Launch 2020: A Busy Year Filled with Firsts in the Face of COVID-19 Pandemic

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

SpaceX dominated, China surged and Russia had another clean sheet as American astronauts flew from U.S. soil again in a year of firsts.

First in a series

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a very busy launch year with a number of firsts in both human and robotic exploration. A total of 114 orbital launches were attempted, with 104 successes and 10 failures. It was the same number of launches that were conducted in 2018, with that year seeing 111 successes, two failures and one partial failure.

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Japanese Cargo Craft Completes Space Station Mission

The International Space Station is seen on June 30, 2020, orbiting almost directly above Marfa, Texas, on a southeastern orbital trek that would take it over Mexico and across South America. In the foreground, is the “Dextre” fine-tuned robotic hand with Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) behind it. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Eleven years after the launch of the first H-II Transfer cargo vehicle (HTV) to the International Space Station, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA’s) HTV-9 departed the orbital laboratory today at 1:36 p.m. EDT.

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NASA TV to Air Departure of Japanese Cargo Ship from Space Station

The International Space Station is seen on June 30, 2020, orbiting almost directly above Marfa, Texas, on a southeastern orbital trek that would take it over Mexico and across South America. In the foreground, is the “Dextre” fine-tuned robotic hand with Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) behind it. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Eleven years after the launch of the first H-II Transfer cargo vehicle (HTV) to the International Space Station, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA’s) HTV-9 will depart the orbital laboratory Tuesday, Aug. 18, with live coverage beginning at 1:15 p.m. EDT on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

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World’s First Publicly Accessible “Space Avatar” Launched to Space Station

Space Avatar Experience (Credit: avatarin/Clouds Architecture Office)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) – ANA HOLDINGS INC. (hereafter “ANAHD”), avatarin Inc. of the ANA Group (hereafter “avatarin”), and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (hereafter “JAXA”) have announced a new project on the International Space Station(ISS) to release the world’s first space avatar1 experience.

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Japan Launches Resupply Ship to International Space Station

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — At exactly 31 minutes and 00 seconds past 2 o’clock on the morning of May 21, 2020, the H-II Transfer Vehicle known as “KOUNOTORI9” (HTV9), the cargo transporter to the International Space Station (ISS), was launched aboard H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 9 (H-IIB F9) from the JAXA Tanegashima Space Center.

The H-IIB F9 flight proceeded nominally. Approximately 15 minutes and 7 seconds after launch, the payload separated from the launch vehicle as planned.

JAXA expresses its sincere appreciation for the support provided by all involved.

New European Drawer Rack Set for Space Station

Image of Europe’s space laboratory Columbus taken by ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano from outside the International Space Station. (Credit: ESA–L. Parmitano, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

PARIS (ESA PR) — When the Japanese HTV-9 cargo vehicle launches to the International Space Station on 20 May it will carry a part of Europe in its pressurised module. The second iteration of the European Drawer Rack (EDR-2) is destined for the European Columbus laboratory and will provide even greater opportunities for science in space.

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NASA TV to Air Launch, Capture of Cargo Ship to International Space Station

The H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is pictured in the grip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm before it was attached to the International Space Station’s Harmony module. The orbiting complex was soaring 259 miles above the African nation of Cameroon just after crossing the Atlantic Ocean. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA will broadcast the launch of a Japanese cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station beginning at 1 p.m. EDT Wednesday, May 20, live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries are scheduled to launch the unpiloted H-II Transport Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) on a Japanese H-IIB rocket at 1:30 p.m. (2:30 a.m. Thursday, May 21, Japan time) from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan.

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JAXA HTV-9 Spacecraft to Carry Science, Technology to Space Station

The H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is pictured in the grip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm before it was attached to the International Space Station’s Harmony module. The orbiting complex was soaring 259 miles above the African nation of Cameroon just after crossing the Atlantic Ocean. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — A Japanese cargo spacecraft loaded with experiment hardware, supplies and spare parts is scheduled to launch from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan to the International Space Station at 1:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday, May 20 (2:30 a.m. May 21 in Japan). The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) unpiloted H-II Transport Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) carries investigations testing a new livestreaming educational tool, microscope and telescope.

Here are details about some of the scientific investigations and facilities heading to the orbiting lab on HTV-9.

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