China Launch Surge Left U.S., Russia Behind in 2018

Long March 2F rocket in flight carrying Shenzhou-11. (Credit: CCTV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The year 2018 was the busiest one for launches in decades. There were a total of 111 completely successful launches out of 114 attempts. It was the highest total since 1990, when 124 launches were conducted.

China set a new record for launches in 2018. The nation launched 39 times with 38 successes in a year that saw a private Chinese company fail in the country’s first ever orbital launch attempt.

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Rocket Lab to Launch 4 Satellites in Look Ma, No Hands Mission

Electron lifts off with U.S. Air Force satellites. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab’s eighth mission will lift-off in August from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, carrying a total of four satellites aboard an Electron launch vehicle.

The mission is manifested with satellites destined to begin a new constellation for UNSEENLABS, as well as more rideshare payloads for Spaceflight, consisting of a spacecraft for BlackSky and the United States Air Force Space Command.

The first launch opportunity is no earlier than Friday, Aug. 16 at 12:57 UTC (8:57 EDT). The launch window is open until Aug. 30.

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Virginia Opens New Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Payload Processing Facility on Wallops Island

Ribbon cutting at the new Wallops Payload Processing Facility. (Credit: Virginia Space)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (Virginia Space PR) ) —Governor Ralph Northam today celebrated the opening of the Commonwealth’s newest facility to prepare rockets and payloads for launch at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The new Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Payload Processing Facility (MARS PPF), which held a ribbon cutting ceremony and dedication with Governor Northam this morning, represents a major expansion in capabilities for the NASA Wallops Flight Facility and the region.

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NASA TV Coverage Set for April 17 Cygnus Launch to International Space Station

From Feb. 8, 2019 when Northrop Grumman’s “S.S. John Young” Cygnus spacecraft left the International Space Station after delivering approximately 7,400 pounds of cargo to astronauts on board. The spacecraft successfully completed its tenth cargo supply mission to the International Space Station on Feb. 25. (Credit: NASA)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — NASA’s commercial partner Northrop Grumman is scheduled to launch its Antares rocket carrying its Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the international Space Station at 4:46 p.m. EDT Wednesday, April 17. The launch, as well as briefings preceding and following liftoff, will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

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Suborbital Flights Stopped Being So Humdrum in 2018

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo’s first flight above 50 miles on Dec. 13, 2018. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Part 1 of 2

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Throughout the Space Age, suborbital flight has been the least exciting segment of the launch market. Operating in the shadow of their much larger orbital cousins, sounding rockets carrying scientific instruments, microgravity experiments and technology demonstrations have flown to the fringes of space with little fanfare or media attention.

The suborbital sector has become much more dynamic in recent years now that billionaires have started spending money in it. Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic both made significant progress last year in testing New Shepard and SpaceShipTwo, respectively. Their achievements have raised the real possibility of suborbital space tourism flights in 2019. (I know. Promises, promises…. But, this year they might finally really do it. I think.)

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Researchers to Discuss Science Launching on Next Space Station Resupply Mission

From July 15, 2018 when Northrop Grumman’s “S.S. J.R. Thompson” Cygnus spacecraft left the International Space Station after delivering approximately 7,400 pounds of cargo to astronauts on board. The spacecraft successfully concluded its ninth cargo supply mission on July 30. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EST Thursday, Nov. 8, to discuss select science investigations and technology demonstrations launching on the next Northrop Grumman commercial resupply flight to the International Space Station. Audio of the teleconference will stream live on NASA’s website.

Tara Ruttley, associate chief scientist for Microgravity Research in NASA’s Office of Chief Scientist, and Liz Warren, associate program scientist for the station’s National Lab, will provide an overview of the research and technology aboard Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft.

Also participating in Thursday’s briefing are:

  • Laurence Harris is a professor at York University in Toronto and principle investigator for research to develop, in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency, a mathematical model for how an astronaut’s perception of motion, body position and distance to objects changes in space.
  • Marco Baptista with the Michael J. Fox Foundation in New York is the principle investigator for a National Lab investigation to evaluate growth of protein crystals implicated in Parkinson’s disease. Crystals grown in space are larger, enabling more detailed analysis to help define the protein’s exact shape and morphology and help scientists better understand the disease’s pathology.
  • Negar Rajabiat Cemscia, LLC, is principle investigator for National Lab research to test a novel approach of using particles of calcium-silicate to synthesize membranes as thin as a human hair. These particles can separate carbon dioxide molecules from air or other gases, technology that could aid in removing carbon dioxide from waste gases to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Tamara Koch, David Merges and Dominik Spahr, principle and co-principle investigators at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, will discuss a National Lab investigation focused on astrophysics research to examine the formation of chondrules, some of the oldest material in the solar system.

To participate in the teleconference, media must contact Joshua Finch at 202-358-1100 or joshua.a.finch@nasa.gov by 10 a.m. Nov. 8 for dial-in information.

Northrop Grumman is targeting Thursday, Nov. 15, for its 10th contracted mission under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract. The Cygnus spacecraft will launch on an Antares rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s pad 0A at Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia, carrying scientific research, crew supplies, and hardware to the orbiting laboratory to support the station’s Expedition 57 and 58 crews.

For launch countdown coverage, NASA’s launch blog, and more information about the mission, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/northropgrumman

For more information on the science, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/ng-10_research_highlights











Rocket Lab Selects Wallops Island for U.S. Launch Site

Electron launch (Credit: Rocket Lab)

RICHMOND, Va. (Virginia Governor’s Office PR)—Governor Ralph Northam announced today that Rocket Lab, a California-based company, has chosen Virginia Space and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport as the location for Launch Complex-2 (LC-2), Rocket Lab’s first launch facility located in the United States.

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Rocket Lab to Expand Launch Capability with US Launch Site

Electron launch (Credit: Rocket Lab)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — 10 July 2018 (Rocket Lab PR) — US orbital launch provider Rocket Lab has today confirmed plans to expand its launch capability by developing a US launch site, with four US space ports shortlisted to launch the Electron rocket.

Final selection is underway with Cape Canaveral, Wallops Flight Facility, Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base. A decision on the confirmed site, to be named Launch Complex 2, is expected to be made in August 2018.

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Mid-Year Global Launch Report: China & USA Continue to Battle for Lead

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the NROL-47 mission lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The world’s launch providers were extremely busy in the first half of 2018, with China and the United States battling for the lead.

There with 55 orbital launches through the end of June, which amounted to a launch every 3.29 days or 79 hours. The total is more than half the 90 launches attempted in 2017. With approximately 42 missions scheduled for the last six months of the year, the total could reach 97. (more…)











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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Orbital ATK’s Cygnus Capsule to Host Research Destined for ISS

SS John Glenn near the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL. (May 16, 2018) – The 9th Commercial Resupply Services (awarded by NASA) mission to the International Space Station (ISS) by Orbital ATK is targeted for launch no earlier than 5:04 a.m. EDT on May 20th. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus capsule will host multiple payloads sponsored by the ISS National Laboratory (managed by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space). These payloads represent a diverse combination of science (life and materials sciences, chemistry evaluations), technology, small satellites, and the replenishment of hardware facilities to support future research. Additionally, multiple investigations will launch to station focused on inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.

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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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Mars Parachute Test Successfully Launched from Wallops

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — The launch of a Black Brant IX sounding rocket carrying the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment or ASPIRE was successfully conducted at 12:19 p.m. EDT, March 31, 2018, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

ASPIRE was testing a parachute for possible future missions to Mars.

The next ASPIRE test at Wallops is currently scheduled for later this summer.

ASPIRE is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, with support from NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

NASA’s Sounding Rocket Program is based at Wallops. Orbital ATK in Dulles, Virginia, provides mission planning, engineering services and field operations through the NASA Sounding Rocket Operations Contract. NASA’s Heliophysics Division in Washington manages the sounding rocket program for the agency.











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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