m. on Dec. 5
Source: JAXA

UPDATE: Capsule landed in Australia. Crews are searching for it.

December 7

Launch Vehicle: PSLV
Payload: CMS 1 communications satellite
Launch Time: around 4:30 a.m. EST (0930 GMT)
Launch Site:
 Satish Dhawan Space Center, India
Webcast: www.isro.gov.in

UPDATE: Flight moved to Dec. 14 at about the same time.