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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Cygnus Cargo Craft Attached to Station for Three-Month Stay

Feb. 18, 2020: International Space Station Configuration. Three spaceships are parked at the space station including the U.S. Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft and Russia’s Progress 74 resupply ship and Soyuz MS-15 crew ship. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — After its capture this morning at 4:05 a.m. EST, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s

Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 6:16 a.m. At the time of installation, the space station was flying over south of New Zealand.

The spacecraft’s arrival brings more than 7,500 pounds of research and supplies to space station. Here are some of the scientific investigations:

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NASA Coverage Set for Rescheduled Cygnus Launch on Friday

Antares with Cygnus CRS-13 spacecraft on the launch pad on Wallops Island. (Credit: NASA)

WALLOPS, Va. (NASA PR) — Northrop Grumman’s next NASA resupply services mission to the International Space Station is targeted for launch at 3:43 p.m. EST Friday, Feb. 14. Live coverage of the launch and briefings will begin at 3:15 p.m., on NASA Television and the agency’s website

The company’s 13th commercial resupply services mission using its Cygnus cargo spacecraft will launch on its Antares rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

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Demo Mission for Automated Complex Cell Culture Imaging Launching to the ISS National Lab

Antares with Cygnus CRS-13 spacecraft on the launch pad on Wallops Island. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., February 7, 2020 (ISS National Laboratory PR) – The next cargo launch to the International Space Station (ISS) will bring researchers one step closer to state-of-the-art capabilities for cell and tissue culture onboard the orbiting laboratory. 

Northrop Grumman’s 13th commercial resupply services (CRS) mission will carry the Mobile SpaceLab facility to the ISS U.S. National Laboratory for a critical engineering validation study. This demonstration will pave the way for a permanent in-orbit facility capable of automated cell culture and imaging for long-term investigations using live cells.

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ISS National Lab Supporting Life Science Payloads Launching on Cygnus Resupply Ship

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (ISS National Laboratory PR) – When Northrop Grumman’s 13th commercial resupply services (CRS) mission launches to the International Space Station (ISS), it will carry with it a multitude of research to benefit life on Earth.

Among the ISS U.S. National Laboratory-sponsored payloads on this mission are two investigations from leading academic institutions. Although both projects fall within the area of life sciences, the two are studying very different things—one is seeking solutions to a common health ailment and the other aims to improve bioproduction of a commercially important industrial chemical.

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NASA to Provide Coverage of Next Cygnus Resupply Mission

The U.S. Cygnus space freighter is pictured as the Canadarm2 robotic arm, guided by NASA astronaut Jessica Meir with fellow Flight Engineer Christina Koch as her back up, reaches out to grapple the 12th resupply ship from Northrop Grumman on November 4, 2019. (Credits: NASA)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — Northrop Grumman’s next NASA resupply services mission to the International Space Station is targeted for launch at 5:39 p.m. EST Sunday, Feb. 9. Live coverage of the launch and briefings will begin at 5 p.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

The company’s 13th commercial resupply services mission using its Cygnus cargo spacecraft is scheduled to launch on its Antares rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

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