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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An Overview of Iran’s Counterspace Strategy and Space Program

Safir rocket on launch pad (Credit: ISA)

Global Counterspace Capabilities:
An Open Source Assessment

Secure World Foundation
April 2020

Full Report

The following excerpts from the report summarizes Iran’s counterspace strategy and its launch vehicle and satellite programs.

Country Summary

Iran has a nascent space program that includes building and launching small satellites that have limited capability, although it has experienced several recent failed launch attempts. Technologically, it is unlikely Iran has the capacity to build on-orbit or direct-ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) capabilities, and little military motivations to do so at this point. Iran has demonstrated an EW capability to persistently interfere with commercial satellite signals, although the capability against military signals is difficult to ascertain.

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Iran Suffers Third Straight Launch Failure

Imam Khomeini Spaceport (Credit: Tasnim News Agency)

Iranian state television is reporting that the nation’s latest attempt to orbit a satellite has failed in the wake of two unsuccessful launches last year.

The Simorgh (“Phoenix”) rocket wasn’t able to accelerate the Zafar 1 satellite to orbital velocity, according to media reports. The 113 kg Earth observation satellite was to have placed into an orbit 530 km high.

Zafar had an Earth imaging camera aboard as well as a store-and-forward communications system.

The launch occurred from the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Semnan province.

Iran’s two orbital launch attempts using Simourgh and Safir rockets failed last year. A third booster exploded on the launch pad while undergoing pre-flight preparations.