China Sets New Record for Launches in Calendar Year

China set a new national record for the number of launches in a calendar year.

A Long March 3B booster lifted off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center with two Beidou navigation satellites bound for medium Earth orbit. It was the 23rd successful launch of the year with no failures.

To date, China has launched six boosters with 11 Beidou satellites aboard in 2018. The navigation satellite system, which is similar to the U.S. Global Positioning System and Europe’s Galileo constellation, will eventually have 35 satellites in orbit.

China’s launch total for 2018 is expected to be in the low to mid-30’s.

Mid-Year Global Launch Report: China & USA Continue to Battle for Lead

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the NROL-47 mission lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The world’s launch providers were extremely busy in the first half of 2018, with China and the United States battling for the lead.

There with 55 orbital launches through the end of June, which amounted to a launch every 3.29 days or 79 hours. The total is more than half the 90 launches attempted in 2017. With approximately 42 missions scheduled for the last six months of the year, the total could reach 97. (more…)

Updated Global Launch Schedule for May

Mars InSight lander (Credit: NASA)

There are some interesting launches among the nine orbital flights currently scheduled for May. Highlights include:

  • NASA’s Mars InSight lander with two deep-space CubeSats (May 5);
  • SpaceX’s first flight of a Falcon 9 Block 5 variant (NET May 7);
  • Two Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE Follow-On) satellites (May 19);
  • Orbital ATK’s Antares Cygnus ISS resupply mission (May 20);
  • China’s Chang’e-4 lunar relay satellite with two deep-space microsats (TBD); and,
  • Rocket Lab’s first Electron commercial flight (TBD).

There have been 40 orbital launches through April, with 38 successes, one failure and one partial failure.

The schedule below is subject to change. Please check with our friends at Spaceflight Now for updates.
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Update Global Launch Schedule for April

PSLV-C40 booster lifts off (Credit: ISRO)

The schedule is subject to change. Please check with our friends at Spaceflight Now for updates.

April 11

Launch Vehicle: PSLV
Payload: IRNSS 1I navigation satellite
Launch Time: TBA
Launch Site: Satish Dhawan Space Center, India

April 14/15

Launch Vehicle: Atlas V
Payload: AFSPC 11 mission
Launch Window: 6:00-10:00 p.m. EDT on 12th (2200-0200 GMT on 12th/13th)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

The U.S. Air Force’s EAGLE satellite will carry multiple military experiments.

April 16

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)
Launch Window: 6:32-6:33 p.m. EDT (2232-2233 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

April 18

Launch Vehicle: Proton
Payload: Blagovest No. 12L communications satellite
Launch Window: 6:12 p.m. EDT (2212 GMT)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

April 19/20

Launch Vehicle: Electron
Payload: 2 Spire Global CubeSats, 1 GeoOptics satellite
Launch Time: 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. EDT on 19th/20th (0030-0430 GMT on 20th)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand

April 21

Launch Vehicle: Long March 3B
Payload: Apstar 6C communications satellite
Launch Time: TBA
Launch Site: Xichang, China

NET April 24

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Bangabandhu 1 communications satellite
Launch Window: TBA
Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center, Florida

April 25

Launch Vehicle: Rockot
Payload: Sentinel 3B Earth observation satellite
Launch Window: 1:57 p.m. EDT (1757 GMT)
Launch Site: Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia

Final launch of Rockot, a converted ballistic missile.

First Quarter 2018 Launch Report: China & USA Battle for Lead

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy begins its first flight. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The world’s launch providers have been extremely busy in the first quarter of 2018, with 31 orbital launches thus far. This is more than one third of the 90 launches conducted last year.

China leads the pack with 10 successful launches. The United States is close behind with a total of nine launches with one failure. The tenth American launch is scheduled for Monday afternoon from Florida.

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SpaceX Launches 10 Iridium Next Satellites

Falcon 9 lifts off with Iridium Next 41-50 satellites. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX successfully launched 10 Iridium Next satellites aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Friday morning.

Iridium-NEXT satellites 41-50 were successfully deployed from the booster’s second stage about an hour after the launch at 7:13 a.m. PDT. It was the fifth batch of 10 Iridium-NEXT satellites that SpaceX has orbited using three different first stage boosters.

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Updated Global Launch Schedule Through April

Expedition 55 crew members Ricky Arnold, Drew Feustel and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev. (Credit: NASA)

Below is the updated launch schedule through the end of April. The 17 scheduled launches include:

  • 7 USA (6 Falcon 9, 1 Atlas V)
  • 4 Russia (1 Soyuz, 1 Soyuz-2.1, 1 Proton, 1 Rockot)
  • 3 India (2 GSLV Mk.2, 1 PSLV)
  • 2 China (2 Long March 3B)
  • 1 Europe (1 Ariane 5).

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Falcon 9 & Soyuz Launch Communications Satellites

Soyuz rocket takes off from French Guiana on March 9, 2018. (Credit: Arianespace)

It was a successful week for launches around the world.

On Tuesday, SpaceX conducted its 50th launch of the Falcon 9 rocket. The booster orbited the 30W-6 communications satellite for Hispsat of Spain from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida. At 6 metric tons, it was the heaviest geosynchronous satellite ever launched by SpaceX.

On Friday, a Soyuz booster roared off the pad in French Guiana to deliver four O3b F4 communications satellites for SES. It was the third successful launch of Russia’s workhorse Soyuz rocket this year.

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Scheduled Launches for March

Atlas V booster launches the GOES-S weather satellite. (Credit: ULA)

Below is the current launch schedule for March. In total, there are 8 launches planned for the month with 16 communications satellites, one meteorological satellite, and one crew mission to the International Space Station. The launches include:

  • United States: 3 (2 Falcon 9, 1 Atlas V)
  • Russia: 2 (Soyuz from Baikonur & French Guiana)
  • Europe: 1 (Ariane 5)
  • China: 1 (Long March 3B)
  • India: 1 (GSLV Mk. 2)

This schedule is subject to change. Please visit https://spaceflightnow.com/launch-schedule/ for updates.

March 1

Launch Vehicle: Atlas V
Payload: GOES-S meteorological satellite
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Outcome: Successful

March 6

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Hispasat 30W-6 communications satellite
Launch Window: 12:33-2:33 a.m. EST (0533-0733 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: O3b F4 communications satellite
Launch Time: 11:38:36 a.m. EST (1638:36 GMT)
Launch Site: Kourou, French Guiana

March 15

Launch Vehicle: Long March 3B
Payload: Apstar 6C communications satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Xichang, China

March 21

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: Soyuz MS-08
Launch Time: 1:44 p.m. EDT (1744 GMT)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

NASA astronauts A.J. (Drew) Feustel and Ricky Arnold and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev will travel to the International Space Station.

Launch Vehicle: Ariane 5
Payload: Superbird 8/DSN 1 & Hylas 4 communications satellites
Launch Time: 5:42 p.m. EDT (2142 GMT)
Launch Site: Kourou, French Guiana

March 24

Launch Vehicles: GSLV Mk.2
Payl0ad: GSAT 6A communications satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Satish Dhawan Space Center, India

March 29

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Iridium Next 41-50 communications satellites
Launch Time: 10:19:49 a.m. EDT; 7:19:49 a.m. PDT (1419:49 GMT)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

China Launches Beidou Satellites, SpaceX Preps for Busy Launch Week

Atlas V booster (Credit: ULA)

A Chinese Long March 3B booster successfully orbited two Beidou navigational satellites on Monday. The flight, which took off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, was the seventh orbital launch by China in 2018, leading all nations thus far.

SpaceX also conducted a static fire of a Falcon 9 booster on Monday at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The rocket is set to launch Hisdesat’s Paz satellite on Saturday using a previously-flown first stage. The launch will be followed by another flight five days later from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Here is the launch schedule for the weeks ahead. Check for updates here.

Feb. 17

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Paz
Launch Time: 9:22 a.m. EST; 6:22 a.m. PST (1422 GMT)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

Built by Airbus Defense and Space, Hisdesat’s Paz satellite will provide radar imaging as well as ship tracking and weather data. The flight will use a previously-flown first stage.

Feb. 22

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Hispasat 30W-6
Launch Window: 12:30 a.m. EST (0530 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, Florida

The Hispasat 30W-6 satellite, built by Space Systems/Loral, will provide communications services over Europe, North Africa and the Americas.

Feb. 24/25

Launch Vehicle: H-2A
Payload: IGS Optical 6
Launch Window: 11:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m. EST on Feb. 24 (0400-0600 GMT on Feb. 25)
Launch site: Tanegashima Space Center, Japan

The Japanese government’s Information Gathering Satellite carries an optical reconnaissance payload.

March 1

Launch Vehicle: Atlas 5
Payload: GOES-S
Launch Time: 5:02-7:02 p.m. EST (2202-0002 GMT)
Launch Site: SLC-41, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

The United Launch Alliance rocket will launch the second next-generation geostationary weather satellite for NASA and NOAA.

March 6

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: O3b F4
Launch Time: 11:38:36 a.m. EST (1638:36 GMT)
Launch Site: French Guiana

The four O3b Networks will provide broadband services to developing countries.

China Launches Satellite to Look for Signals of Earthquakes

China launched a satellite that will search for signals that could help scientists to predict earthquakes on Thursday.

The China Seismo-Electromagnetic Satellite will study electromagnetic signals in Earth’s atmosphere and ionosphere to determine if they can be used to predict earthquakes. The Chinese-led mission is being conducted in cooperation with Italy.

The spacecraft was launched aboard a Long March 2D booster from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. It was the sixth successful launch of the year for China.

Here is the launch schedule for the rest of the month. Check for updates here.

Feb. 6

Launch Vehicle: Falcon Heavy
Payload: Tesla Roadster
Launch Window: 1:30-4:30 p.m. EST (1830-2130 GMT)
Launch Site: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

The inaugural flight of the Falcon Heavy will send a red Tesla Roadster into deep space.

Feb. 11

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: Progress 69P
Launch Time: 3:58 a.m. EST (0858 GMT)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

Resupply mission to the International Space Station.

Feb. 17

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Paz
Launch Time: 9:22 a.m. EST; 6:22 a.m. PST (1422 GMT)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

Built by Airbus Defense and Space, Hisdesat’s Paz satellite will provide radar imaging as well as ship tracking and weather data. The flight will use a previously-flown first stage.

Feb. 22

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Hispasat 30W-6
Launch Window: TBA
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, Florida

The Hispasat 30W-6 satellite, built by Space Systems/Loral, will provide communications services over Europe, North Africa and the Americas.

Feb. 24/25

Launch Vehicle: H-2A
Payload: IGS Optical 6
Launch Window: 11:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m. EST on Feb. 24 (0400-0600 GMT on Feb. 25)
Launch site: Tanegashima Space Center, Japan

The Information Gathering Satellite carries an optical reconnaissance payload.

Mid-February

Launch Vehicle: Long March 3B
Payload: Beidou
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Xichang, China

The rocket will launch two Beidou navigation satellites.

February

Launch Vehicle: GSLV Mk. 2
Payload: GSAT 6A
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Satish Dhawan Space Center, India

The GSAT 6A satellite will provide S-band communications services and demonstrate technologies for future satellite-based mobile applications.

Watch Chinese Rocket Stage Crash & Explode Near Town

This video shows a stage from the Long March 3B booster crashing down near a town in China. The rocket launched a pair of Beidou navigation satellites from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on Thursday.

China has launched five satellites on three rockets so far this year. The launches include:

Jan. 9
Long March 2D
Superview 3 & 4 Earth observation satellites
Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center

Jan. 11
Long March 3B
2 Beidou navigation satellites
Xichang Satellite Launch Center

Jan. 12
Long March 2D
Ludikancha Weixing-3 defense satellite
Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center

SpaceShipTwo Glides, SpaceX Scrubs, Delta IV & 3 Other Launches Pending

SpaceShipTwo Unity on the runway after its seventh glide flight. (Credit; Virgin Galactic)

A busy day in space, so let’s get right to it:

SpaceShipTwo Flies: Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity performed its seven glide flight this morning in Mojave. The flight appeared to go as planned based on what I could see from the ground and Virgin Galactic’s tweets; the space plane landed and rolled to a stop on runway 30. The pilots were Mark Stucky and Michael Masucci.

This is the seventh glide flight for Unity and the 37th glide test for the SpaceShipTwo program. Its predecessor, Enterprise, flew 30 glide and three powered flights before it broke up during its fourth powered flight on Oct. 31, 2014.

Virgin Galactic officials have said today’s test should be the final glide flight for Unity. If all went well, the next test will be powered.

UPDATE: Virgin Galactic has posted a description of today’s flight here.

SpaceX Scrubs: SpaceX scrubbed a static fire of the Falcon Heavy booster for the second time in as many days at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The company planned a 12- to 15-second firing of the 27 first stage engines of the heavy-lift rocket. No reason has been given for the scrub. Reports indicate that a third attempt is set for Friday. If the same schedule is maintained, the six-hour test window will open at 1 p.m. EST.

Delta IV Launch Set: United Launch Alliance is planning to launch a Delta IV booster with the NROL 47 reconnaissance satellite from Vandenberg this afternoon. The original launch time was set for 1 p.m. PST, but ULA says it is working a technical issue that will delay the launch until later. No new time as been set yet. The launch was scrubbed on Wednesday due to high winds.

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

UPDATE: Liftoff is now planned for 1:55 p.m. PST. Webcast commentary will start at 1:30 p.m. PST.
UPDATE 2: Liftoff now at 2:05 p.m. PST.

Chinese & Indian Launches Scheduled: A Chinese Long March 3B rocket will launch two Beidou navigation satellites at approximately 2300 GMT (6 p.m. EST) today. The flight will be conducted from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

India’s PSLV booster will launch the Cartosat 2F remote sensing satellite from Satish Dhawan Space Center on Friday at 0358 GMT (10:58 p.m. EST on Thursday, Jan. 11). It will be the first PSLV launch since August when a failure of the payload shroud to separate doomed an IRNSS-1H navigation satellite to a fiery destruction.

A Long March 2D rocket is set to launch an unidentified satellite from Jiuquan on Saturday at approximately 0710 GMT (2:10 a.m. EST). This will be China’s third launch of the new year.

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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And Soyuz Makes Six….

PSLV C38 mission launches (Credit: ISRO)

The failure of a Russian Soyuz booster to orbit a weather satellite and 18 CubeSats on Tuesday was the sixth launch mishap of the year. That total includes five total failures and one partial failure out of 79 orbital launches.

On Jan. 14, the maiden launch of Japan’s SS-520 microsat booster failed after takeoff from the Uchinoura Space Centre. JAXA said controllers aborted second-stage ignition after losing telemetry from the rocket. The booster was carrying the TRICOM-1 nanosat.

A second launch has been scheduled for Dec. 25. The SS-520 is an upgraded version of a Japanese sounding rocket.

The maiden flight of Rocket Lab’s Electron booster failed after launch from New Zealand on May 25. Company officials said controllers terminated the flight after faulty ground equipment lost telemetry from the booster, which was functionally nominally. Rocket Lab is gearing up for a second launch attempt that could occur in December.

China’s Long March 3B suffered a partial failure on June 19 after launch from Xichang. An under performing third stage left the ChinaSat 9A communications satellite in a lower-than-planned orbit. The spacecraft reached its proper orbit using on board propulsion, with a reduction of its orbital lifetime.

On July 2, a Chinese Long March 5 booster failed after liftoff from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center.  The rocket was carrying an experimental geostationary satellite named Shijian 18. It was the second launch and first failure for China’s largest booster. Officials have no announced the cause of the failure.

India’s PSLV rocket suffered a rare failure when the payload shroud failed to separate during a launch on Aug. 31. The IRNSS-1H regional navigation satellite was lost. The booster is set to return to service on Dec. 30.