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Launches From the U.S., China and South America to Close Out 2022

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
December 19, 2022
Electron on the launch pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. (Credit: Trevor Mahlmann)

Six more launches are scheduled to close out a record year that has already seen 181 orbital launch attempts across the globe.

Scheduled Orbital Launches
Dec. 19-31, 2022

DateLauncher – OrganizationPayload – OrganizationPurpose(s)Launch Site
Dec. 19Electron^
Rocket Lab
Hawk 6A, 6B, 6C –
HawkEye 360
Signal intelligenceTBD
Dec. 21Vega-C – ArianespacePléiades Neo 5, Neo 6 – AirbusEarth observationKourou
Dec. 28Falcon 9 – SpaceXStarlink – SpaceXBroadbandCape Canaveral
Dec. 29Falcon 9 – SpaceXEROS-C3 – ImageSatEarth observationVandenberg
Dec. 30Long March 3B – CASC*BeiDou-3 M25, M26 – CNSA**NavigationXichang
Dec. 31Long March 4C – CASC*Fengyun 3F – CMA+MeteorologyTaiyuan
^ First Electron launch from U.S. soil
* China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation
** China National Space Administration
+ China Meteorological Administration
Source: Wikipedia

U.S. Launches

U.S. launch provider Rocket Lab hopes to conduct the first launch of its Electron rocket from American soil tonight from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) in Virginia. The booster will carry the Hawk 6A, Hawk 6B and Hawk 6C signal intelligence satellites for HawkEye 360.

The company was forced to scrub a launch attempt on Sunday due to excessive high-level winds.

(Update: Rocket Lab has postponed the launch for tonight due to upper level winds. A new date has not been announced.)

Rocket Lab began as a New Zealand company, incorporated in the United States, and has launched 32 previous missions from its spaceport on Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. Electron has a record of 29 successes and three failures.

MARS is a spaceport operated by the commonwealth of Virginia at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. Northrop Grumman launches Antares and Minotaur rockets from the base on Wallops Island. NASA also launches sounding rockets from the spaceport.

Falcon 9 lifts off with 52 Starlink satellites on Oct. 20, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX is one launch away from Elon Musk’s goal of 60 for the year. SpaceX has a dedicated launch of Starlink broadband satellites set for Dec. 28 aboard a Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The company has launched 1,668 Starlink satellites on 33 launches in 2022. SpaceX has placed 3,612 Starlink spacecraft into orbit since the first launch in February 2018.

SpaceX is also scheduled to launch the EROS-C3 Earth observation spacecraft for ImageSat of Israel. The launch will be conducted from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

Vega-C lifts off on its maiden flight on July 13, 2022. (Credit: Arianespace)

Other Planned Launches

China has two launches scheduled before the end of the year:

  • BeiDou-3 M25 and BeiDou-3 M26 navigation satellites on a Long March 3B, and
  • Fengyun 3F meteorology satellite on a Long March 4C.

A Vega-C rocket will launch the Pléiades Neo 5 and Pléiades Neo 6 Earth observation satellites for Airbus Defence & Space. It will be Europe’s fifth launch of the year.

RS1 booster on the launch pad. (Credit: ABL Space Systems)

Postponed Launches

ABL Space has postponed the maiden launch of its RS1 booster from the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska after multiple unsuccessful attempts.

SpaceX has postponed its Falcon 9 Transporter-6 rideshare mission until January. The rocket will have more than 60 payloads aboard.

Virgin Orbit’s first launch from Spaceport Cornwall in the United Kingdom appears to be delayed until next year. Delays in getting regulatory approval and technical issues have delayed a launch originally planned for late August. Richard Branson’s company has launched only four times over the past two years.

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