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Launch Roundup – Russia’s Luna 25 Moon Mission is Country’s First Since 1970s

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
August 8, 2023
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Launch Roundup – Russia’s Luna 25 Moon Mission is Country’s First Since 1970s
Luna 25 spacecraft. Image credit: Roscosmos.
Image credit: Roscosmos.

Welcome to this week’s Launch Roundup! We were on vacation last week, so we’ve got some catching up to do. On August 10, Russia will launch its first spacecraft to land on the Moon since the Soviet Union did so 47 years ago. Last week, Northrop Grumman launched the second version of the Antares rocket for the final time and announced a slip in the maiden flight of its replacement.

Upcoming Launches

Luna 25 (Luna-Glob) is Russia’s first-ever mission to the Moon, not counting Soviet missions that it led. The spacecraft is set to land near the Moon’s south pole at the Boguslavsky crater later this month. The lander has eight scientific instruments and a robotic arm that will retrieve soil samples for analysis.

Luna 25 is named after an ambitious series of lunar missions conducted by the Soviet Union during the 1960s and 1970s. The final mission was Luna 24, which returned 170.1 grams (6 ounces) of lunar soil to Earth in August 1976.

Upcoming Launches

DateLauncher – OrganizationPayloads – OrganizationPurpose(s)Launch Site
Aug. 8Long March 2C – CASC*TBATBATaiyuan
Aug. 10Ceres-1 – Galactic EnergyMN 30-3 – Beijing Minospace TechnologiesTBAJiuquan
MN 100-2 – Beijing Minospace TechnologiesTBA
Aug. 10Soyuz-2.1b – RoscosmosLuna 25 – IKI RAN+Lunar landerVostochny
Aug. 10Falcon 9 – SpaceX22 Starlink – SpaceXCommunicationsCape Canaveral
Aug. 11Long March 3B – CASC*Ludi Tance-4 01A – Ministry of Natural ResourcesEarth observationXichang
Aug. 14Falcon 9 – SpaceXStarlink – SpaceXCommunicationsCape Canaveral
TBAElectron – Rocket LabAcadia 1 – Capella SpaceEarth observationMahia
* China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation
+ Russian Space Research Institute

China has three launches scheduled this week as the country aims for at least 60 launches this year. It has launched 32 times to date.

Northrop Grumman's Antares rocket launches a Cygnus resupply ship to the International Space Station on August 1, 2023. Credit: Northrop Grumman)
Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket launched the S.S. Laurel Clark Cygnus spacecraft on August 1 from Wallops Island, Virginia for cargo delivery to crew aboard the International Space Station. Image credit: Northrop Grumman.

Recent Launches

SpaceX’s third Falcon Heavy launch of the year carried EchoStar’s Jupiter-3 communications satellite into orbit on July 29. Jupiter-3, which weighs in at more than 9,000 kg (19842 lb), is the largest comsat ever placed into geosynchronous orbit.

Northrop Grumman launched the S.S. Laurel Clark Cygnus resupply ship to the International Space Station on August 1. It was the 19th Cygnus mission since the first cargo ship reached the station half a decade ago in September 2018.

It was the final launch of the current version of the Antares rocket, which featured a Ukrainian first stage powered by two Russian RD-181 engines. The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 cut off Northrop Grumman’s supply of first stages. Russia stopped shipping the RD-181 engines to Northrop Grumman after the U.S. imposed sanctions over the invasion.

When it first flew in April 2013, Antares featured a Ukrainian first stage powered by repurposed NK-33 engines left over from the Soviet Union’s manned lunar program. Aerojet Rocketdyne imported the engines and renamed them the AJ-26.

Recent Launches

DateLauncher – OrganizationPayloads – OrganizationPurpose(s)Launch Site
July 26Long March 2D – CASCYaogan 36-05AReconnaissanceXichang
Yaogan 36-05BReconnaissance
Yaogan 36-05CReconnaissance
July 28Falcon 922 Starlink – SpaceXCommunicationsCape Canaveral
July 29Falcon HeavyJupiter-3 (EchoStar-24) – EchoStarCommunicationsKennedy
July 30PSLV – ISRODS-SAR – DSTA*Earth observationSatish Dhawan
ARCADE – NTU+Ionospheric research
Galassia-2 – NUS^Tech demo
NuLIon – NuSpaceInternet of Things
ORB-12 STRIDER – OrbAstroTech demo
SCOOB-II – NTU+Tech demo
Velox-AM – NTU+Tech demo
Aug. 1Antares – Northrop GrummanCygnus NG-19 – Northrup GrummanISS ResupplyMARS~
DUPLEX – CU AerospaceTech demo
SeaLion (VSCP-1A) – ODU**/USCGA++Communications
Ut ProSat-1 (VSCP-1B) – Virginia TechCommunications
Aug. 3Long March 4C – CASCFengyun 3F – CMA^^MeteorologyJiuquan
Aug. 6Falcon 9 – SpaceX22 Starlink – SpaceXCommunicationsCape Canaveral
Aug. 7Soyuz-2.1b – RVSN RF***GLONASS-K2 13L – VKS+++NavigationPlesetsk
Aug. 7Falcon 9 – SpaceX15 Starlink – SpaceXCommunicationsVandenberg
* Defence Science and Technology Agency (Singapore)
+ Nanyang Technological University (Singapore)
^ National University of Singapore
~ Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport
** Old Dominion University
++ U.S. Coast Guard Academy
^^ China Meteorological Administration
*** Strategic Rocket Forces of the Russian Federation
+++ Russian Aerospace Forces

Source: Wikipedia

The engines were seen as a temporary solution due to their limited number and advanced age. Engineers were already seeking a replacement engine when an AJ-26 exploded shortly after Antares lifted off on October 28, 2014. The spectacular nighttime explosion grounded the rocket and sped up the replacement effort.

Northrop Grumman has contracted with Firefly Aerospace to supply a new first stage powered by seven Miranda engines. Prior to last week’s launch, Northrop Grumman officials announced that the maiden flight has slipped from an expected 2024 launch date to one in 2025. In the meantime, SpaceX will launch Cygnus cargo ships to the space station on Falcon 9 rockets.

Falcon Heavy launches in January 2023.
Falcon Heavy launches in January 2023. Image credit: SpaceX.

Launches by Nation

The United States leads the world with 66 launches, 62 of which were successful. The number represents more than half of the 121 launches conducted this year worldwide.

Launches by nation through August 7, 2023. Image credit: Parabolic Arc.

China has launched 32 times without fail. Russia, which long led the world in launches, hit double digits when it launched for the 10th time on August 7.

Launches by Company/Agency

SpaceX continues to lead the world with 55 launches that carried 1,645 payloads into orbit.

Launches by Company/Agency

SpaceX (USA)541551,63312*
China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation23023950
Roscosmos (Russia)707490
Indian Space Research Organisation606500
Rocket Lab (USA)606180
Strategic Rocket Forces (Russia)30330
Arianespace (Europe)20230
ExPace (China)30390
CAS Space (China)101260
Galactic Energy (China)20270
Korea Aerospace Research Institute (South Korea)10071^
Northrop Grumman (USA)10140
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (Japan)10110
Israel Aerospace Industries10110
Space Pioneer (China)10110
United Launch Alliance (USA)10110
i-space (China)10100
LandSpace (China)10100
Virgin Orbit+ (USA)01109
ABL Space Systems (USA)01102
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency01101
National Aerospace Development Administration (North Korea)01101
Relativity Space (USA)01100
* Space tug and deployment failures unrelated to launch vehicle
^ Deployment failure
+ Company defunct

Thirty SpaceX launches were dedicated to launching 1,252 Starlink broadband satellites and two spacecraft owned by other companies. The company has launched 4,919 Starlink satellites into orbit since February 2018.

Starlink Launches

+ Does not include two secondary payloads for other companies.
^ Includes 97 dedicated launches, two Transporter missions and the launch of two test satellites as secondary payloads.
* Does not include 16 secondary payloads from other companies.

Launches by Booster

SpaceX leads the world with 51 Falcon 9 launches. China’s Long March 2C and Long March 2D rockets have launched a combined 10 times. Russia’s Soyuz-2.1a and Soyuz-2.1b boosters have launched eight times, followed by the six flights of Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket.

Launches by Booster

Launch VehicleCompany/AgencySuccessesFailuresTotal
Falcon 9SpaceX51051
Long March 2C, 2DChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.10010
Soyuz-2.1a, 2.1bRoscosmos, Russia Strategic Rocket Forces808
ElectronRocket Lab606
Long March 3B/EChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.303
Kuaizhou 1AExPace303
Falcon Heavy SpaceX303
Long March 4CChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.303
Long March 7, 7AChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.202
Ariane 5Arianespace202
LVM IIIIndian Space Research Organisation202
Ceres-1Galactic Energy202
PSLVIndian Space Research Organisation202
AntaresNorthrop Grumman101
Delta IV HeavyUnited Launch Alliance101
GSLV Mk IIIndian Space Research Organisation101
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
NuriKorea Aerospace Research Institute101
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
^ Maiden flight
* Launch vehicle retired
+ Company defunct

Launches by Spaceport

Florida has hosted 40 launches from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and the Kennedy Space Center. Vandenberg Space Force Base in California has hosted 16 launches.

Launches by Spaceport

Cape CanaveralUSA31132
Mahia PeninsulaNew Zealand404
Mid-Atlantic Regional SpaceportUSA303
Pacific Spaceport Complex – AlaskaUSA011
Satish DhawanIndia606
Guiana Space CentreFrench Guiana202
NaroSouth Korea101
SohaeNorth Korea011

The Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center leads all Chinese spaceports with 19 launches. The nation’s other three spaceports have combined for 13 launches.

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