Launch 2020: China’s Space Program Continued to Surge with a Number of Firsts

Long March 3B lifts off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center. (Credit: China Aerospace Science and Technology Group)

China’s surging space program showed no sign of slowing down last year as it tied its own launch record and moved ahead with ambitious space missions and a set of new launchers.

China compiled a record of 35 successes and four failures in 2020. That matched the number of launch attempts made in 2018, a year that saw 38 successes and a single failure.

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Launch 2020: A Busy Year Filled with Firsts in the Face of COVID-19 Pandemic

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

SpaceX dominated, China surged and Russia had another clean sheet as American astronauts flew from U.S. soil again in a year of firsts.

First in a series

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a very busy launch year with a number of firsts in both human and robotic exploration. A total of 114 orbital launches were attempted, with 104 successes and 10 failures. It was the same number of launches that were conducted in 2018, with that year seeing 111 successes, two failures and one partial failure.

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Galactic Energy Raises $21.7 Million to Develop Ceres 1 Launch Vehicle

Artist’s conception of Ceres 1 launch vehicle on launch pad. (Credit: Galactic Energy)

Galactic Energy recently raised an additional 150 million yuan ($21.68 million) for the development of its Ceres 1 launch vehicle.

The latest funding round for the private Chinese launch provider was led by Puhua Capital and Huaqiang Capital and included six other investors, the company said. The round brings the total amount raised to 300 million yuan ($43.36 million).

Ceres 1 is a four-stage rocket designed to place payloads weighing 350 kg (772 lb) into low Earth orbit and 230 kg (507 lb) into sun synchronous orbit. The booster has a liquid upper stage atop three solid-fuel stages.

Galactic Energy said it aiming for a flight test of the new booster in the first half of this year. Engineers have completed test firings of the first three stages, the company added.