- Parabolic Arc
- September 29, 2023
The Week in Launches: SpaceX Launches Private Mission to Moon, New Chinese Rocket Debuts
SpaceX launched a private mission to land on the moon for a Japanese company and a cluster of satellites for a rival to its Starlink broadband constellation in a week that also saw the successful debut of a new Chinese rocket.
There were five launches last week from China and the United States. Orbital launch attempts now total 173 for the year, with 167 successes, five failures and one partial failure.
|Date||Launcher – Organization||Payload – Organization||Purpose||Launch Site|
|Dec. 7||Kuaizhou-11 – ExPace||Xingyun Jiaotong VDES – Xingyun Satellite||Tech demo||Jiuquan|
|Dec. 8||Long March 2D – CASC+||Gaofen 5-01A – CAST*||Earth observation||Taiyuan|
|Dec. 8||Falcon 9 – SpaceX||40 OneWeb – OneWeb||Broadband||Kennedy|
|Dec. 9||Jielong-3^ – China Rocket||14 rideshare (see below)||Multiple (see below)||Yellow Sea|
|Dec. 11||Falcon 9 – SpaceX||Hakuto-R, Lunar Flashlight, Rashid – ispace, NASA, UAESA||Lunar lander, orbiter||Cape Canaveral|
* China Academy of Space Technology
^ Maiden flight
A Private Mission to the Moon
A SpaceX Falcon 9 lifted off on Sunday at 2:38 a.m. from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The booster placed ispace’s Hakuto-R lander, United Arab Emirates’ Rashid rover and NASA’s Lunar Flashlight CubeSat orbiter on a course to the moon.
Hakuto-R is carrying 30 kg (66 lb) of commercial and government payloads, including:
- United Arab Emirates’ Rashid lunar rover,
- Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) SORA-Q transformable lunar robot,
- NGK Spark Plug Co. solid-state battery test module,
- Mission Control Space Services Inc.’s artificial intelligence (AI) flight computer,
- Multiple 360-degree cameras from Canadensys Aerospace,
- Music disc with the song “SORATO” performed by Japanese rock band Sakanaction, an original supporter of Team HAKUTO during Google Lunar XPRIZE, and
- Panel engraved with the names of Team HAKUTO crowdfunding supporters during Google Lunar XPRIZE.
Hakuto-R will take about four months to reach the moon using a low-energy transfer trajectory, with a landing scheduled for late April. Hakuto-R will land in the Atlas Crater in the northwest region of the moon. The impact crater is about 87 km (54 miles) across.
The lander will collect a sample of regolith and transfer ownership to NASA under a contract during its planned 14-day mission on the surface. The lander is not designed to survive the cold of the lunar night.
The Rashid rover is a collaboration of the UAE Space Agency and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre. The rover is equipped with a microscopic camera, a thermal imaging camera and a Langmuir probe that will study lunar plasma in an attempt to discover why moon dust is sticky.
NASA’s Lunar Flashlight orbiter will use a laser to search for water ice in permanently shadowed areas of the moon. The 6U CubeSat was developed by a team from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Goddard Space Flight Center, Marshall Space Flight Center and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
SpaceX Launches Rival’s Satellites
A SpaceX Falcon 9 launched 40 broadband satellites for OneWeb on Dec. 9 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. OneWeb is a rival to SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation.
It was the first of three SpaceX launches booked by OneWeb. The London-based company also secured two flights on India’s GSLV Mk III rocket after a plan to deploy the remainder of its 648-satellite broadband constellation on Soyuz rockets was terminated in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
Jielong-3 Maiden Launch
China Rocket, a subsidiary of the state-owned China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), launched the Jielong-3 (Smart Dragon-3) rocket on its maiden flight on Dec. 9 from a platform in the Yellow Sea. The rideshare mission carried 14 payloads.
Jielong-3 Maiden Launch
|Huoju-1 (Torch-1)||Astrobiology||Rocket Pi||China|
|Jiaotong-5 (HEAD-2H)||Earth observation||HEAD Aerospace Group||China|
|Jilin-1 Gaofen-03D 44–50||Earth observation||Chang Guang Satellite Technology||China|
|Jilin-1 Pingtai-01A 01||Earth observation, communications||Chang Guang Satellite Technology||China|
|Fengtai Shaonian-2 (CAS-5A)||Education||Fengtai District secondary schools||China|
|Golden Bauhinia-1 05||Earth observation||Hong Kong Aerospace Science & Technology||China|
|Golden Bauhinia-1 06||Earth observation||Hong Kong Aerospace Science & Technology||China|
|Tianqi-7||Internet of Things||Guodian Gaoke||China|
The 31-meter tall rocket is designed to lift up to 1,500 kg (3,307 lb) into a 500 km (311-mile) high sun-synchronous orbit. Reports say the four-stage, solid-fuel booster is targeting the market for satellite constellations with the capacity to launch up to 20 satellites at a time.
Jielong-3 is designed to reduce unit costs of payloads to orbit to $10,000 per kilogram ($4,536 per pound). The booster can be launched from both both land and an ocean platform.
A Chinese Long March 2D rocket launched the Gaofen 5-01A Earth observation satellite for the China Academy of Space Technology.
A Kuaizhou-11 booster launched the Xingyun Jiaotong VDES satellite for Xingyun from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.
Launches for the Year
Barring a massive surge of launches by China this month, the United States will end the year with the highest number of orbital attempts.
Through Dec. 11, 2022
|Nation||Successes||Failures||Partial Failures||Total||Percentage of Total|
SpaceX leads the world with 56 launches, two fewer than China’s total. Elon Musk’s company has five more launches scheduled before the end of the year as it attempts to reach 60 flights. One of the launches is the Transporter-6 rideshare mission with more than 60 payloads aboard.
Other scheduled U.S. launches include Rocket Lab’s Electron first flight from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia, and the maiden flight of ABL Space’s RS1 rocket from the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska. Virgin Orbit might launch a mission from Spaceport Cornwall in England after Christmas.
China is set to launch at least five more times this year. Europe has single launches of the Ariane 5 and Vega-C boosters scheduled. A private Indian company might attempt a launch later this month.
Russia has said it has completed its final launch of 2022. Japan and South Korea appear to be done for the year as well. Whether Iran will launch again before 2023 is unknown.