Launchapalooza: 26 New Boosters Debuting Worldwide

Vega-C lifts off on its maiden flight on July 13, 2022. (Credit: Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

During the first seven months of the year, five new satellite launch vehicles from Europe, China, Russia and South Korea flew successfully for the first time. As impressive as that is, it was a mere opening act to a busy period that could see at least 20 additional launchers debut around the world.

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The Best Laid Plans, Moscow Edition: Ukraine Invasion Damages Russia’s Launch Business

Soyuz-2 rocket launches a military satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome. (Credit: Russian Ministry of Defense)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Ambitious launch schedules typically go awry when a rocket suffers a catastrophic failure that takes months to investigate and implement modifications to ensure the same accident doesn’t happen again. In the majority of cases, the failures involve a machine launching a machine. All that can be replaced, albeit at substantial cost.

Russia’s ambitious launch plans for 2022 fell apart due to a far more momentous and deadly action: the nation’s invasion of Ukraine. The decision ruptured cooperation with the West on virtually every space project on which it was safe to do so. The main exception was the International Space Station (ISS), a program involving astronauts and cosmonauts that would be difficult to operate safely if Russia suddenly withdrew (as it indeed threatened to do).

Due to the invasion, Western partners canceled seven launches of foreign payloads in less than a month. The cancellations put Russia even further behind the United States and China in launch totals this year.

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77 Launches Conducted During First Half of 2022 as Access to Orbit Expanded

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites while the Dragon that will carry Crew-4 to the International space Station awaits its turn. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a busy first half of 2022 that saw 77 orbital launches with 74 successes and three failures through the 182nd day of the year on July 1. At a rate of one launch every 2 days 8 hours 44 minutes, the world is on track to exceed the 146 launches conducted in 2021.

A number of significant missions were launched during a period that saw more than 1,000 satellite launched. SpaceX flew the first fully commercial crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Boeing conducted an orbital flight test of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, China prepared to complete assembly of its space station, South Korea launched its first domestically manufactured rocket, and Rocket Lab sent a NASA mission to the moon.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

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Aerospace Forces Conducts First Russian Launch of Year From Plesetsk Cosmodrome

Soyuz-2 rocket launches a military satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome. (Credit: Russian Ministry of Defense)

PLESETSK COSMODROME, Russia (Ministry of Defense PR) — On Saturday, February 5, at 10:00 (Moscow time) from the State Test Cosmodrome of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation (Plesetsk Cosmodrome) in the Arkhangelsk Region, the combat crew of the Space Forces of the Aerospace Forces successfully launched a Soyuz-2.1a medium-class launch vehicle with a spacecraft in the interests of the Russian Ministry of Defense.

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Roscosmos Looks Back at Successful Launch Year

Soyuz rocket launches 36 OneWeb satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Dec. 27, 2021. (Credit: Arianespace)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — For the third year in a row, Roscosmos ensured trouble-free launches of spacecraft from the Baikonur, Plesetsk and Vostochny cosmodromes. Russia has achieved the best indicators of accident-free launches in 5 years (about 97 percent) among the leading space powers (Russia, USA, China).

As of the end of 2021, 25 launches of space rockets were carried out, including 14 launches from the Baikonur cosmodrome, 5 launches from Vostochny, 5 from Plesetsk and 1 from the Guiana Space Center.

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Russia Successfully Launch Angara-A5 Booster on Flight Test

Angara-A5 launch (Credit: Russian Aerospace Forces)

PLESETSK COSMODROME, Russia (Roscosmos PR) — The space forces of the Russian Aerospace Forces held on Monday, December 27, 2021, the third test launch of the Angara-A5 heavy carrier rocket with the overall mass model of the payload from the Plesetsk cosmodrome, the Russian Defense Ministry reported.

A few minutes later, the orbital block separated from the third stage. Further insertion of the orbital block into the target geostationary orbit will be carried out using the upper stage according to a typical nine-hour three-pulse scheme with four starts of the main engine of the upper stage.

Roscosmos State Corporation congratulates the Military Space Forces and the entire Russian space industry (the team of the Khrunichev Center, NPO Energomash, NPTs AP, TsENKI) on the successful test launch of the Angara-A5 launch vehicle with a new generation upper stage!

This flight showed that the tests of the Angara rocket are developing exactly according to plan. Next year, it is expected that work on the construction of a launch pad for this type of launch vehicle at the Vostochny cosmodrome will be completed. A year later – its first launch from the new Russian cosmodrome!

Russia Launches EKS 5 Early Warning Satellite

PLESETSK COSMODROME, Russia, 25 November 2021 (Ministry of Defence PR) — Launched today at 4:9 a.m. (Moscow time) from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in the Arkhangelsk region, the Soyuz-2.1B medium-class launch vehicle successfully put the spacecraft into orbit at the set time in the interests of the Russian Defence Ministry.

All pre-launch operations and the launch of the Soyuz-2.1B space rocket (SR) took place in normal mode. The means of the ground-based automated control complex for spacecraft of the Russian orbital group controlled the launch and flight of the SR.

The ground-based means of the space forces of the Aerospace Forces took control of the spacecraft launched in the interests of the Russian Ministry of Defence. Stable telemetry communication has been established and maintained with the device, its onboard systems are functioning normally.

After taking control of the spacecraft, the serial number Cosmos-2552 was assigned.

In total, more than 40 ground-based measuring devices and more than 70 combat crews of the 15th army of the Aerospace Forces of special purpose were involved in ensuring the launch of the spacecraft of the Russian Ministry of Defence.

Successful Launch from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome

PLESETSK COSMODROME, Russia (Roscosmos PR) — The Aerospace Forces successfully launched the Soyuz-2 carrier rocket from the Plesetsk cosmodrome. The launch of the carrier rocket and the insertion of the Pion-NKS 1 naval intelligence satellite into the calculated orbit took place in the normal mode. This is reported by the Department of Information and Mass Communications of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.

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Launch 2020: Russian Missions Improved in Quality, Declined in Numbers

Soyuz-2 rocket lifts off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome with 36 OneWeb satellites. (Credit: Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

For Russia, 2020 was a mixed year in terms of launch. Once the world’s leader in sending payloads into space, the nation finished a distant third behind the United States and China with only 17 orbital flights. That figure was eight below the 25 launches in 2019, and Russia’s lowest number of the 21st century. The U.S. and China finished with 44 and 39 launch attempts, respectively.

On the bright side, 2020 was the second year in a row in which Russia did not experience a launch failure. That streak came after more a decade during which the Russian launch industry was plagued with multiple fmishaps.

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SpaceX Delays Transporter-2 Launch at Least 3 Days

SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off on Transporter-1 mission. (Credit: Spaceflight Inc.)

SpaceX has announced that it is delaying the launch of its Transporter-2 rideshare mission that had been scheduled for Friday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to allow the launch team to make some additional checks. Reports say the new launch date will be no earlier than Monday, June 28.

Transporter-2 will deploy about 90 satellites into a sun synchronous orbit (SSO). The flight follows on the heels of the Transporter-1 mission in January, which carried a record 143 satellites. Those satellites were also placed in SSO.

Meanwhile, Russia has scheduled three launches to take place in the week ahead.

Monday, June 25

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: Pion-NKS 1 electronic intelligence-gathering satellite
Launch Time: TBA
Launch Site:
 Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia

Tuesday, June 29

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: Progress 78P International Space Station resupply ship
Launch Time: 7:27 p.m. EDT (2327 GMT)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Russia

Thursday, July 1

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payloads: 36 OneWeb broadband satellites
Launch Time: 8:48 a.m. EDT (1248 GMT)
Launch Site:
 Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia

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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Fun with Figures: The Rise and Fall of the Commercial Proton Booster

Proton on launch pad (Credit: ILS)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Russia recently marked the 25th anniversary of the entry of the Proton rocket into the international commercial marketplace. On April 8, 1996, a Proton-K booster with a DM3 upper stage launched the Astra 1F geosynchronous communications satellite built by U.S.-based Hughes for Luxembourg’s SES from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

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Quarterly Launch Report: US in the Lead Thanks to SpaceX

A Falcon 9 lifts off with 60 Starlink satellites on March 11, 2021. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

There were 27 orbital launch attempts with 26 successes and one failure during the first quarter of 2021. The United States accounted for nearly half the total with 13 launches behind nine flights by SpaceX.

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Russia’s Angara Rocket Prepares for Mass Production

The central core of an Angara launcher. (Credit: Roscosmos)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The new production facilities of the Khrunichev Center (part of the Roscosmos State Corporation) will make it possible to produce up to ten missiles of the Angara family per year. In two cities of Russia, large-scale preparations are underway for the start of the serial production of missiles of this family. More details about the strategy and principles of organizing production, delimiting areas of responsibility between sites, the near and medium-term prospects of the heavy and light version of Angara.

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2020 a Busy Year for Suborbital Launches

New Shepard landing on the pad in West Texas on October 13, 2020, with the NASA Lunar Landing Sensor Demo onboard. (Credit: Blue Origin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Suborbital launch used to be a sleepy field that rarely attracted much public attention. Let’s face it, atmospheric research and student experiments are not front-page news. Sounding rockets don’t have the majesty and power of a Falcon 9 or Atlas V.

In recent years, exciting new entrants in the field and widespread streaming of launches have made suborbital flights exciting. Last year saw important suborbital flight tests by SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and Skyrora that garnered worldwide interest.

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