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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NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins, Crewmates Return Safely to Earth

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is helped out of the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft just minutes after she, along with Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Sergey Ryzhikov, landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Rubins, Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov returned after 185 days in space having served as Expedition 63-64 crew members aboard the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, along with Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, returned to Earth on Saturday, following six months living and working aboard the  International Space Station.

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NASA Astronaut Mark Vande Hei, Crewmates Arrive Safely at Space Station

The Soyuz MS-18 rocket is launched with Expedition 65 NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, Roscosmos cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitskiy, Friday, April 9, 2021, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and two Russian cosmonauts arrived at the International Space Station Friday, bringing its number of residents to 10 for the coming week.

The Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft carrying Vande Hei and cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos docked to the station’s Rassvet module at 7:05 a.m. EDT. Docking occurred two orbits and about three hours after a 3:42 a.m. launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

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Watch Next Space Station Crew Launch Live on Friday on NASA TV, NASA App

Expedition 65 crew members Russian cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos, left, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos, center, and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, pose for a photo during qualification exams, Saturday, March 20, 2021, at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) in Star City, Russia, in advance of their scheduled launch April 9 from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA/GCTC/Andrey Shelepin)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Three space travelers, including NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, are poised to launch Friday, April 9, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station. NASA Television, the agency’s website, and the NASA app will provide comprehensive prelaunch and launch-to-docking coverage.

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Russian Cosmonauts Patch Cracks in Space Station’s Zvezda Module

The International Space Station, photographed by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli following the undocking of his Soyuz-TMA on 23 May 2011. (Credit: ESA/NASA)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Russian ISS-64 long-term expedition crewmembers have completed the repair works in the Zvezda service module of the Russian segment of the International Space Station.

According to RSC Energia press service, “the International Space Station crew has completed the repair works of the Zvezda module hull. In the coming days Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov will close the Zvezda module hatches to perform pressure level checks.”

All the works are conducted under the supervision of the ISS Russian Segment Chief Operation Control Group and RSC Energia specialists.

Currently, the 64th long-term expedition crew is working on board the International Space Station. The crew consists of Roscosmos cosmonauts Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov, as well as NASA astronauts Kathleen Rubins, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

Russia Achieves Clean Launch Record for Second Year in Row

Soyuz-2 rocket lifts off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome with 36 OneWeb satellites. (Credit: Arianespace)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The outgoing year 2020 has become a difficult test for the entire world marked by the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Many world economic players have encountered objective difficulties in the implementation of previously outlined plans.

Unfortunately, Roscosmos also had to correct a number of plans, including those related to launch activities. Nevertheless, Roscosmos management put the quality of production and the safety of personnel working at the Russian rocket and space industry enterprises and cosmodromes at the forefront.

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NASA Perseveres Through Pandemic to Complete Successful 2020

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2020, NASA made significant progress on America’s Moon to Mars exploration strategy, met mission objectives for the Artemis program, achieved significant scientific advancements to benefit humanity, and returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, all while agency teams acted quickly to assist the national COVID-19 response.

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New Era for Space Station Research Ushered by NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 Mission—Astronauts Getting Right to Work

The four Commercial Crew astronauts (front row from left) Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi are welcomed aboard the station. In the back row from left are, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., November 17, 2020 (CASIS PR) – Early this morning, NASA and SpaceX made history when the first crew rotation of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Resilience, arrived safely to the International Space Station (ISS) after launching from Kennedy Space Center Pad 39A on Sunday evening.

On the SpaceX Crew-1 mission, NASA astronauts Michael HopkinsVictor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi, launched on the first NASA-certified commercial human spacecraft system in history. During their six-month assignment, the Crew-1 astronauts will live and work on the orbiting laboratory, performing multiple research and technology demonstration investigations.

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NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 Astronauts Headed to International Space Station

Crew-1 astronauts in the Crew Dragon capsule after reaching orbit. (Credit: NASA webcast)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — An international crew of astronauts is en route to the International Space Station following a successful launch on the first NASA-certified commercial human spacecraft system in history. NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission lifted off at 7:27 p.m. EST Sunday from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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NASA, SpaceX Officials Thrilled With Crew-1 Launch Success

A Falcon 9 booster launches the Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

It was a picture perfect launch during a beautiful evening on Florida’s Space Coast, as NASA astronauts Michael HopkinsVictor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) blasted off from Kennedy Space Center on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission.

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Crew Dragon at Launch Complex for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1; Astronauts Arrive Sunday

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission arrived at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on Thursday, Nov. 5, after making the trek from its processing facility at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. (Credit: SpaceX)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft arrived at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on Thursday, Nov. 5, after making the trek from its processing facility at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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Astronauts in Space to Discuss 20th Anniversary of International Space Station

Expedition 64 NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, left, and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov, center, and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, right, of Roscosmos take a moment during the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft fit check to pose for a photograph, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos will discuss their mission and the upcoming 20th anniversary of continuous human presence aboard the International Space Station during an in-orbit news conference at 11:10 a.m. EDT Friday, Oct. 30. The news conference will air live on NASA TV and the agency’s website.

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New Crew Arrives Safely at International Space Station

(Front row from left) Expedition 64 crew members Kate Rubins, Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov join Expedition 63 crew members (back row from left) Ivan Vagner, Anatoly Ivanishin and Chris Cassidy inside the space station’s Zvezda service module. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos joined Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner aboard the International Space Station when the hatches between the Soyuz spacecraft and the orbiting laboratory officially opened at 7:07 a.m. EDT.

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NASA Television Coverage Set for Space Station Crew Launch Aboard Soyuz

Expedition 64 NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, left, and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov, center, and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, right, of Roscosmos take a moment during the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft fit check to pose for a photograph, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — A trio of space travelers is poised to launch to the International Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, Oct. 14. NASA Television will provide comprehensive coverage of launch and docking.

Kate Rubins of NASA and Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos are preparing to launch aboard the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft Wednesday, Oct. 14, at 1:45 a.m. EDT (10:45 a.m. Kazakhstan time) on a two-orbit, three-hour journey to dock to the station’s Rassvet module for the start of a six-month mission on the orbital outpost.

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Crew-1 Launch Postponed Due to Falcon 9 Launch Anomaly

SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station is now targeted for no sooner than early-to-mid November, providing additional time for SpaceX to complete hardware testing and data reviews as the company evaluates off-nominal behavior of Falcon 9 first stage engine gas generators observed during a recent non-NASA mission launch attempt. Through the agency’s Commercial Crew and Launch Services Programs partnership with SpaceX, NASA has full insight into the company’s launch and testing data.

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