Some Rocket Launches to Watch in 2018

The world’s most powerful booster is set to make a flight test sometime in January. If all goes well, 27 first stage engines will power the new booster off Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The three first stage cores will peel off and land for later reuse while the second stage continues into space.

The new rocket will be capable of lifting 63,800 kg (140,655 lb) to low Earth orbit. However, the payload for the inaugural flight will be much lighter: a red Tesla Roadster that will be launched toward Mars.

In an effort to lower expectations, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says the booster might be lucky to clear the launch pad.

Two boosters that failed in their maiden launches last year will get second chances in January. Japan’s SS-520 microsat launcher will attempt to launch the TRICOM-1R CubeSat.

Rocket Lab’s Electron booster, which reached space but not orbit last May, will launch CubeSats from Spire and Planet later this month.

Virgin Orbit expects to conduct the first flight test of its LauncherOne small-satellite booster this year. The rocket will be air-launched from a modified Boeing 747.

The 32nd and final launch of Russia’s Rockot (Rokot) booster is scheduled for April. The rocket is scheduled to orbit a European Sentinel 3B environmental satellite from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia.

Rockot, which is a converted SS-19 ballistic missile, has a record of 28 successes, two failures and one partial failure since 1990.

Boeing and SpaceX are scheduled to launch flight tests of the Starliner and Dragon 2 commercial crew vehicles to the International Space Station this year. Read more about that here.

The world’s space agency will also be launching a series of spacecraft to the moon, Mars, Mercury and other locations. There is a rundown of those missions here.

  • Tessi

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  • Robert G. Oler

    go baby go

  • Ignacio Rockwill

    Looking good, Falcon Heavy!

  • Michael Halpern

    I would add SpaceX is scheduled for 2 full flight tests of Dragon 2 this year, an uncrewed demo and a 2 week crewed visit to the ISS,

  • Paul451

    SpaceX also has an in-flight abort test for Dragon. Which will be interesting to watch.

  • therealdmt

    Yes! I’m definitely looking forward to that one.

    Besides the spectacle aspect, it’s Important too as a failure here could throw a wrench into commercial crew (and possibly even Orion). If it doesn’t work, it’’ll raise the question of shouldn’t the other capsules have to do a similar test.

    Anyway, just the challenge and spectacle should be cool, the ticking of the box on the way to returning crewed flight to US shores, the being able to really picture what would happen in the event of a launch failure…yep I’m definitely looking forward to it!

  • Paul451

    Boeing will do a static abort test (pad abort), scheduled for some time this year (currently 2nd qtr). Similar to the test that SpaceX did in 2015.

    [What does concern me about Boeing is that their recent delays have apparently been about the need to reduce the weight of the capsule, and to solve aerodynamic issues with launching on Atlas. Given that Boeing front-loaded their contract with design, back-loaded with practical tests (compared to SpaceX’s build-test-modify-test-certify approach), it feels like those are issues that should have been solved several years ago, long before they started bending metal. Production issues, sure, but not design issues.]

  • publiusr

    This to me is the best image of Falcon Heavy

    Though the rocket is filmed from farther away, it gives you a better sense of scale.

    The way many photographers frame shots–all LVs wind up looking the same size.
    Here–the haze actually helps.