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…)

Cygnus Arrives at International Space Station

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, May 21, 2018 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s ninth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station will deliver approximately 7,400 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. (Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 8:13 a.m. EDT. The spacecraft will spend about seven weeks attached to the space station before departing in July. After it leaves the station, the uncrewed spacecraft will deploy several CubeSats before its fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere as it disposes of several tons of trash.

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Orbital ATK Launches 9th Cargo Delivery Mission to ISS for NASA

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, May 21, 2018 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s ninth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station will deliver approximately 7,400 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. (Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

DULLES, Virginia 21 May 2018 – Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, successfully launched the company’s AntaresTM rocket carrying its CygnusTM spacecraft today at 4:44 a.m. EDT from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0A on Wallops Island, Virginia, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. The launch marks Orbital ATK’s ninth cargo mission for NASA.

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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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Small Packages to Test Big Space Technology Advances

The RainCube 6U CubeSat with fully-deployed antenna. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — This weekend, when the next cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station lifts off from NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, it will be carrying among its supplies and experiments three cereal box-sized satellites that will be used to test and demonstrate the next generation of Earth-observing technology.

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Orbital ATK’s Cygnus Capsule to Host Research Destined for ISS

SS John Glenn near the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL. (May 16, 2018) – The 9th Commercial Resupply Services (awarded by NASA) mission to the International Space Station (ISS) by Orbital ATK is targeted for launch no earlier than 5:04 a.m. EDT on May 20th. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus capsule will host multiple payloads sponsored by the ISS National Laboratory (managed by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space). These payloads represent a diverse combination of science (life and materials sciences, chemistry evaluations), technology, small satellites, and the replenishment of hardware facilities to support future research. Additionally, multiple investigations will launch to station focused on inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.

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Updated Global Launch Schedule for May

Mars InSight lander (Credit: NASA)

There are some interesting launches among the nine orbital flights currently scheduled for May. Highlights include:

  • NASA’s Mars InSight lander with two deep-space CubeSats (May 5);
  • SpaceX’s first flight of a Falcon 9 Block 5 variant (NET May 7);
  • Two Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE Follow-On) satellites (May 19);
  • Orbital ATK’s Antares Cygnus ISS resupply mission (May 20);
  • China’s Chang’e-4 lunar relay satellite with two deep-space microsats (TBD); and,
  • Rocket Lab’s first Electron commercial flight (TBD).

There have been 40 orbital launches through April, with 38 successes, one failure and one partial failure.

The schedule below is subject to change. Please check with our friends at Spaceflight Now for updates.
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Orbital ATK Unveils OmegA Rocket

OmegA rocket (Credit: Orbital ATK)

DULLES, Virginia, 16 April 2018 (Orbital ATK PR) — During the 34th annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today provided a detailed update on the important progress being made on its Next Generation Launch System.

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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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Antares Launches Cygnus Spacecraft to ISS

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s eighth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station will deliver approximately 7,400 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

DULLES, Virginia, 12 November 2017 (Orbital ATK PR) -– Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, successfully launched its AntaresTM rocket carrying a CygnusTM spacecraft today at 7:19 a.m. EST, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia.

The launch is Orbital ATK’s eighth cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station for NASA. During the mission, designated OA-8, Cygnus will deliver vital equipment, supplies and experiments to the astronauts aboard the space station, as well as conduct scientific experiments onboard Cygnus while docked with the orbiting laboratory.

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Antares to Kick Off Busy Launch Period

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The launch of an Orbital ATK Antares rocket on Saturday morning will be the first of four launches planned over the next five days.

The Antares will launch a Cygnus resupply ship to the International Space Station. It is the second flight of the re-engineered Antares booster, which includes two Russian-made RD-181 engines in its first stage. Launch time is set for 7:37 a.m. EST (1237 GMT) from Wallops Island in Virginia. NASA TV will provide launch coverage.

ULA’s Delta II booster will launch NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System 1 (JPSS-1) weather satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Tuesday, Nov. 14. The launch window extends from 1:47:03 to 1:48:05 a.m. PST (4:47:03-4:48:05 a.m. EST or 0947:03-0948:05 GMT).  NASA TV will provide launch coverage. It will be the penultimate flight of the venerable Delta II rocket.

SpaceX is scheduled to launch the mysterious Zuma payload on Wednesday, Nov. 15 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Built by Northrop Grumman for the U.S. government, there are no other details about the spacecraft. The launch window extends from 8:00 to 10 p.m. EST (0100-0300 GMT on Nov. 16). It’s not clear whether SpaceX will webcast the flight.

China will launch the Fengyun 3D weather satellite into polar orbit aboard a Long March 4C booster from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on Wednesday, Nov. 15. The launch window is not known.

Orbital ATK’s S.S. Gene Cernan to Deliver Supplies to Space Station

The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft approaches its 10 meter capture point where the Canadarm2 grapples resupply ship. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Orbital ATK will launch its Cygnus spacecraft into orbit to the International Space Station, targeted for November 11, 2017, from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Cygnus will launch on an Antares rocket carrying crew supplies, equipment and scientific research to crewmembers aboard the station.

The spacecraft, named the S.S. Gene Cernan after former NASA astronaut Eugene “Gene” Cernan, who is the last person to have walked on the moon, will deliver scientific investigations including those that will study communication and navigation, microbiology, animal biology and plant biology.
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ISS U.S. National Lab Payloads Prepped for Orbital ATK CRS-8 Launch

SS John Glenn near the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL., November 2, 2017 (CASIS) The Orbital ATK Cygnus vehicle is slated to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) no earlier than November 11, 2017 from Wallops Flight Facility.

The Cygnus spacecraft will carry ISS National Laboratory payloads to conduct research across a variety of areas aimed at improving life on Earth. In addition to the diverse research launching to the ISS National Lab, multiple payloads focused on enabling future research missions will be part of the CRS-8 manifest. Thus far in 2017, the ISS National Lab has sponsored more than 100 separate experiments that have reached the station.

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NASA Will Not Release Public Report on SpaceX Falcon 9 Dragon Failure

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

NASA will not publicly release the results of its own investigation into the catastrophic failure of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that launched a Dragon resupply ship into the Atlantic Ocean in June 2015.

After saying it would release a summary of the agency’s investigation, NASA passed the buck to the FAA on an accident that destroyed $118 million worth of cargo the space agency was sending to the International Space Station (ISS).

“Since it was an FAA licensed flight, NASA is not required to complete a formal final report or public summary, and has deferred any additional products related to the matter at this time,” the agency’s Public Affairs Office (PAO) said in an email.

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Russian Rocket Engines Exempted from Sanctions Bill

RD-180 test firing. (Credit: NASA)

Officials at Orbital ATK and ULA breathed sighs of relief on Thursday as the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to exempt rocket engines from a sanctions bill targeting Iran and Russia.

The amendment to the sanctions measure exempted RD-180 engines used by ULA in the first stage of its Atlas V booster and the RD-181 engines Orbital ATK uses in the first stage of its Antares launch vehicle. Both engines are produced by NPO Energomash of Russia.

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