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Launch Roundup: Japan’s H3 Falls into the Ocean, OneWeb Moves Closer to Global Service, Terran 1 Doesn’t Make It Off Pad

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
March 12, 2023
Filed under , , , , , , , , , ,
Launch Roundup: Japan’s H3 Falls into the Ocean, OneWeb Moves Closer to Global Service, Terran 1 Doesn’t Make It Off Pad
H3 rocket aborts during the maiden launch attempt. (Credit: JAXA)

Japan’s new H3 rocket failed in flight last week, OneWeb moved within one launch of providing global broadband service, and Relativity Space’s Terran 1 failed to get off the launch pad.

March 7-13

DateLauncher – OrganizationPayload – OrganizationPurposeLaunch Site
March 7H3 – JAXAALOS-3 – JAXA
Earth observationTanegashima
March 9Falcon 9 – SpaceX40 OneWeb – OneWebCommunicationsCape Canaveral
March 9Long March 4C – CASCTianhui 6A, Tianhui 6B – CNSAEarth observationTaiyuan
March 12Proton – RoscosmosOlymp-K No. 2 – Ministry of Defence/Gonets Satellite SystemSignal intelligenceBaikonur

The second time was not a charm for JAXA’s new H3 rocket. The booster’s first stage appeared to function as designed after takeoff from the Tanegashima Space Center. However, the second stage failed to fire, and controllers sent a self-destruct signal to the rocket. The ALOS-3 Earth observation satellite was destroyed in the failure.

H3 suffered an on-pad abort on Feb. 16 during its maiden launch attempt. JAXA said the abort was due to an abnormality in the power supply system of the first-stage engines. The flight control software shut down the engines after they began to fire and before signals were sent to two solid rocket boosters to fire.

H3 is designed to replace the H-IIA and already retired H-IIB boosters. The launch vehicle has a capacity of placing 4,000 kg (8,818 lb) into sun synchronous orbit (SSO) or 4,000–7,900 kg (8,818–17,417 lb) into geostationary transfer orbit.

SpaceX launched 40 OneWeb satellites on March 9th. The 17th OneWeb launch raised the constellation’s total to 582 satellites, leaving the company one launch short of being able to provide global broadband coverage.

“Today’s launch is an exciting milestone as we are now just one mission away from completing our Gen 1 constellation, which will activate global service in 2023,” CEO Neil Masterson said in a statement. “Now more than ever, OneWeb is dedicated to continuing the momentum we have garnered from the past 17 successful launches, to innovate alongside our trusted partners and deliver connectivity solutions at scale. Each launch is a group effort, and today’s success would not have been possible without the dedication of the entire launch team and our partners here in Florida.”

India’s SLV booster is set to launch 36 OneWeb satellites from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on March 26.

Meanwhile, Relativity Space was unable to launch its Terran 1 rocket despite multiple tries last week. On March 8, a launch attempt was scrubbed due to second stage propellant thermal conditions being out of limits for launch.

Repeated attempts to launch on March 11 resulted in scrubs. Delays in launch attempts were due to unacceptable upper winds and a wayward boat in the offshore safety zone. The first full countdown resulted in engine firing followed by a quick shutdown at T +0.5 seconds due to a bad reading related to the stage separation system. The second (final) attempt for the day was at the last seconds – literally – of the launch window but was scrubbed when everything did not come together due to a fuel pressure issue. Relativity Space has yet to officially announce a new launch date.

Terran 1 is designed to place 1,479 kg (3,261 lb) into low Earth orbit or 898 kg (1,980 lb) into SSO.

Upcoming Launches

DateLauncher – OrganizationPayload – OrganizationPurposeLaunch Site
March 13Long March 2D – CASCTBATBAJiuquan
March 14Electron – Rocket LabCapella 9, 10Earth observationMid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport
March 15Falcon 9 – SpaceXCargo Dragon – SpaceXISS Resupply + CubeSatsKennedy
March 15Long March 11 – CASCTBATBAJiuquan
March 16Terran 1 – Relativity SpaceNoneFlight testCape Canaveral
March 16Falcon 9 – SpaceX51 Starlink – SpaceXCommunicationsVandenberg
March 17-20Long March 3B/E – SpaceXChinaSat 6E – China SatcomCommunicationsXichang
March 18Falcon 9 – SpaceXSES-18, SES-19CommunicationsCape Canaveral
March 26LVM 3 – ISRO36 OneWeb – OneWebCommunicationsSatish Dhawan

Rocket Lab scrubbed the launch of an Electron rocket with two Capella Space satellites aboard due to high winds on March 11. The company will attempt to launch the two Earth observation satellites from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia soon but a date has not been officially announced. Update: Rocket Lab has sent out an advisory stating that they have a new launch date: Wednesday March 15. The launch window is 6pm-8pm Eastern, with lift-off targeted for 6pm from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2, Wallops Island, Virginia.

SpaceX is scheduled to launch a Cargo Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station on March 15. Cargo Dragon will also carry seven CubeSats for deployment from ISS. The satellites include:

  • ARKSat-1 – University of Arkansas – technology demonstration
  • LightCube – Arizona State University – education
  • SNoOPI – Purdue University School of Aeronautics and Astronautics – technology demonstration.
  • AuroraSat
  • Ex-Alta 2
  • YukonSat.

Orbital Launch Stats

The United States continues to lead the world with 19 launches, 17 of which were successful. China is in second place with eight launches, followed by Russia with four.

Orbital Launches by Nation
Through March 12

United States1721955.9

Rocket Lab’s Electron is the only other U.S. rocket to orbit satellites. ABL Space and Virgin Orbit have one failure apiece.

SpaceX is responsible for 16 of 17 successful launches by American companies. Elon Musk’s company has launched 589 satellites, representing 93.8% of all spacecraft placed into orbit this year.

Launches by Company/Agency
Through March 12

Galactic Energy10150
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries10110
Rocket Lab10130
ABL Space Systems01102
Virgin Orbit01109
* China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. has conducted seven of the eight Chinese launches. Galactic Energy has launched once.

One dozen satellites were lost in three launch failures.

SpaceX has launched 15 Falcon 9s and one Falcon Heavy. China’s Long March 2 rocket family has flown four times this year.

Launches by Booster
Through March 12

Launch VehicleCompany/AgencySuccessesFailuresTotal
Falcon 9SpaceX15015
Long March 2C, DCASC404
Ceres-1Galactic Energy101
ElectronRocket Lab101
Falcon HeavySpaceX101
Long March 7ACASC101
Long March 3B/ECASC101
Long March 4CCASC101
LauncherOneVirgin Orbit011
RS1ABL Space Systems011

Russia’s four launches have been evenly split between Proton and Soyuz-2.1a boosters.

Launches by Location
Through March 12

Cape CanaveralUSA909
Mid-Atlantic Regional SpaceportUSA101
Satish DhawanIndia101
PSC – AlaskaUSA011

Florida remains the busiest launch location in the world with 12 flights, including nine from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and three from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Vandenberg Space Force Base and China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center are tied for second place with four launches apiece.

Suborbital Launches

NASA conducted two sounding rocket launches from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Feb 16. The purpose of the flights was to test a new capability to support science research in the mesosphere.

Suborbital Launches
Excludes Ballistic Missile Tests

DateLauncher – OrganizationPayload – OrganizationPurposeLaunch Site
Feb. 16Improved Orion – NASAMesOrion – NASATech demoWallops
Feb. 16Improved Orion – NASAMesOrion – NASATech demoWallops