China launched two rockets with 23 satellite aboard on Sunday, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
A Long March 4C launched the L-SAR 01B Earth observation satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The synthetic aperture radar satellite will provide data for land resources use, mapping, forestry, and disaster prevention and relief efforts.
L-SAR 01B joins its twin satellite, L-SAR 01A, which was launched on Jan. 26, Xinhua reported. The spacecraft were built by Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, a subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.
A Long March 8 rocket set a new domestic record for the number of spacecraft launched when it orbited 22 satellites from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Hainan Province, Xinhiua reported.
The spacecraft will be used for commercial remote sensing, marine environment monitoring, forest fire protection and disaster mitigation. The satellites were placed in sun synchronous orbit.
It was the second launch of the Long March 8 rocket. The booster placed five satellites into orbit during its maiden flight on Dec. 22, 2020.
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.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — On Saturday, December 19 at 9:00 a.m. EST, Falcon 9 launched the NROL-108 mission from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, completing SpaceX’s 26th and final mission of 2020.
Falcon 9’s first stage booster previously supported launch of SpaceX’s 19th and 20th cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station, a Starlink mission, and the SAOCOM 1B mission.
Following stage separation, SpaceX landed Falcon 9’s first stage on Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida – the 70th landing for SpaceX.
Editor’s Note: SpaceX’s 26 launches is a new record for Elon Musk’s company in a calendar year. It was America’s 44th and final orbital launch attempt of the year. That is the highest number in more than 50 years.
Overall, there have been 110 launch attempts with 10 failures worldwide. Two more launches — Long March 8 from China, and a Soyuz-2 from Kourou — are scheduled before the end of the year. It’s possible China or Russia could conduct additional launches; these countries don’t always announce flights very far in advance.
This whole reusable booster thing seems to be catching on.
China aims to recover the first stage of the Long March-8 carrier rocket, which is still under development and is expected to make its maiden flight around 2021, according to a Chinese rocket expert.
It was part of China’s endeavors to develop reusable space vehicles, Long Lehao, chief designer of carrier rockets at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, told a space conference in Harbin, capital of northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province.
The Long March-8 rocket will have two stages and two boosters: the first stage and boosters are expected to be retrieved through vertical landing, said Long, who is also an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
If successful, the new rocket would provide commercial launch services to customers around the globe, Long said.
In recent weeks, Chinese officials have revealed more details about the investigation into the Long March 5 launch failure last year as well as their ambitious launch plans for this year, which include a landing on the far side of the moon.
Long March 5 will be returned to flight in the second half of 2018, according to Bao Weimin, head of the Science and Technology Committee of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). Engineers have identified the cause of a launch failure that occurred last July and are working to verify it, he said.