SpaceX Rockets U.S. Launches to New Heights in 2022

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites on June 17, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

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.

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77 Launches Conducted During First Half of 2022 as Access to Orbit Expanded

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites while the Dragon that will carry Crew-4 to the International space Station awaits its turn. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a busy first half of 2022 that saw 77 orbital launches with 74 successes and three failures through the 182nd day of the year on July 1. At a rate of one launch every 2 days 8 hours 44 minutes, the world is on track to exceed the 146 launches conducted in 2021.

A number of significant missions were launched during a period that saw more than 1,000 satellite launched. SpaceX flew the first fully commercial crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Boeing conducted an orbital flight test of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, China prepared to complete assembly of its space station, South Korea launched its first domestically manufactured rocket, and Rocket Lab sent a NASA mission to the moon.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

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Suborbital Spaceflight by the Numbers

New Shepard launches on its 21st flight of the program on June 4, 2022. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Part II of II

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The first half of 2022 was a busy period in suborbital space with 23 launches conducted that did not involve tests of ballistic missiles or defensive systems. Twelve people flew above the Karman line, new boosters and space technologies were tested, and the first commercial suborbital launch was conducted from Australia. And some science was done.

We covered the above mentioned flights in depth in a story published on Tuesday. In this piece we’ll look a broader look at who launched what, when, where, why and on what.

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Rocket Lab Secures Multi-Launch Contract with HawkEye 360, Confirms First Launch Planned from Virginia

Electron rocket lifts off on Jan. 31, 2020. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a leading launch and space systems company, today announced it has been selected by Virginia-based HawkEye 360 to launch three Electron missions for the radio frequency geospatial analytics provider. The first of the three missions is scheduled to be Rocket Lab’s inaugural Electron mission from Launch Complex 2 on Wallops Island, Virginia, ushering in an era of Rocket Lab launches from U.S. soil from no earlier than December 2022.

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Rocket Lab Breaks Ground on Neutron Production Complex in Wallops, Virginia

Neutron production facility (Credit: Rocket Lab)

The complex will be home to production, assembly, and integration of Rocket Lab’s Neutron launch vehicle and is expected to bring up to 250 highly-skilled jobs to the region.

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Rocket Lab USA, Inc (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab”), a leading launch and space systems company, today broke ground on the construction of a state-of-the-art rocket production complex where the Company’s Neutron launch vehicle will be manufactured.

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Rocket Lab Selects Virginia for Neutron Launch Site & Extensive Manufacturing Complex

Neutron production facility (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Construction to Begin on Neutron Manufacturing, Operations, and Launch Facilities in Accomack County, Bringing As Many As 250 New Jobs to Eastern Shore

Long Beach, Calif., February 28, 2022 (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab USA, Inc (Nasdaq: RKLB) (Rocket Lab), a leading launch and space systems company, today revealed it has selected Wallops Island, Virginia, as the location for its first launch site and extensive manufacturing and operations facilities, for its 8-ton payload class reusable Neutron rocket.

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Nanoracks Customer Payloads Launched on Northrop Grumman Resupply Mission to ISS

Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket liftoff from pad 0A at 12:40 p.m. EST from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, on Feb. 19, 2022. The Cygnus spacecraft, carrying 8,300 pounds of science investigations and cargo, is scheduled to arrive at the space station on Monday, Feb. 21. (Credits: NASA Wallops/Allison Stancil)

HOUSTON, February 22, 2022 (Nanoracks PR) — The past several months have been very busy here at Nanoracks, and we have continued our momentum into 2022 with another cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Northrop Grumman’s 17th (NG-17) commercial resupply mission carried five Nanoracks customer payloads on board the Cygnus spacecraft. These experiments will help improve environmental research on Earth and demonstrate technology necessary for future in-space economies. Additionally, this mission includes the first two “space trash bags” which will be used to collect waste from inside the ISS and deploy it into a reentry burn orbit on behalf of NASA.

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Virginia Governor Northam Announces Proposal for Rocket Lab USA to Expand U.S. Manufacturing and Launch Operations in Accomack County

Neutron booster (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Aerospace leader expected to make significant investment for construction of new Production, Assembly, Integration and Test facility, prepare for launch of new Neutron rocket

RICHMOND, Va. (Gov. Northam PR) — Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Accomack County is a finalist for a proposed expansion by Rocket Lab USA, Inc., a global leader in launch services and space systems, which expects to make a significant investment to expand its U.S. manufacturing and launch operations. If selected, the proposal would see Rocket Lab develop a new facility to support part production, assembly, integration and test operations to support the launch of its new Neutron rocket from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Announced by Rocket Lab in March 2021, the Neutron rocket is expected to be operational in late 2024 and is designed to deliver a 17,600 pound payload to low Earth orbit, and may ultimately support human spaceflight. 

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NASA Invites Public to Share Excitement of Northrop Grumman’s 16th Commercial Resupply Services Launch

Antares lifts off from Wallops Island with the Cygnus resupply ship on Feb. 20, 2021. (Credit: NASA Wallops/Allison Stancil)

WALLOPS, Va. (NASA PR) — NASA is inviting the public to take part in virtual activities and events ahead of the launch of Northrop Grumman’s 16th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station for NASA.

Members of the public can register to attend the launch virtually. NASA’s virtual guest program for NG CRS-16 includes curated launch resources, notifications about interaction opportunities, and a virtual guest passport stamp following a successful launch.

Northrop Grumman is targeting liftoff of its Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft for no earlier than 5:55 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 10, from Pad-0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island.

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Launch 2020: A Busy Year Filled with Firsts in the Face of COVID-19 Pandemic

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

SpaceX dominated, China surged and Russia had another clean sheet as American astronauts flew from U.S. soil again in a year of firsts.

First in a series

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a very busy launch year with a number of firsts in both human and robotic exploration. A total of 114 orbital launches were attempted, with 104 successes and 10 failures. It was the same number of launches that were conducted in 2018, with that year seeing 111 successes, two failures and one partial failure.

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How to Watch the Minotaur Launch From Wallops Island

Credit: NASA

WALLOPS, Va. (NASA PR) — Get up early June 15, grab a cup of coffee and watch the rise of Northrop Grumman’s Minotaur 1 rocket as it’s launched into space from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The rocket carrying three national security payloads for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), is scheduled for launch at 7 a.m. June 15, from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s (MARS) Pad 0B on Wallops Island. The U.S. Space Force (USSF) Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Enterprise is providing the launch services for this mission.

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Quarterly Launch Report: US in the Lead Thanks to SpaceX

A Falcon 9 lifts off with 60 Starlink satellites on March 11, 2021. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

There were 27 orbital launch attempts with 26 successes and one failure during the first quarter of 2021. The United States accounted for nearly half the total with 13 launches behind nine flights by SpaceX.

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Northrop Grumman Set to Launch 15th Cargo Delivery Mission to ISS on Saturday

The NG-15 mission’s Cygnus spacecraft will launch aboard the company’s Antares rocket with nearly 8,000 pounds of scientific research, supplies and hardware for the crew aboard the station. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

“S.S. Katherine Johnson” ready for liftoff aboard Antares rocket carrying vital supplies and equipment for the crew aboard the station

WALLOPS, Va., February 19, 2021 (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) is set to launch the company’s 15th resupply mission (NG-15) to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Service-2 contract. The NG-15 mission’s Cygnus spacecraft will launch aboard the company’s Antares rocket with nearly 8,000 pounds of scientific research, supplies and hardware for the crew aboard the station.

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Cygnus Heads to Space Station with Scientific Experiments, Radishes & a New Toilet

An Antares rocket lifts off with the Cygnus resupply ship on Oct. 2, 2020. (Credit: NASA)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — A Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station with nearly 8,000 pounds of scientific investigations, technology demonstrations, commercial products, and other cargo after launching at 9:16 p.m. EDT Friday from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.

The spacecraft launched on an Antares rocket from the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A at Wallops and is scheduled to arrive at the space station around 5:20 a.m. Monday, Oct. 5. Coverage of the spacecraft’s approach and arrival will begin at 3:45 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

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Antares Flies, Falcon 9 Stays

An Antares rocket lifts off with the Cygnus resupply ship on Oct. 2, 2020. (Credit: NASA)

Update: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted the Falcon 9 launch was aborted due to an “nexpected pressure rise in the turbomachinery gas generator. No word on when they will try launching again.

A Cygnus resupply ship carrying nearly 8,000 lb of cargo for astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) was blasted into orbit by an Antares rocket on Friday night.

The Northrop Grumman booster lifted off on time at 9:16 p.m. EDT from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island in Virginia. The flight followed a scrubbed launch on Thursday due to a software problem with ground equipment.

Cygnus, which is also a Northrop Grumman vehicle, is scheduled to arrive at the ISS early Monday morning.

Results were not as good on Friday night for SpaceX, which suffered its second Falcon 9 abort of the week in Florida. The countdown from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station was halted two seconds prior to a planned 9:43 p.m. EDT liftoff for an unknown reason.

The rocket is carrying the GPS IIII SV-04 navigation satellite for the Global Positioning System.

On Thursday morning, the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 60 Starlink broadband satellites from nearby Kennedy Space Center was halted with 18 seconds left in the count due to an out family reading from a ground sensor.