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.
GBTimesreports 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.