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Space Station Launches Increase in May

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
May 16, 2023
Filed under , , , , , ,
Space Station Launches Increase in May
Saudi astronauts Mariam Fardous, Ali AlQarni, Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali AlGamdi.
Image credit: Saudi Press Agency.

In this week’s Launch Roundup, new crews and cargo ships are scheduled to visit the International Space Station and China’s Tiangong orbital outpost this month.

China kicked things off on May 10 when a Long March 7 rocket launched the Tianzhou-6 cargo ship with approximately 7.4 metric tons of supplies. The vehicle carried about 20 percent more payload than previous resupply vehicles, and also carried two CubeSats as secondary payloads.

Axiom Space is scheduled to launch its second commercial flight to the International Space Station (ISS) on May 21. Former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson will command the 16-day Ax-2 mission. Paying customers on the SpaceX Crew Dragon include American race car driver, pilot, and investor John Shoffner, and Saudi astronauts Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali AlQarni.

China is expected to launch a three-member crew to the Tiangong space station later this month. The as-yet unidentified taikonauts will replace Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming, and Zhang Lu, who were launched to the orbital facility in late November.

Future Launches

DateLauncher – OrganizationPayload – OrganizationPurposeLaunch Site
May 17Long March 3B/E – CASCBeidou-3 G4 – CNSA^NavigationXichang
May 19Falcon 9 – SpaceX21 Starlink – SpaceXCommunicationsCape Canaveral
May 19Falcon 9 – SpaceX15 OneWeb – OneWebCommunicationsVandenberg
1 OneWeb Gen2 – OneWebCommunications – tech demo
5 Iridium NEXT – IridiumCommunications
May 21Falcon 9 – SpaceXAx-2 – SpaceX/Axiom SpacePrivate space station crewKennedy
May 22Falcon 9 – SpaceXBADR-8 – ArabsatCommunicationsCape Canaveral
TBAElectron – Rocket Lab2 TROPICS* – NASAEarth observationMahia
May 24Nuri – KARI~8 Rideshare – MultipleMultipleNaro
May 24Soyuz-2.1a – RoscosmosProgress MS-23 (84P) – RoscosmosSpace station resupplyBaikonur
May 26Soyuz-2.1a – RoscosmosKondor-FKA No. 1 – VKS#ReconnaissanceVostochny
May 29GSLV Mk II – ISRO+NVS-01 – ISRO+NavigationSatish Dhawan
TBALong March 2F/G – CASCShenzhou 16 – CMSAStation crewJiuquan
^ China National Space Administration
* Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats
~ Korea Aerospace Research Institute
# Russian Aerospace Defence Forces
+ Indian Space Research Organisation

Roscosmos will launch the Progress MS-23 cargo ship to ISS on May 24. The launch will be conducted aboard a Soyuz-2.1a spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Other Upcoming Launches

In addition to launching the Ax-2 mission, SpaceX has at least three other Falcon 9 flights scheduled for later this month. Payloads will include 21 Starlink V2 Mini satellites, 16 spacecraft for OneWeb’s broadband constellation, and the BADR-8 geosynchronous communications satellite for Arabasat.

The deployment of the 16 OneWeb satellites will enable the London-based company to complete the initial deployment of its broadband constellation and begin offering global service.

Rocket Lab is due to launch the second set of TROPICS (Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats) satellites for NASA around May 22. The company has not yet set a date for the launch from New Zealand.

Rocket Lab launched the first two TROPICS CubeSats on May 10. The four-spacecraft constellation will study tropical cyclones and hurricanes.

Nuri rocket launches from Naro Space Center
Nuri rocket lifts off on its first successful flight on June 22, 2022. Image credit: KARI.

South Korea’s Nuri rocket will carry eight payloads on its third flight, which is scheduled for May 24. The booster failed on its maiden launch in 2021, but succeeded on its second flight last year.

China will launch the Beidou-3 G4 satellite for its global navigation constellation on Wednesday, and India will launch the NVS-01 spacecraft for its regional satellite navigation system.

Russia will launch the Kondor-FKA No. 1 reconnaissance on May 26. It will be the first launch of the year from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East.

Starlink satellites being deployed Image credit: SpaceX.

Recent Launches

SpaceX launched 107 Starlink satellites for its broadband constellation on May 10 and May 14. The company has launched 17 dedicated missions of the year with 781 Starlink satellites and two other payloads.

Recent Launches

DateLauncher – OrganizationPayload – OrganizationPurposeLaunch Site
May 8Electron – Rocket LabTROPICS* – NASAEarth observationMahia
May 10Long March 7 – CASCTianzhou 6 – CMSAStation resupply – CSMAWenchang
Jinling – Nanjing Institute of Mechatronic TechnologyEducation
Dalian-1 Lianli – Dalian University of TechnologyEarth observation
May 10Falcon 9 – SpaceX51 Starlink – SpaceXCommunicationsVandenberg
May 14Falcon 9 – SpaceX56 Starlink – SpaceXCommunicationsCape Canaveral
* Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats
~ China Manned Space Agency

Launches by Nation

SpaceX and Rocket Lab account for all 35 successful American launches this year. SpaceX has launched 29 Falcon 9 rockets, two Falcon Heavy boosters, and the one Starship/Super Heavy.

Rocket Lab has launched Electron four times, including two flights from New Zealand and two others from the company’s new launch complex at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia. The company aims to complete 15 launches this year, up from nine in 2022.

Orbital Launches by Nation
Through May 13, 2023

United States3543955.7

China is in second place overall with 18 launches. CASC’s Long March family of boosters has flown 14 times. ExPace, i-space, Galactic Energy, and Space Pioneer have launched one time apiece.

Russia has launched six times, India thrice, and Japan twice. Europe and Israel have conducted one flight apiece.

Falcon 9 launches the CRS-27 resupply mission to the International Space Station.
Falcon 9 launches the CRS-27 resupply mission to the International Space Station. Image credit: SpaceX.

The four failed American launches included three maiden flights – SpaceX’s Starship/Super Heavy, ABL Space Systems’ RS1, and Relativity Space’s Terran 1 – as well as the sixth launch of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne. Japan’s H3 rocket also failed on its maiden launch.

Launches by Company/Agency
Through May 13, 2023

SpaceX (USA)311321,0530
CASC* (China)14014350
Roscosmos (Russia)40440
Rocket Lab (USA)40490
ISRO (India)303410
RVSN RF+ (Russia)20220
Arianespace (Europe)10110
Galactic Energy (China)10150
ExPace (China)10140
i-space (China)10000
MHI^ (Japan)10110
Israel Ministry of Defence10110
Space Pioneer (China)10110
Virgin Orbit (USA)01109
ABL Space Systems (USA)01102
JAXA (Japan)01101
Relativity Space (USA)01100
* China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation
^ Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
+ Russian Strategic Rocket Forces

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets have carried 1,053 of the 1,163 satellites placed into space in the first four months of 2023.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is at the top of the launcher table by a wide margin with 29 flights. China’s Long March 2C & 2D variants have launched six times.

Launches by Booster
Through May 13, 2023

Launch VehicleCompany/AgencySuccessesFailuresTotal
Falcon 9SpaceX29029
Long March 2C, 2DCASC*606
ElectronRocket Lab404
Soyuz-2.1aRoscosmos, RVSN RF303
Falcon HeavySpaceX202
Long March 3B/ECASC*202
Long March 4CCASC*202
Ariane 5Arianespace101
Ceres-1Galactic Energy101
Hyperbola 1i-space101
Kuaizhou 1AExPace101
Long March 4BCASC*101
Long March 7, 7ACASC*202
Long March 11CASC*101
Shavit 2Israel Defense Forces101
Soyuz-2.1vRVSN RF101
Tianlong-2Space Pioneer101
LauncherOneVirgin Orbit011
RS1ABL Space Systems011
Terran 1Relativity Space011
* China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation
~ Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
+ Indian Space Research Organisation
^ Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

Launches by Spaceport

Florida has been the scene of 23 launches, with 18 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and five from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Vandenberg Space Force Base in California is in second place among American spaceports with nine launches.

Launches by Spaceport
Through May 13, 2023

Cape CanaveralUSA17118
Mid-Atlantic Regional SpaceportUSA202
Pacific Spaceport Complex – AlaskaUSA011
Satish DhawanIndia303
Mahia PeninsulaNew Zealand202
Europe’s SpaceportFrench Guiana101

American companies have launched from six spaceports in the United States as well as Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand and the Cornwall Newquay Airport in the United Kingdom.

The Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center leads all Chinese spaceports with 10 launches. The nation’s other three launch sites have hosted a total of seven launches.

Russia has launched four times from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and twice from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. The first launch from Vostochny in Russia’s far east is scheduled for May 26.

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