This video shows a stage from the Long March 3B booster crashing down near a town in China. The rocket launched a pair of Beidou navigation satellites from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on Thursday.
China has launched five satellites on three rockets so far this year. The launches include:
Jan. 9 Long March 2D Superview 3 & 4 Earth observation satellites Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center
Jan. 11 Long March 3B 2 Beidou navigation satellites Xichang Satellite Launch Center
Jan. 12 Long March 2D Ludikancha Weixing-3 defense satellite Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center
SpaceShipTwo Flies: Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity performed its seven glide flight this morning in Mojave. The flight appeared to go as planned based on what I could see from the ground and Virgin Galactic’s tweets; the space plane landed and rolled to a stop on runway 30. The pilots were Mark Stucky and Michael Masucci.
This is the seventh glide flight for Unity and the 37th glide test for the SpaceShipTwo program. Its predecessor, Enterprise, flew 30 glide and three powered flights before it broke up during its fourth powered flight on Oct. 31, 2014.
Virgin Galactic officials have said today’s test should be the final glide flight for Unity. If all went well, the next test will be powered.
UPDATE: Virgin Galactic has posted a description of today’s flight here.
SpaceX Scrubs: SpaceX scrubbed a static fire of the Falcon Heavy booster for the second time in as many days at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The company planned a 12- to 15-second firing of the 27 first stage engines of the heavy-lift rocket. No reason has been given for the scrub. Reports indicate that a third attempt is set for Friday. If the same schedule is maintained, the six-hour test window will open at 1 p.m. EST.
Delta IV Launch Set: United Launch Alliance is planning to launch a Delta IV booster with the NROL 47 reconnaissance satellite from Vandenberg this afternoon. The original launch time was set for 1 p.m. PST, but ULA says it is working a technical issue that will delay the launch until later. No new time as been set yet. The launch was scrubbed on Wednesday due to high winds.
UPDATE: Liftoff is now planned for 1:55 p.m. PST. Webcast commentary will start at 1:30 p.m. PST. UPDATE 2: Liftoff now at 2:05 p.m. PST.
Chinese & Indian Launches Scheduled: A Chinese Long March 3B rocket will launch two Beidou navigation satellites at approximately 2300 GMT (6 p.m. EST) today. The flight will be conducted from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.
India’s PSLV booster will launch the Cartosat 2F remote sensing satellite from Satish Dhawan Space Center on Friday at 0358 GMT (10:58 p.m. EST on Thursday, Jan. 11). It will be the first PSLV launch since August when a failure of the payload shroud to separate doomed an IRNSS-1H navigation satellite to a fiery destruction.
A Long March 2D rocket is set to launch an unidentified satellite from Jiuquan on Saturday at approximately 0710 GMT (2:10 a.m. EST). This will be China’s third launch of the new year.
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.
The failure of a Russian Soyuz booster to orbit a weather satellite and 18 CubeSats on Tuesday was the sixth launch mishap of the year. That total includes five total failures and one partial failure out of 79 orbital launches.
On Jan. 14, the maiden launch of Japan’s SS-520 microsat booster failed after takeoff from the Uchinoura Space Centre. JAXA said controllers aborted second-stage ignition after losing telemetry from the rocket. The booster was carrying the TRICOM-1 nanosat.
A second launch has been scheduled for Dec. 25. The SS-520 is an upgraded version of a Japanese sounding rocket.
The maiden flight of Rocket Lab’s Electron booster failed after launch from New Zealand on May 25. Company officials said controllers terminated the flight after faulty ground equipment lost telemetry from the booster, which was functionally nominally. Rocket Lab is gearing up for a second launch attempt that could occur in December.
China’s Long March 3B suffered a partial failure on June 19 after launch from Xichang. An under performing third stage left the ChinaSat 9A communications satellite in a lower-than-planned orbit. The spacecraft reached its proper orbit using on board propulsion, with a reduction of its orbital lifetime.
On July 2, a Chinese Long March 5 booster failed after liftoff from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center. The rocket was carrying an experimental geostationary satellite named Shijian 18. It was the second launch and first failure for China’s largest booster. Officials have no announced the cause of the failure.
India’s PSLV rocket suffered a rare failure when the payload shroud failed to separate during a launch on Aug. 31. The IRNSS-1H regional navigation satellite was lost. The booster is set to return to service on Dec. 30.
China’s Long March 3B flew for the first time since June on Sunday, placing a pair of Beidou positioning satellite into orbit after launching from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.
The Long March 3B had suffered a partial failure of its third stage on June 19 that resulted in the Chinasat 9A communications satellite being placed in a lower-than-planned orbit. The spacecraft reached its expected orbit using on-board fuel, resulting in a shorter on-orbit lifespan.
Meanwhile, China is making plans to launch its largest booster, Long March 5, again at some point in 2018. The most recent flight of the heavy-lift rocket failed, destroying a Dongfanghong-5 satellite. It was the second launch of the booster after a successful maiden flight in November 2016.
Chinese officials were not announced the cause of the failure in July. There appears to have been a problem with the booster’s first stage.
A Chinese communications satellite left in a lower-than-planned orbit due to a botched launch has reached its intended destination, the Xinhua news agency reports.
ChinaSat-9A (Zhongxing-9A) raised its orbit though a series of 10 firings of its on board propulsion system. Xinhua did not say how much the use of the fuel — normally used for station keeping — has reduced the planned lifetime of the spacecraft.
The satellite was launched on June 19 aboard a Long March 3B booster, which malfunctioned in flight.
“An anomaly was found on the carrier rocket’s rolling control thruster, part of the attitude control engine, during the third gliding phase, according to an investigation,” Xinhua reports.
Chinese media report the launch of the Long March 5 rocket carrying an experimental communications satellite failed in flight on Sunday.
“An anomaly occurred during the flight of the rocket, which blasted off at 7:23 p.m. from Wenchang Space Launch Center in southern province of Hainan,” the Xinhua news agency reported.
Xinhau provided no further details about the failure. An investigation is underway.
The Shijian 18 communications satellite was lost in the accident. The spacecraft was the first in a new class of DFH-5 satellites designed for high-power performance communications. Shijian 18 would have tested ion propulsion and other technologies.
China’s most powerful booster, the Long March 5 had a successful maiden launch last November. It is slated to launch the Chang’e-5 lunar mission later this year. Chang’e 5 will land on the moon and return soil samples to Earth.
The failure comes two weeks after a Long March 3B suffered a malfunction that left the ChinaSat 9A communications satellite in a lower than planned orbit.
How did someone get this close to the launch of a Long March 3B booster at the the Xichang Satellite Launch Center? It’s a good think that rocket didn’t go kaboom at liftoff.
The booster lifted off on Wednesday with the experiment Shijian 13 communications satellite. The spacecraft is described as having a high throughput communications system with a transfer capacity of 20 Gbp that will improve Internet service to high-speed trains and airliners. Shijian 13 also possesses an electric propulsion system.