China Launches New Crew to Tiangong Space Station

Shenzhou 13 launches to Tiangong space station. (Credit: CGTN webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China launched the second three-member crew for a three-month stay aboard the Tiangong space station early Saturday morning local time.

The Shenzhou-13 spacecraft carrying commander Zhai Zhigang and crewmates Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center aboard a Long March 2F booster at 12:23 a.m. (12:23 a.m. EDT Friday). The crew is scheduled to dock with the space station about 6.5 hours after launch.

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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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Three Chinese Astronauts Launch for First Occupation of New Space Station

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Three Chinese astronauts launched into orbit on Thursday morning local time for a three-month mission to the nation’s first permanent space station. It will be the longest human space mission in Chinese history, and the country’s first crewed fight in nearly five years.

The mission is commanded by Nie Haisheng, 56, who has logged more than 19 days in space on two previous flights. Nie, who is a major general in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, was joined by Liu Boming, 54, who will be flying to space for the second time, and rookie astronaut Tang Hongbo, 45.

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China to Launch Crew to First Permanent Space Station on Thursday

Shenzhou-12 crew members Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng and Liu Boming. (Credit: CNSA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Three astronauts will launch on Thursday morning local time aboard the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft for a three-month long mission to China’s first permanent space station. It will be the longest human space mission in Chinese history, and the country’s first crewed fight in nearly five years.

Launch of the crew aboard a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center is scheduled for June 17 at 0122 UTC (June 16 at 9:22 p.m. EDT).

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China Launches Core Module of First Permanent Space Station

Long March 5B launches the Tianhe space station core module on April 29, 2021. (Credit: CASC)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The International Space Station (ISS) is no longer the only human outpost in Earth orbit.

China successfully launched the Tianhe core module core module of its first permanent space station aboard a Long March 5B rocket from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on Thursday.

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Move Over ISS, China’s New Space Station is Launching Soon

Artist’s conception of China’s Tianhe-1 space station. (Credit: China Manned Space Engineering)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In a few short weeks, the International Space Station (ISS) will no longer be the only station in Earth orbit.

China plans to launch the Tianhe core module core module of its first permanent space station aboard a Long March 5B rocket from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site. Spaceflight Now‘s launch calendar has the flight taking place on April 29.

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Long March 7A Launches Test Satellite No. 9

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

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China’s Long March 7A rocket made its first successful flight on Friday, placing a technology verification satellite into orbit nearly a year after the booster failed in its maiden launch.

The booster lifted off at 1:51 a.m. from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in southern China. The payload was the Shiyan-9 satellite, which will demonstrate new technologies.

A variant of the Long March 7 rocket, the three-stage booster is equipped with a third stage powered by hydrogen and liquid oxygen that is adapted from the older Long March 3B.

Long March 7A, which features four strap-on motors, is capable of launching 7 metric tons to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). This is a significant improvement on the Long March 3B, which can lift 5.5 metric tons to LEO.

Long March 7A’s first two stages and strap-on motors are powered by kerosene and liquid oxygen. These are cleaner propellants than the toxic hypergolic ones used on the Long March 3 and Long March 2 boosters, which Long March 7A will replace.

The maiden flight of Long March 7A failed during a classified launch on March 16, 2020. Long March 7 has succeeded in both of its launches.

China has succeeded in five of its six launches in 2021. An i-Space Hyperbola-1 booster carrying several unidentified payloads failed after launch on Feb. 1.

Reusable Spacecraft Lands in China After 2 Day Flight

China’s new reusable spacecraft landed on Sunday after a two-day test flight in Earth orbit, the official Xinhua news agency announced.

“The success indicated that China has achieved key breakthroughs in researching the spacecraft’s reusable technologies. It will provide more convenient and cheaper transport for the peaceful use of space in the future,” Xinhua said.

The spacecraft landed back at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center where it was launched aboard a Long March 2F booster on Friday.

China has not released any details about the spacecraft. It is possible the vehicle is similar to the U.S. military’s uncrewed X-37 space plane, which is launched aboard a rocket and glides to a landing on a runway.

China Launches Reusable Experimental Spacecraft

A Chinese rocket launched a “reusable experimental spacecraft” into Earth orbit on Friday.

The Long March 2F booster lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China.

China has released no details about the vehicle. However, it could be similar to the U.S. military’s X-37B reusable space plane.

“After a period of in-orbit operation, the spacecraft will return to the scheduled landing site in China. It will test reusable technologies during its flight, providing technological support for the peaceful use of space,” the official Xinhua news agency said.

The Long March 2F rocket has been used to launch Shenzhou crewed spacecraft and two Tiangong space stations. This was the 14th launch of the booster.

Orbital Launch Statistics for 2016

The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Ryzhikov, Kimbrough, and Borisenko will spend the next four months living and working aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)
The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Part 2 of 2

There were 85 orbital launches in 2016, not including the Falcon 9 that exploded on launch pad prior to a pre-flight engine test. The launches break down as follow:

  • United States: 22 (22-0)
  • China: 22 (20-1-1)
  • Russia: 19 (18-1)
  • Europe: 9 (9-0)
  • India: 7 (7-0)
  • Japan: 4 (4-0)
  • Israel: 1 (1-0)
  • North Korea: 1 (1-0)

For a more detailed description of these launches, please read US, China Led World in Launches in 2016.

Let’s look at launches by booster and spaceport and the flights that were required for human spaceflight.
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