Fewer than 25 suborbital spaceflights have ever been conducted
Most suborbital launches were conducted with vehicles retired decades ago
No suborbital flight has ever carried a paying passenger
There is no agreement on what even constitutes a suborbital spaceflight
by Douglas Messier Managing Editor
When Richard Branson and three Virgin Galactic employees strap into their seats aboard SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity on Sunday, they will briefly go where not very many have gone before: suborbital space.
Of the 374 attempts to launch astronauts to space since Yuri Gagarin flew into Earth orbit 60 years ago, only 23 were suborbital flights. The majority of those launches were conducted during the 1960’s using vehicles that long ago became museum pieces. One ended with the loss of the spacecraft and its pilot. And two flights were unintentional ones involving vehicles being launched into Earth orbit.
The year 2018 was the busiest one for launches in decades. There were a total of 111 completely successful launches out of 114 attempts. It was the highest total since 1990, when 124 launches were conducted.
China set a new record for launches in 2018. The nation launched 39 times with 38 successes in a year that saw a private Chinese company fail in the country’s first ever orbital launch attempt.
HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA astronaut Nick Hague returned to Earth from the International Space Station on Thursday, alongside Soyuz commander Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and visiting astronaut Hazzaa Ali Almansoori from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The crew landed safely at 6:59 a.m. EDT in Kazakhstan.
Hague and Ovchinin launched March 14, along with fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch. Six hours later, they began their 203-day mission on the station, orbiting Earth 3,248 times and traveling 86.1 million miles.
HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The International Space Station is the setting today for a student competition to control tiny, free-floating satellites aboard the orbiting lab. Meanwhile, the Expedition 60 crewmembers conducted a variety of research operations and continued configuring a pair of spacesuits.
BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (NASA PR) — American astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin are resting comfortably in the city of Baikonur, Kazakhstan, after an anomaly occurred shortly after their launch.