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Launch Roundup – SpaceX Launches Euclid, Ariane 5 Bows Out

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
July 5, 2023
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Launch Roundup – SpaceX Launches Euclid, Ariane 5 Bows Out
A Falcon 9 launches Europe’s Euclid space telescope on July 1, 2023.

In this week’s Launch Roundup, SpaceX kicked off July by sending the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Euclid space telescope into space on Saturday, July 1. Arianespace’s Ariane 5 rocket is set to fly for for the final time later today, July 5. The two launches illustrated the problem Europe is having with launching spacecraft this year.

On 5 July 2023 editor Keith Cowing spoke with Deutsche Welle TV about the last flight of the Ariane 5 launch vehicle and its successor, the Ariane 6. [audio]

Euclid is a visible-to-near-infrared telescope designed to study dark energy and dark matter from its location at the Sun-Earth Lagrange 2 point. The space telescope will observe billions of galaxies, allowing astronomers to create the largest, most accurate 3D map of the Universe to date. The map is expected to reveal how matter is distributed, and how the expansion of the Universe has evolved over cosmic history. Astronomers will use the map to infer the properties of dark energy and dark matter.

ESA's Euclid telescope
Euclid Space Telescope. Image credit: By ESA, CC BY-SA IGO 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 igo.

“The successful launch of Euclid marks the beginning of a new scientific endeavor to help us answer one of the most compelling questions of modern science,” ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher said in a press release. “Euclid has been made possible by ESA’s leadership, the effort and expertise of hundreds of European industrial and scientific institutions, and through collaboration with international partners. The quest to answer fundamental questions about our cosmos is what makes us human. And, often, it is what drives the progress of science and the development of powerful, far-reaching, new technologies. ESA is committed to expanding Europe’s ambitions and successes in space for future generations.”

Recent Launches

DateLauncher – OrganizationPayloads – OrganizationPurpose(s)Launch Site
June 29SpaceShipTwo – Virgin Galactic3 researchers – Italian Air Force, Italian National Research CouncilResearchSpaceport America
July 1Falcon 9 – SpaceXEuclid – European Space AgencySpace telescopeCape Canaveral
Source: Wikipedia

In other launch news, Virgin Galactic completed its first commercial mission with paying customers on June 29. VSS Unity flew three Italian researchers on a suborbital flight that originated from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

Ariane 6 launch with solid-fuel booster separation
Artist’s impression of Ariane 6 rocket in flight. Image credit: Arianespace

Europe’s Launch Woes

ESA originally intended to launch Euclid on a Russian Soyuz ST-B rocket. However, Arianespace and ESA suspended cooperation on commercial Soyuz launches after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

ESA went to SpaceX after delays with the new Ariane 6 rocket ruled out launching Euclid on that booster. Ariane 6’s maiden launch has been pushed back to the end of this year, or early 2024, due to a series of technical challenges.

The delays come as Europe’s main launcher bows out. The 117th and final Ariane 5 rocket is scheduled to launch geosynchronous communications satellites for the German Aerospace Center and France’s Directorate General of Armament on July 5. A planned launch on July 4 was delayed due to weather.

Ariane 5’s launch window is from 6:00-7:05 PM EDT (22:00-23:05 UTC). ESA will webcast the launch on its YouTube channel.

Ariane 5 has a record of 11 successes, two failures, and three partial failures since its first flight in June 2006. 

Vega C rocket launch
Vega C launch. Image credit: Arianespace.

The Vega-C rocket is still grounded after suffering a failure of its Zefiro 40 motor during a launch in December 2023. On August 29, the rocket’s manufacturer, Avio, announced that the booster’s return to flight would be further delayed due to an anomaly experienced during the test firing of a Zefiro 40 motor last week.

Avio said that its plans to launch the smaller Vega rocket in September remain on track because the booster does not use the Zefiro 40 motor.

ISRO's Chandrayaan-3 moon lander
ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 moon lander. Image credit: ISRO.

Upcoming Launches

India is scheduled to launch its Chandrayaan-3 mission to the moon on July 12. The lander will carry instruments to study the lunar environment and deploy a small rover.

The lander is a replacement for Chandrayaan-2, which crashed into the lunar surface in September 2019 while attempting to land. The new mission lacks its predecessor’s orbiter, which continues to return data about the Moon.

India will launch an Earth observation satellite for the Defence Science and Technology Agency on July 23. The launch will carry an unidentified secondary payload from OrbAstro.

Upcoming Launches

DateLauncher – OrganizationPayloads – OrganizationPurpose(s)Launch Site
July 5Ariane 5 -ArianespaceHeinrich Hertz – DLR+CommunicationsKourou
Syracuse 4B – DGA^Communications
July 6 Ceres-1TBATBAJiuquan
July 7Falcon 9 – SpaceXStarlink – SpaceXCommunicationsVandenberg
July 9Falcon 9 – SpaceXStarlink – SpaceXCommunicationsCape Canaveral
July 12Zhuque-2 – LandSpaceTBAFlight testJiuquan
July 13Falcon 9 – SpaceX Starlink – SpaceX CommunicationsCape Canaveral
July 13LVM-III – ISROChandrayaan-3Lunar landerLunar lander
July 14Electron – Rocket LabTelesat LEO 3 – TelesatTech demoMahia
2 Lemur-2 – Spire Global Earth observation
4 Starling – NASATech demo
July 22Falcon 9 – SpaceXStarlink – SpaceXCommunicationsCape Canaveral
July 23PSLV – ISRODS-SAR – DSTA*Earth observationSatish Dhawan
TBA – OrbAstroTech demo
July 24Falcon Heavy – SpaceXJupiter 3 – EchoStarCommunicationsKennedy
+ German Aerospace Center
^ Directorate General of Armament
* Defence Science and Technology Agency
Source: Wikipedia

Rocket Lab is set to conduct its sixth orbital launch of the year from the Mahia Peninsula on July 14. The Electron booster will carry four Starling satellites for NASA, a pair of Lemur-2 spacecraft for Spire Global, and Telesat’s LEO 3 satellite.

NASA’s Starling mission is designed to test how small swarms of satellites can work together in a synchronized manner without resources from the ground. The spacecraft will test maneuvering, communications, navigation, and autonomous coordination.

LandSpace of China will make another attempt to launch its methane-fueled Zhuque-2 rocket in early July. The rocket failed on its maiden launch in December 2022 after the second stage vernier engines shut down prematurely.

Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle lifts off from New Zealand
An Electron launches two BlackSky satellites from New Zealand on March 24, 2023. Image credit: Rocket Lab.

Launches by Nation

There have been 98 orbital launch attempts so far this year. The United States continues to lead the world by a wide margin with 54 launches, including 50 successes and four failures. China is in second place overall with 25 launches.

Orbital Launches by Nation

United States5045454.5%
South Korea1011.0%
North Korea0111.0%

Russia has launched nine times, India four times, and Japan twice. Europe, Israel, South Korea, and North Korea have conducted one flight each.

Six launches have failed this year. The four American failures 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 and North Korea’s Chollima-1 boosters failed on their maiden launches.

Falcon 9 Transporter-7 rideshare mission lifts off
Falcon 9 lifts off on the Transporter-7 mission on April 15, 2023. Image credit: SpaceX.

Launches by Company/Agency

SpaceX has launched 45 times, far ahead of the 19 flights by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). Elon Musk has set the goal for SpaceX to launch 100 times this year. The company launched 61 times in 2022.

Launches by Company/Agency

SpaceX (USA)441451,4161
CASC* (China)19019830
Roscosmos (Russia)707490
Rocket Lab (USA)505110
ISRO (India)404420
Strategic Rocket Forces (Russia)20220
Arianespace (Europe)10120
CAS Space101260
Galactic Energy (China)10150
ExPace (China)20250
i-space (China)10000
KARI (South Korea)10071
MHI^ (Japan)10110
Ministry of Defence (Israel)10110
Space Pioneer (China)10110
United Launch Alliance (USA)10110
Virgin Orbit++ (USA)01109
ABL Space Systems (USA)01102
JAXA (Japan)01101
NADA** (North Korea)01101
Relativity Space (USA)01100
* China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation
~ Korea Aerospace Research Institute
^ Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
++ Company defunct
** National Aerospace Development Administration

SpaceX’s 44 successful flights have placed 1,416 of 1,647 payloads launched into orbit this year. CASC is in second place with 83 satellites.

Roscosmos has launched seven times. Rocket Lab has conducted five orbital launches and one suborbital launch. The company aims to complete 15 launches this year, up from nine in 2022.

Ariane 5 launches JUICE mission to Jupiter.
An Ariane 5 booster launches ESA’s JUICE orbiter to explore Jupiter’s three ice-covered moons. Image credit: Arianespace.

Launches by Booster

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket remains the most-flown booster in the world with 42 flights. The company has conducted two successful Falcon Heavy launches and one Starship/Super Heavy flight that failed.

China has launched its Long March 2C and Long March 2D rockets eight times. There have also been five launches of Russia’s Soyuz-2.1a and Soyuz-2.1b rockets.

Launches by Booster

Launch VehicleCompany/AgencySuccessesFailuresTotal
Falcon 9SpaceX42042
Long March 2C, 2DChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.808
ElectronRocket Lab505
Soyuz-2.1a, 2.1bRoscosmos, Russia Strategic Rocket Forces505
Long March 3B/EChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.303
Falcon Heavy SpaceX202
Kuaizhou 1AExPace202
Long March 4CChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.202
Long March 7, 7AChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.202
Ariane 5Arianespace101
Ceres-1Galactic Energy101
Delta IV HeavyUnited Launch Alliance101
H-IIAMitsubishi Heavy Industries101
Hyperbola 1i-space101
Long March 2FChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.101
Long March 4BChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.101
Long March 6China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.101
Long March 11China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.101
LVM IIIIndian Space Research Organisation101
NuriKorea Aerospace Research Institute101
PSLVIndian Space Research Organisation101
Shavit 2Israel Defense Forces101
SSLVIndian Space Research Organisation101
Soyuz-2.1vRussia Strategic Rocket Forces101
Tianlong-2^Space Pioneer101
Chollima-1^National Aerospace Development Administration011
H3^Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency011
LauncherOne*Virgin Orbit+011
RS1^ABL Space Systems011
Starship/Super Heavy^SpaceX011
Terran 1*^Relativity Space011
* Launch vehicle retired
^ Maiden flight
+ Company defunct

There are 21 launch vehicles on the list that have flown only once this year. Six of the boosters – Chollima-1, H3, RS1, Starship/Super Heavy, Terran 1, and Tianlong-2 – were launched for the first time. Only Tianlong-2 placed a satellite in orbit; the other five launchers failed.

SpaceX's Starship is tested on the launch pad at Starbase in Texas.
Starship and Super Heavy fueled for the first time. Image credit: SpaceX.

Launches by Spaceport

Florida remains the busiest launch site in the world, with a combined 33 launches originating from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Vandenberg Space Force Base is in second place among American spaceports with 13 launches.

Rocket Lab has launched twice from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia and three times from its spaceport on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.

Launches by Spaceport

Cape CanaveralUSA25126
Mid-Atlantic Regional SpaceportUSA202
Pacific Spaceport Complex – AlaskaUSA011
Europe’s SpaceportFrench Guiana101
Satish DhawanIndia404
Mahia PeninsulaNew Zealand303
NaroSouth Korea101
SohaeNorth Korea011

SpaceX’s Starbase and the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska have each hosted a single launch. The Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center leads all Chinese spaceports with 14 launches. The nation’s other three launch sites have hosted a total of 11 launches. Russia has launched five times from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and two times each from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome and the Vostochny Cosmodrome. India’s Satish Dhawan Launch Centre has hosted four flights this year.

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