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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Busy Launch Week Ahead: Japan, USA, Europe & India

Ariane 5 launch (Credit: Arianespace)

There is a busy week in launches ahead, with four flights planned from Japan, India, South America and the United States.

Thursday, June 1

H-2A
Tanegashima Space Center, Japan
Launch Time: 0020 GMT (8:30 p.m. EDT — May 31)

The booster will launch the Michibiki 2 navigation satellite, which is part of a constellation that will provide regional navigation services.

Falcon 9
LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Launch Time: 2155 GMT (5:55 p.m. EDT)

SpaceX will launch a Dragon resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA.

Ariane 5
ELA-3, Kourou, French Guiana
Launch Window: 2345-0045 GMT (7:45-8:45 p.m. EDT)

Arianespace will launch the ViaSat 2 and Eutelsat 172B communications satellites.

Monday, June 5

GSLV Mk.3
Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota, India
Launch Time: 1208 GMT (8:08 a.m. EDT)

ISRO has placed the GSAT 19E experimental communications satellite aboard the first orbital flight test of the nation’s largest booster.  The space agency conducted a suborbital test of the GSLV Mk. 3 in December 2014. The new rocket is capable of placing 8 metric tons into low Earth orbit and 4 metric tons to geosynchronous transfer orbit.

ISRO Tests GSLV Mark III Cryogenic Upper Stage

GSLV Mark III upper stage engine test. Credit: ISRO

MAHENDRAGIRI, India (ISRO PR) — The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully tested its indigenously developed Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS) for GSLV MkIII on February 17, 2017. The cryogenic stage designated as C25 was tested for a flight duration of 640 seconds at ISRO Propulsion Complex (IPRC) in Mahendragiri. C25 Stage had earlier been tested successfully for 50 seconds on January 25, 2017 to validate all the systems.

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High Altitude Flight Acceptance Test of CE20 Engine Conducted Successfully

CE20 flight engine for GSLV MKIII (LVM3)-D1 mission. (Credit: ISRO)
CE20 flight engine for GSLV MKIII (LVM3)-D1 mission. (Credit: ISRO)

MAHENDRAGIRI, India (ISRO PR) — GSLV MKIII, the future launch vehicle of ISRO, capable of launching 4-ton class spacecraft into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) is in the advanced stage of realisation. It consists of two solid strap-on (S200) motors, one earth storable liquid core stage (L110) and the indigenously developed C25 cryogenic stage. The C25 stage is powered by CE20 cryogenic engine.

The first CE20 flight engine acceptance test was successfully conducted for a duration of 25 seconds in high altitude simulation test facility during December 2016. This flight acceptance test is an important milestone for ISRO as it could successfully cross the major engine development endeavors in the maiden attempt. This engine was conceived, configured, designed, fabricated and developed by Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC).

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CE 20 Engine of GSLV MKIII Successfully Hot Fired

CE 20 engine hot fire (Credit: ISRO)
CE 20 engine hot fire (Credit: ISRO)

MAHENDRAGIRI, India (ISRO PR) — ISRO has crossed a major milestone in the development of CE-20 engine for the GSLV MKIII vehicle by the successful hot test for 640 seconds duration on 19.02.2016 at ISRO Propulsion Complex, Mahendragiri.

The chairman of ISRO has witnessed the hot test. The test has demonstrated the repeatability of the engine performance with all its sub systems like thrust chamber, gas generator, turbo pumps and control components for the full duration. All the engine parameters were closely matching with the pre test prediction.

ISRO Looks to Privatize PSLV Operations, Boost Launch Rate

PSLV rocket lifts off with India's Mars Orbiter Mission. (Credit: ISRO)
PSLV rocket lifts off with India’s Mars Orbiter Mission. (Credit: ISRO)

ISRO Chairman AS Kiran Kumar said the Indian space agency is looking to turn over operations of its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) to a private consortium under the supervision of its commercial arm, Antrix Corporation.

“This will be discussed with industry leaders at the Make In India week. Tentatively, we plan to implement it in 2020,” he said.

Over the next five years, ISRO is also looking to roughly double its annual launch rate to 12.

In addition to the PSLV, ISRO also flies the larger GSLV Mark II launch vehicle. The space agency also is developing a more powerful GSLV Mark III booster.

 

Year in Review: Launch Industry Disrupted in 2014

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SpaceX Founder Elon Musk has long talked about disrupting the launch industry with low prices and technological innovations. In 2014, the impacts of those efforts were felt far and wide as competitors responded to the threat the California company posed to their livelihoods.

ULA Pivots. With SpaceX reeling off one successful launch after another, ULA pivoted on several fronts. One was to announce efforts to significantly reduce costs on its highly reliable but pricey Atlas V and Delta IV boosters. But, even that proved to be insufficient as SpaceX threatened ULA on several fronts.

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Worldwide Launches Hit 20-Year High in 2014

Orion Exploration Flight Test launch. (Credit: NASA)
Orion Exploration Flight Test launch. (Credit: NASA)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a banner year for launches worldwide in 2014, with the total reaching a 20-year high as Russia and India debuted new launch vehicles, NASA tested its Orion crew spacecraft, China sent a capsule around the moon, and Japan launched a spacecraft to land on an asteroid.

There were a total of 92 orbital launches, the highest number since the 93 launches conducted in 1994. In addition, Russia and India conducted successful suborbital tests of new boosters.

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ISRO Hails Successful First Flight of GSLV Mark III Rocket

GSLV Mark III inaugural flight test. (Credit: ISRO)
GSLV Mark III inaugural flight test. (Credit: ISRO)

SRIHARIKOTA, India (ISRO PR) — The first experimental flight (GSLV Mk-III X/CARE) of India’s next generation launch vehicle GSLV Mk-III was successfully conducted today (December 18, 2014) morning from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota. Also known as LVM3-X/CARE, this suborbital experimental mission was intended to test the vehicle performance during the critical atmospheric phase of its flight and thus carried a passive (non-functional) cryogenic upper stage.

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ISRO Launches First GSLV Mark III Rocket

ISRO has launched its first GSLV Mark III booster on a suborbital flight test, apparently successfully. However, details are rather sparse at this hour about how exactly how well things went. The only thing the on the ISRO website is:

GSLV Mk-III X successfully launches the Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment – CARE on Dec 18, 2014

There are Twitter reports that CARE splashed down successfully.

More details as they become available.

Falcon 9, Angara 5 & GSLV Mk. 3 Flights Highlight Crowded Launch Schedule

spacex_barge
First stage recovery barge (Credit: SpaceX)

With only two weeks left in the year, the global launch schedule is crammed with 9 launches, including the flights of new launch vehicles by Russia and India and an unprecedented effort by SpaceX to recover a first-stage for reuse.

Below are the highlights.

Dec. 18. GSLV Mk.3: India will conduct the first test flight of its new medium-lift GSLV Mk. 3 launch vehicle. This will be a suborbital launch that will carry a prototype of a human spacecraft. Satish Dhawan Space Centre

Dec. 19. SpaceX CRS-5:  SpaceX will send a Dragon freighter on the company’s fifth commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. The company will attempt to recover the first stage of the Falcon 9 booster for reuse by landing it on a barge. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

Dec. 25. Angara 5: Russia will conduct its first test of its new Angara 5 heavy-lift booster, which will send a dummy payload into orbit. The launch follows the suborbital flight of the smaller Angara 1.2, which tested the core stage for this new family of boosters. Plesetsk Cosmodrome

The table below shows flights scheduled for the rest of the year.  Schedule subject to change without notice.

UPDATES: The GSLV launch was successful. Russia has delayed the Strela flight to Dec. 19, and SpaceX has rescheduled the Falcon 9 launch to no earlier than Jan. 6.

DATELAUNCH VEHICLEPAYLOADLAUNCH SITENATION
Dec. 18GSLV Mk.3CARESatish DhawanIndia
Dec. 18StrelaKondor E1BaikonurRussia
Dec. 18SoyuzO3b F3KourouRussia
Dec. 19Falcon 9CRS 5CCAFSUSA
Dec. 24SoyuzLotus SPlesetskRussia
Dec. 25Angara 5Dummy payloadPlesetskRussia
Dec. 26SoyuzResurs P2BaikonurRussia
Dec. 28ProtonASTRA 2GBaikonurRussia
DecemberLong March 3AFengyun 2GXichangChina

Source: Spaceflight Now

ISRO to Try Again With Domestically Produced Cryogenic Upper Stage

GSLV1If at first you don’t succeed,  spend three years re-engineering and re-testing anything and everything and then try, try again.

That’s the story of ISRO’s experience with developing a cryogenic upper stage, an advanced technology mastered by only a handful of the world’s space powers. On August 19, the Indian space agency will launch its second domestically produced cryogenic stage, capping off a three-year effort to recover for its first failed attempt.

On April 15, 2010, the first and second stages of the GSLV rocket fired nominally. However, the cryogenic upper stage engine fired for only .5 seconds before the fuel pump failed. The premature cutoff sent the GSAT-4 spacecraft to a watery grave at the bottom of the Bay of Bengal.

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India to Try Again With Cryogenic Upper Stage After Long Gap

Most rockets take about nine minutes to put their payloads into low Earth orbit, going from a dead stop on terra firma to 17,500 miles per hour.

In the case of India’s GSLV rocket, it takes several years longer. That’s the typical interval between launch attempts. You then have to add on a couple of more years to account for all of the GSLV’s launch failures. Of seven launches over nearly 12 years, India’s largest rocket has notched only two successes and one partial success. The last fully successful flight occurred in September 2004.

But, ISRO is, if nothing else,doggedly persistent. In April, the Indian space agency will attempt to launch a GSLV rocket fitted with its second domestically produced cryogenic upper stage. The launch will take place exactly three years after the turbo pump on the first homemade cryogenic engine malfunctioned, sending the GSAT-4 communications satellite into the Bay of Bengal. That failure came after 17 years of work on cryogenic technology.

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