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Sixteen Orbital Launches Conducted in September

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
October 1, 2022
Falcon 9 launches 54 Starlink broadband satellites on Sept. 18, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX)

There were 16 orbital launches worldwide in September, averaging one liftoff every 45 hours. The month was tied with July for second highest total this year. There were 18 launches in August.

Chinese companies launched eight times, American companies six times, and Europe and Russia conducted one launch apiece. Russia’s launch of a new crew to the International Space Station (ISS) was the highlight of the month.

Orbital Launches
September 2022

DateLauncher – OrganizationPayload – OrganizationPurpose(s)Launch Site
Sept. 2, 2022Long March 4C – CASC~Yaogan 33-02 – CAS+Earth observationJiuquan (China)
Sept. 4, 2022Falcon 9 – SpaceX51 Starlink – SpaceX; SHERPA-LTC2 space tug (Spaceflight Inc.) with Boeing Varuna-TDM payloadBroadband, V-band tech demoCape Canaveral (USA)
Sept. 6, 2022Kuaizhou-1A – ExPaceCentispace-1 S3 & S4 – Beijing Future Navigation TechnologyNavigationJiuquan (China)
Sept. 6, 2022Long March 2D – CASC~Yaogan 35-05A, Yaogan 35-05B, Yaogan 35-05C – CAS+ReconnaissanceXichang (China)
Sept. 7, 2022Ariane 5 – ArianespaceKonnect VHTS – EutelsatGeosynchronous communicationsEurope’s Spaceport (French Guiana)
Sept. 10, 2022Falcon 9 – SpaceX34 Starlink – SpaceX, BlueWalker 3 – AST SpaceMobileBroadband, Cell Phone communicationsKennedy (USA)
Sept. 13, 2022Long March 7A – CASC~ChinaSat-1E – China SatcomGEO CommunicationsWenchang (China)
Sept. 15, 2022Electron – Rocket LabStriX-1 – SynspectiveEarth observation (SAR)Mahia Peninsula (New Zealand)
Sept. 18, 2022Falcon 9 – SpaceX54 Starlink – SpaceXBroadbandCape Canaveral (USA)
Sept. 20, 2022Long March 2D – CASC~Yunhai-1 03 – SASTMeteorologyJiuquan (China)
Sept. 21, 2022Soyuz-2.1a – RoscosmosSoyuz MS-22 – RoscosmosISS CrewBaikonur (Kazakhstan)
Sept. 24, 2022Delta IV Heavy – ULANROL-91 – National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)ReconnaissanceVandenberg (USA)
Sept. 24, 2022Kuaizhou-1A – ExPaceShiyan 14, Shiyan 15 – CAST*, SAST^Technology demonstration, Earth observationTaiyuan (China)
Sept. 24, 2022Falcon 9 – SpaceX52 Starlink – SpaceXBroadbandCape Canaveral (USA)
Sept. 26, 2022Long March 2D – CASC~Yaogan 36-01A, Yaogan 36-01B, Yaogan 36-01C – Chinese Academy of SciencesReconnaissanceXichang (China)
Sept. 26, 2022Long March 6 – CASC~Shiyan-16A, Shiyan-16B, Shiyan-17 – CAST*, SAST^Technology demonstrationTaiyuan (China)
+ Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)
* China Academy of Space Technology (CAST)
^ Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST)
~ China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)

Launches for the year now total 126 when Firefly Aerospace’s successful launch of its Alpha booster on Saturday, Oct. 1 is included. There have been 122 successes and four failures.

Chinese Launches

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) launched four different types of Long March boosters on six occasions. ExPace conducted two launches of its Kauizhou-1A rocket. The boosters launched 16 satellites, including:

  • 6 reconnaissance
  • 4 technology demonstration
  • 2 Earth observation
  • 2 navigation
  • 1 geosynchronous communications satellite
  • 1 meteorology.

Government-owned CASC is the prime contractor for China’s space program. ExPace is a fully-owned subsidiary of state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC).

BlueWalker 3’s solar arrays deployed in the clean room. (Credit: AST SpaceMobile)

U.S. Launches

Falcon 9’s four Falcon 9 launches carried 191 Starlink broadband satellites and two rideshare payloads into orbit. SpaceX has launched 1,465 Starlink satellites this year on 29 dedicated flights and one Transporter rideshare mission.

One Falcon 9 launched last month carried AST SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker 3, a test satellite for a constellation designed to connect directly with unmodified cell phones.

Another Falcon 9 flight carried Spaceflight Inc.’s SHERPA-LTC2 space tug with Boeing’s Varuna-TDM aboard as a hosted payload. Varuna-TDM is testing technology for a planned constellation of communications satellites.

The final Delta IV Heavy launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. (Credit: ULA)

United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Delta IV Heavy made its final flight from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The giant booster orbited the NROL-91 satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office.

A Rocket Lab launched Synspective’s StriX-1 Earth observation satellite from Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. It was the 30th Electron launch and the 150th satellite sent to space by the booster.

At the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio performs preflight checkouts in the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft. Rubio is scheduled to launch with crewmates Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin Sept. 21 for a six-month mission on the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA/Victor Zelentsov)

Russian and European Launches

Russia launched Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio aboard the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft for a six-month stay aboard ISS. Rubio was the first American astronaut to launch on a Soyuz spacecraft since Mark Vande Hei on Soyuz-18 in April 2021. U.S. astronauts have been flying on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.

Arianespace launched the Konnect Very High Throughput Satellite (VHTS) for Eutelsat from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. It was the company’s third launch of a European rocket and fourth launch overall from the South American launch site in 2022. Arianespace conducted the launch of a Russian Soyuz ST-B rocket earlier in the year.

Falcon 9 launches Starlink satellites on Sept. 4, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX)

Launches by Spaceport

Florida remained the world’s busiest launch site last month with a total of four launches by SpaceX. The company conducted three launches from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and one from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. A total of 43 launches have been conducted from the adjoining spaceports.

ULA launched a Delta IV Heavy from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. Thirteen launches have originated from the Golden State this year, including 11 from Vandenberg and two from the Mojave Air and Space Port.

Launches by Spaceport
September 2022

Launch SiteCountryLaunch Vehicle(s)September LaunchesLaunches YTD
Cape CanaveralUnited StatesFalcon 9328
JiuquanChinaKuaizhou-1A, Long March 2D, Long March 4C317
TaiyuanChinaKuaizhou-1A, Long March 6210
XichangChinaLong March 2D210
WenchangChinaLong March 7A14
KennedyUnited StatesFalcon 9113
VandenbergUnited StatesDelta IV Heavy111
MahiaNew ZealandElectron17
Europe’s SpaceportFrench GuianaAriane 514

China conducted three launches from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center last month, with the Taiyuan and Xichang spaceports hosting two launches apiece. Another flight was conducted from Wenchang.

Rocket Lab has now equaled its record of seven Electron launches in a calendar year from Mahia. All launches this year have been successful. The company’s record in 2020 included six successes and one failure.

Electron launches from New Zealand on Sept. 15, 2022. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Launches by Booster

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launched four times, bringing its total to 43 for the year. Long March 2D launched three times, with ExPace’s Kuaizhou-1A lifting off twice.

Launches by Booster
September 2022

Launch VehicleCompany/OrganizationCountrySeptember LaunchesYear to Date
Falcon 9SpaceXUnited States443
Long March 2C, 2D, 2FChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)China315
Soyuz 2.1a, 2.1b, ST-BArianespace, Roscosmos, Russian Aerospace Force (VKF), Strategic Rocket Forces of the Russian Federation (RVSN RF)Russia112
Long March 4CChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)China18
ElectronRocket LabUnited States17
Ariane 5ArianespaceEurope12
Long March 6China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)China12
Long March 7, 7AChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)China12
Delta IV HeavyUnited Launch Alliance (ULA)United States11

The two Kaiuzhou-1A flights doubled the total launches of the small-satellite booster for the year. The booster has a record of 16 successes and two failures.

Kaiuzhou-1A can place 300 kg (661 lb) into low Earth orbit, 250 kg (551 lb) into a 500-km ( 311-mile) high sun synchronous orbit (SSO), or 200 kg (441 lb) into a 700 km (435-mile) high SSO.

Alpha rocket’s second stage ignites as the first stage falls away. (Credit: Everyday Astronaut webcast)

Launches by Nation

U.S. companies have accounted for 50 percent of the 126 launches conducted through Oct. 1. SpaceX has conducted 43 of the 63 American launches this year, followed by Rocket Lab with seven and United Launch Alliance with six.

China is in second place with 42 launches. The United States and China account for 105 launches or 83.33 percent of all orbital attempts in 2022.

Orbital Launches by Nation
Jan. 1 – Oct. 1 2022

NationSuccessesFailuresTotalPercentage of TotalNotes
United States6126350Includes Rocket Lab Electron launches from New Zealand; 2 Crew Dragon and 1 Cargo Dragon flights to ISS; CST-100 Starliner flight to ISS; first successful launch of Firefly Alpha; final flight of Rocket 3.3 (failure)
China4114233.33Crew, cargo and module launches to space station; Reusable Experimental Spacecraft flight; successful maiden flights of Long March 6A and ZK-1A boosters
Russia1301310.3Includes 1 Soyuz ST-B launch from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana conducted by Arianespace; 1 Soyuz crew and 2 Progress freighters to ISS; 1 successful maiden flight of Angara 1.2
Europe3032.4Successful Vega-C maiden flight, 2 Ariane 5 launches
India2132.42 Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle flights; Small Satellite Launch Vehicle maiden launch (failure)
Iran1010.8Qased launch vehicle
South Korea1010.8First successful launch of domestically produced orbital launch vehicle (Nuri)

Russia has launched 13 times, accounting for 10.3 percent of the global total. Europe and India have launched three times apiece, and Iran and South Korea once each.

Japan has yet to launch this year. It is scheduled to launch an Epsilon rocket with eight satellites aboard on Thursday, Oct. 6 from Uchinoura Space Center.

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