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…)

China Launches Remote Sensing Satellite, SpaceX Plans Early Monday Flight

SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off with a Dragon resupply ship on April 2, 2018. (Credit: NASA)

At least 10 launches are planned worldwide this month. The launches include crew and cargo missions to the International Space Station and the first commercial flight of Rocket Lab’s Electron booster. Orbital ATK’s Pegasus XL will launch NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) from the Marshall Islands on June 14.

China got June off to a successful start on Saturday with the launch of the Gaofen-6 remote sensing satellite aboard a Long March 2D rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

SpaceX is up next, with an early morning launch on Monday morning. A Falcon 9 is set to launch the SES 12 communications satellite from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The four-hour launch window opens at 12:29 a.m. EDT (0429 GMT). The company has no plans to recover the previously used first stage.

The current launch schedule is below. View updates here.

JUNE 2018

June 2

Launch Vehicle: Long March 2D
Payload: Gaofen 6 remote sensing satellite
Launch Site: Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, China
Outcome: Success

June 4

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: SES 12 communications satellite
Launch Window: 12:29-1:27 a.m. EDT (0429-0527 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Webcast: www.spacex.com

June 6

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: ISS 55S Crew flight
Launch Time: 7:11 a.m. EDT (1111 GMT)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Webcast: www.nasa.gov

June 11

Launch Vehicle: H-2A
Payload: IGS Radar 6 reconnaissance satellite
Launch Window: 12:00-2:00 a.m. EDT (0400-0600 GMT)
Launch Site: Tanegashima Space Center, Japan

June 14

Launch Vehicle: Pegasus XL
Payload: NASA Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: L-1011, Kwajalein, Marshall Islands
Webcast: www.nasa.gov

June 22/23

Launch Vehicle: Electron
Payloads: 2 Spire & 1 GeoOptics satellites
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand

First commercial flight of Electron.

June 28

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Dragon ISS resupply (CRS-15)
Launch Time: 6:03 a.m. EDT (1003 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, Florida
Webcast: www.spacex.com and www.nasa.gov

June TBD

Launch Vehicle: Long March 2C
Payload: PRSS 1 remote sensing satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Taiyuan, China

Launch Vehicle: Long March 3A
Payload: Fengyun 2H geostationary weather satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Xichang, China

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Telstar 19V communications satellite
Launch Window: TBD
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, Florida
Webcast: www.spacex.com

Three Launches Scheduled Over Two Days Next Week

ISS with Soyuz and Progress spacecraft docked to it. (Credit: NASA)

There are a dozen orbital launches planned around the world through the end of June.

China will lead off on Sunday as it launches its Chang’e-4 lunar relay satellite from Xichang. A lunar lander and rover targeted for the far side of the moon is scheduled for launch at the end of the year.

Orbital ATK will follow with the launch of a Cygnus resupply ship bound for the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday from Wallops Island. On Tuesday, SpaceX is scheduled to launch 5 Iridium Next satellites and a pair of scientific spacecraft for NASA.

Other notable missions scheduled through June include a Soyuz crew mission and a SpaceX Dragon resupply flight. Rocket Lab is probably going to launch the first commercial flight of its Electron booster from New Zealand. However, the company has not published a launch window for the flight.

The current global schedule is below. Be sure to check Space Flight Now’s launch schedule for updates.

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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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Falcon 9 Launch Delayed Until Wednesday

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is seen as it launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 4 East with the Jason-3 spacecraft onboard, , Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California has been delayed until Wednesday, Feb. 21. The launch had been previously scheduled for Feb. 16 and Feb. 18.

The primary payload is the Paz satellite for Hisdesat of Spain. The spacecraft will provide radar imaging as well as ship tracking and weather data. The flight will use a previously-flown first stage.

Elon Musk’s company will also launch two of its own satellites, Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b, that will demonstration technologies needed to provide global broadband services. The company plans to orbit 12,000 in two separate constellations for its Starlink broadband service.

Here is the launch schedule for the next two weeks. Check for updates here.

Feb. 21

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Paz
Launch Time: 9:17 a.m. EST; 6:17 a.m. PST (1417 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. 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.

Feb. 25

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Hispasat 30W-6
Launch Window: 12:35 a.m. EST (0535 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.

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.

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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SpaceX to Close Out U.S. Launch Year on Friday

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

Heads up, SoCal!

SpaceX is set to close out the year with a night launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Friday. The The Falcon 9 booster with 10 Iridium Next communications satellite is set to take off at 5:27 p.m. PST. It will be the company’s 18th launch attempt of the year and the 29th for U.S. launch providers.

The SpaceX mission is one of six launches set for the rest of the rest of the year (see list below). If all flights go forward in the next 10 days, there will be a total of 91 orbital launches worldwide in 2017.

Thank you to Spaceflightnow.com for this update list of launches.

December 22/23

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payloads: Iridium Next 31-40 communications satellites
Launch Time: 0127:23 GMT on 23rd (8:27:23 p.m. EST; 5:27:23 p.m. PST on 22nd)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

SpaceX will not attempt to recover the Falcon 9 first stage on this flight.

Launch Vehicle: H-2A
Payloads: GCOM-C & SLATS environmental satellites
Launch Tme: 0126:22-0148:22 GMT on 23rd (8:26:22-8:48:22 p.m. EST on 22nd)
Launch Site: Tanegashima Space Center, Japan

Launch Vehicle: Long March 2D
Payload: Unidentified military satellite
Launch Time: Approx. 0400 GMT on 23rd (11:00 p.m. EST on 22nd)
Launch Site: Jiuquan, China

Dec. 26

Launch Vehicle: Zenit 3F
Payload: AngoSat communications satellite
Launch Time: 1900 GMT (2:00 p.m. EST)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

Dec. 27/28

Launch Vehicle: SS-520-5
Payload: TRICOM 1R communications & imaging CubeSat
Launch Window: 0330-0515 GMT on 28th (10:30 p.m.-12:15 a.m. EST on 27th/28th)
Launch Site: Uchinoura Space Center, Japan

Second attempt to launch the SS-520 microsat booster after the first failed in January.

TBD

Launch Vehicle: March 2D
Payloads: Superview 1-03 and 04 Earth observation satellites
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Taiyuan, China

Launch Crews 3-for-3 Today

Falcon 9 launch

Launch crews in the United States, China and Japan are celebrating successful flights to start a busy launch week.

China got things started by launching the Venezuelan Remote Sensing Satellite aboard a Long March 2D rocket from Jiuquan.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 followed up with an early morning launch of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The flight included the 17th successful landing of a Falcon 9 first stage.

The Japanese successfully launched the Michibiki 4 navigation satellite from the Tanegashima Space Center.

Below is the launch schedule for the rest of the month. It is possible that an Atlas V that had been scheduled to launch a national reconnaissance satellite last week will be added to the schedule for later this month. The launch was delayed twice due to weather and the third time because of a faulty telemetry transmitter. ULA has not set a new launch date.

October 11

Falcon 9
Payload: SES 11/EchoStar 105 communications satellite
Launch window: 6:53-8:53 p.m. EDT (2253-0053 GMT)
Launch site: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

October 12

Soyuz
Payload: Progress 68P resupply ship
Launch time: 5:32 a.m. EDT (0932 GMT)
Launch site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

October 13

Rockot
Payload: Sentinel 5p Earth observation satellite
Launch time: 5:27 a.m. EDT (0927 GMT)
Launch site: Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia

October 17

Minotaur-C
Payload: 6 SkySat Earth observation satellites
Launch time: 5:37 p.m. EDT; 2:37 p.m. PDT (2137 GMT)
Launch site: SLC-576E, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

October 30

Falcon 9
Payload: Koreasat 5A communications satellite
Launch window: 3:34-5:58 p.m. EDT (1934-2158 GMT)
Launch site: Cape Canaveral, Florida

SpaceX to Launch Comsats From Vandenberg on Busy Monday

Falcon 9 lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: SpaceX)

Early risers in Southern California will be able to see a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch 10 Iridium Next communication satellites on Monday morning. The flight from Vandenberg is set to take off at 5:37 a.m. PDT (8:37 a.m. EDT/1237 GMT).

The SpaceX mission will be the second of three launches planned for Monday and Tuesday. China is scheduled to launch a remote sensing satellite for Venezuela and Japan is planning to orbit a navigation satellite.

SpaceX is also scheduled to launch two communications satellites from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday evening.

October 9

Long March 2D
Payload: Venezuelan Remote Sensing Satellite
Launch time: Approximately 12:10 a.m. EDT (0410 GMT)
Launch site: Jiuquan, China

Falcon 9
Payload: Iridium Next 21-30 communication satellites
Launch time: 8:37 a.m. EDT; 5:37 a.m. PDT (1237 GMT )
Launch site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

H-2A
Payload: Michibiki 4 navigation satellite
Launch time: Approx. 6:01 p.m. EDT (2201 GMT)
Launch site: Tanegashima Space Center, Japan

October 11

Falcon 9
Payload: SES 11/EchoStar 105 communications satellite
Launch window: 6:53-8:53 p.m. EDT (2253-0053 GMT)
Launch site: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Busy Stretch of Launches Coming Up

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Dragon spacecraft on board, (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

There is a busy schedule of launches for the rest of the month. Nine launches are on tap, including seven in the next week. SpaceX is planning three flights this month, including launches from Florida and California within two days next week.

October 7

Atlas V
Payload: NROL-52 reconnaissance satellite
Launch time: 0759 GMT (3:59 a.m. EDT)
Launch site: SLC-41, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

October 9

Long March 2D
Payload: Venezuelan Remote Sensing Satellite
Launch time: Approx. 12:10 a.m. EDT (0410 GMT)
Launch site: Jiuquan, China

Falcon 9
Payload: Iridium Next 21-30 communications satellites
Launch time: 8:37 a.m. EDT; 5:37 a.m. PDT (1237 GMT )
Launch site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

H-2A
Payload: Michibiki 4 navigation satellite
Launch time: Approx. 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT)
Launch site: Tanegashima Space Center, Japan

October 11

Falcon 9
Payload: SES 11/EchoStar 105 communications satellite
Launch window: 6:53-8:53 p.m. EDT (2253-0053 GMT)
Launch site: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

October 12

Soyuz
Payload: Progress 68P resupply ship
Launch time: 5:32 a.m. EDT (0932 GMT)
Launch site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

October 13

Rockot
Payload: Sentinel 5p Earth observation satellite
Launch time: 5:27 a.m. EDT (0927 GMT)
Launch site: Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia

October 17

Minotaur-C
Payload: 6 SkySat Earth observation satellites
Launch time: 5:37 p.m. EDT; 2:37 p.m. PDT (2137 GMT)
Launch site: SLC-576E, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

October 30

Falcon 9
Payload: Koreasat 5A communications satellite
Launch window: 3:34-5:58 p.m. EDT (1934-2158 GMT)
Launch site: Cape Canaveral, Florida

Preventing Collisions Between Debris and Spacecraft


JAXA has published the following Q&A interview with  Mayumi Matsuura, the space agency’s space situation awareness (SSA) system project manager.

— What is the current state of space debris monitoring in Japan?

Kamisaibara Spaceguard Center (Credit: JAXA)

Space debris is monitored at the Kamisaibara Spaceguard Center and the Bisei Spaceguard Center, both in Okayama Prefecture. At Kamisaibara, we use radar to monitor debris in low Earth orbit (LEO) up to an altitude of approximately 2,000 km. Although the size of debris that can be monitored depends on its altitude, we can simultaneously track a total of 10 targets 1 meter or more in diameter. At Bisei, we use an optical telescope, which allows us to monitor debris in geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) at an altitude of 36,000 km.

JAXA analyzes data from these facilities to pinpoint debris orbit and position, and when this data and other inputs show that there is a possibility of debris colliding with satellites, a warning is issued to the satellite team. This is the role of the Space Tracking and Communications Center (STCC), where I work. To avoid being hit by debris, all you need to do is change your orbit, so the center prepares detailed proposals on when and how to do this. In some cases, debris is expected not to burn up on reentry into the atmosphere, but to fall back to Earth. In these situations, my job is to predict where it will reenter the atmosphere.
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Orbital Launch Statistics for 2016

The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Ryzhikov, Kimbrough, and Borisenko will spend the next four months living and working aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)
The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Part 2 of 2

There were 85 orbital launches in 2016, not including the Falcon 9 that exploded on launch pad prior to a pre-flight engine test. The launches break down as follow:

  • United States: 22 (22-0)
  • China: 22 (20-1-1)
  • Russia: 19 (18-1)
  • Europe: 9 (9-0)
  • India: 7 (7-0)
  • Japan: 4 (4-0)
  • Israel: 1 (1-0)
  • North Korea: 1 (1-0)

For a more detailed description of these launches, please read US, China Led World in Launches in 2016.

Let’s look at launches by booster and spaceport and the flights that were required for human spaceflight.
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A Look at the ISS Flight Manifest

Credit: NASA
Credit: NASA

There was a lot of discussion on Sunday about the impact of the loss of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft on the International Space Station. NASA officials said the ISS crew was in no danger from a supply standpoint, and they said they would stick to the existing schedule for crew rotation but might change the cargo manifest.

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