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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Israel Launches Reconnaissance Satellite

A Shavit launches the Ofek 16 satellite on July 6, 2020. (Credit: Israel Ministry of Defense)

Israel launched a reconnaissance satellite into orbit aboard a Shavit booster on Monday morning, the Israel Ministry of Defense announced.

“Ofek 16 is an electro-optical reconnaissance satellite with advanced capabilities. During the initial period of operation, the satellite will undergo a series of tests to determine its propriety and performance level,” the ministry tweeted.

The launch took place from the Palmachim Airbase in Israel at 4 a.m. local time.