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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ULA Delta IV Carries U.S. Air Force Satellite Into Orbit

A Delta IV rocket carries the WGS-8 satellite into orbit. (Credit: ULA)
A Delta IV rocket carries the WGS-8 satellite into orbit. (Credit: ULA)

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Dec. 7, 2016 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the eighth installment of the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite for the United States Air Force lifted off from Space Launch Complex-37 Dec. 7 at 6:53 p.m. EDT. This is ULA’s 11th launch in 2016 and the 114th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

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Delta IV Set to Launch Air Force Satellite on Wednesday Night

The U.S. Air Force's eighth Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite, encapsulated in a 5-meter payload fairing, is mated to a Delta IV booster at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex (SLC)-37. (Credit: ULA)
The U.S. Air Force’s eighth Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite, encapsulated in a 5-meter payload fairing, is mated to a Delta IV booster at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex (SLC)-37. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (ULA PR) — Everything is progressing toward the ULA Delta IV launch carrying the WGS-8 satellite for the US Air Force. The mission is set to lift off on a ULA Delta IV rocket on Wednesday, Dec. 7 from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch window is 6:53-7:42 p.m. EST. Today’s L-2 forecast shows a 80 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch.

Webcast available at www.ulalaunch.com and www.youtube.com/unitedlaunchalliance

Weather Forecast

Overall probability of violating launch weather constraints: 20%
Primary concern: Thick Cloud Layers
Overall probability of violating launch weather constraints for 24-hour delay: 40%
Primary concern: Thick Cloud Layers

Are SpaceX’s 60 to 80 Hour Work Weeks Really Such a Good Idea?

Credit: USLaunchReport.com
Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Elon Musk has been credited with bringing Silicon Valleyesque practices to the rocket industry: the 60 to 80 hour weeks, frequent hardware as software upgrades, multi-tasking, free coffee, vested stock options, gala holiday parties each more extravagant than the last, and the other things.

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Delta IV Orbits Two USAF Satellites

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying AFSPC-6 mission lifts off from Space Launch Complex-37. (Credit: ULA)
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying AFSPC-6 mission lifts off from Space Launch Complex-37. (Credit: ULA)

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Aug.19, 2016 (ULA) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the AFSPC-6 mission for the United States Air Force lifted off from Space Launch Complex-37 Aug. 19 at 12:52 a.m. EDT. This is ULA’s seventh launch in 2016 and the 110th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

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Forecast Looks Good for Friday Morning Delta IV Launch

ULA Delta IV rocket carrying the NROL-45 mission lifts off from Vandenberg. (Credit: ULA)
ULA Delta IV rocket carrying the NROL-45 mission lifts off from Vandenberg. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (ULA PR) — The ULA Launch Readiness Review was completed today everything is progressing toward the ULA Delta IV launch carrying the AFSPC-6 mission for the United States Air Force.

The mission is set to lift off on a ULA Delta IV rocket on Friday, Aug. 19, from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch window is 12:47-1:52 a.m. EDT. Today’s L-2 forecast continues to show a 80 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch.

Weather Forecast

Overall probability of violating launch weather constraints: 20%
Primary concern: Cumulus Clouds

Overall probability of violating launch weather constraints for 24-hour delay: 20%
Primary concern: Cumulus Clouds

The launch will be webcast at http://www.ulalaunch.com and www.youtube.com/unitedlaunchalliance

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SpaceX, ULA Launches Set for Next Week

deltaiv_nrol45_l3
Delta IV launch (Credit: ULA)

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully completed a pre-flight static engine test on Thursday. The launcher is scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base with the JCSAT 16 communications satellite on Sunday morning at 1:26 a.m. EDT (0526 GMT). The launch attempt has a two-hour window. SpaceX will attempt to land the Falcon 9’s first stage on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean.

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket is scheduled to launch the U.S. Air Force’s AFSPC 6 mission from Cape Canaveral on Friday, Aug. 19. The launch period is listed as being from 12:00-4:00 a.m. EDT. (0400-0800 GMT).

RiskIt: NASA’s High Risk Commercial Cargo Strategy

A massive explosion occurred right after the Antares rocket hit the ground.
A massive explosion occurred right after the Antares rocket hit the ground.

Commercial Cargo’s Lower Costs Brought Higher Risks

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In October 2014, NASA engineers were deeply worried about Orbital Sciences Corporation’s upcoming Orb-3 commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

An Antares booster was set to send a Cygnus cargo ship loaded with 2,215 kg (4,883 lb) of supplies to astronauts aboard the orbiting laboratory. It would be the third of eight Cygnus flights to the station under a Commercial Resupply Services-1 (CRS-1) contract worth $1.9 billion.

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ULA’s Delta IV Heavy Launches NROL-37 Spacecraft

Delta IV Heavy lifts off with the NROL-37 satellite. (Credit: ULA)
Delta IV Heavy lifts off with the NROL-37 satellite. (Credit: ULA)

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., (June 11, 2016) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-37 June 11 at 1:51 p.m. EDT. The NROL-37 mission is in support of national defense.

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XCOR Releases Statement About Layoffs

Lynx engine hot fire. (Credit: XCOR)
Lynx engine hot fire. (Credit: XCOR)

XCOR ANNOUNCES STRONGER STRATEGIC FOCUS ON LH2 PROGRAM

Midland, May 31, 2016

Following recent breakthroughs in the effort of developing safer, cost-effective, sustainable, reliable and instantly reusable rocket engines for XCOR’s Lynx and other launchers, XCOR Aerospace announced earlier today that it has decided to focus the majority of its resources on the final development of the revolutionary liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen (LH2) program. This innovative propulsion technology has applications to upper stage liquid hydrogen engines suitable for the Atlas V, Delta IV, and the planned NASA Space Launch System (SLS) and further underscores the partnership between XCOR and ULA, USA’s premier launch services provider that was announced March 9 this year.

“Based on the immediate engine opportunities presented to us, we decided we needed to fully focus on the LH2 program for the forthcoming period”, said Jay Gibson, President and CEO of XCOR Aerospace. .“Given that we remain a small-scale company, we are planning to place more emphasis on fine-tuning the hydrogen engine program to achieve an optimal closed loop system for cryogenic rocket engines. We are convinced that this effort will ensure that XCOR is better positioned to finish the Lynx Project in a more efficient, reliable and safer manner. Instantly Reusable Launch Vehicles will make the edge of space accessible for everyone and our efforts with ULA on the LH2 propulsion systems will do the same for deep space.”

XCOR will continue to keep working from both the Mojave and Midland locations.

Editor’s Note: XCOR just laid off about two dozen people. It is customary in these kinds of statements to acknowledge the cuts, express regret that they were required, and thank the departing employees for their service.

XCOR’s problem is — and has always been — funding. There wasn’t enough of it to keep the Lynx staff intact, which is why most of them were laid off.

There are enough people left with Lynx knowledge to restart the program at a future time. However, XCOR would need to raise money to do so, and then hire new engineers and get them up to speed on an unique vehicle. From that perspective, XCOR won’t really be in a better position as a result of this decision.

 

 

Senate Armed Services Committee Limits ULA Engines

John McCain
John McCain

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) approved the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) yesterday that limits United Launch Alliance (ULA) to purchasing nine Russian-made RD-180 engines for use in the first stage of the company’s Atlas V booster to launch national security payloads.

The move sets up a showdown with the House Armed Services Committee, which earlier put the number of engines ULA could purchase at 18. ULA and the U.S. Air Force support the higher number, saying the engines are needed to meet military launch needs.

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Hyten Defends Cost Estimates on Ending U.S. Dependence on Russian RD-180 Engine

Gen. John E. Hyten
Gen. John E. Hyten

The head of the U.S Air Force’s Space Command is defending estimates on what it would take to end Atlas V flights powered by Russian RD-180s and transfer payloads to United Launch Alliance’s other booster, the Delta IV.

But it is impossible to accurately predict the cost of launch vehicles by the end of the decade, the point at which McCain wants the Air Force to stop using the RD-180, Air Force Space Command chief Gen. John Hyten said Thursday during the Space Foundation’s annual National Space Symposium.

The Delta IV is much more expensive than the Atlas V — on that point Congress and the Air Force generally agree. But exactly how much more the Delta IV will cost in 2020 is difficult to calculate, Hyten said. It all depends on what assumptions the Air Force makes about the state of the launch industry in the next decade.

“The reason I don’t know how expensive that’s going to be is because I cant tell you what the industry is going to be in 2020, I can’t tell you what ULA’s business case is going to be in 2020,” Hyten said during a media briefing. “I can make certain assumptions that make the Delta IV very attractive, and I can make certain assumptions that make the Delta IV unbelievably expensive — it’s all based on the assumptions that you make of what you think the world is going to be like in 2020.”

In a letter to U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, McCain cited a discrepancy between a $5 billion figure the service cited publicly and $1.5 billion he said James cited privately.

McCain, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been adamant about getting ULA to stop using the RD-180 engine as soon as possible. ULA officials say it will take a number of years before its new Vulcan rocket will be ready to launch national security payloads.

United Launch Alliance Completes Preliminary Design Review for Next-Generation Vulcan Centaur Rocket

Artist's conception of Vulcan rocket. (Credit; ULA)
Artist’s conception of Vulcan rocket. (Credit; ULA)

CENTENNIAL, Colo., March 24, 2016 (ULA PR) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully completed the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) for the Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle with dual Blue Origin BE-4 engines. The PDR, a major milestone in development of the Vulcan launch vehicle, confirms that the design meets the requirements for the diverse set of missions it will support. The ULA team will build upon this milestone to refine and test key elements of the design while executing a busy manifest of 14 launches in 2016.

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McCain Wants Russian Engine Restrictions USAF Says Would Be Costly

John McCain
John McCain

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) continued to push for a ban on the use of Russian-made rocket engines on United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V booster at a hearing on Thursday, saying that their use allowed President Vladimir Putin to hold U.S. national security launch capability ” in the palm of his hand.”

“This is a national security threat, in addition to a moral outrage, at a time when Russian forces continue to destabilize Ukraine – including nearly 500 attacks in the past week, as General Breedlove, the Commander of European Command, testified on Tuesday,” McCain said in a prepared statement.

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