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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SpaceX Rockets U.S. Launches to New Heights in 2022

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites on June 17, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Powered by 33 flights of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster, the United States leads all nations with 48 launch attempts through the first seven months of the year. The total is three short of the number of U.S. launches attempted last year, and far ahead of the 27 launches conducted by second place China through the end of July. The U.S. has conducted more launches than the 43 flights conducted by the rest of the world combined.

A number of notable flights were conducted. SpaceX launched two Crew Dragons to the International Space Station (ISS), including the first fully privately funded mission to the orbiting laboratory. United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched Boeing’s CST-100 Starship crew vehicle on an automated flight test to ISS, a crucial step before astronauts to fly on the spacecraft. Small satellite launch provider Rocket Lab conducted its first deep-space mission by sending a spacecraft the size of a microwave to the moon.

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Commercial Space Travelers Outnumbered Professional Astronauts in First Half of 2022

Axiom Mission 1 astronauts, left to right, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy, Michael López-Alegría, and Eytan Stibbe. The astronauts are approved by NASA and its international partners for Axiom Space’s first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station. (Credits: Chris Gunn – Axiom Space)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The first half of 2022 saw more commercial travelers — 16 — launch into space than the 10 professional astronauts who work for government-run space agencies. However, those numbers come with an asterisk or two.

Four of the 14 astronauts who launched into orbit flew on Axiom Space’s privately funded and operated crew flight to the International Space Station (ISS). Blue Origin launched 12 individuals into space on two flights of the company’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle.

The other 10 astronauts who launched to ISS and the Tiangong space station worked fulltime for NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), China Manned Space Agency, or Russia’s Roscosmos State Space Corporation. SpaceX flew American and European astronauts to ISS on the company-owned Crew Dragon spacecraft under a NASA contract. The Russians and Chinese flew aboard government-owned and operated spacecraft.

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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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United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches Critical National Security Mission for U.S. Space Force

A ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the USSF-12 mission for the U.S. Space Force lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at 7:15 p.m. EDT on July 1. (Credit: United Launch Alliance)

Atlas V precisely delivered USSF-12 mission to a complex geosynchronous orbit

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla., (July 2, 2022) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the USSF-12 mission for the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command lifted off on July 1 at 7:15 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. To date ULA has launched 151 times with 100 percent mission success.

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ULA Atlas V to Launch USSF-12 Mission on Thursday

Atlas V for the USSF-12 mission on the launch pad. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. (ULA PR) — A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 541 rocket will launch the USSF-12 mission for the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command (SSC). Liftoff will occur from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida.

Launch Date and Time: Thursday, June 30, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. EDT (2200 UTC)

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U.S. Space Force SSC’s GEO Wide Field of View Scheduled for Takeoff

Designed, built and integrated by Millennium Space Systems, Wide Field of View will demonstrate missile warning technologies and techniques. (Image Credit: Millennium Space Systems)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (Millennium Space Systems PR) — The United States Space Force (USSF) Space Systems Command’s (SSC) Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) Wide Field of View (WFOV) Testbed is scheduled to launch June 30, 2022. SSC’s GEO WFOV space vehicle was designed built and integrated by Millennium Space Systems, a Boeing Company, and will inform the future Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) architecture.

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Five Launches Scheduled to Close Out June

Electron launches on May 3, 2022. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Here are the launches scheduled for the rest of June.

Tuesday, June 28

Launch Vehicle: Electron
Payload: CAPSTONE
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Launch Time: 5:55 a.m. EDT (09:55 UTC)
Webcast: www.nasa.gov beginning at 5 a.m. EDT (09:00 UTC)

Rocket Lab will launch NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) lunar orbiter. The spacecraft will enter a near rectilinear halo orbit on Nov. 13 in order to test technologies for NASA’s lunar Gateway space station that will use that orbit.

Wednesday, June 29

Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon 9
Payload: SES 22 communications satellite
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla.
Launch window: 5:04-7:13 p.m. EDT (21:04-23:13 UTC)
Webcast: www.spacex.com beginning 10 minutes before launch

Thursday, June 30

Launch Vehicle: Virgin Orbit LauncherOne
Payload: STP-28A — 7 small spacecraft
Launch Site: Cosmic Girl (Boeing 747), Mojave Air and Space Port, Calif.
Launch Window: 1:00-5:00 a.m. EDT (10 p.m.-1 a.m. PDT on June 29/30 — 0500-0900 UTC)
Webcast: www.virginorbit.com

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl Boeing 747 will drop the LauncherOne rocket off the coast of California on a mission funded by Department of Defense’s Space Test Program.

Launch Vehicle: PSLV
Payload: DS-EO Earth observation satellite
Launch Site: Satish Dhawan Space Center, India
Launch Time: 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 UTC)
Webcast: www.isro.gov.in

Launch Vehicle: ULA Atlas V
Payload: USSF 12 missile warning satellite
Launch Site: SLC-41, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla.
Launch Time: 6:00-8:00 p.m. EDT (2200-0000 UTC)
Webcast: www.ulalaunch.com

NASA Updates Astronaut Assignments for Boeing Starliner Test Flight

Boeing’s Starliner crew ship is seen moments after docking to the International Space Station’s forward port on the Harmony module. (Credit: NASA TV)

NASA Mission Update

NASA will fly two astronaut test pilots aboard the agency’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission to the International Space Station, where they will live and work off the Earth for about two weeks.

CFT commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore, whom NASA assigned to the prime crew in October 2020, will join NASA astronaut Suni Williams, who will serve as pilot. Williams previously served as the backup test pilot for CFT while assigned as commander of NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission, Starliner’s first post-certification mission. As CFT pilot, Williams takes the place of NASA astronaut Nicole Mann, originally assigned to the mission in 2018. NASA reassigned Mann to the agency’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission in 2021.

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Northrop Grumman Finalizes Contract for GEM Solid Rocket Boosters

Artist’s conception of Vulcan Centaur rocket. (Credit: ULA)

Solid rocket boosters will support existing ULA customers and Amazon’s Project Kuiper

MAGNA, Utah, June 8, 2022 (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) has been awarded a multi-year contract valued at more than $2 billion from United Launch Alliance (ULA) for increased production of its 63-inch-diameter Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM 63) solid rocket booster and the extended length variation (GEM 63XL). The award, which supports Amazon’s Project Kuiper and additional ULA customers, includes both an increased production rate and significant facility expansion. This will enable Northrop Grumman to increase capacity and allows for the modernization of current and new state-of-the-art facilities and tooling.

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Boeing, NASA Complete First Starliner Space Station Flight Test

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft lands at White Sands Missile Range’s Space Harbor, Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in New Mexico. Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) is Starliner’s second uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. OFT-2 serves as an end-to-end test of the system’s capabilities. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

WHITE SANDS, NEW MEXICO, May 25, 2022 (Boeing PR) — Boeing’s [NYSE: BA] CST-100 Starliner spacecraft landed at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico at 5:49 p.m. Central Time. The safe return to Earth brings a close to the successful end-to-end uncrewed orbital flight test that was flown to demonstrate the quality and performance of the transportation system prior to crewed flights.

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Station Crew Opens Boeing Starliner Hatch, Enters Spacecraft

NASA astronauts Bob Hines and Kjell Lindgren greet “Rosie the Rocketeer” inside the Boeing Starliner spacecraft shortly after opening its hatch. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Astronauts living aboard the International Space Station opened the hatch for the first time to Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft at 12:04 p.m. EDT Saturday, May 21, on its uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2.

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Starliner Reaches Orbit Despite Thruster Problems, ISS Docking Set for Friday

Atlas V lifts off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station with Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft. (Credit: ULA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner uncrewed spacecraft reached orbit after launch from Florida on Thursday on its way to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) despite problems with two of its 12 thrusters, officials said. The flight test is a crucial step to certifying Starliner to carry crew to the station.

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United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches the Boeing CST-100 Starliner on Orbital Flight Test-2

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at 6:54 p.m. EDT on May 19, 2022. (Image Credit: United Launch Alliance)

Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., (United Launch Alliance PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V carrying Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, lifted off on May 19 at 6:54 p.m. EDT, from Space Launch Complex-41 (SLC) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. To date ULA has launched 150 times with 100 percent mission success. This marks the 93rd successful launch of an Atlas V rocket, and the 104th launch from SLC-41. 

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United Launch Alliance Set to Launch the CST-100 Starliner Spacecraft on Orbital Flight Test-2

An Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-6 mission for the U.S Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at 4:18 p.m. EDT on March 26, 2020. (Credit: United Launch Alliance)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. (United Launch Alliance PR) — A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket is in final preparations to launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The launch is planned for Thurs. May 19 at 6:54 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The live launch broadcast begins no earlier than 6 p.m. EDT on May 19 at www.ulalaunch.com.

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