Launchapalooza: 26 New Boosters Debuting Worldwide

Vega-C lifts off on its maiden flight on July 13, 2022. (Credit: Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

During the first seven months of the year, five new satellite launch vehicles from Europe, China, Russia and South Korea flew successfully for the first time. As impressive as that is, it was a mere opening act to a busy period that could see at least 20 additional launchers debut around the world.

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77 Launches Conducted During First Half of 2022 as Access to Orbit Expanded

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites while the Dragon that will carry Crew-4 to the International space Station awaits its turn. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a busy first half of 2022 that saw 77 orbital launches with 74 successes and three failures through the 182nd day of the year on July 1. At a rate of one launch every 2 days 8 hours 44 minutes, the world is on track to exceed the 146 launches conducted in 2021.

A number of significant missions were launched during a period that saw more than 1,000 satellite launched. SpaceX flew the first fully commercial crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Boeing conducted an orbital flight test of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, China prepared to complete assembly of its space station, South Korea launched its first domestically manufactured rocket, and Rocket Lab sent a NASA mission to the moon.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

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China to Launch New Crew to Space Station on Sunday

Astronauts Cai Xuzhe, Chen Dong and Liu Yang. (Credit: CASC)

BEIJING (CASC PR) — On June 4, the press conference of the Shenzhou 14 manned flight mission announced that, after the research and decision of the General Headquarters of the space station phase flight mission, the aim was to use the Long March 2F carrier rocket to launch the Shenzhou 14 at 10:44 [02:44 UTC Sunday/10:44 p.m. EDT on Saturday] on June 5. The three astronauts Chen Dong, Liu Yang, and Cai Xuzhe will carry out the Shenzhou 14 manned mission, with Chen Dong as the commander.

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China Launches Communications & Technology Demonstration Satellites

Kuaizhou-1A rocket lifts off on Nov. 25, 2021. (Credit: CASIC)

China placed communications and technology demonstration satellites into orbit in separate launches on Thursday and Friday. The successful missions marked the 46th and 47th launches by China in 2021, with 45 successes and two failures.

On Friday, a Long March 3B rocket launched the ChinaSat-1D communications satellite from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The geosynchronous satellite will be used for military communications.

The spacecraft and the launch vehicle were build by the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

On Thursday, a Kuaizhou-1A solid-fuel booster launched the Shiyan 11 satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The rocket’s builder, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp., did not disclose the purpose of the technology demonstration spacecraft.

The Kuaizhou-1A small-satellite launcher has a record of 12 successes and one failure.

China Launches Tianzhou-3 Supply Ship to Space Station

Launch of the Long March 7 rocket. (Credit: Su Dong)

WENCHANG, China (CASC PR) — At 15:10 on September 20th, on the eve of the Chinese traditional Mid-Autumn Festival, the Long March 7 carrier rocket soared into the sky and successfully lifted the Tianzhou-3 cargo spacecraft to the sky with the “Mid-Autumn Gift Package” from the motherland. The spacecraft was placed into an accurate orbit.

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Long March 2D Launches Remote Sensing Satellite, 3 Secondary Payloads

Long March 2D rocket launches from Taiyuan on June 11, 2021. (Credit: CASC)

TAIYUAN SATELLITE LAUNCH CENTER, China (CASC PR) — On June 11 at 11:03 a.m., the Long March 2D carrier rocket launched the Beijing 3 satellite from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. The booster also carried three secondary satellites: Haisi 2, Wangwang 1 and Tianjian Space Test No. 1. All four satellites entered the planned orbit, and the launch was a complete success.

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Tianzhou-2 Cargo Ship Docks with Chinese Space Station Core Module

BEIJING (CASC PR) — The Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Group Co., Ltd. successfully completed its orbital state after it entered orbit. At 5:01 a.m. on May 30, it used the autonomous rapid rendezvous and docking mode to accurately dock in the Tianhe core module. Backward port, the whole process lasted about 8 hours.

Tianzhou-2 carried astronauts’ living supplies, extravehicular space suits and space station platform equipment, application loads and propellants, etc., after completing rendezvous and docking with the Tianhe core module, it will be transferred to the combined flight phase, and the propellant will be carried out as planned. Supplementary and space application project equipment testing and other work.

So far, the second leg of the “relay race” of the China Space Station’s orbit construction has performed perfectly!

Back in time a few hours ago, the Long March 7 carrier rocket soared into the sky and steadily sent the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft into its intended orbit.

China Launches Resupply Ship to Tianhe Space Station

Long March 7 rocket launches with Tianzhou-2 cargo ship. (Credit: Tu Haichao)

BEIJING (CASC PR) — At 8:55 p.m. on May 29th, at China’s Wenchang Space Launch Site, the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft carrying about 6.8 metric tons of materials was launched to the Tianhe space station by the Long March-7 carrier rocket. Tianzhou-2 is carrying the daily necessities needed by astronauts , materials for conducting space science experiments, and the propellant used to refuel the space station.

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China’s Space Station Core Completes Functional Tests, Cargo Ship Rocket Rolled Out for May 20 Launch

Long March 7 with the Tianzhou-2 cargo ship is rolled out to the launch pad. (Credit: CASC)

BEIJING (CASC PR) — The space station Tianhe core module, which was launched into orbit on April 29, has recently completed functional tests of rendezvous and docking, astronaut residency, robotic arms and other platforms, as well as space application project equipment on-orbit performance checks. All functions are normal and operating in good condition. Tianhe has entered the orbit of rendezvous and docking, and preparations for the rendezvous and docking with the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft will continue.

On May 16, the combination of the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft and the Long March-7 Yaosan launch vehicle developed was transferred to the launch area.

At present, the facilities and equipment at the launch site are in good condition, and various functional inspections and joint tests before launch will be carried out as planned.

The spacecraft used in our country’s space station project, Tianzhou cargo spacecraft, Shenzhou manned spacecraft, and the Long March series of carrier rockets used for launch were developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). 

Long March 6 Launches 9 Satellites into Orbit

Long March 6 lifts off from Taiyuan on April 27, 2021. (Credit: CASC)

A Chinese Long March 6 booster launched nine satellites from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on Tuesday at 11:20 a.m. local time in the inaugural flight of a new commercial rideshare program.

Long March 6 placed the following satellites into sun synchronous orbit:

  • Origin Space NEO-1 — asteroid mining technology demonstration
  • Qilu-1 — synthetic aperture radar
  • Qilu-4 — optical remote sensing
  • Foshan-1 — optical remote sensing
  • Apocalypse Constellation Zero Nine Star — Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Golden Bauhinia-1 01 — visible light remote sensing
  • Golden Bauhinia-1 02 — visible light remote sensing
  • Zhongan Guotong-1 — optical remote sensing
  • Tianqi-9 — optical remote sensing
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China to Construct Fifth Spaceport for Commercial Launches

The Long March 7A rocket lifts off on March 12, 2021. (Credit: Wu Tong Xiaoyu)

SpaceNews reports that China plans to construct a fifth spaceport to support the nation’s growing commercial launch sector. The spaceport is included in China’s 14th Five-Year Plan, which covers 2021-25.

Dou Xiaoyu, a deputy to the National People’s Congress (NPC), the top Chinese legislative body, and a vice chairperson at China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. (CASIC), a giant state-owned enterprise, called for a Chinese commercial spaceport project in order to meet an expected surge in demand for space launch services. 

Dou said China needs to strengthen domestic launch site capacity and continuously improve and optimize facilities. She also noted that launch-related policies and regulations have yet to be promulgated and perfected.

CASIC, through its subsidiary Expace, launch Kuaizhou series solid rockets for commercial purposes, both on the open market and for its own projects including a narrowband Internet of Things low Earth orbit constellation, named Xingyun. CASIC is also developing methane-liquid oxygen propellant engines.

China Launches 3 Yaogan-31 Military Reconnaissance Satellites

Long March 4C lifts off with three Yaogan-31 reconnaissance satellites. (Credit: CASC)

JIUQUAN SATELLITE LAUNCH CENTER, China (CASC PR) — On February 24 at 10:22 a.m., the Long March 4C carrier rocket was ignited and launched at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, and successfully sent three Yaogan-31 satellites into the scheduled orbit. The mission was a complete success.

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Long March 3B Launches Communication Technology Test Satellite

Long March 3B rocket lifts off. (Credit: Zhang Yiyi)

BEIJING (CASC PR) — At 23:36 on February 4, the Long March 3B carrier rocket lifted the communication technology test satellite No. 6 into the sky frm the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. Subsequently, the satellite was successfully sent into the predetermined orbit, and the launch mission was a complete success.

The communication technology test satellite No. 6 was developed by the Eighth Academy of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) Limited. It is mainly used for satellite communications, radio and television, data transmission and other services, and conducts related technical test verification.

The Long March 3B carrier rocket used for this launch belongs to the “Gold Medal Rocket” Long March 3A series and was developed by the First Academy of Aerospace Science and Technology Group.

This mission is the 360th launch of the Long March series of carrier rockets.

CASC: More Than 40 Launches Planned for 2021

Long March 5 launches the Chang’e-5 mission to the moon. (Credit: CNSA)

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) says it is gearing up to launch more than 40 times in 2020, which would break a national record. The Xinhua news agency reports:

The construction of China’s space station, the key space mission in the year, will enter a crucial stage, according to the CASC.

The country plans to launch the core module of its manned space station in the first half of 2021. Subsequent space missions include the launches of the Tianzhou-2 cargo craft and the Shenzhou-12 manned craft.

China’s Mars probe Tianwen-1 is designed to complete orbiting, landing and roving this year.

The spacecraft, launched on July 23, 2020, is expected to enter the Mars orbit around February. Afterward, it will spend two to three months surveying potential landing sites to prepare for its landing in May.

China launched 39 times with 35 successes and four failures in 2020,