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The Week in Launches: A New Crew Arrives at Chinese Space Station

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
December 5, 2022
Shenzhou-15 crew of Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu. (Credit: CNSA)

China launched a new crew to its space station for the first handover of command during a week that saw four orbital launches worldwide.

China launched commander Fei Junlong and crewmates Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu aboard the Shenzhou-15 spacecraft for a six-month mission on the space station on Tuesday. They are the fourth crew to occupy China’s first permanent space station.

The taikonauts joined Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe for the first handover of the station. The station was left empty for periods of time after the first and second crews departed.

Dong, Yang and Xuzhe returned to Earth on Sunday after 183 days in space. They were launched aboard Shenzhou 14 on June 5. The crew was aboard when the Wentian and Mengtian science modules were launched to complete the initial assembly of the orbiting laboratory.

The Shenzhou-15 flight was China’s second crewed launch of the year. Five crews have launched to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX Crew Dragons. A total of 24 individuals from seven nations have flow to orbit this year.

Other Launches Last Week

A Long March 2D rocket launched the Yaogan 36-03A, Yaogan 36-03B and Yaogan 36-03C reconnaissance satellites for the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Orbital Launches
Week of Nov. 27 – Dec. 3

DateLauncher – OrganizationPayload – OrganizationPurposeLaunch Site
Nov. 27Long March 2D – CASC+Yaogan 36-03A, 36-03B, 36-03C – CAS**ReconnaissanceXichang
Nov. 28Soyuz-2.1b – RVSN RF*GLONASS-M 761 – VKS#Navigation Plesetsk
Nov. 29Long March 2F – CASC+Shenzhou 15 – CMSA^Tiangong crewJiuquan
Nov. 30Soyuz-2.1b – RVSN RF*Lotos-S1 №6 (Kosmos 2565) – Ministry of DefenceElectronic intelligencePlesetsk
* Strategic Rocket Forces of the Russian Federation
** Chinese Academy of Sciences
# Russian Aerospace Forces
+ China Aerospace and Science Corporation
^ China Manned Space Agency
Source: Wikipedia

A Soyuz-2.1b rocket launched the GLONASS-M 761 navigation satellite from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia on Nov. 28. The payload was the 61st and final launch in the GLONASS-M line of spacecraft.

Two days later, a Soyuz-2.1b booster launches the Lotos-S1 No. 6 (Kosmos 2565) signal intelligence satellite from Plesetsk.

The Northrop Grumman-manufactured Intelsat’s Galaxy 33 and Galaxy 34 satellites launched aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. (Credit: SpaceX)

Global Launch Totals

U.S. companies have launched 80 times with 77 successes, two failures and a partial failure. China has launched 55 times with a single failure, followed by Russia with 22 successful launches. The rest of the world has combined for 11 flights, exactly half of Russia’s total.

Orbital Launches by Nation
Through Dec. 4

NationSuccessesFailuresPartial FailuresTotalPercentage of Total
United States77218047.6
South Korea10010.6

SpaceX has launched 54 times, which is one fewer than China’s entire output. The number of successful launches are the same because a Chinese company, i-space, suffered a launch failure. SpaceX has launched Falcon 9 rockets 53 times and Falcon Heavy once with plans to reach 60 flights later this month.

Six American companies and NASA have combined for 26 launches. Rocket Lab is in second place with nine launches followed by United Launch Alliance with eight. Astra Space launched three times with only one success. Northrop Grumman and Virgin Galactic launched two times apiece, while NASA and Firefly Aerospace have completed one launch apiece.

Long March 5B launches the Mengtian space station module on Oct. 31, 2022. (Credit: CNSA)

The government-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. has successfully launched its Long March family of rockets 47 times. China’s other eight launches were conducted by four companies:

  • ExPace, a wholly owned subsidiary of the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), launched its Kuaizhou-1A small-satellite booster four times.
  • Galactic Energy, a private company, conducted two launches of its Ceres-1 rocket.
  • CAS Space, which is partially owned by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, launched the ZK-1A rocket on its maiden flight.
  • i-space, a private company, failed in its only attempt to launch the Hyperbola 1 rocket.
A ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the SES-20 and SES-21 mission for SES lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at 5:36 p.m. EDT on October 4. (Credit: United Launch Alliance)

Launches by Spaceport

Florida remains the busiest location in the world with 52 launches — 35 flights from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and 17 more from the adjoining Kennedy Space Center. Vandenberg Space Force Base in Florida is having a particularly busy year with 14 flights. U.S. launch provider Rocket Lab set a new record for launches from New Zealand with nine flights.

Launches by Spaceport, 2022
Through Dec. 4

Launch SiteCountrySuccessesFailuresPartial FailureTotal
Cape CanaveralUSA342035
MahiaNew Zealand9009
Kourou*French Guiana4004
Satish DhawanIndia4105
Mid-Atlantic Regional SpaceportUSA2002
Mojave Air and Space PortUSA2002
East China SeaChina1001
Naro Space CenterSouth Korea1001
Pacific Spaceport Complex — AlaskaUSA1001
Shahrud Missile Test SiteIran1001
Yellow SeaChina1001
+ Russian launches under lease agreement
* Includes launch of one Russian Soyuz ST-B rocket
Source: Wikipedia

The Jiquan Satellite Launch Center leads all Chinese spaceports with 22 flights. There have been 13 launches from Xichang, 12 from Xichang and six from Wenchang. China also launched the Long March 11H from platforms in the East China Sea and Yellow Sea.

The Plesetsk Cosmodrome has hosted 13 Russian launches. Seven launches were conducted from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Soyuz rockets were also launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East and Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

Europe’s Spaceport has hosted four launches. India’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre has seen five launches, with four successes and one failure.

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