Launch 2020: China’s Space Program Continued to Surge with a Number of Firsts

Long March 3B lifts off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center. (Credit: China Aerospace Science and Technology Group)

China’s surging space program showed no sign of slowing down last year as it tied its own launch record and moved ahead with ambitious space missions and a set of new launchers.

China compiled a record of 35 successes and four failures in 2020. That matched the number of launch attempts made in 2018, a year that saw 38 successes and a single failure.

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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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Long March 2D Launches Remote Sensing Satellite, 3 Secondary Payloads

Long March 2D rocket launches from Taiyuan on June 11, 2021. (Credit: CASC)

TAIYUAN SATELLITE LAUNCH CENTER, China (CASC PR) — On June 11 at 11:03 a.m., the Long March 2D carrier rocket launched the Beijing 3 satellite from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. The booster also carried three secondary satellites: Haisi 2, Wangwang 1 and Tianjian Space Test No. 1. All four satellites entered the planned orbit, and the launch was a complete success.

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Long March 6 Launches 9 Satellites into Orbit

Long March 6 lifts off from Taiyuan on April 27, 2021. (Credit: CASC)

A Chinese Long March 6 booster launched nine satellites from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on Tuesday at 11:20 a.m. local time in the inaugural flight of a new commercial rideshare program.

Long March 6 placed the following satellites into sun synchronous orbit:

  • Origin Space NEO-1 — asteroid mining technology demonstration
  • Qilu-1 — synthetic aperture radar
  • Qilu-4 — optical remote sensing
  • Foshan-1 — optical remote sensing
  • Apocalypse Constellation Zero Nine Star — Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Golden Bauhinia-1 01 — visible light remote sensing
  • Golden Bauhinia-1 02 — visible light remote sensing
  • Zhongan Guotong-1 — optical remote sensing
  • Tianqi-9 — optical remote sensing
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Delta IV Heavy, Chinese Space Station Launches on Tap for This Week

A Delta IV Heavy launches the NROL-44 satellite. (Credit: ULA)

The month of April is concluding with a string of launches from Russia, the United States, China and South America. Things kicked off on Friday with SpaceX’s launch of Crew-2 to the International Space Station (ISS). On Sunday, a Russian Soyuz rocket launched 36 OneWeb satellite broadband spacecraft from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East.

One of the final United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rockets is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Monday afternoon. That flight will be followed by the fifth launch of China’s Long March 6 booster. Launches by Europe’s Vega and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets are scheduled over the next two days.

China will close out the month on Thursday by launching Tianhe-1 core module for that nation’s first permanent space station aboard a Long March 5B booster.

The full schedule for the week is below.

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China Launches Test Satellite

A Chinese Long March 4B rocket launched the Shiyan-6 03 experimental satellite from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on Friday, April 9.

Shiyan-6 was developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Microsatellite Innovation. The spacecraft was described in official press reports as being used for space environment detection and related technology experiments.

It was the 365th launch of the Long March series of carrier rockets.

ThrustMe, Spacety Announce Launch of Satellite with World’s First Iodine Electric Propulsion System

BEIHANGKONGSHI-1 satellite (Credit: Spacety)

Paris, France/Luxembourg/Beijing China (ThrustMe/Spacety PR) – ThrustMe and Spacety announce that the BEIHANGKONGSHI-1 satellite, carrying the world’s first iodine electric propulsion system on board, was successfully launched into space on a CZ-6 Long March 6 rocket from Taiyuan in China on the 6th of November at 04:20 a.m. (Paris time).

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