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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SpaceX CRS-21 Safely Splashes Down Off the Coast of Florida, Returning Science From the Space Station Back to Earth

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., January 14, 2021 (CASIS PR)  – SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft splashed down safely off the coast of Florida last night, concluding a month-plus stay at the International Space Station (ISS) to bring back thousands of pounds of scientific research and cargo.

With this successful splashdown, SpaceX completed its 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission to the orbiting laboratory for NASA. This also marks the first mission of the upgraded Dragon cargo spacecraft with double the powered locker capacity of previous capsules, allowing for even more research to travel back to Earth for analysis.

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Space Station, Cygnus Test Technology for 5G Communications, Other Benefits

The Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter approaches the International Space Station as the Canadarm2 robotic arm is poised to reach out and capture the cargo vehicle. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — A Northrop Grumman Cygnus supply craft carried a load of new scientific experiments to the International Space Station in early October. That is only one of the jobs the craft has, though. Once it undocks from the station Cygnus will continue operations by hosting a two-week test of emerging technologies known as SharkSat.

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Antares Scrub Makes It Three in a Row

Antares on the launch pad. (Credit: NASA webcast)

Ground sensors leave rockets stuck on Earth

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. — A Northrop Grumman rocket carrying supplies for astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) failed to get off the launch pad in Virginia on Thursday evening, marking the third scrubbed American launch in less than 24 hours.

A computer called an automatic halt to the launch of the Antares booster at 2 minutes 40 seconds before the planned liftoff at 9:43 p.m. EDT. The rocket is carrying a Cygnus resupply ship with cargo bound for ISS.

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How to Watch the Antares Night Launch on Thursday

Map of the Mid-Atlantic showing predictions for visibility of the NG CRS-14 launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The numbers in each colored circle represent the number of seconds after liftoff that the launch might become visible in the associated region. Viewing is dependent upon weather conditions and other factors, such as elevation and the extent to which one’s view of the horizon is obstructed. (Credit: NASA Wallops)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — NASA commercial cargo provider Northrop Grumman is targeting Thursday, Oct. 1, for the launch of its 14th resupply mission to the International Space Station. The five-minute launch window opens at 9:38 p.m. EDT.

Loaded with nearly 8,000 pounds of research, crew supplies, and hardware, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft will launch on the company’s Antares rocket from Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

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LambdaVision to Study Light-Activated Proteins on NASA’s Upcoming Flight to International Space Station

FARMINGTON, Conn. (LambdaVision PR) — LambdaVision, an innovative biotech developing a treatment to help patients regain sight, will launch their artificial retina technology with engineering partner Space Tango on Northrop Grumman’s 14th Commercial Resupply Services Mission for NASA (NG-14) to the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory.

Scheduled to launch on September 30th at 2:26 UTC (10:26 p.m. ET), NG-14 is the first of a series of NASA flights to the ISS in low-Earth orbit (LEO) focused on developing the on-orbit production of LambdaVision’s artificial retina.

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Cygnus to Carry Variety of Life & Physical Science Investigations to Space Station

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)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., September 25, 2020 (CASIS PR) – More than 20 payloads sponsored by the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory are loaded onto Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft, scheduled to launch to the orbiting laboratory no earlier than September 29 at 10:26 p.m. ET.

The launch, which will take place from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, represents Northrop Grumman’s 14th commercial resupply services (CRS) mission to the space station, contracted through NASA. This mission will deliver a multitude of research experiments to be conducted by ISS crew members over the coming months, including several physical and life science investigations. 

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