14 Launches Scheduled Before Christmas

LauncherOne operated in powered flight for only seconds before an anomaly shut it down after being dropped from the Cosmic Girl Boeing 747. (Credit; Virgin Orbit)

There are 14 launches scheduled around the world before Christmas Day. The schedule includes a SpaceX Dragon mission to the International Space Station on Dec. 6 and the resumption of launches for OneWeb’s satellite broadband constellation on Dec. 17.

The schedule also includes flight tests of the following vehicles:

  • SpaceX’s Starship 8 prototype to 12.5 km (Dec. 7)
  • Astra’s Rocket 3.2 rocket (Dec. 10)
  • Russia’s Angara heavy-lift booster (Dec. 11)
  • Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crewed suborbital space plane (Dec. 11)
  • Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne (Dec. 19).

The full schedule is below. Thanks to Spaceflight Now’s excellent launch schedule page for much of the information.

Launch dates and times are subject to change without warning. And remember, no wagering!

December 5/6

Launch Vehicle: Long March 3B/E
Payload: Gaofen 14 Earth observation satellite
Launch Time: 10:55 EST on Dec. 5 (1555 GMT on Dec. 6)
Launch Site: Xichang Satellite Launch Center, China

Outcome: Success

December 6

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: SpaceX CRS 21 Dragon ISS resupply ship
Launch Time: 11:17 a.m. EST (1617 GMT)
Launch Site:
 Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Webcast: www.spacex.com and www.nasa.gov

SpaceX’s 21st resupply mission to the International Space Station will feature an upgraded supply ship based on the larger Crew Dragon vehicle. It will be capable of docking autonomously with the station instead of being berthed to it using a robotic arm. The freighter will carry supplies, experiments and Nanoracks Bishop airlock.

Outcome: Success

December 7

Launch Vehicle: Starship 8
Payload: None
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Boca Chica, Texas

SpaceX will attempt to launch Starship 8 to an altitude of about 12.5 km (41,000 ft) and land it safely back near the launch site.

December 10

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: SXM 7
Launch Window: 11:19 a.m.-1:19 p.m. (1619-1819 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

SpaceX will launch the SXM 7 spacecraft for SiriusXM satellite radio.

Launch Vehicle: Rocket 3.2
Launch Window: 2:00-5:00 p.m. EST (1400-1700 GMT)
Launch Site: Pacific Launch Complex — Alaska

Astra will make another attempt to reach orbit for the first time from Kodiak Island.

Launch Vehicle: Delta IV Heavy
Payload: NROL-44 reconnaissance satellite
Launch Window: 5:50-10:30 p.m. EST (2250-0300 on Dec. 10/11)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

The launch for the National Reconnaissance Office is pending range availability. It might conflict with the Falcon 9 launch of the SXM 7 satellite.

Launch Vehicle: Long March 11
Payload: Gravitational Wave High-energy Electromagnetic Counterpart All-sky Monitor (GECAM)
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Xichang, China

GECAM is composed of two small satellites that will provide data about gravitational waves.

December 11

Launch Vehicle: Angara A5
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia

The second orbital flight test of the Angara A5 rocket and the third of the Angara program. An Angara A5 launched a mass simulator into orbit on Dec. 23, 2014. An Angara 1.2PP booster launched on a suborbital flight on July 9, 2014.

Launch Vehicle: WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo
Payloads: Microgravity experiments
Launch Window: TBD
Launch Site: Spaceport America, New Mexico

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity will attempt its third suborbital flight after a nearly 22-month gap. It will be the first suborbital launch from Spaceport America.

December 12

Launch Vehicle: Electron
Mission Name: Owl’s Night Begins
Payload: StriX-α synthetic aperture radar satellite
Launch Window: 4:00-5:59 a.m. EST (0900-1059 GMT) Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand

Synspective of Japan is planning a constellation of 30 synthetic aperture radar satellites.

December 14

Launch Vehicle: PSLV
Payload: CMS 1 communications satellite
Launch Time: Around 4:30 a.m. EST (0930 GMT)
Launch Site: Satish Dhawan Space Center, India

December 17

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payloads: 36 OneWeb 4 satellites
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia

Fresh out of bankruptcy, OneWeb will continue building out its satellite broadband constellation.

December 19

Launch Vehicle: Cosmic Girl Boeing 747/LauncherOne
Payloads: 10 CubeSats
Launch Window: 1:00-5:00 p.m. EST (1800-2200 GMT)
Launch Site: Mojave Air and Space Port, California

Virgin Orbit’s second launch attempt will carry 10 CubeSats under a NASA educational program.

December 20

Launch Vehicle: Long March 8
Payload: XJY 7
Launch Time: TBD
Launch site: Wenchang, China

The purpose of the XJY 7 satellite is unknown.