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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Falcon 9, Minotaur IV Launches Set for Thursday & Friday

Three launches are scheduled for the week ahead, including a pair in the United States and one in India.

Falcon 9
Formosat 5 remote sensing satellite
Date: Thursday, Aug. 24
Time: 2:50-3:34 p.m. EDT; 11:50 a.m.-12:34 p.m. PDT (1850-1934 GMT)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

Minotaur IV
ORS 5
Date: Friday, Aug. 25
Time: 11:14 p.m.-3:15 a.m. EDT (0314-0715 GMT on Aug. 26)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

This marks the first flight of Orbital ATK’s Minotaur IV booster from Cape Canaveral. The payload, also known as SensorSat, is a military satellite that will scan for other spacecraft and orbital debris. ORS 5 was produced by the military’s Operationally Responsive Space program.

PSLV
IRNSS 1H navigation satellite
Date: Thursday, Aug. 31
Time: TBA
Launch Site: Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota, India

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Super Strypi Launch From Hawaii Fails

Here is some video of a Super Strypi launch from Kauai that failed on Tuesday. Super Strypi is a new launch vehicle developed by Aerojet Rocketdyne and Sandia National Laboratories in cooperation with the Defense Department’s Office of Operationally Responsive Space. The University of Hawaii was also involved in the launch, which carried 13 small satellites.

UPDATE: The U.S. Air Force has released the following statement:

“The ORS-4 mission on an experimental Super Strypi launch vehicle failed in mid-flight shortly after liftoff at 5:45 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time (7:45 p.m. PST; 10:45 p.m. EST) today from the Pacific Missile Range Facility off Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii. Additional information will be released as it becomes available.”

Orbital ATK Minotaur IV to Launch Air Force ORS-5 Mission

A Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifts off from at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)
A Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifts off from at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)

DULLES, Virginia, July 14, 2015 (Orbital ATK PR)– Orbital ATK, Inc. (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, received a $23.6M contract from the U.S. Air Force’s Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office to launch the ORS-5 SensorSat spacecraft in mid-2017, using a rocket from the company’s Minotaur Launch Vehicle Family.

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ORS, University of Hawaii Team Up on New Small Satellite Launcher

SPARK_rocket_on_rail
The U.S. Air Force’s Office of Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) has teamed up with the University of Hawaii and Aerojet to develop a new small-sat launch vehicle that will make its maiden flight later this year from a missile range on Kauai.

The rail-launched Spaceborne Payload Assist Rocket Kauai (SPARK, a.k.a., Super Strypi) will be capable of launching small satellites and CubeSats into low Earth and sun synchronous orbits at a low cost. The objective is to place 250 kg. (551 lb.) payloads into a 400-km (249 mile) sun-synchronous orbit from Kauai.

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