Europe, India and Japan Faced Launch Delays & Setbacks in 2022

An Ariane 5 rocket launches the Galaxy 35 and Galaxy 36 geosynchronous communications satellites for Intelsat and the MTG-I1 meteorology satellite for Eumetsat. (Credit: Arianespace)

Part 2: U.S. & Dominated Launch Industry in 2022, Russia Finishes a Distant Third

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The U.S. and China set new launch records in 2022. While lagged far behind in third place, Russia could take pride in the fact that all its launches were successful. The year didn’t go quite as well for three other major launching powers, however.

Japan and Europe each suffered a launch failure while watching the maiden flights of new boosters slip into 2023. (For Japan, the failure was the nation’s only launch of 2022.) India’s launch cadence recovered from a COVID-induced trough, but the nation saw its new small satellite launcher fail on its inaugural flight.

Results were better for a pair of other nations that don’t launch very often. South Korea not only launched the nation’s first domestically manufactured rocket but placed its first orbiter around the moon. Iran launched a small satellite after a pair of failures in 2021.

Launches by the Numbers

Europe, India, Japan, South Korea and Iran combined for a total of 13 launches, a mere 7% of the 186 launch attempts worldwide in 2022. Ten launches were successful and three failed.

Launches by Europe, India, South Korea, Iran and Japan

Launch VehicleLaunching PartySuccessesFailuresTotal
Ariane 5Europe303
GSLV Mk IIIIndia101
NuriSouth Korea101

European Launches
2022: 5 (4-1)
2021: 6-0

Europe didn’t conduct its first launch until June 22 when the year was nearly half over. An Ariane 5 launched a pair of geosynchronous (GEO) communications satellites — MEASAT-3d for MEASAT of Malaysia and GSAT-24 for Tata Sky of India.

Vega rocket (VV16) lifts off from French Guiana September 2020, launching 53 smallsats including 28 payloads from Spaceflight customers. (Image Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace – Photo Optique Video du CSG – JM Guillon)

Later in the year, a pair of Ariane 5 boosters launched:

  • Galaxy 35 GEO comsat for Intelsat
  • Galaxy 36 GEO comsat for Intelsat
  • Konnect VHTS GEO comsat for Eutelsat
  • MTG-I1 meteorological satellite for EUMETSAT.

Europe ended the year with only two more Ariane 5 launches scheduled in 2023 before the rocket is retired.

Meanwhile, technical problems have delayed the maiden flight of its successor, Ariane 6, to the fourth quarter of 2023. Ariane 6 will have the following payload capacity:

  • Low Earth orbit (LEO): 10,350-21,650 kg (22,818-47,730 lb)
  • Geostationary transfer orbit (GTO): 4,500-11,500 kg (9,921-25,353 lb)
  • Geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO): 5,000 kg (11,023 lb)
  • Sun synchronous orbit (SSO): 7,200-15,500 kg (15,873-34,172 lb)
  • Lunar transfer orbit (LTO): 3,500-8,600 kg (7,716-18,960 lb)
Ariane 6 second stage (Credit: ArianeGroup)

The Vega-C rocket made its maiden flight on July 13 by placing eight payloads into orbit.

The upgraded version of the Vega booster can launch 2,200 kg (4,850 lb) into a 700-km (435-mile) high polar orbit. Vega, which began flying in 2021, is limited to launching 1,500 kg (3,307 lb).

Payloads Launched by European Rockets, 2022

Launch VehiclePayload FunctionPayload TypeNumber
Ariane 5Communications (GEO)Primary5
Ariane 5MeteorologyPrimary1
Vega-CLaser ranging, geodesyPrimary1
Vega-CTechnology demonstration — radiationSecondary (CubeSat)3
Vega-CTechnology demonstration — multipleSecondary (CubeSat)1
Vega-CImmunoassay researchSecondary (CubeSat)1
Vega-CSpace farmingSecondary (CubeSat)1

The second Vega-C launch on Dec. 21 suffered a pressure drop in its second stage, causing the booster to veer off its planned trajectory. Airbus Defence and Space’s Pléiades Neo 5 and Pléiades Neo 6 Earth observation satellites were lost when the rocket self destructed.

For a more detailed look at Europe’s launch year, see Vega-C Launch Failure Ends Frustrating Year for Europe.

PSLV rocket launches the EOS-4 Earth observation satellite. (Credit: ISRO)

Indian Launches
2022: 5 (4-1)
2021: 2 (1-1)

Indian got its groove back this year with five launches after launching only four times during the previous two years due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

India launched 36 OneWeb broadband satellites aboard a GSLV Mk III rocket. It was the first of two Indian launches booked by OneWeb after the company’s deal to launch the spacecraft on Soyuz boosters ended following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. OneWeb also booked three SpaceX Falcon 9 launches.

Payloads Launched by Indian Rockets

Launch VehiclePayload FunctionPayload Type(s)
GSLV Mk IIIBroadband communicationsPrimary36
PSLVEarth observationPrimary (3), CubeSat (1)4
PSLVTechnology demonstrationCubeSat4
PSLVInternet of ThingsCubeSat4
PSLVIonospheric researchCubeSat1

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) three times with 15 satellites aboard. In a first for India, one PSLV flight included an experimental module with six hosted payloads on the rocket’s upper stage.

ISRO had less luck with its new Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), which failed during its maiden launch on Aug. 7. The fourth stage, known as the Velocity Trimming Module (VTM), failed to fire as planned. The failure left two small satellites in a 356 by 76 km (221 x 76 mile) high orbit, causing them to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.

Small Satellite Launch Vehicle lifts off on maiden flight. (Credit: ISRO)

ISRO lost the EOS-02 Earth observation microsatellite in the failed launch. The second payload was AzaadiSAT, a student-built Earth observation spacecraft supplied by Space Kidz India.

SSLV is capable of placing payloads weighing 500 kg (1,102 lb) into LEO or 300 kg (661 lb) into SSO. The rocket is designed to be assembled and launched quickly and inexpensively.

The maiden launch of South Korea’s Nuri booster. (Credit: Korea Aerospace Research Institute)

South Korea Launch
2022: 1-0
2021: 0-1

South Korea achieved a major breakthrough with the successful launch of its Nuri (KSLV-II) booster on June 21. The first orbital-class rocket produced entirely in South Korea carried seven payloads into orbit:

  • Cubesat deployer
  • Mass simulator
  • Dummy satellite
  • 4 technology demonstration CubeSats.

It was the booster’s second flight. A Nuri booster failed during its maiden launch in October 2021 due to a design flaw in its third stage.

Nuri is designed to launch 2,600 kg (5,732 lb) into a 300-km (186-mile) high low Earth orbit or 1,500 kg (3,307 lb) into a 600-800 km (373-497 mile) high orbit.

Epsilon launch (Credit: JAXA webcast)

Japanese Launch
2022: 0-1
2021: 3-0

Japan’s Epsilon rocket failed after launch on Oct. 12 from Uchinoura Space Center with the loss of eight satellites designed to demonstration new technologies.

Satellites Lost in Epsilon Launch Failure
Oct. 12, 2022

RAISE-3JAXATechnology demonstration
QPS-SAR-3iQPSEarth observation
QPS-SAR-4iQPSEarth observation
FSI-SATFuture Science Institute — Technology demonstrationTechnology demonstration
KOSEN-2Yonago CollegeTechnology demonstration
MAGNARONagoya UniversityTechnology demonstration
MITSUBAKyushu Institute of TechnologyTechnology demonstration
WASEDA-SAT-ZEROWaseda UniversityTechnology demonstration

JAXA said an anomaly in the second stage’s attitude control system caused the rocket to be misaligned when the third stage separated. Controllers transmitted a command for the booster to self destruct when they realized it could not enter orbit, the space agency said.

It was the first failure of the three-stage solid-fuel rocket in six launches. Epsilon is capable of launching 1,500 kg (3,307 lb) into Earth orbit.

H-III launch vehicle variants (Credit: JAXA)

Japan’s new H3 launcher, which will replace the retiring H-IIA booster, is running far behind schedule. The booster’s maiden flight is now scheduled for Feb. 12.

H3 is designed to launch 4,000 kg (8,818 lb) to SSO or 4,000-7,900 kg (8,818-17,417 lb) to GTO. H3’s first stage can be fitted with up to four solid rocket boosters to increase payload capacity.

First launch of Qased rocket in 2020. (Credit: Fars Media Corporation)

2022: 1-0
2021: 0-2

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard launched a Noor-2 reconnaissance satellite aboard a Qased rocket from the Shahrud Missile Test Site. It was the second success in as many attempts for the solid-fuel small satellite launcher. Qased is capable of launching 10-50 kg (20-110 lb) to LEO.

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