The United States reclaimed the top spot in launches from China last year as NASA astronauts flew into orbit from American soil for the first time in nearly nine years, SpaceX deployed the world’s first satellite mega-constellation with reused rockets, and two new launchers debuted with less than stellar results.
American companies conducted 44 launches in 2020, with 40 successes and four failures. Bryce Tech reports that U.S. companies accounted for 32 of the 41 commercial launches conducted last year. The majority of those flights were conducted by SpaceX, which launched 25 orbital missions.
China came in second with a record of 35 successful launches and four failures. The 39 launch attempts tied that nation’s previous record for flights during a calendar year.
Let’s take a closer look at what U.S. companies achieved last year.
TOKYO, Japan and BERLIN, Germany, March 23, 2021 (Synspective PR) — Synspective Inc., a SAR satellite data and analytic solution provider, announced a Launch Agreement with the German launch services provider, Exolaunch, to launch the second demonstration satellite “StriX-β” on a Soyuz-2 launch vehicle from Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia in late 2021.
StriX-β is the second demonstration satellite following Strix-α. It is aimed to demonstrate “InSAR (Interferometric SAR)” technology in orbit, a special SAR analytics technique to detect millimeter-level displacements on the ground surface.
TOKYO (Synspective PR) – Synspective Inc., a SAR satellite data and analytic- solution provider, announced its first success on the first image acquisition from its first own SAR satellite StriX-α. This is the first success in Japan that a commercial SAR satellite (100 kg class) image has obtained from space.
MAHIA PENINSULA, New Zealand (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab, the leading dedicated small launch provider and space systems company, has successfully launched its 17th Electron mission, deploying the first spacecraft to orbit for synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite data and solutions provider Synspective.
SpaceX scrubbed the launch of the SXM-7 for SiriusXM satellite radio on Friday morning. The countdown for the Falcon 9 rocket was held at T-30 seconds.
“Standing down from today’s launch attempt to perform additional ground system checkouts; teams are working toward no earlier than Sunday, December 13 for next launch attempt of SXM-7,” SpaceX tweeted.
The window for Virgin Galactic’s first suborbital flight of SpaceShipTwo from Spaceport America in New Mexico opened on Friday. However, the company did not conduct a flight with scientific experiments.
“Good morning from NM. Vehicles and flight crew are ready. Flight window is now open. We will fly no earlier than Saturday. We have range clearance through the weekend and can extend into next week if necessary. Evaluating high-level winds and turbulence. Stay tuned for updates,” Virgin Galactic tweeted.
Rocket Lab has delayed its launch of the StriX-α synthetic aperture radar satellite from New Zealand by a day to Tuesday, Dec. 15 for a rather unusual reason.
“To avoid a solar eclipse that could affect Synspective’s mission, we’re now targeting Dec 15 for launch,” the company tweeted. “When customers request a new T-0, we’re happy to oblige. That’s the beauty of dedicated launch on Electron, our customers get to choose (and change!) their launch time.”
The target lift-off time for the The Owl’s Night Begins mission on Dec. 15 is:
UTC: 09:00-10:59 NZT: 22:00-23:59 JST: 18:00-19:59 PST: 01:00-02:59 EST: 04:00-05:59.
LONG BEACH, Calif. (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab, a space technology company and global leader in dedicated small satellite launch, has today announced Japanese Earth-imaging company Synspective as the customer for Rocket Lab’s 17th Electron launch, and its seventh mission of the year.