Constellations, Launch, New Space and more…

Ax-2 Crew Arrives at ISS, China Prepares to Send Taikonauts to Station

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
May 23, 2023
Filed under , , , ,
Ax-2 Crew Arrives at ISS, China Prepares to Send Taikonauts to Station
Crew Dragon Freedom arrives at the International Space Station with the Ax-2 crew on May 22, 2023.
Image credit: NASA.

In this week’s Launch Roundup, the SpaceX Crew Dragon Freedom spacecraft docked at the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday (May 22), bringing four astronauts on Axiom Space’s second private mission to the orbiting facility. Former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson commands the eight-day Ax-2 mission, which was launched by a Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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. Barnawi is the first female Saudi citizen to venture into space.

Ax-2 crew members Rayyanah Barnawi, Peggy Whitson, John Shoffner and Ali Alqarni prior to launch.
Ax-2 crew members Rayyanah Barnawi, Peggy Whitson, John Shoffner, and Ali Alqarni prior to launch. Image credit: Axiom Space.

The Ax-2 crew will perform scientific research and conduct educational outreach during the mission.

ISS will receive another visitor later this week. Roscosmos will launch the Progress MS-23 cargo ship to ISS on May 24. The launch will be conducted aboard a Soyuz-2.1a rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

China is expected to launch a three-member crew to the Tiangong space station at the end of the 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 24Falcon 9 – SpaceXBADR-8 – ArabsatCommunicationsCape Canaveral
May 24Nuri – KARI~8 Rideshare – MultipleMultipleNaro
May 24Soyuz-2.1a – RoscosmosProgress MS-23 (84P) – RoscosmosSpace station resupplyBaikonur
May 25Electron – Rocket Lab2 TROPICS* – NASAEarth observationMahia
May 26Soyuz-2.1a – RoscosmosKondor-FKA No. 1 – RoscosmosReconnaissanceVostochny
May 29GSLV Mk II – ISRO+NVS-01 – ISRO+NavigationSatish Dhawan
May 30Falcon 9 – SpaceX21 Stalink – SpaceXCommunicationsCape Canaveral
TBALong March 2F/G – CASCShenzhou 16 – CMSA++Station crewJiuquan
~ Korea Aerospace Research Institute
* Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats
+ Indian Space Research Organisation
++ China Manned Space Agency

Other Upcoming Launches

In addition to launching the Ax-2 mission, SpaceX has two additional Falcon 9 flights scheduled for later this month. Payloads will include 21 Starlink V2 Mini satellites for SpaceX’s broadband constellation and BADR-8 geostationary communications satellite for Arabsat.

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 on May 25. The spacecraft will be launched aboard an Electron rocket from Mahia Peninsula in 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 on May 24. Satellites include:

  • NEXTSat-2 – Technology demonstration, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.
  • JLC-101-v1-2 – Earth observation, Justek.
  • KSAT3U – Earth meteorology, Kairo Space.
  • Lumir-T1 – Space radiation monitoring, Lumir.
  • 4 SNIPE – Space weather, Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute.

It will be the third launch for South Korea’s first domestically developed booster. The rocket failed during its maiden flight in 2021, but succeeded last year.

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.

India will launch the NVS-01 spacecraft for its regional satellite navigation system on May 29.

Recent Launches

In addition to the Ax-2 mission, SpaceX launched 21 Starlink broadband satellites, 16 OneWeb spacecraft, and five Iridium NEXT communications satellites over the past week.

Recent Launches

DateLauncher – OrganizationPayload – OrganizationPurposeLaunch Site
May 17Long March 3B/E – CASCBeidou-3 G4 – CNSA^NavigationXichang
May 19Falcon 9 – SpaceX21 Starlink – SpaceXCommunicationsCape Canaveral
May 20Falcon 9 – SpaceX15 OneWeb – OneWebCommunicationsVandenberg
1 OneWeb Gen2 – OneWebCommunications – tech demo
5 Iridium NEXT – IridiumCommunications
May 21Long March 2C – CASCMacau Science Satellite-1A – MUST*Space weatherJiuquan
Macau Science Satellite-1A – MUST*Space weather
Luojia-2 – Wuhan UniversityTech demo
May 21Falcon 9 – SpaceXAx-2 – SpaceX/Axiom SpacePrivate space station crew (4)Kennedy
^China National Space Administration
* Macau University of Science and Technology

China launched the Beidou-3 G4 satellite for its global navigation constellation on May 17. China also launched a pair of space weather satellites and one technology demonstration spacecraft four days later.

Launches by Nation

The United States continues to lead the world by a wide margin with 42 launches, including 38 successes and four failures. SpaceX leads all providers with a record of 34 successes and one failure.

Rocket Lab has launched four times. The company aims to complete 15 launches this year, up from nine in 2022.

Orbital Launches by Nation
Through May 20, 2023

United States3844256

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.

China is in second place overall with 20 launches. CASC’s Long March family of boosters has flown 16 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.

Launches by Company/Agency
Through May 20, 2023

SpaceX (USA)341351,1030
CASC* (China)16016490
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 1,103 of the 1,211 satellites placed into space during the first five months of 2023.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is at the top of the launcher table by a wide margin with 32 flights. China’s Long March 2C & 2D variants have launched seven times.

Launches by Booster
Through May 20, 2023

Launch VehicleCompany/AgencySuccessesFailuresTotal
Falcon 9SpaceX32032
Long March 2C, 2DCASC*707
ElectronRocket Lab404
Soyuz-2.1aRoscosmos, RVSN RF303
Long March 3B/ECASC*303
Falcon Heavy SpaceX202
Long March 4CCASC*202
Long March 7, 7ACASC*202
Ariane 5Arianespace101
Ceres-1Galactic Energy101
Hyperbola 1i-space101
Kuaizhou 1AExPace101
Long March 4BCASC*101
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 25 launches, with 19 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and six from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Vandenberg Space Force Base in California is in second place among American spaceports with 10 launches.

Launches by Spaceport
Through May 20, 2023

Cape CanaveralUSA18119
Mid-Atlantic Regional SpaceportUSA202
Pacific Spaceport Complex – AlaskaUSA011
Satish DhawanIndia303
Mahia PeninsulaNew Zealand202
Europe’s SpaceportFrench Guiana101

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport has hosted two launches. SpaceX’s Starbase and the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska have each hosted a single launch.

The Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center leads all Chinese spaceports with 11 launches. The nation’s other three launch sites have hosted a total of nine launches.

Russia has launched four times from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and twice from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

Leave a Reply