Welcome to this week’s Launch Roundup! SpaceX is gearing up to launch the largest geosynchronous communications satellite in history, Northrop Grumman’s Antares (version 2) rocket is set to roar off into the sunset, and India will conduct a commercial mission. Plus, all the launch activity from the past week and global stats for the year.
SpaceX will lease Space Launch Complex 6 (SLC-6) at the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rocket flights, the U.S. Space Force announced. It will be the fifth launch pad operated by the company.
Powered by 33 flights of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster, the United States leads all nations with 48 launch attempts through the first seven months of the year. The total is three short of the number of U.S. launches attempted last year, and far ahead of the 27 launches conducted by second place China through the end of July. The U.S. has conducted more launches than the 43 flights conducted by the rest of the world combined.
A number of notable flights were conducted. SpaceX launched two Crew Dragons to the International Space Station (ISS), including the first fully privately funded mission to the orbiting laboratory. United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched Boeing’s CST-100 Starship crew vehicle on an automated flight test to ISS, a crucial step before astronauts to fly on the spacecraft. Small satellite launch provider Rocket Lab conducted its first deep-space mission by sending a spacecraft the size of a microwave to the moon.
WASHINGTON (NASA HQ PR) — NASA has awarded a NASA Launch Services (NLS) II contract to Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) in Hawthorne, California, to provide launch service for the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope mission. The Roman Space Telescope is the top-priority large space mission recommended by the 2010 Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey.
For decades, the suborbital launch sector was largely a backwater. Militaries tested ballistic missiles, scientists conducted experiments, and engineers tested new technologies. A sounding rocket is small potatoes compared with orbital rocket launches and the glamor of human spaceflight. Few people paid much attention.
All that has changed in recent years as Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin and their billionaire owners — Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos — started launching themselves and others on suborbital joyrides. Startups have been conducting suborbital flight tests of new orbital launch vehicles designed to serve the booming smalls satellite market. Suborbital has become a much more interesting sector.
This year has been no exception. The first half of 2022 saw Blue Origin send 12 people into space on two New Shepard flights, a Chinese company conduct six launches in a program to develop aa suborbital spaceplane and hypersonic transport, South Korea and Iran perform flight tests of three different smallsat launchers, Germany test technologies for reusable rockets, and first-ever commercial launch from Australia. And, a great deal of science was done.
SpaceX completed a hat trick over the weekend with three satellite launches from different coasts in 36 hours.
Elon Musk’s company wrapped up a busy weekend when a Falcon 9 booster launched the Globalstar FM15 communications satellite from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The rocket lifted off at 12:27 a.m. EDT.