Busy Launch Week With Flights to ISS, Electron Test

The Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

We’ve got a busy launch week coming up with a new three-man crew headed for the International Space Station (ISS), SpaceX launching a Dragon resupply mission to the station, and Rocket Lab attempting the second flight test of its Electron small-satellite launcher. Europe and China are also launching satellites this week.

December 10

Launch Vehicle: Long March 3B
Payload: Alcomsat 1 communications satellite (Algeria)
Launch Time: Approx. 1635 GMT (11:35 a.m. EST)
Launch Site: Xichang, China

December 10/11

Launch Vehicle: Electron
Payloads: 3 Planet and Spire CubeSats
Launch Window: 0130-0530 GMT on 11th (8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. EST on 10/11th)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Webcast: http://www.rocketlabusa.com

December 12

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Dragon (CRS 13 mission)
Launch Time: 1646 GMT (11:46 a.m. EST)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Webcast: http://www.spacex.com and http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv/

Launch Vehicle: Ariane 5
Payloads: Galileo 19-22 navigation satellites
Launch Time: 1836:07 GMT (1:36:07 p.m. EST)
Launch Site: ELA-3, Kourou, French Guiana
Webcast: http://www.esa.int

December 17

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: Soyuz spacecraft with Anton Shkaplerov (Roscosmos), Scott Tingle (NASA) and Norishige Kanai (JAXA)
Launch Time: 0720 GMT (2:20 a.m. EST)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Webcast: http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv/

Unrest Continues in French Guiana

Flight VS13 was the 13th Soyuz liftoff performed from French Guiana since this vehicle’s 2011 introduction at the Spaceport. (Credit: Arianespace)

The protests that have largely shut down French Guiana show no sign of diminishing as locals and government officials in France remain far apart.

The movement behind more than two weeks of social unrest in French Guiana has called for a complete shutdown of the overseas territory from Monday, after a police officer was injured.

Activists are protesting decades of under-investment in the French territory in South America, paralysed by a general strike that 37 unions called on March 25.

Locals last week rejected an offer from Paris to inject a billion dollars of aid to the territory, home to 250,000 people, instead demanding $2.5 billion (Dh9 billion) immediately.

The protests also led to the indefinite postponement of an Arianespace rocket launch at Europe’s Guiana Space Centre in Kourou.

A Collective to Get Guiana Moving, spearheading protests to improve economic development and job creation programmes, on Saturday called for a complete blockade from Monday of the territory, which relies on huge injections of public funds.

Read the full story.

Russia Plans to Boost Launch Rate, Revenues from Space Station

Igor Komarov (Credit: Russia Forum)

Speaking a day after SpaceX successfully re-flew a previously used Falcon 9 first stage, Russian space officials sought to reassure the public about the nation’s lagging launch rate and outlined plans to increase revenues from  the International Space Station (ISS).

On Friday, Roscosmos head Igor Komarov said Russia was aiming for more than two dozen launches this year.

“We will conduct at least 30 launches from the Baikonur, Plesetsk, Vostochny and Kourou space centers this year,” Komarov said at a meeting of the Expert Council of Russia’s Military-Industrial Committee.

With one quarter of the year completed, Russia has conducted two launches.

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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)

Part 2 of 2

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)

Part 1 of 2

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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ESA Signs $3.8 Billion Contracts for Ariane 6, Vega C & Kourou Upgrades

Artist's conception of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)
Artist’s conception of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Today, ESA signed contracts for the development of the Ariane 6 new‑generation launcher, its launch base and the Vega C evolution of the current small launcher.

The contracts, signed at ESA’s Paris Head Office with Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL), France’s CNES space agency and ELV, respectively, cover all development work on Ariane 6 and its launch base for a maiden flight in 2020, and on Vega C for its 2018 debut.

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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

Arianespace to Report Small Loss for 2013, Looks Forward to Busy 2014

An Ariane 5 rocket soars into orbit on Dec. 29, 2010. Credits: ESA / CNES / Arianespace / Photo Optique vidéo du CSG
An Ariane 5 rocket soars into orbit on Dec. 29, 2010. Credits: ESA / CNES / Arianespace / Photo Optique vidéo du CSG

Despite a government subsidy of 100 million euros, Arianespace expects to lose money in 2013 when all the accounts are totalled up. However, the European launch company is looking toward a record breaking year in 2014 as it works through a large manifest, Space News reports.

Arianespace launch consortium expects to report a ‘slight loss’ for 2013 following a revenue drop of some 27 percent compared to 2012 as a result of lower-than-planned launch activity, Arianespace Chief Executive Stephane Israel said Jan. 7.

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Russia 2013 Space Year in Review

Expedition 37 takes off for the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)
Expedition 37 takes off for the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Russia once again led the world in orbital launches in 2013, keeping the International Space Station supplied with a study stream of crew members and cargo while earning hard currency with commercial satellite launches.

Although the vast majority of Russia’s launches were successful, the spectacular failure in July of a Proton rocket — which nosedived into the ground shortly after liftoff — accelerated efforts to reform the nation’s failure-prone space program. By the end of the year, the Russian space agency Roscosmos had a new leader and a major effort was underway to consolidate a large part of the bloated and inefficient space sector under a single government-owned company.

During 2013, Russia introduced a new variant of its venerable Soyuz rocket while also making progress on constructing a new spaceport in the Far East and developing a larger human spacecraft to replace the Soyuz transport and a heavy-lift booster to facilitate deep space exploration.

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Busy Holiday Launch Schedule Set for End of 2013

Zarya, the first component of the International Space Station, launches flawlessly at 1:40 a.m. EST on November 20, 1998, from Kazahkstan (Credit: NASA)
Proton rocket launch (Credit: NASA)

Today’s successful launch of ESA’s Gaia spacecraft from French Guiana kicked off a busy global holiday flight schedule for the final days of 2013. Seven launches are on the schedule through New Year’s Eve, although it’s not clear whether all of them will be conducted.

LATE DECEMBER LAUNCHES

#

Date

Launch Vehicle

Launch Site

Nation

Payload

Result

76

12/19/13

Soyuz

Kourou

Europe/Russia

Gaia

Success

77

12/20/13

Long March 3B

Xichang

China

Tupac Katari

78

12/23/13

Soyuz 2-1v

Plesetsk

Russia

AIST & Calibration Spheres

79

12/25/13

Rockot

Plesetsk

Russia

3 Rodnik communications satellites

80

12/26/13

Proton

Baikonur

Russia

Express AM5

81

12/31/13

Falcon 9

CCAFS

USA

Thaicom 6

82

TBD

Long March 4B

Taiyuan

China

Gaofen 2

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China Gets Busy Holiday Launch Season Off to a Good Start

A Long March 3-B rocket lifts off with China's Chang'e-3 lunar rover. (Credit: CAST)
A Long March 3-B rocket lifts off with China’s Chang’e-3 lunar rover. (Credit: CAST)

UPDATE: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch has been shifted to Tuesday evening.

China has kicked off a busy month with the successful launch of the Chang’e-8 lunar rover mission. There are 15 launches on the manifests of the world’s rocket companies in December. If all missions are completed and none are added, there will be 85 orbital launches for the year.

SpaceX is the next to go on Tuesday evening, with the company hoping its third attempt to launch the SES-8 communications satellite is a charm.  The launch window opens at 5:41 p.m. EST, and SpaceX will webcast the attempt.

The company is hoping to get one more launch in by the end of 2013 on Dec. 20 with the Thaicom 6 satellite as the payload. Some other notable launches scheduled for December include:

  • Antares/Cygnus: Orbital Sciences first commercial cargo delivery to the International Space Station (Dec. 17);
  • Soyuz 2-1v:  The first flight of Russia’s “light” version of the venerable booster (Dec. 23);
  • GSLV/GSAT 14:  India will make a re-flight of a cryogenic engine that failed to fire during its inaugural mission in April 2010 (TBD);
  • Long March 4B/CBERS 3: China will launch a Earth resources satellite jointly developed with Brazil (Dec. 10);
  • Atlas V/Delta IV: These two ULA military launches will bring the company’s total to 12 for the year (Dec. 5 & 12);

SCHEDULED LAUNCHES FOR DECEMBER 2013

Date

Launch Vehicle

Launch Site

Nation/Company /Agency

Payload

Result

USA

12/03/13

Falcon 9

CCAFS

USA/SpaceX

SES 8

12/05/13

Atlas V

VAFB

USA/ULA/USAF

NROL-39

12/12/13

Delta IV

CCAFS

USA/ULA/USAF

GPS 2F-5

12/17/13

Antares

MARS

USA/Orbital/NASA

Cygnus 2

12/20/13

Falcon 9

CCAFS

USA/SpaceX

Thaicom 6

RUSSIA

12/08/13

Proton

Baikonur

Russia/ILS

Inmarsat 5

12/19/13

Soyuz

Kourou

Russia/Europe/Arianespace

Gaia

12/23/13

Soyuz 2-1v

Plesetsk

Russia/TsSKB-Progress

AIST & Calibration Spheres

12/26/13

Proton

Baikonur

Russia/ILS

Express AM5

CHINA

12/02/13

Long March 3B

Xichang

China/CNSA

Chang’e-3

Success

12/10/13

Long March 4B

Taiyuan

China/CNSA

CBERS 3

12/20/13

Long March 3B

Xichang

China/CNSA

Tupac Katari

TBD

Long March 4B

Taiyuan

China/CSNA

Gaofen 2

INDIA

TBD

GSLV

Satish Dhawan

India/ISRO

GSAT 14

JAPAN

TBD

H-2A

Tanegashima

Japan/Mitsubishi
/JAXA

ALOS 2

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China Surpassed U.S. in Launches, Payloads in 2012

long_march_launch
By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

China’s surging space program moved into second place in 2012 in terms of both orbital launches and payloads, passing the United States and inching closer to Russia.

China successfully launched 19 rockets last year, placing a total of 30 payloads into orbit, according to an annual report released by the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). Russia led all nations with 34 payloads on 24 launches, while the United States came in third with 28 payloads on 13 launches.
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First Vega Launcher Arrives in Kourou

One of Vega’s two payload fairing half-shells is unloaded in its shipping container from the MN Colibri docked at Kourou’s Pariacabo Port (photo at left), for transfer to the nearby Spaceport. (Credit: Arianespace)

ARIANESPACE PR — The first lightweight Vega was delivered to the Spaceport today, with this latest member of Arianespace’s expanded launcher family arriving only days after the service entry of its other new vehicle – the medium-lift Soyuz.

Vega came to French Guiana aboard the MN Colibri roll-on/roll-off ship, which docked yesterday at Kourou’s Pariacabo Port after a two-week Atlantic crossing from Europe, and was unloaded this morning for the launcher’s transfer by road to the Spaceport.

The four-stage Vega’s first flight has been set for next January 26, carrying LARES (LAser RElativity Satellite) and nine cubesat educational payloads of varying sizes.

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Vega Rocket Begins Trip to Kourou

Artist's impression of Vega on the launch pad at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Credit: ESA - J.Huart, 2011

ESA PR — The first elements of Europe’s new Vega small launcher left Italy last Thursday to begin their long journey to Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, marking the final step towards its inaugural flight in January.

After several intense weeks of checking the hardware and equipment – and the shipping paperwork – Vega’s Zefiro-23 and Zefiro-9 motors and the AVUM fourth stage were carefully packed and left Avio’s facility in Colleferro, where they were built.

During the night, the convoy headed to Livorno Harbour and the stages were loaded onto the MN Colibri, a vessel that is normally used by Arianespace to carry Ariane rocket components on the same route across the Atlantic Ocean.

It then departed on its first leg to Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

The fairing, built in Switzerland, the Dutch-built Interstage-1/2 structure that links the first two stages and the LARES laser relativity satellite from Italy’s ASI space agency will be loaded onto the vessel, which is scheduled to set sail on 6 October.

Some 18 days later, the ship will arrive at Dégrad de Cannes Harbour in Cayenne, French Guiana.

From there, the ship’s cargo will be taken by road to Kourou for mating with Vega’s P80 first stage, now undergoing final preparations in the Booster Integration Building.

The P80 solid-propellant motor, also built in Colleferro, awaits insertion of its igniter.

Vega’s first launch campaign

The three-month launch campaign will begin in November following the Flight Readiness Review on 13–14 October.

The first step will move the P80 stage to the pad for final testing of the thrust vector control system. The two solid-propellant second and third stages will then be added.

The campaign will continue with the integration of the AVUM – Attitude & Vernier Upper Module – and its fuelling, and further testing of the electrical systems and software controls.

Finally, the upper composite, comprising the fairing and the payload, will be mated with AVUM.

The payload for Vega’s first launch is the LARES satellite, together with nine small CubeSats from European universities.

ESA, CNES, ASI and industry teams will arrive at Europe’s Spaceport for the launch campaign in November.

“With all of the elements for Vega’s maiden flight in Kourou by mid-October, we are now looking forward to beginning the launch campaign, which will be the final step before the first flight of Europe’s new rocket,” says Stefano Bianchi, Vega Programme Manager.

This first launch, the Vega qualification flight, is planned for January 2012 and will pave the way for five missions that aim to demonstrate the system’s flexibility.

Vega is designed to cope with a wide range of missions and payload configurations in order to respond to different market opportunities. In particular, it offers configurations able to handle payloads ranging from a single satellite up to one main satellite plus six microsatellites.

Vega is compatible with payload masses ranging from 300 kg to 2500 kg, depending on the type and altitude of the orbit required by the customers. The benchmark is for 1500 kg into a 700 km-altitude polar orbit.

Countdown Begins for First Soyuz Launch From South America as Vega Debut Slips


Checking in on activities down at the European spaceport in Kourou, we find the rocket base is abuzz with activity. On Wednesday, an Ariane 5 successfully delivered two communications satellites to space. It was the rocket’s fifth mission of 2011; one more and it will match the number flown last year, which ended with Arianespace actually losing money.

Meanwhile, preparations are well along for the first Soyuz launch from the spaceport on Oct. 20. The venerable Russian rocket will launch the first two satellites in Europe’s Galileo navigational constellation.

And in related news, officials announced this week that the debut of Europe’s new Vega small satellite launcher will be delayed until January. It had been set to launch from Kourou in November or December.

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