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Launch Roundup – New Space Station Crew Prepares for Flight

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
August 22, 2023
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Launch Roundup – New Space Station Crew Prepares for Flight
Crew-7 astronauts Konstantin Borisov, Andreas Mogensen, Jasmin Moghbeli and Satoshi Furukawa.
Image credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

Welcome to the Launch Roundup! In this week’s edition, crew and cargo ships are heading for the International Space Station, a Japanese spacecraft will be launched to the moon, and SpaceX reached one milestone in deploying its Starlink constellation and should reach another one later today (August 22). But, first some Flight Bytes about Virgin Galactic’s next launch, skepticism about Spaceport America, India’s new spaceport, and Rocket Lab’s latest contract.

Flight Bytes

  • A Las Vegas real estate mogul named Ken Baxter says he will be flying on Virgin Galactic’s next SpaceShipTwo flight on September 7. Baxter has a countdown clock running on his website, which says he was the first person to buy a ticket from Richard Branson’s space company back in 2004. Virgin Galactic has yet to officially announce the flight.
  • New Mexico residents are questioning the value of the more than $220 million that taxpayers spent to build Spaceport America, even as anchor tenant Virgin Galactic begins monthly commercial flights from the facility.
  • India’s government has approved the construction of a new spaceport for launching Small Satellite Launching Vehicles in Kulasekarapattinam, located in the state of Tamil Nadu.
  • Rocket Lab will launch iQPS’s QPS-SAR-5 Earth observation satellite on a dedicated Electron mission from New Zealand. The satellite was previously scheduled to be launched by Virgin Orbit, which went out of business in May.
Crew Dragon Freedom arrives at the International Space Station with the Ax-2 crew on May 22, 2023.
Crew Dragon Freedom arrives at the International Space Station with the Ax-2 crew on May 22, 2023. Image credit: NASA.

Upcoming Launches

SpaceX is scheduled to launch its seventh operational mission to the International Space Station on August 25 with astronauts from four different nations aboard. Crew-7 includes NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, Russian cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Andreas Mogensen of Denmark, and Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa.

The Crew-7 launch is scheduled for 3:49 AM EDT (07:49 UTC). NASA will begin its launch coverage at 11:45 PM EDT on August 24.

JAXA's SLIM lander descending to the lunar surface
SLIM lander descends to the lunar surface. Image credit: JAXA.

Japan is set to become the third nation to launch a lunar lander this year, with a scheduled launch on August 26. The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) is a technology demonstrator designed to test the ability to perform pin-point landings while detecting and avoiding obstacles on the lunar surface.

SLIM will use technology adapted from facial recognition systems to identify lunar craters, and utilize images collected by the SELENE (Kaguya) orbiter to determine its position. The goal is for SLIM to land with an accuracy of 100 meters (328 feet).

Upcoming Launches

DateLauncher – OrganizationPayloads – OrganizationPurpose(s)Launch Site
Aug. 23Falcon 9 – SpaceX22 Starlink – SpaceXCommunicationsCape Canaveral
Aug. 23Soyuz-2.1a – RoscosmosProgress MS-24 – Roscosmos ISS resupplyBaikonur
Aug. 23/24Electron – Rocket LabAcadia 1 – Capella SpaceEarth observationMahia
Aug. 24-31Chollima-1 – NADA*TBATBASohae
Aug. 25Falcon 9 – SpaceXCrew Dragon – SpaceXISS crewKennedy
Aug. 25Ceres-1 – Galactic Energy4 Qinling Xiaoweixing – X’ian Aviation InvestmentEarth observationJiuquan
Aug. 26H-IIA — MHI+XRISM – JAXA/NASAX-ray astronomyTanegashima
SLIM – JAXALunar lander
LEV-1 – JAXALunar hopper
LEV-2 – JAXA, Tomy, Doshishma UniversityLunar rover
Aug. 29Atlas V – ULASilent Barker — NRO^Space domain awarenessCape Canaveral
Aug. 30Falcon 9 – SpaceX11 Transport Layer Tranche 0 – SDA**Military communicationsVandenberg
2 Tracking Layer Tranche 0 – SDA**Missile tracking
* National Aerospace Development Administration (North Korea)
+ Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
^ National Reconnaissance Office
** Space Development Agency
Source: Wikipedia

If successful, SLIM will be the first Japanese spacecraft to land on the Moon. The country previously attempted to do so with the Hakuto-R lander, launched by the private Japanese company ispace, which crashed on the Moon during descent on April 25, 2023.

SLIM will deploy the Lunar Excursion Vehicle 1 (LEV-1), which is a 2.1 kg (4.6 pound) lunar hopper measuring 26 x 40 x 30 cm (10.2 x 15.7 x 11.8 in) that will transmit data directly to Earth as it moves across the surface.

How the LEV-2 rover will move across the lunar surface. Image credit: JAXA/Tomy Company/Sony/Doshisha University.

SLIM is also carrying the Lunar Excursion Vehicle 2 (LEV-2), a tiny ball-shaped rover with a diameter of 8 cm (3.1 in) and a mass of 250 g (8.8 ounces). LEV-2 is equipped with two cameras and will change its shape in order to move across the surface. The rover was designed by JAXA in cooperation with the Tomy Company, Sony Group Corporation and Doshisha University.

Rocket Lab is set to launch Capella Space’s Acadia 1 Earth observation satellite from New Zealand. The launch window opens at:

  • 7:30 PM EDT on August 23
  • 23:30 UTC on August 23
  • 11:30 AM NZST on August 24.

Recent Launches

The world’s two leading launch companies – SpaceX and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation – conducted a combined three flights over the past week.

Recent Launches

DateLauncher – OrganizationPayloads – OrganizationPurpose(s)Launch Site
Aug. 16Falcon 9 – SpaceX22 Starlink – SpaceXCommunicationsCape Canaveral
Aug. 20Long March 4C – CASC*Gaofen 12-04 – CNSA+Earth observationJiuquan
Aug. 22Falcon 9 – SpaceX21 Starlink – SpaceXCommunicationsVandenberg
* China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation
+ China National Space Administration
Source: Wikipedia

SpaceX conducted its 100th Falcon 9 launch, primarily dedicated to deploying Starlink satellites, on August 22. The Elon Musk-led company is nearing its 5,000th Starlink satellite since the first deployment in February 2018. The next launch of 22 Starlink satellites is scheduled for tonight (August 22) at 8:47 PM EDT (00:47 UTC on August 23).

Starlink Launches

+ Does not include two secondary payloads for other companies.
^ Includes 100 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 Nation

Launches by nation through August 22, 2023
Image credit: Parabolic Arc.

The United States leads the world with 69 launches, 65 of which have been successful. US launch providers have attempted more than half of the 130 launches conducted this year.

Chinese companies have launched 37 times without fail. Russia, which long led the world in this category, has conducted only 11 launches this year.

Electron launches from New Zealand on July 17, 2023.
Electron launches from New Zealand on July 17, 2023. Image credit: Rocket Lab.

Launches by Company/Agency

SpaceX continues to lead the world with 57 launches that carried 1,710 payloads into orbit. The company is closing in on its own record of 61 launches set last year. That total tied a record set by the Soviet Union in 1980.

Launches by Company/Agency

SpaceX (USA)561571,69812*
China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)26026980
Roscosmos (Russia)707490
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)606500
Rocket Lab (USA)606180
ExPace (China)404140
Galactic Energy (China)303140
Strategic Rocket Forces (Russia)30330
Arianespace (Europe)20230
CAS Space (China)101260
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

Launches by Booster

SpaceX leads the world with 54 Falcon 9 launches. The company also launched three Falcon Heavy rockets and one Starship/Super Heavy booster.

China’s Long March 2C and Long March 2D rockets have launched a combined 12 times. Russia’s Soyuz-2.1a and Soyuz-2.1b boosters have been launched eight times, followed by the six flights of Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket.

Launches by Booster

Launch VehicleCompany/AgencySuccessesFailuresTotal
Falcon 9SpaceX54054
Long March 2C, 2DChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.12012
Soyuz-2.1a, 2.1bRoscosmos, Russia Strategic Rocket Forces808
ElectronRocket Lab606
Long March 3B/EChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.404
Kuaizhou 1AExPace404
Long March 4CChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.404
Falcon HeavySpaceX303
Ceres-1Galactic Energy303
Long March 7, 7AChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.202
Ariane 5Arianespace202
LVM IIIIndian Space Research Organisation202
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 43 launches from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Vandenberg Space Force Base in California has hosted 16 launches.

Launches by Spaceport

Launch SitesSuccessesFailuresTotal
Cape Canaveral34135
Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport303
Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska011
Satish Dhawan606
Guiana Space Centre (French Guiana)202
Baikonur* (Kazakhstan)505
Mahia+ (New Zealand)404
Naro (South Korea)101
Palmchim (Israel)101
Cornwall^ (UK)011
Sohae (North Korea)011
* Spaceport leased to Russia
+ Rocket Lab Electron launches
^ Virgin Orbit launch

The Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center leads all Chinese spaceports with 21 launches. The nation’s other three spaceports have 16 launches combined among them.

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