China Launches Remote Sensing Satellite, SpaceX Plans Early Monday Flight

SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off with a Dragon resupply ship on April 2, 2018. (Credit: NASA)

At least 10 launches are planned worldwide this month. The launches include crew and cargo missions to the International Space Station and the first commercial flight of Rocket Lab’s Electron booster. Orbital ATK’s Pegasus XL will launch NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) from the Marshall Islands on June 14.

China got June off to a successful start on Saturday with the launch of the Gaofen-6 remote sensing satellite aboard a Long March 2D rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

SpaceX is up next, with an early morning launch on Monday morning. A Falcon 9 is set to launch the SES 12 communications satellite from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The four-hour launch window opens at 12:29 a.m. EDT (0429 GMT). The company has no plans to recover the previously used first stage.

The current launch schedule is below. View updates here.

JUNE 2018

June 2

Launch Vehicle: Long March 2D
Payload: Gaofen 6 remote sensing satellite
Launch Site: Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, China
Outcome: Success

June 4

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: SES 12 communications satellite
Launch Window: 12:29-1:27 a.m. EDT (0429-0527 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Webcast: www.spacex.com

June 6

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: ISS 55S Crew flight
Launch Time: 7:11 a.m. EDT (1111 GMT)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Webcast: www.nasa.gov

June 11

Launch Vehicle: H-2A
Payload: IGS Radar 6 reconnaissance satellite
Launch Window: 12:00-2:00 a.m. EDT (0400-0600 GMT)
Launch Site: Tanegashima Space Center, Japan

June 14

Launch Vehicle: Pegasus XL
Payload: NASA Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: L-1011, Kwajalein, Marshall Islands
Webcast: www.nasa.gov

June 22/23

Launch Vehicle: Electron
Payloads: 2 Spire & 1 GeoOptics satellites
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand

First commercial flight of Electron.

June 28

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Dragon ISS resupply (CRS-15)
Launch Time: 6:03 a.m. EDT (1003 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, Florida
Webcast: www.spacex.com and www.nasa.gov

June TBD

Launch Vehicle: Long March 2C
Payload: PRSS 1 remote sensing satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Taiyuan, China

Launch Vehicle: Long March 3A
Payload: Fengyun 2H geostationary weather satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Xichang, China

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Telstar 19V communications satellite
Launch Window: TBD
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, Florida
Webcast: www.spacex.com

Three Launches Scheduled Over Two Days Next Week

ISS with Soyuz and Progress spacecraft docked to it. (Credit: NASA)

There are a dozen orbital launches planned around the world through the end of June.

China will lead off on Sunday as it launches its Chang’e-4 lunar relay satellite from Xichang. A lunar lander and rover targeted for the far side of the moon is scheduled for launch at the end of the year.

Orbital ATK will follow with the launch of a Cygnus resupply ship bound for the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday from Wallops Island. On Tuesday, SpaceX is scheduled to launch 5 Iridium Next satellites and a pair of scientific spacecraft for NASA.

Other notable missions scheduled through June include a Soyuz crew mission and a SpaceX Dragon resupply flight. Rocket Lab is probably going to launch the first commercial flight of its Electron booster from New Zealand. However, the company has not published a launch window for the flight.

The current global schedule is below. Be sure to check Space Flight Now’s launch schedule for updates.

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Updated Global Launch Schedule for May

Mars InSight lander (Credit: NASA)

There are some interesting launches among the nine orbital flights currently scheduled for May. Highlights include:

  • NASA’s Mars InSight lander with two deep-space CubeSats (May 5);
  • SpaceX’s first flight of a Falcon 9 Block 5 variant (NET May 7);
  • Two Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE Follow-On) satellites (May 19);
  • Orbital ATK’s Antares Cygnus ISS resupply mission (May 20);
  • China’s Chang’e-4 lunar relay satellite with two deep-space microsats (TBD); and,
  • Rocket Lab’s first Electron commercial flight (TBD).

There have been 40 orbital launches through April, with 38 successes, one failure and one partial failure.

The schedule below is subject to change. Please check with our friends at Spaceflight Now for updates.
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First Quarter 2018 Launch Report: China & USA Battle for Lead

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy begins its first flight. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The world’s launch providers have been extremely busy in the first quarter of 2018, with 31 orbital launches thus far. This is more than one third of the 90 launches conducted last year.

China leads the pack with 10 successful launches. The United States is close behind with a total of nine launches with one failure. The tenth American launch is scheduled for Monday afternoon from Florida.

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SpaceX Launches 10 Iridium Next Satellites

Falcon 9 lifts off with Iridium Next 41-50 satellites. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX successfully launched 10 Iridium Next satellites aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Friday morning.

Iridium-NEXT satellites 41-50 were successfully deployed from the booster’s second stage about an hour after the launch at 7:13 a.m. PDT. It was the fifth batch of 10 Iridium-NEXT satellites that SpaceX has orbited using three different first stage boosters.

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China Launches Imaging Satellites to Kick off Busy Year

China conducted its first launch of 2018 on Tuesday when a Long March 2D booster lofted a pair of SuperView imaging satellites into polar orbit for Beijing Space View Technology. The rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center.

“Success! We’re thrilled to announce the successful launch of SuperView-1 03&04 satellites at 11:26 this morning in Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center!” the company tweeted.

The launch doubled the number of high-resolution SuperView satellites the company has on orbit. It plans to sell imagery on the global market.

GBTimes reports China could launch more than 40 times in 2018, which would be a substantial increase over the 18 launches the nation conducted last year.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), announced at a conference on January 2 that its 2018 work model includes 35 launches, underlining the return to flight of the heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket, the Chang’e-4 lunar far side mission and launches of Beidou navigation satellites as the major activities.

In addition CASIC, a defence contractor, missile maker and sister company of CASC, will carry out a number of missions through its subsidiary EXPACE, including launching four Kuaizhou-1A rockets within one week and the maiden flight of the larger Kuaizhou-11.

Landspace Technology, a Beijing-based private aerospace company, is also expected to debut its LandSpace-1 solid propellant rocket this year.

Read the full story.

SpaceX Ruled Roost in 2017, Boosting U.S. to No. 1 in Global Launches

Falcon 9 carries the Dragon cargo ship into orbit. (Credit: NASA TV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX had a banner year in 2017, launching a record 18 times and helping to propel the United States to the top of the global launch table with a perfect 29-0 record. The U.S. total made up 32.2 percent of 90 orbital launches worldwide, which was an increase over the 85 flights conducted in 2016.

The 29 American launches were a leap of seven over the 22 flights conducted the previous year. This is the highest number of American orbital launches since the 31 flights undertaken in 1999. However, that year the nation’s launch providers suffered four failures whereas they were perfect in 2017.

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SpaceX to Close Out U.S. Launch Year on Friday

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

Heads up, SoCal!

SpaceX is set to close out the year with a night launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Friday. The The Falcon 9 booster with 10 Iridium Next communications satellite is set to take off at 5:27 p.m. PST. It will be the company’s 18th launch attempt of the year and the 29th for U.S. launch providers.

The SpaceX mission is one of six launches set for the rest of the rest of the year (see list below). If all flights go forward in the next 10 days, there will be a total of 91 orbital launches worldwide in 2017.

Thank you to Spaceflightnow.com for this update list of launches.

December 22/23

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payloads: Iridium Next 31-40 communications satellites
Launch Time: 0127:23 GMT on 23rd (8:27:23 p.m. EST; 5:27:23 p.m. PST on 22nd)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

SpaceX will not attempt to recover the Falcon 9 first stage on this flight.

Launch Vehicle: H-2A
Payloads: GCOM-C & SLATS environmental satellites
Launch Tme: 0126:22-0148:22 GMT on 23rd (8:26:22-8:48:22 p.m. EST on 22nd)
Launch Site: Tanegashima Space Center, Japan

Launch Vehicle: Long March 2D
Payload: Unidentified military satellite
Launch Time: Approx. 0400 GMT on 23rd (11:00 p.m. EST on 22nd)
Launch Site: Jiuquan, China

Dec. 26

Launch Vehicle: Zenit 3F
Payload: AngoSat communications satellite
Launch Time: 1900 GMT (2:00 p.m. EST)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

Dec. 27/28

Launch Vehicle: SS-520-5
Payload: TRICOM 1R communications & imaging CubeSat
Launch Window: 0330-0515 GMT on 28th (10:30 p.m.-12:15 a.m. EST on 27th/28th)
Launch Site: Uchinoura Space Center, Japan

Second attempt to launch the SS-520 microsat booster after the first failed in January.

TBD

Launch Vehicle: March 2D
Payloads: Superview 1-03 and 04 Earth observation satellites
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Taiyuan, China

Orbital Launch Statistics for 2016

The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Ryzhikov, Kimbrough, and Borisenko will spend the next four months living and working aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)
The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Part 2 of 2

There were 85 orbital launches in 2016, not including the Falcon 9 that exploded on launch pad prior to a pre-flight engine test. The launches break down as follow:

  • United States: 22 (22-0)
  • China: 22 (20-1-1)
  • Russia: 19 (18-1)
  • Europe: 9 (9-0)
  • India: 7 (7-0)
  • Japan: 4 (4-0)
  • Israel: 1 (1-0)
  • North Korea: 1 (1-0)

For a more detailed description of these launches, please read US, China Led World in Launches in 2016.

Let’s look at launches by booster and spaceport and the flights that were required for human spaceflight.
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Chinese Rocket Places Remote Sensing Satellites in Wrong Orbits

SuperView-1 satellite (Credti:
SuperView-1 satellite (Credit: Beijing Space View Technology Co.)

China’s launch of two commercial remote sensing satellites went awry on Wednesday, leaving the spacecraft in the wrong orbit.

The pair of SuperView-1 satellites lifted off aboard a Long March 2D from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center bound for an orbit of 500 km.

Space-Track.org data show four objects in elliptical orbits with apogees of 524 km (325.6 miles) and perigees ranging from 212 to 216 km (131.7 to 134.2 miles). One of the other objects was a 2U amateur radio CubeSat.

Unless the perigees of the SuperView-1 satellites can be raised using on-board propellant, it might only be months before they re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up.

The satellites are part of a constellation of remote sensing spacecraft being launched by the Beijing Space View Technology Co., Ltd.  The company plans to launch two more SuperView-1 spacecraft in 2017 and additional ones through 2022.

It was second launch mishap this year for China’s space program. In August, a Long March 3C booster failed to orbit the Gaofen-10 remote sensing satellite after launch from the Taiyuan spaceport.

China to Debut New Spaceport & New Rocket Next Month

Long March 5 model
Long March 5 model

The inaugural flight of China’s new Long March 7 rocket next month will be the first launch from the nation’s newest spaceport.

Long March 7 will carry a prototype re-entry capsule for China’s next-generation human spacecraft when it lifts off from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on June 26.

Located on Hainan Island, Wenchang is China’s first orbital launch site located on the coastline. The Jiuquan, Taiyuan and Xichang launch facilities are all situated inland.

Wenchang will be the primary launch site for Long March 7 and Long March 5 rockets. Wenchang is located 19 degrees above the equator, which will make it easier for China to launch satellites into equatorial orbit.

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