SpaceX Ruled Roost in 2017, Boosting U.S. to No. 1 in Global Launches

Falcon 9 carries the Dragon cargo ship into orbit. (Credit: NASA TV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX had a banner year in 2017, launching a record 18 times and helping to propel the United States to the top of the global launch table with a perfect 29-0 record. The U.S. total made up 32.2 percent of 90 orbital launches worldwide, which was an increase over the 85 flights conducted in 2016.

The 29 American launches were a leap of seven over the 22 flights conducted the previous year. This is the highest number of American orbital launches since the 31 flights undertaken in 1999. However, that year the nation’s launch providers suffered four failures whereas they were perfect in 2017.

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ASPIRE Successfully Launches from NASA Wallops

Black Brant IX sounding rocket launches the ASPIRE experiment. (Credit: NASA)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — A NASA Black Brant IX sounding rocket carrying a parachute test platform was successfully launched at 6:45 a.m. EST, October 4, from the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The 58-foot tall rocket carried the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE) from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The mission is to evaluate the performance of the ASPIRE payload, which is designed to test parachute systems in a low-density, supersonic environment.

The flight was conducted through NASA’s Space Mission Directorate.

The payload flew to an altitude of approximately 31.62 miles and then landed in the Atlantic Ocean. The payload is being recovered for data retrieval and inspection.

NASA’s Sounding Rocket Program is conducted at the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility. Orbital ATK provides mission planning, engineering services and field operations through the NASA Sounding Rocket Operations Contract. NASA’s Heliophysics Division manages the sounding-rocket program for the agency.

The next launch currently scheduled from Wallops is Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus spacecraft with supplies and experiments to the International Space Station. Antares is scheduled for launch no earlier than November 10.

Nanotechnology Flight Test: Material Impact on the Future

A Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket with the SubTec-7 payload launches frm NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on May 16, 2017. (Credit: NASA Wallops)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — Mastering the intricacies of controlling matter at the nanoscale level is part of a revolutionary quest to apply nanotechnology to benefit industrial processes. A key element of that technology is the use of carbon nanotubes.

Carbon nanotubes are small hollow tubes with diameters of 0.7 to 50 nanometers and lengths generally in the tens of microns. While ultra-small, carbon nanotubes offer big-time attributes.

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Sounding Rocket Mission May 16 Providing Real-World Test for New Technologies

Photo caption: SubTec7 payload undergoes final testing and evaluation at Wallops. (Credit: NASA/Berit Bland)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — New rocket and spacecraft technology can be tested on the ground, such as in labs.  However, in some cases a new technology needs to be flight tested to see how it performs in the “real-world” environment.

A NASA sounding rocket launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on May 16 will provide the flight testing needed for 24 experiments and new technologies.

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NASA to Test Space Tech in Wallops Launch on Tuesday

The NASA sounding rocket payload carrying two space technology development projects goes through GPS checks at the Wallops Flight Facility by technicians Tom Malaby (left) and Darren Ryan. (Credit: NASA/Berit Bland)
The NASA sounding rocket payload carrying two space technology development projects goes through GPS checks at the Wallops Flight Facility by technicians Tom Malaby (left) and Darren Ryan. (Credit: NASA/Berit Bland)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Virg. (NASA PR) — NASA will test two space technology development projects during the flight of a Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket at 5:45 a.m. EDT, July 7, from the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The launch window for the 54-foot tall rocket runs until 8 a.m. The backup launch days are July 8 – 10.

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