The Past Week in Launches: SpaceX and CASC Orbit Satellites

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites on Aug. 19, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a relatively quiet week for launches with by SpaceX and the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) both conducting one flight apiece.

SpaceX launched 53 Starlink broadband satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Friday. The company has launched 3,108 Starlink satellites with 2,809 spacecraft working, according to Jonathan’s Space Report.

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77 Launches Conducted During First Half of 2022 as Access to Orbit Expanded

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites while the Dragon that will carry Crew-4 to the International space Station awaits its turn. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a busy first half of 2022 that saw 77 orbital launches with 74 successes and three failures through the 182nd day of the year on July 1. At a rate of one launch every 2 days 8 hours 44 minutes, the world is on track to exceed the 146 launches conducted in 2021.

A number of significant missions were launched during a period that saw more than 1,000 satellite launched. SpaceX flew the first fully commercial crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Boeing conducted an orbital flight test of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, China prepared to complete assembly of its space station, South Korea launched its first domestically manufactured rocket, and Rocket Lab sent a NASA mission to the moon.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

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China to Launch New Crew to Space Station on Sunday

Astronauts Cai Xuzhe, Chen Dong and Liu Yang. (Credit: CASC)

BEIJING (CASC PR) — On June 4, the press conference of the Shenzhou 14 manned flight mission announced that, after the research and decision of the General Headquarters of the space station phase flight mission, the aim was to use the Long March 2F carrier rocket to launch the Shenzhou 14 at 10:44 [02:44 UTC Sunday/10:44 p.m. EDT on Saturday] on June 5. The three astronauts Chen Dong, Liu Yang, and Cai Xuzhe will carry out the Shenzhou 14 manned mission, with Chen Dong as the commander.

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China Launches Two Rockets on Sunday

China launched two rockets with 23 satellite aboard on Sunday, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

A Long March 4C launched the L-SAR 01B Earth observation satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The synthetic aperture radar satellite will provide data for land resources use, mapping, forestry, and disaster prevention and relief efforts.

L-SAR 01B joins its twin satellite, L-SAR 01A, which was launched on Jan. 26, Xinhua reported. The spacecraft were built by Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, a subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. 

A Long March 8 rocket set a new domestic record for the number of spacecraft launched when it orbited 22 satellites from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Hainan Province, Xinhiua reported.

The spacecraft will be used for commercial remote sensing, marine environment monitoring, forest fire protection and disaster mitigation. The satellites were placed in sun synchronous orbit.

It was the second launch of the Long March 8 rocket. The booster placed five satellites into orbit during its maiden flight on Dec. 22, 2020.

China Launches Communications & Technology Demonstration Satellites

Kuaizhou-1A rocket lifts off on Nov. 25, 2021. (Credit: CASIC)

China placed communications and technology demonstration satellites into orbit in separate launches on Thursday and Friday. The successful missions marked the 46th and 47th launches by China in 2021, with 45 successes and two failures.

On Friday, a Long March 3B rocket launched the ChinaSat-1D communications satellite from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The geosynchronous satellite will be used for military communications.

The spacecraft and the launch vehicle were build by the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

On Thursday, a Kuaizhou-1A solid-fuel booster launched the Shiyan 11 satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The rocket’s builder, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp., did not disclose the purpose of the technology demonstration spacecraft.

The Kuaizhou-1A small-satellite launcher has a record of 12 successes and one failure.

Launch 2020: China’s Space Program Continued to Surge with a Number of Firsts

Long March 3B lifts off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center. (Credit: China Aerospace Science and Technology Group)

China’s surging space program showed no sign of slowing down last year as it tied its own launch record and moved ahead with ambitious space missions and a set of new launchers.

China compiled a record of 35 successes and four failures in 2020. That matched the number of launch attempts made in 2018, a year that saw 38 successes and a single failure.

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Tianzhou-2 Cargo Ship Docks with Chinese Space Station Core Module

BEIJING (CASC PR) — The Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Group Co., Ltd. successfully completed its orbital state after it entered orbit. At 5:01 a.m. on May 30, it used the autonomous rapid rendezvous and docking mode to accurately dock in the Tianhe core module. Backward port, the whole process lasted about 8 hours.

Tianzhou-2 carried astronauts’ living supplies, extravehicular space suits and space station platform equipment, application loads and propellants, etc., after completing rendezvous and docking with the Tianhe core module, it will be transferred to the combined flight phase, and the propellant will be carried out as planned. Supplementary and space application project equipment testing and other work.

So far, the second leg of the “relay race” of the China Space Station’s orbit construction has performed perfectly!

Back in time a few hours ago, the Long March 7 carrier rocket soared into the sky and steadily sent the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft into its intended orbit.

China to Construct Fifth Spaceport for Commercial Launches

The Long March 7A rocket lifts off on March 12, 2021. (Credit: Wu Tong Xiaoyu)

SpaceNews reports that China plans to construct a fifth spaceport to support the nation’s growing commercial launch sector. The spaceport is included in China’s 14th Five-Year Plan, which covers 2021-25.

Dou Xiaoyu, a deputy to the National People’s Congress (NPC), the top Chinese legislative body, and a vice chairperson at China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. (CASIC), a giant state-owned enterprise, called for a Chinese commercial spaceport project in order to meet an expected surge in demand for space launch services. 

Dou said China needs to strengthen domestic launch site capacity and continuously improve and optimize facilities. She also noted that launch-related policies and regulations have yet to be promulgated and perfected.

CASIC, through its subsidiary Expace, launch Kuaizhou series solid rockets for commercial purposes, both on the open market and for its own projects including a narrowband Internet of Things low Earth orbit constellation, named Xingyun. CASIC is also developing methane-liquid oxygen propellant engines.

Chinese Kuaizhou 1A Rocket Fails After Launch

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A Kuaizhou 1A rocket failed to orbit the Jilin-1 Gaofen 02C optical remote-sensing satellite after liftoff from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on Saturday afternoon.

The official Xinhua news agency attributed the failure to the “abnormal performance” of the launch vehicle. An investigation has commenced.

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China Launches Tianwen-1 Mission to Mars

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A Long March 5 booster roared off the launch pad from Wenchang on Thursday morning, sending an orbiter, lander and rover to Mars in China’s most ambitious robotic space mission to date.

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Ambitious Chinese Mars Mission Includes Orbiter, Rover

Tianwen-1 spacecraft (Credit: China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In its most ambitious robotic space mission to date, China will launch an orbiter, lander and rover to Mars later this week.

A Long March 5 booster is set to launch the Tianwen-1 mission from the Wenchang spaceport on Thursday, July 23.

Tianwen-1 is the first Mars mission that China has attempted on its own. The Chinese Yinghuo-1 sub-satellite was launched aboard Russia’s Phobos-Grunt mission in November 2011. However, the ambitious mission to the martian moon never left Earth orbit.

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China’s Kuaizhou-1A Rocket Launches 2 Internet of Things Satellites

A Chinese Kuaizhou-1A rocket launched two Internet of Things (IoT) communications satellites into Earth orbit on Tuesday.

The rocket lifted off with the Xingyun-2 01 and 02 satellites from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 9:16 a.m. Beijing time.

The spacecraft, developed by the Xingyun Satellite Co., will test IoT applications and inter-satellite laser communications while in orbit.

Kuaizhou-1A is a low-cost, solid-fuel rocket used to launch small satellites weighing up to 300 kg (661 lb). It was developed by ExPace, a subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. (CASIC).

Chinese Leaders with Aerospace Backgrounds

Continuing our look at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress, we present the following excerpt concerning senior Chinese government officials with aerospace and technical backgrounds.  [Full Report]

Confused by the acronyms in the table below? Parabolic Arc has added descriptions of the listed ministries and companies.


Many officials with backgrounds in the state defense complex have moved to senior government positions. While not all of these officials have backgrounds in space specifically, the result of these moves has been that senior Chinese political leaders often have a stronger technical understanding of the space sector than their foreign counterparts (see Addendum I listing key Chinese officials with aerospace sector backgrounds).

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China Conducts 2 Launches in 6 Hours From Same Spaceport

China launched two Kuaizhou-1A (KZ-1A) rockets with a total of seven satellites aboard within six hours of each other from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on Saturday.

The first rocket placed the Jilin-1 Gaofen 02B remote sensing satellite into orbit. Plans call for an initial constellation of 60 Jilin satellites in order, with the number growing to 138 by 2030.

The second launch carried six satellites:

HEAD-2A and HEAD-2B — The first two satellites in the Skywalker Constellation, which is designed to provide environmental monitoring, emergency communications, and material supervision for ships and aircraft. The satellites belong to the HEAD Aerospace Technology Co. of Beijing.

Spacety-16 and Spacety-17 — The medium-resolution remote sensing satellites will provide agricultural, disaster, maritime and polar equipment monitoring services. They were developed by the Changsha Tianyi Space Science and Technology Research Institute Co. for Spacety Co.

Tianqi-4A and Tianqi-4B — The Internet of Things satellites will provide data transmission, emergency communications and material tracking. The spacecraft are operated by Guodian Gaoke.

Launches of the solid-fuel KZ-1A booster are managed by Expace, which is a subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation. The rocket is used to launch small satellites.

China Making Aggressive Moves to Dominate Commercial Space Sector

China satellite launch

Continuing our look at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress, we examine China’s growing commercial space industry. [Full Report]

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China is using aggressive state-backed financing to capture increasing shares of the commercial launch and satellite markets, making it more difficult for American companies to compete and threatening to hollow out the U.S. industrial base.

China is also leverage “military-civil” fusion to create a burgeoning commercial space sector by providing substantial state support. Nearly 90 new space companies have been created since 2014, most of which enjoy the support of the Chinese military, defense industrial base, or state-owned research and development institutions.

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