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SPACE LAUNCH REPORT
by
Ed Kyle



Recent Space Launches

11/19/18, 07:41 UTC, CZ-2D w/ Shiyan 6 from JQ 43/603 to LEO/S
11/21/18, 01:42 UTC, Vega with Mohammed VI-B from KO ZLV to LEO/S
11/29/18, 04:28 UTC, PSLV with HysIS + usats from SR 1 to LEO/S
11/30/18, 02:27 UTC, Rokot/Briz KM w/3xRodnik from PL 133/3 to LEO
12/03/18, 11:31 UTC, Soyuz FG w/ Soyuz MS-11 from TB 1/5 to LEO/ISS
12/03/18, 18:34 UTC, Falcon 9 with SSO-A from VA 4E to LEO/S
12/04/18, 20:37 UTC, Ariane 5 ECA with VA-246 from KO 3 to GTO
12/05/18, 18:16 UTC, Falcon 9 with CRS-16 from CC 40 to LEO/ISS
12/07/18, 04:12 UTC, CZ-2D w/ SaudiSAT 5A/B from JQ 43/603 to LEO/S
12/07/18, 18:24 UTC, CZ-3B w/ Chang'e 4 from XC 2 to TLI

Worldwide Space Launch Box Score
as of 12/07/18
All Orbital Launch Attempts(Failures)

2018: 105(3)
2017:  90(6)
2016:  85(3)
2015:  86(5)
Crewed Launch Attempts(Failures)
2018:  4(1)
2017:  4(0)
2016:  5(0)
2015:  4(0)


CZ-3B Chang'e 4Two CZ Launches

China performed two orbital launches on December 7, 2018.

The first launch, by CZ-2D serial number Y38 from Jiuquan 43/603, boosted SaudiSAT 5A and 5B along with several microsatellites into sun synchronous orbit. Liftoff took place at 04:12 UTC. SaudiSAT 5A/B are Earth observation satellites that each weigh about 200 kg.

The second launch, performed by a CZ-3B/G3Z with a modified liquid hydrogen third stage, boosted China's Chang'e 4 lunar lander mission into orbit from XiChang LC 2 at 18:24 UTC. Chang'e 4 aims to perform the first robotic landing on the far side of the Moon.

The 3,780 kg spacecraft includes a 1,200 kg lander and a 140 kg rover. It will use the previously launched Quenqiao communication relay satellite in an Earth-Moon L2 halo orbit to transmit data to Earth.

The orbital launches were China's 35th and 36th of the year.

F9-66 NASACRS-16 Launch

Falcon 9 orbited NASA's CRS-16 ISS cargo mission from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 on December 5, 2018, scoring the year's 100th orbital success, world-wide. Liftoff took place at 18:16 UTC. Falcon 9 new Block 5 first stage B1050 powered the two-stage rocket for 2 minutes 23 seconds. Dragon 12.2, a refurbished spacecraft capsule that first flew during the CRS-10 mission on February 19, 2017, rode atop the second stage during its 6 min 18 sec burn to a low earth orbit inclined 51.6 deg to the equator. Dragon carried more than 2,540 kg of cargo for the International Space Station. It was the fifth flight of a previously-flown Dragon.

B1050, the fifth Block 5 first stage and the first new booster to fly in nearly three months, performed boost back, entry, and landing burns, aiming to return to Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1, but fell short, "landing" in the Atlantic Ocean about two miles offshore before toppling onto its side. The stage developed a rapid roll shortly after exiting its entry burn after a grid fin hydraulic pump stalled. The roll was somehow damped out during the single-engine landing burn, but the stage was unable to divert to LZ 1. The landing legs did deploy shortly before impact.

The stage had been tested at McGregor, Texas, likely during July, 2018. It was static test fired with a second stage but no payload attached at SLC 40 on November 30, 2018 after a scrubbed attempt on November 29.

Dragon 12.2 separated about 9 min 51 sec after liftoff. The spacecraft was expected to rendevous with ISS on December 8.

Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy core/booster stages have now landed successfully 32 times in 39 attempts, including 2 of 3 Falcon Heavy attempts. It was the first failed attempt to land at a ground-based landing zone in 13 tries.

VA-246 ArianespaceAriane 5 Orbits Two Satellites

An Ariane 5 ECA orbited two satellites from Kourou on December 4, 2018. Arianespace Mission VA246 began with a 20:37 UTC liftoff from ELA-3. Ariane placed GSAT 11 and GEO-Kompsat 2A into geosynchronous transfer orbit during a roughly 33.5 minute mission.

GSAT 11, a 5,854.5 kg satellite built in India by ISRO, separated first. It will provide Ku and Ka-band communications services for India and nearby regions from a geostationary orbit at 74 degrees east longitude. GEO-Kompsat 2A, a 3,507.2 kg satellite built by Korea Aerospace Research Institute, will provide weather imaging services from 128.2 degrees east longitude in geostationary orbit. GEO-Kompsat 2A separated from the lower position after the Sylda 5 adapter had separated.

VA246 was the fifth successful Ariane 5 launch in six 2018 attempts.

F9-65 SpaceXFalcon 9 Orbits 64 Smallsats

Falcon 9 F9-65, boosted by first stage B1046.3 performing a never-before-attempted third flight, orbited 64 small satellites for the Spaceflight SSO-A SmallSat Express mission from Vandeberg Air Force Base on December 3, 2018. It was Spaceflight's first fully-dedicated rideshare mission, which carried satellites from 34 different organizations in 17 countries.

Liftoff from SLC 4E took place at 18:34 UTC. After firing for 2 min 21 sec, the first stage turned to perform boost-back, reentry, and landing burns to land on “Just Read the Instructions” positioned less than 50 km from the Vandenberg coast. Original plans had called for an LZ-4 landing, but the presence of a Delta 4 Heavy with attached payload at SLC 6, generally beneath the return flight path, prevented the attempt.

The second stage performed a single, 7 min 29 sec burn to go directly into a sun synchronous orbit with its approximately 4 tonne payload. A series of deployments, including four direct-mounted microsatellites and two Spaceflight free-flyers carrying the remaining satellites, began about 13 minutes after liftoff. The Spaceflight free-flyer deployments were expected to take an additional six hours. Meanwhile, the second stage was expected to perform a reentry burn.

B-1046.3 previously boosted Bangabandhu 1 during May 2018 from KSC 39A and Merah Putih during August 2018 from CC 40, making this its third launch from three different launch pads. The stage was static fired with the second stage attached at SLC 4E on November 15. Launch was then delayed from November 19 by technical issues, from Nov 26 by high altitude winds, and from December 2 by additional technical issues.

It was the 32nd successful Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy core/booster stage landing in 38 attempts, including 2 of 3 Falcon Heavy attempts.  Six of the successes have been on "Just Read the Instructions" off California, 10 at Cape Canaveral LZ 1, one at LZ 2, one at LZ 4, and 14 on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" off Florida.  22 individual stages have been recovered. Sixteen have flown twice, eight of which were expended during their second flights.  One stage has flown three times.

Soyuz MS-11 (NASA TV)Soyuz Returns to Crew Launch

Russia's Soyuz FG orbited the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft from Baikonur, Kazakhstan with three International Space Station crew on December 3, 2018. It was the first crewed Soyuz flight since the MS-10 failure and crew-saving abort during October of this year. Liftoff from Baikonur Cosmodrome Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 11:31 UTC. Eight minutes 44 seconds later, the spacecraft separated from the R-7 third stage into a low earth orbit inclined roughly 51.6 deg to the equator. Onboard were Russia's Oleg Kononenko, Canada's David Saint-Jacques, and NASA's Anne McClain.

Soyuz MS-11 performed a four-orbit, six-hour ascent to ISS.

It was the 13th R-7 launch of 2018, the fourth crewed launch attempt, and the 12th launch attempt aimed toward ISS this year. The latter numbers include the MS-10 failure.

Rokot/Briz KM 113018 RoscosmosRokot Launch (Dec. 1 Update)

A Russian Rokot/Briz KM launch vehicle orbited three Rodnik military communication satellites and a fourth, unidentified small satellite from Plesetsk Area 133 Pad 3 on November 30, 2018. The three stage rocket lifted off at 02:27 UTC. Its Briz-KM third stage performed two burns to lift the Rodnik satellites, named Kosmos 2530-32, into roughly 1,500 km x 82.5 deg orbits. The Briz-KM stage subsequently lowered itself to a roughly 1,200 x 1,500 km orbit, where the small fourth satellite appeared to have separated.

The first Briz KM burn likely took place at the end of the initial ascent phase to boost the vehicle into an elliptical parking orbit. The second, circulization burn likely took place about 1.5 to 2 hours after liftoff near apogee.  Rodnik spacecraft separation occurred shortly thereafter.

It was the year's second Rokot launch and the 29th Rokot/Briz KM launch since the type began flying in 2000. A single, additional orbital launch using a Briz K upper stage took place in 1994. Two suborbital Rokot/Briz K test launches began the development effort in 1990-91. Only three more launches of the UR-100 based Rokot launcher are expected before the type is retired.

PSLV-C43 ISROPSLV Launch

India's PSLV launched the Hyper Spectral Imaging Satellite (HysIS), along with 30 co-passenger satellites, to sun syncronous orbit from Sriharikota on November 29, 2018. The 4-stage PSLV Core Alone variant, flying the C-43 mission, lifted off from Satish Dhawan Space Center's First Launch Pad at 04:28 UTC. HysIS separated first, about 1,041 seconds after liftoff, into a 636.6 km x 97.957 deg orbit.

The PS4 fourth stage was then slated to perform two burns, at T+3,579 and T+6,463 seconds, to lower itself to a 504.5 km x 97.468 deg orbit where the co-passenger satellites were to be jettisonned. The final separation would take place 6,767 seconds after liftoff.

HysIS is a 380 kg spectral imaging satellite that will monitor land resources. The co-passengers all together probably weighed nearly as much as HysIS.

It was the 45th PSLV flight and the 13th by a Core Alone variant.

VV13  ArianespaceVega Orbits Mohammed VI-B

Europe's Vega launch vehicle orbited a second earth observation satellite for Morocco, named after King Mohammed VI of that northwest African country, on November 21, 2018. The four-stage rocket lifted off on Arianespace Mission VV13 from the Vega Launch Complex (ZLV) at 01:42 UTC. The roughly 55 minute mission included two AVUM fourth stage burns to insert the 1,108 kg Thales Alenia Space built satellite into a roughly 630 km sun synchronous orbit.

The flight and payload were nearly identical to the November 8, 2017 VV11 launch of Mohammed VI. Both satellites were built by Thales Alenia Space and Airbus Defense and Space. It was the second Vega launch of the year.

CZ-2D 111918 XinhuaCZ-2D Launch

China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 2D orbited Shiyan 6 and four smaller satellites from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on November 19, 2018. Liftoff from Site 43 Pad 603 took place at 07:41 UTC. The payloads were inserted into roughly 500 km x 97.4 deg sun synchronous orbits.

The missions of the various satellites were vaguely described by offical new reports from China. Shiyan 6 was reported to be for "space environmental detection and related technical testing". Among the smaller satellites, Tianping 1A and 1B were reported to be radar calibration targets or calibration service providers, 27 kg Tianzhi 1 was said to be China's first "software-defined satellite", and 50 kg Jiaping 1 was reported to be a LEO R&D communications satellite.

It was the 30th DF-5 based orbital launch of the year, by far a CZ record for a calendar year and the most for a lanch vehicle family since R-7 performed 32 launches in 1992 at end of the Cold War.

CZ-3B/YZ-1 11-18-18 XinhuaBeidou 3M Launch

China orbited two more Beidou 3M navigation satellites on November 18, 2018. A Chang Zheng 3B (CZ-3B) launched the satellites, Beidou 3M-17 and 3M-18, from Xichang Satellite Launch Center with an 18:07 UTC liftoff from LC 3.

The CZ-3B liquid hydrogen fueled third stage fired twice to inject the vehicle into a transfer orbit. A hypergolic propellant Yuanzheng 1 (YZ-1) upper stage then fired its low thrust UDMH/N2O4 engine at apogee to insert the roughly 1.014 tonne satellites into their final, roughly 22,000 km x 55 deg orbits about four hours after liftoff.

The Beidou 3M series offers improved navigation accuracy compared to previous Beidou constellations. Plans call for 18 Beidou 3 satellites to be orbited by the end of 2018 and more than 30 by 2020.

It was the 8th CZ-3B/YZ-1 launch from XiChang with Beidou 3M satellites this year. A ninth CZ-3B orbited a Beidou 3G1 satellite. The launches have orbited 17 satellites.

Antares NG-10  NGAntares NG-10

Northrop Grumman's Antares launch vehicle successfully orbited the company's Cygnus NG-10 cargo hauling spacecraft from Wallops Island, Virginia on November 17, 2018. Liftoff from Pad 0A took place at 09:01 UTC. It was the first orbital launch under the Northrop Grumman banner, since the company completed its purchase of Orbital ATK mid-year.

The launch was the fourth by an Antares 230, the redesigned Antares powered by two Energomash RD-181 engines in place of the AJ-26 engines that powered the first five Antares flights. The change was made after an AJ-26 turbopump failure triggered a destructive Antares launch explosion above Pad 0A in 2014.

Cygnus NG-10 was the seventh enhanced Cygnus with a stretched Thales Alenia Space cargo module, but only the fourth to fly on Antares. Atlas 5 rockets orbited the other three. NG-10 weighed 6,173 kg at launch, including  3,273 kg of cargo for the International Space Station. Cygnus NG-10 was named in honor of John Young, NASA's longest-career astronaut who flew a total of six Gemini, Apollo, and STS missions and walked on the Moon during Apollo 16. Young passed away on Jan. 5, 2018 at age 87.

The RD-181 engines produced a total of about 392 tonnes of thrust (864,000 lbf) at liftoff to power the nearly 293 tonne rocket off its pad. The Ukrainian-built first stage burned for about 208 seconds. After first stage shutdown, the second stage, interstage, and payload section separated and coasted for about 53 seconds before the Orbital ATK Castor 30XL second stage motor ignited to produce an average of about 51 tonnes of thrust during its 160 second burn. The payload fairing separated 12 seconds before second stage ignition. Interstage separation took place 7 seconds before the Castor 30XL burn. Cygnus separated into a 207 x 279 km x 51.635 deg orbit about 548 sec after liftoff.

Progress MS-10Progress MS-10

A Soyuz FG orbited Russia's Progress MS-10 robotic cargo spaceship toward the International Space Station from Baikonur Cosmodrome on November 16, 2018. Liftoff from Site 1 Pad 5 took place at 18:14:08 UTC. The Progress launch had been re-scheduled to fly atop a Soyuz FG, rather than its originally planned Soyuz 2-1a, prior to the October Soyuz FG/Soyuz MS-10 launch failure that caused an escape system abort that saved the crew. It was the first flight of the Soyuz FG variant since the failure.

The roughly 7.28 tonne Progress MS-10 spacecraft carried about 2,565 kg of cargo, including 1,300 kg of dry cargo, 750 kg of propellant, 75 kg oxygen and air, and 440 kg of water.

It was the 12th 7th R-7 launch of 2018, the 5th in five weeks, and the third Progress flight of the year.  It was also the year's 90th orbital success, world-wide.

F9-64 E'shail 2 SpaceXEs'hail 2 Launch

F9-64, a Falcon 9 v1.2 "Block 5" variant with a previously flown first stage, orbited Es'hail 2 from Kennedy Space Center LV 39A on November 15, 2018. Es'hail 2 separated into a geosynchronous transfer orbit about 32 minutes after the 20:46 UTC liftoff, following two burns by the Falcon 9 second stage. The Mitsubishi Electric DS 2000 series satellite weighed about 5,300 kg at liftoff.

Used first stage B1047.2, which previously boosted Telstar 19 VANTAGE during July 2018 before landing on Of Course I Still Love You, burned for about 2 min 35 sec before separating to perform reentry and landing burns to land again on OSCILY postioned about 640 downrange in the Atlantic Ocean. The second stage performed a 5 min 11 sec first burn to reach a parking orbit, then restarted at T+26 min 34 sec for about 55 seconds to accelerate to the insertion orbit.

Es'hail 2 will operate from 26 deg East to serve the Middle East and North Africa for Qatar Satellite Company.

B1047.2 was briefly hot fired at LC 39A with the second stage but no payload attached on November 12, 2018.

It was the 31st successful Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy core/booster stage landing in 37 attempts, including 2 of 3 Falcon Heavy attempts. Five of the successes have been on "Just Read the Instructions" off California, 10 at Cape Canaveral LZ 1, one at LZ 2, one at LZ 4, and 14 on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" off Florida. 22 individual stages have been recovered. Seventeen have flown twice, eight of which were expended during their second flights.

GSLV Mk3 D2 ISROGSLV Mk3 Launch

India's GSLV Mk3 successfully performed its third test launch, and second orbital mission, on November 14, 2018, boosting the GSAT 29 communications satellite into geosychronous transfer orbit.

640 tonne, 43.494 meter tall GSLV Mk3 D2 lifted off from the Second Launch Pad at Satish Dhawan Space Center at 11:38 UTC on 998 tonnes of thrust produced by its two S200 solid rocket motors. The hypergolic L110 core stage engine ignited its two 86 tonne thrust Vikas 2 engines at T+1min 52 sec, some 27 seconds before the solids burned out and separated. The stage fired until cutoff at T+5 min 17 sec, with shroud separation occuring at T+3min 51 sec. The liquid hydrogen fueled C25 upper stage then took over, firing its single 20 tonne thrust CE20 engine from T+5 min 21 sec until T+16 min 28 sec to accelerate GSAT 29 into a 190 x 35,975 km x 21.5 deg transfer orbit. Satellite separation took place about 15 seconds later.

GSAT 29 weighed about 3.4 tonnes at liftoff. It will raise itself to a geostationary orbit, positioned above 55 deg East longitude.

Electron 3 Rocket LabElectron Launch

The third Rocket Lab Electron launched from New Zealand on November 11, 2018. The two stage Electron, topped by a monopropellant kick stage named "Curie", inserted six nano-satellites and a technology demonstrator into roughly 500 km x 85 deg orbits. Named "It's Business Time", the 12.55 tonne rocket, lifted off from Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand's North Island at 03:50 UTC, rising on about 15.65 metric tons of thrust from its nine electric-motor-pump-fed LOX/kerosene Rutherford engines.

The first stage burned out at T+2 min 33 sec, and separated at T+2 min 36 sec. The second stage's single vacuum-optimized Rutherford engine ignited at T+2 min 39 sec and fired until T+9min 5 sec to enter a 210 x 500 km x 85 deg transfer orbit. The two-part payload shroud separated about 3 min 8 sec after launch. After a coast to apogee, the Curie kick stage fired its 12.2 kgf engine beginning about 51 minutes after liftoff and ending about one minute later. The kick stage burned a non-toxic “green” monopropellant. Specific details of the fuel have not been released by Rocket Lab.

Payloads included two Lemur-2 satellites for Spire, a CubeSat named IRVINE01 built by high school students in Irvine, California, a nano-satellite for GeoOptics, Inc., two Proxima satellites for Australia's Fleetspace Technologies, and a drag-augmentation test system for deoribing satellites named NABEO. Total payload mass was likely in the 40-45 kg range.

Months of scrubs and delay due to technical problems preceeded the flight.  It was the second Electron success, both during 2018.  It was also the world's 90th orbital launch attempt of the year, already matching 2017's total.

VS-19 ArianespaceSoyuz Orbits Weather Satellite

A Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat M boosted Europe's Meteorological Operational (Metop) C satellite into sun synchronous orbit from Kourou, French Guiana on November 7, 2018. The Russian controlled liftoff from the ELS pad took place at 00:47 UTC. The Fregat stage fired twice during the hour-long VS19 mission for Arianespace to insert Metop C into a 803 x 819 km x 98.7 deg orbit.

Metop C weighed 4,084 kg at launch. Airbus Defense and Space built the satellite, based on the SPOT Mk 3 bus.

It was the 11th R-7 based launch attempt of the year, the third in two weeks,  and the second of 2018 from Kourou.


Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat Uragan M 757 Russian Navsat Launch

A Russian Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat M successfully orbited a Uragan M navigation satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on November 3, 2018. Liftoff from Site 43 Pad 4 took place at 20:17 UTC, beginning a 3.5 hour mission that placed the 1.415 tonne satellite for Russia's GLONASS navigation system into a roughly 19,100 km x 64.8 deg circular orbit. The satellite was identified as Uragan M No. 757. It was the 48th Uragan M series satellite launch.

Fregat M fired its S5.98M UDMH/N2O4 engine three times to reach the deployment orbit.

It was the second successful R-7 launch since the Soyuz FG/Soyuz MS-10 launch failure, which was caused by a faulty sensor that prevented the separation LOX vent valve from being opened on one of the four first stage blocks. As a result, the block failed to rotate away from the core second stage, striking and damaging the core as it fell away. Soyuz MS-10 performed a successful abort to pull its crew away from the disentegrating launch vehicle.

CZ-3B/E 110118Beidou-3 GEO-1

China's CZ-3B/E orbited the first Beidou 3 geosynchronous type navigation satellite (Beidou 3G1) from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on November 1, 2018. Liftoff from LC 2 took place at 15:57 UTC. The 3.5 stage rocket's liquid hydrogen third stage fired twice to boost the 4.6 tonne DFH-3B satellite into a 197 x 35,815 km x 28.47 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit. Beidou 3G1 will raise itself into geostationary orbit.

It was the 28th DF-5 based CZ launch of the year, and the 32nd orbital launch attempt by China in 2018. The satellite was the 17th Beidou 3 and the 41st Beidou satellite.

H-2A F40 (JAXA)H-2A Launches GOSat 2

Japan's H-2A orbited the country's GOSat 2 atmospheric monitoring satellite, UAE's KhalifaSat, and five smaller satellites from Yoshinobu Launch Complex 1 at Tanegashima Space Center on October 29, 2018. Liftoff took place at 04:08 UTC. The 202 series rocket, tail number F40, was boosted by a pair of SRB-A solid motors and topped by a Long version of the H-2A payload fairing. The LH2/LOX second stage performed a single burn of its LE-5B engine to reach a 595 x 613 km x 97.8 deg sun synchronous orbit.

It was the third H-2A launch of 2018.

Mitsubishi-built GOSat 2 weighed 1,800 kg. It carried sensors to measure carbon monoxide concentrations, along with other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. GOSat 2 was mounted atop a dual payload adapter. KhalifaSat, a 330 kg earth imaging satellite built in the United Arab Emirates at Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center in Dubai, was mounted within the adapter below GOSat 2.

After KhalifaSat separated, five smaller satellites totalling 127 kg mass were ejected from the second stage. Two of the five were CubeSats weighing 1.4 to 1.6 kg. The other three weighed 23 to 56 kg.


CZ-2C 102918 XinhuaCZ-2C Launch

China's CZ-2C orbited CFOSat, a joint China/France ocean observation satellite, from Jiquan Satellite Launch Center on October 29, 2018. Liftoff from LC 43/603 took place at 00:43 UTC. The two-stage rocket boosted CFOSat into a 520 km sun synchronous orbit.

CFOSat, a DFH CAST2000 satellite, weighed 600 kg at launch. It carried a radar scatterometer supplied by the French agency CNES and a wind-field scatterometer provided by the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

It was the 27th DF-5 based CZ launch of 2018.


ZQ-1 No. 1 (Landspace)ZQ-1 Inaugural Failure

The inaugural orbital attempt by a DF-26 based Zhuque-1 (ZQ-1) launch vehicle failed to reach orbit on October 27, 2018. The three-stage solid fuel rocket was launched from small mobile type platform at China's Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 08:00 UTC. The first two stages, based on the "Guam Killer" DF-26 medium range ballistic missile, performed as planned. The payload fairing and third stage separation, and the third stage ignition, also occurred as planned, but flight control was lost during the third stage burn, beginning about 13 seconds into the burn.

A private company named LandSpace performed the launch. A small satellite named Weilai 1 was carried on a mission aimed toward a sun synchronous orbit that was not achieved. Although the flight was heralded as the first orbital attempt by a private Chinese company, the ZQ-1 launch vehicle itself was advertised to be a "product of civil/military integration".

ZQ-1 is 19 meters long and 1.35 meters in diameter. It weighs 27 tonnes at liftoff. Its first stage produces 45 tonnes of thrust and burns for about 60.7 seconds. The second stage separates 125.7 seconds after liftoff. The first two stages appear to be approximately the same size. Third stage ignition took place after a coast, at about 367.6 seconds. The stage was expected to burnout about 49 seconds later. The rocket is able to boost 200 kg to a 500 km sun synchronous orbit, or 400 kg to a lower altitude, lower inclination orbit.

Soyuz 2-1b LotosSoyuz 2-1b Orbits Lotos-S1 3

A Soyuz 2-1b launch vehicle orbited Russia's Lotos S1 No. 3 signals intelligence satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on October 25, 2018. Liftoff of the 2.5 stage rocket from Site 43/4 took place at 00:15 UTC. Lotos-S1 3, a 6 tonne satellite built by TsSKB Progress using a Yantar type bus, was inserted into an initial 239 x 901 km x 67.14 deg orbit. The satellite will later raise itself into a 900 km circular operational orbit.

The Arsenal bureau developed the ELINT payload carried by Losot-S1 3.

It was the first R-7 launch since the failure of the Soyuz MS-10 Soyuz FG launch vehicle. That launch failed when one of the four first stage boosters collided with the core second stage at staging.

It was the fourth orbital launch from Plestesk this year.

CZ-4B 102418CZ-4B Orbits Haiyang 2B

China's Chang Zheng 4B orbited the Haiyang 2B ocean observation satellite from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on October 24, 2018. Liftoff from LC 9 took place at 22:57 UTC. The three stage rocket lofted "HY-2B" into a 929 x 943 km x 99.35 deg sun synchronous orbit.

Haiyang 2B is equiped with microwave sensors to measure ocean winds surface temperatures.

It was the sixth orbital launch from Taiyuan in 2018, equal to once-dominant Baikonur in total number of launches to date, though only five of the Baikonur launches have reached orbit.

VA245 ArianespaceMission to Mercury

An Ariane 5 ECA, performing Arianespace mission VA245, boosted the joint ESA/JAXA BepiColumbo spacecraft pair into solar orbit from Kourou on October 20, 2018. Liftoff from ELA 3 took place at 01:45 UTC. The ESC-A upper stage performed a single 15 minute 51 second burn to push the 4,081 kg payload to a velocity of about 10,155 meters/second at a 1,449 km altitude. Payload separation occurred 26 minutes 47 seconds after Vulcain 2 ignition.

The Airbus Defence and Space built satellite is also called the Mercury Composite Spacecraft. It consists of the Mercury Transfer Module, the ESA-developed Mercury Planetary Orbiter, the JAXA-developed Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter, and the MMO Sunshield and Interface Structure.

BepiColombo will orbit the sun for seven years, flying by Earth once, Venus twice, and Mercury six times, before entering orbit around Mercury. It will be captured by Mercury's gravity in late 2025, after jettisoning its solar-electric thruster MTM. The spacecraft will then descend into orbit around Mercury using a chemical propulsion engine in the MPO. The MPO and MMO will separate into different elliptical polar orbits, the MMO at 590 x 11,640 km and MPO at 480 x 1,500 km.

AV-073 ULAAtlas 5 Orbits AEHF 4

AV-073, an Atlas 5-551 variant with five AJ-60A solid rocket motors and a 5.4 meter diameter payload fairing, boosted the fourth Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellite for the U.S. Air Foce into orbit from Cape Canaveral SLC 41 on October 17, 2018. Liftoff took place at 04:15 UTC, beginning a 3.5 hour mission that included three burns by the Centaur RL10C-1 upper stage engine. The final burn, near apogee of the initial transfer orbit, boosted the $1.8 billion Lockheed Martin satellite into a 8,914 x 35,299 km x 12.8 deg orbit.

The insertion orbit requires 6,168 kg AEHF 4 to provide only about 1,000 m/s of its own delta-v to reach geostationary orbit, compared to around 1,500 m/s for the previous AEHF launches. Those flights used Atlas 5-531 variants with only three solid rocket motors. Program managers determined that the extra cost for the booster motors would be offset by AEHF's faster ascent to its final orbit and by the longer lifetime provided to the satellite by the reduced propellant needs.

It was the fifth Atlas 5 launch of the year, and the 79th Atlas 5 flight. Atlas 5 entered service in 2002.

CZ-3B 101518 XinhuaBeidou 3M Launch

Two more Beidou 3M navigation satellites joined China's growing orbital constellation on October 15, 2018. A Chang Zheng 3B (CZ-3B) launched the satellites, Beidou 3M-15 and 3M-16, from Xichang Satellite Launch Center with a 04:23 UTC liftoff from LC 3.

The CZ-3B liquid hydrogen fueled third stage fired twice to inject the vehicle into a transfer orbit. A hypergolic propellant Yuanzheng 1 (YZ-1) upper stage then fired its low thrust UDMH/N2O4 engine at apogee to insert the roughly 1.014 tonne satellites into their final 21,540 x 22,190 km x 55 deg orbits about four hours after liftoff.

The Beidou 3M series offers improved navigation accuracy compared to previous Beidou constellations. Plans call for 18 Beidou 3 satellites to be orbited by the end of 2018 and more than 30 by 2020.

It was the 7th CZ-3B/YZ-1 launch from XiChang with Beidou 3M satellites this year. The launches have orbited 14 satellites.

Soyuz MS-10Soyuz MS-10 AbortCrew Survives Soyuz MS-10 Failure

The two-man, Russian-American crew of Soyuz MS-10 survived an apparent Soyuz FG launch failure that occurred about 130 seconds after their 08:40 UTC liftoff from Baikonur Cosmodrome on October 11, 2018. The failure occurred around the time of first stage separation from the core, second stage booster. Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and American astronaut Nick Hague flew a ballistic reentry, their primary escape rocket system already having jettisoned, to return to earth about 20 km east of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, downrange. They were recovered in good condition.

The crew were headed for International Space Station. Their abort was the first in-flight abort for Soyuz since 1975. Another Soyuz crew (Soyuz T-10-1 on a Soyuz U) used their escape tower to abort shortly before a 1983 launch when a fire broke out on their launch vehicle. Soyuz FG itself had never failed during its 64 previous flights since premiering in 2001, 10 with Fregat upper stages and 54 without an upper stage, primarily carrying Soyuz or Progress spacecraft.

CZ-2C Oct 9, 2018 (Xinhua)CZ-2C/YZ-1S Inaugural

China's Chang Zheng 2C orbited two remote sensing satellites from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on October 9, 2018. Liftoff from LC 43/603 (also known as South Launch Site Pad 2) took place at 02:43 UTC. For the first time, CZ-2C was topped by a YZ-1S storable propellant upper stage, derived from the YZ-1 stage previously used on CZ-3B/C. The restartable stage presumably performed an apogee burn to insert the two satellites of the Yaogan Weixing-32 Group 1 mission into sun synchronous low earth orbit.

China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), builder of CZ-2C, stated that the new upper stage increased CZ-2C payload to 700 km sun synchronous orbit from 1.2 tonnes to 2 tonnes. The new upper stage replaces previously-used SM/SMA solid propellant stages.

It was the 24th DF-5 based CZ launch of the year and the world-leading 27th orbital launch by China in 2018.

F9-63 SpaceXSAOCOM 1A Launch

The 63rd Falcon 9 boosted Argentina's SAOCOM 1A synthetic aperture radar imagery satellite into orbit from Vandenberg AFB on October 8, 2018. Liftoff took place at 02:21 UTC from Space Launch Complex 4 East. The 3,000 kg CONAE-built satellite separated into a 620 km sun synchronous orbit 12 min 37 sec after liftoff following a single second stage burn that lasted 7 min 37 sec.

It was the first of two planned SAOCOM Falcon 9 launches.

During the ascent, B1048.2 fired for 2 min 20 sec. It then turned back to perform the first return-to-launch-site landing at Vandenberg AFB. The stage performed boost-back, entry, and landing burns to land at "Landing Zone 4", located on the site of the former SLC 4W launch complex.

B1048 had previously boosted the F9-60 Iridium NEXT 7 flight on July 25, 2018, when it landed downrange on "Just Read the Instructions". B1048 was the third "Block 5" first stage to enter service. It was originally test fired at McGregor, Texas during late May or early June, 2018. It performed a static test firing at SLC 4E on July 20, 2018 before the Iridium NEXT 7 launch. After that flight, the stage returned to Hawthorne for checkout and refurbishment before returning to Vandenberg AFB. Restacked for the SAOCOM 1A launch without payload, it performed another static fire test at SLC 4E on October 2, 2018.

It was the 30th successful Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy core/booster stage landing in 36 attempts, including 2 of 3 Falcon Heavy attempts. Five of the successes have been on "Just Read the Instructions" off California, 10 at Cape Canaveral LZ 1, one at LZ 2, one at LZ 4, and 13 on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" off Florida. 22 individual stages have been recovered. Sixteen have flown twice, eight of which were expended during their second flights.

KZ-1A Y8Kuaizhou 1A Launch

China's Kuaizhou 1A (KZ-1A), an improved variant of previously-flown Kuaizhou 1, flew for the second time on September 29, 2018 from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The three-stage solid fuel rocket lifted off from a mobile launcher on a flat pad at 04:13 UTC. A small satellite named CentiSpace 1-S1 separated into a 700 km sun synchronous orbit.

Expace Technology Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp, handled the launch as a commercial enterprise.

KZ-1A can loft 200kg into a 700 km sun synchronous orbit, or up to 300 kg to lower inclincation low earth orbits. It is 20 meters tall, 1.4 meters in diameter, and weighs 30 tonnes at liftoff. The three solid motor stages weigh 16.621 tonnes, 8.686 tonnes, and 3.183 tonnes and have 65 second, 62 second, and 55 second burn times, respectively. The first two stages are 1.4 meters diameter. The third stage is 1.2 meters diameter. 1.2 and 1.4 meter diameter fairing are available. This launch appeared to use the 1.4 meter fairing.

A small N2O4/MMH bipropellant insertion fourth stage provided final orbit trim during a roughly 13 minute long period that included nearly six minutes of low-thrust burn. Spacecraft separation began about 17.7 minutes after liftoff. The fourth stage lowered its orbit after satellite separation.

VA243 Arianespace100th Ariane 5

The 100th Ariane 5, an ECA variant, vehicle number L5103, orbited two communication satellites from Kourou on September 25, 2018. Arianespace Mission VA243 began with a 22:38 UTC liftoff from ELA-3, following a 45 minute hold. Ariane placed Horizons 3e and Azerspace 2/Intelsat 38 into their planned 250 x 35,726 km x 6 deg geosynchronous transfer orbits during a 42 minute 17 second mission.

Horizons 3e, a 6,411 kg Boeing-built satellite, separated first. It will provide communications services for the Asia-Pacific region from 169 deg East in geostationary orbit.

Azerspace 2/Intelsat 38, a 3,500 kg Space Systems/Loral satellite, separated from the lower position after the Sylda 5 adapter had separated. It will serve Africa from 45 deg East.

VA243 was the 65th Ariane 5 ECA success in 67 flights and the 95th Ariane 5 success in 100 launches. Ariane 5 premiered in 1996.

H-2B F-7 (JAXA)H-2B Launches HTV-7

The seventh H-2B boosted the HTV-7 cargo hauling spacecraft for Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) toward the International Space Station from Tanegashima on September 22, 2018. Liftoff from Yoshinobu Pad 2 took place at 17:52 UTC.

HTV-7, also named Kounotori 7, weighed 16.5 tonnes at liftoff. It carried 6.2 tonnes of cargo, including two U.S. science racks, a U.S. Life Sciences Glovebox (LSG), an ESA Life Support Rack, an HTV Small Re-entry Capsule (HSRC) experiment, a Loop Heat Pipe Radiator technology demonstrator, the JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer and CubeSat, three CubeSats, and other cargo.

H-2B F-7 burned four SRB-A3 solid motors for 1 min 54 sec to augument the 2xLR-7A powered core's 5 min 52 sec burn. The LE-5B powered second stage then fired for 8 min 52 sec to reach a low Earth orbit inclined 51.6 deg to the equator. HTV-7 was expected to rendevous with ISS on September 27.

CZ-3B September 19, 2018CZ-3B/YZ-1 Beidou 3M Launch

China continued to quickly build up its latest navigation satellite constellation with the launch of two more Beidou 3M satellites on September 19, 2018. Another Chang Zheng 3B (CZ-3B) provided the boost from Xichang Satellite Launch Center with a 14:07 UTC liftoff from LC 2. The satellites, designated Beidou 3 M13 and M14, were the 13th and 14th Beidou 3 satellites successfully orbited.

The CZ-3B liquid hydrogen fueled third stage fired twice to inject the vehicle into a transfer orbit. A hypergolic propellant Yuanzheng 1 (YZ-1) upper stage then fired its low thrust UDMH/N2O4 engine at apogee to insert the roughly 1.014 tonne satellites into their final 21,540 x 22,190 km x 55 deg orbits about four hours after liftoff.

The Beidou 3 series offers improved navigation accuracy compared to previous Beidou and Beidou 2 constellations. Plans call for 18 Beidou 3 satellites to be orbited by the end of 2018 and more than 30 by 2020.

It was the 23rd DF-5 based CZ orbital launch, and China's 25th orbital launch, of the year.

PSLV-C42PSLV Launch

India's PSLV boosted two satellites to sun syncronous orbit from Sriharikota on September 16, 2018. The 4-stage PSLV Core Alone variant, flying the C-42 mission, lifted off from Satish Dhawan Space Center's First Launch Pad at 16:37 UTC. NovaSAR 1 and S1-4 separated into 583 km x 97.8 deg orbits about 17 min 44 sec after liftoff.

NovaSAR is a 445 kg synthetic aperture radar satellite. S1-4 is a 444 kg earth observation satellite. Both were built by SSTL for the UK Space Agency.

It was the 44th PSLV flight and the 12th by a Core Alone variant.

D381 ULADelta, and Thor, Finale

The final Delta 2, a 7420-10 variant flying the Delta 181 mission, successfully orbited NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) from Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Complex 2 West on September 15, 2018. Liftoff took place at 13:02 UTC, beginning a roughly 52 minute mission that placed 1,515 kg ICESat-2 into a 463 km sun synchronous low earth orbit.

It was the 155th Delta 2 and the 100th consecutive success, ending a program that first took flight on February 14, 1989. Delta 2 itself was an ancestor of the Thor IRBM, which first attempted to fly on January 25, 1957 and first succeeded on September 29, 1957, 61 years ago. Thor eventually saw extensive service as an orbital booster, topped by Agena, Delta, liquid hydrogen fueled, and solid motor stages. It even flew as a booster for Japan's N-1, N-2, and H-1 launch vehicles during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. A total of 723 Thor/Delta launches took place, not including two Thors that were destroyed in pre-launch pad accidents. Thor remains the most oft-flown U.S. launch vehicle, and will for years to come.

Northrop Grumman-built ICESat-2 will use its Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) to measure changes in glaciers, sea ice, forests, and terrain. Four CubeSats were also deployed from the Delta II pressure-fed hypergolic second stage. Built by UCLA, the University of Central Florida, and Cal Poly, the CubeSats carry a variety of space experiments.

Delta 381 consisted of an RP/LOX booster powered by the final Rocketdyne RS-27A engine producing 200,000 lbs of sea-level thrust, augmented by four Graphite Epoxy Motors (GEMs), topped by an Aerojet AJ10-118K powered second stage, which burned Aerozine 50 and Nitrogen Tetroxide to produce 9,850 lb thrust. The second stage hosted the rocket's guidance system. A 10 foot diameter two-piece payload fairing topped the rocket. Delta 2 stood 132 feet and its core was 8 feet in diameter.

The GEMs jettisonned at T+ 1:22.5 min, MECO took place at 4:24.7 min, The second stage burned from T+4:39.0 min to T+10:57.4 min, then reignited for a second burn at T+47:36.5 min that lasted about six seconds. ICESat-2 separated at T+52:43.5 min. The second stage was expected to perform two subsequent burns to deorbit itself, with reentry over the Pacific Ocean expected about two hours after liftoff.

F9-62 SpaceXTelstar 18V Launch

F9-62, a Falcon 9 v1.2 "Block 5" variant, orbited Telstar 18 VANTAGE from Cape Canaveral SLC 40 on September 10, 2018. Telstar 18V separated into a 259 x 18060 km x 26.95 subsynchronous transfer orbit about 32 minutes after the 04:45 UTC liftoff, following two burns by the Falcon 9 second stage. It was second Telstar VANTAGE launch by Falcon 9. The SSL 1300 series satellite weighed about 7,060 kg at liftoff.

New first stage B1049 provided 775.65 tonnes (1.71 million pounds) of liftoff thrust. It burned for about 2 min 33 sec before separating to perform reentry and landing burns to land on the "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship postioned downrange. The second stage produced up to 99.79 tonnes (220,000 pounds) of thrust during its 5 min 29 sec first burn to reach a parking orbit. The stage restarted at T+26 min 17 sec for 43 seconds.

Telstar 18V will operate from 138 degrees East, providing C and Ku-band coverage across Asia and the Pacific, including Hawaii.

B1049 was test fired at McGregor, Texas during late June or early July, 2018 and was briefly hot fired at SLC 40 with the second stage but no payload attached, on September 5, 2018.

A total of 29 Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy core and booster stages have now been recovered in 35 attempts, including 2 of 3 Falcon Heavy stage landing tries. Four of the successful landings have been on "Just Read the Instructions" off California, 10 at Cape Canaveral LZ 1, one at LZ 2, and 13 on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" off Florida. Twenty two individual first stages have been recovered. Fifteen have flown twice, eight of which were expended during their second flights. All of the recovered stages have been v1.2 types.

CZ-2C HY-1CChina Orbits Ocean Survey Satellite

China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 2C (CZ-2C) orbited Haiyang 1C (Ocean 1C), the third ocean survey satellite of its type from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northeastern China's Shanxi province on September 7, 2018. Liftoff occurred at 03:15 UTC. The two stage launch vehicle propelled the satellite into a sun synchronous low earth orbit.

According to China's Xinhua, Haiyang-1C will monitor ocean pollution and ocean temperatures, and track coastal development. The satellite reportedly weighed 442 kg at launch.

It was the 22nd DF-5 based CZ launch of the year.


CZ-3B/YZ-1 082418 XinhuaCZ-3B/YZ-1 Beidou 3M Launch

China's Chang Zheng 3B (CZ-3B) orbited two more Beidou 3M navigation satellites from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on August 24, 2018. Liftoff from LC 3 took place at 23:52 UTC. The satellites, designated Beidou 3 M11 and M12, were the 11th and 12th Beidou 3 satellites successfully orbited.

The CZ-3B liquid hydrogen fueled third stage fired twice to inject the vehicle into a transfer orbit. A hypergolic propellant Yuanzheng 1 (YZ-1) upper stage then fired its low thrust UDMH/N2O4 engine at apogee to insert the roughly 1.014 tonne satellites into their final 21,532 x 22,193 km x 55 deg orbits about four hours after liftoff.

The Beidou 3 series offers improved navigation accuracy compared to previous Beidou and Beidou 2 constellations. Plans call for 18 Beidou 3 satellites to be orbited by the end of 2018 and more than 30 by 2020.

It was the 21st DF-5 based CZ orbital launch, and China's 23nd orbital launch, of the year.

VV12 (Arianespace)Vega Orbits Aeolus

Europe's Vega launch vehicle orbited the Aeolus climate science satellite for Arianespace and ESA from Kourou on August 22, 2018. Performing the VV12 mission, the four-stage rocket lifted off from the Vega Launch Complex (ZLV) at 21:20 UTC, beginning a nearly 55 minute flight that deployed the 1,357 kg Airbus-built satellite into a 320 km x 96.7 deg sun synchronous orbit.

Aeolus will use a doppler lidar - ultravilot lasar pulse reflections observed by a telescope - to measure winds in the troposphere and lower stratosphere.

Vega's P80 solid motor first stage burned for 1 min 54 seconds. Its Z23 solid motor second stage then ignited and burned until the 3 min 37 sec mark. After a 14 second coast the Z9 solid motor third stage ignited for its 2 min 39 second burn. The payload fairing separated shortly after the third stage ignited.

After a 1 min 33 sec coast, the liquid AVUM fourth stage began an 8 min 34 second burn to enter an elliptical parking orbit. The stage and payload then coasted over the Arctic before performing a second, 23 second burn that ended 53 min 29 sec after liftoff. This burn circularized the orbit. Aeolus separated about 54 min 47 sec after liftoff. AVUM was scheduled to perform an orbit reduction burn about an hour later.

D380 (NASA)Journey to the Sun

Delta 380, the 10th Delta 4 Heavy launch vehicle, launched NASA's Parker Solar Probe into heliocentric orbit from Cape Canaveral SLC 37B on August 12, 2018. The giant liquid hydrogen-fueled United Launch Alliance triple core rocket, augmented by a Northrop Grumman Star 48BV solid fuel third stage motor, lifted off at 07:31 UTC, beginning a 43 minute 18 second mission that aimed to accelerate the 685 kg spacecraft to a C3 of 153.79 km2/sec2, slighly less than the 157.75 km2/s2 provided for Pluto New Horizons by an Atlas 5-551 with a Star 48B upper stage.

During its seven year mission, Parker Solar Probe, named for Dr. Eugene Parker, an astrophysicist who discovered the solar wind in 1958, is to make 24 elliptical orbits of the sun, using seven flybys of Venus to drop the low point of the orbit closer to the sun, down to 3.9 million miles, or about 4% of the Earth-sun distance. At closest approach, PSP should, at 193.548 km/sec velocity, become the fastest spacecraft in history.

The RS-68A powered outboard boosters cutoff at 3 min 57 sec. The RS-68A boosted core stage shut down at 5 min 36 sec. Delta's Cryogenic Second Stage RL10B-2 engine performed its first burn from T+5 min 55 sec to T+10 min 37 sec to enter a 168 x 183 km x 28.38 deg parking orbit. The stage fired a second time from T+22 min 25 sec to T+36 min 39 sec to accelerate the combined 3,044 kg PSP/Star 48BV payload to about C3=59 km2/s2 (about 5,300 m/s beyond LEO), already in a solar orbit. The Star 48BV stage separated at T+37 min 9 sec and was expected to fire from T+37 min 29 sec to T+38 min 58 sec to complete the acceleration to a total of about 8,750 m/s beyond LEO. PSP separated less than 4.5 minutes later while NASA awaited confirmation of third stage data.

Delta 380 was the first Cape Canaveral Delta 4 to use upgraded "common avionics" for flight control. The launch vehicle stages were delivered to the Cape about one year before launch. They were assembled in the SLC 37 HIF and, during April 2018, rolled out to the launch pad. Wet dress rehearsals were performed on July 2 and 6, 2018. A gaseous helium regulator pressure alarm scrubbed first launch attempt on August 11 at T-1 min 55 sec.

F9-61 (SpaceX)Merah Putih Launch

Falcon 9 lofted PT Telkom's Merah Putih satellite to a subsynchronous transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on August 7, 2018. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 took place at 05:19 UTC. The 5.8 tonne SSL 1300 series satellite separated from Falcon 9's second stage into a 193 x 29,503 km x 27 deg orbit about 32 minutes later after two second stage burns.

Merah Putih, which denotes the red and white colors of the Indonesian flag, has C-band transponders to provide mobile broadband service across Indonesia and Southeast Asia from its ultimate 108 deg East position in geostationary orbit.

Falcon 9’s B1046.2 first stage was flying for the second time, having previously boosted the Bangabandhu Satellite mission on May 11, 2018. After its 2 min 30 sec ascent boost, the stage turned to perform reentry and landing burns to land on the “Of Course I Still Love You” landing platform positioned about 650 km downrange in the Atlantic Ocean.

It was the first reflight of a "Block 5" first stage and the 28th successful Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy core/booster stage landing in 34 attempts, including 2 of 3 Falcon Heavy attempts. Five of the successes have been on "Just Read the Instructions" off California, 10 at Cape Canaveral LZ 1, one at LZ 2, and 12 on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" off Florida. 21 individual stages have been recovered. Fifteen have flown twice, eight of which were expended during their second flights.

Gaofen 11 Launch (Xinhua)CZ-4B Launch

China's Chang Zheng (CZ) 4B orbited an optical remote sensing satellite named Gaofen 11 on July 31, 2018. Liftoff from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center's LC 9 took place at 03:00 UTC. The three-stage storable propellant rocket boosted its payload into a 247 x 694 km x 97.43 deg orbit.

It was the 20th DF-5 based CZ orbital launch of the year, setting a new annual record for the type with five months remaining in 2018. It was also China's 22nd orbital launch of the year, another record and also a number that places China firmly in the lead in orbital launch totals for the year to date.

Beidou 3M 5/6 Launch (CAST)CZ-3B/YZ-1 Beidou 3M Launch

China's Chang Zheng 3B (CZ-3B) orbited two Beidou 3M navigation satellites from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on July 29, 2018. Liftoff from LC 3 took place at 01:48 UTC. The satellites, designated Beidou 3 M5 and M6, were the 9th and 10th Beidou 3 satellites successfully orbited.

The CZ-3B liquid hydrogen fueled third stage fired twice to inject the vehicle into a transfer orbit. A hypergolic propellant Yuanzheng 1 (YZ-1) upper stage then fired its low thrust UDMH/N2O4 engine at apogee to insert the roughly 1.014 tonne satellites into their final 21,500 km x 55.5 deg orbits about four hours after liftoff.

The Beidou 3 series offers improved navigation accuracy compared to previous Beidou and Beidou 2 constellations. Plans call for 18 Beidou 3 satellites to be orbited by the end of 2018 and more than 30 by 2020.

F9-60 Iridium Next 7 (SpaceX)Iridium NEXT 7

The 60th Falcon 9 delivered 10 more Iridium NEXT satellites into 600 x 625 km x 86.68 deg orbits from Vandenberg AFB on July 25, 2018. Liftoff of the Iridium NEXT 7 mission took place at 11:39 UTC from Space Launch Complex 4 East. The 860 kg Thales Alenia Space satellites deployed about an hour after launch after the second stage performed a brief, no more than 4 second long second burn. A 6 minute first burn targeted a roughly 180 x 625 km parking orbit.  The second burn circularized the orbit.

It was the seventh of eight planned Falcon 9 Iridium NEXT launches.

New first stage B1048, the third "Block 5" first stage, performed the initial 2 minute 24 second boost. After separation, the stage performed boostback, reentry and landing burns before landing on the drone ship "Just Read the Instructions" floating in the Pacific Ocean downrange.

It was the 27th successful Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy core/booster stage landing in 33 attempts, including 2 of 3 Falcon Heavy attempts. Five of the successes have been on "Just Read the Instructions" off California, 10 at Cape Canaveral LZ 1, one at LZ 2, and 11 on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" off Florida. 21 individual stages have been recovered. Fourteen have flown twice, eight of which were expended during their second flights.

High wind shear thwarted an attempted payload fairing recovery by recovery ship "Mr. Steven".

B1048 was test fired at McGregor, Texas, most likely during late May or early June. It performed a static test firing at SLC 4E on July 20, 2018 with the second stage but no payload attached.

VA244Final Ariane 5ES

L596, the final Ariane 5 ES variant, performed Arianespace mission VA244 (Galileo FOC M8) for the European Space Agency from Kourou on July 25, 2018. VA244 lofted four Galileo navigation satellites to 22,922 km x 56 deg circular orbits. Following a 11:25 UTC liftoff from ELA 3 and an 8 min 56 sec EPC cryogenic core stage burn, the EPS hypergolic storable propellant second stage fired its 29 kN (2,957 kgf) Austus engine twice, with a three hour cost between, to complete the insertion. The first burn lasted 10 min 38 sec, the second 6 min 18 sec. It was the final use of the stage and its engine, which date back to the initial Ariane 5G variant that first flew in 1996.

VA244 completed the "first construction cycle" of the Galileo system. The constellation currently stands at 26 satellites in orbit. Each of the OHB System-built satellites weighed 738 kg for a total of 2,952 kg. They deployed from a 447 kg A5 Airbus dispenser system. The final Ariane 5 Medium fairing shrouded the payload.

It was the third Ariane 5 ES launch for Galileo, and the eighth by the type since its 2008 debut. Its primary job was launching ATV cargo ships to ISS.

F9-59 Telesat 19V (SpaceX)Telstar 19V Launch

F9-59, the second "Block 5" variant of the Falcon 9 v1.2 design, orbited Telstar 19 VANTAGE, the heaviest-ever-at-launch commercial communications satellite, from Cape Canaveral SLC 40 on July 22, 2018. Telstar 19V separated into a subsynchronous transfer orbit about 32 minutes 40 seconds after the 05:50 UTC liftoff, following two burns by the Falcon 9 second stage. It was the first Block 5 launch from SLC 40.

The SSL 1300 series satellite weighed 7,075 kg at liftoff from SLC 40. Telstar 19V weighed more than 6,910 kg TerreStar 1, orbited by Ariane 5 in July 2009, but the latter was sent to a full geosynchronous transfer orbit and so needed to burn less of its own propellant to reach its final orbit.  Falcon 9 only lifted Telstar 19V to a 243 x 17,863 km x 27 deg orbit, while VA-189 sent TerreStar 1 to a 250 x 35,786 km x 6 deg orbit.

The upgraded Block 5 Merlin 1D engines produced a total of 775.65 tonnes (1.71 million pounds) thrust at sea level. The second stage likely produced 99.79 tonnes (220,000 pounds) of thrust. First stage number B1047 burned for about 2 min 30 sec, before separating to perform reentry and landing burns to land on the "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship postioned downrange. The second stage performed a planned 5 min 38 sec first burn to reach a parking orbit at T+8 min 12 sec. The stage restarted at T+26 min 49 sec for a 50 second long second burn.

Telstar 19V will operate from 63 degrees West after it raises itself to geostationary orbit. It will cover the Americas using Ku and Ka-band transponders.

B1047 was test fired at McGregor, Texas during late April or early May, 2018 and was briefly hot fired at LC 40 with the second stage but no payload attached, on July 18, 2018.

A total of 26 Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy core and booster stages have now been recovered in 32 attempts, including 2 of 3 Falcon Heavy stage landing tries. Four of the successful landings have been on "Just Read the Instructions" off California, 10 at Cape Canaveral LZ 1, one at LZ 2, and 11 on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" off Florida. Twenty individual first stages have been recovered. Fourteen have flown twice, eight of which were expended during their second flights. All of the recovered stages have been v1.2 types.

Progress MS-09 Launch (Roscosmos)Progress MS-09

Russia's Soyuz 2.1a boosted the Progress MS-09 robot cargo hauler on a fast-track ascent to International Space Station from Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 9, 2018. Liftoff from Site 31 Pad 6 took place at 21:51:33 UTC. The 8 minute 45 second ascent to orbit began a rapid chase of ISS that only required 2.5 orbits and 3 hour 40 minutes before docking.

Progress MS-09 carried 2,567 kg of cargo, including 1,565 kg of dry cargo, 530 kg of propellant, 52 kg oxygen and air, and 420 kg of water. It joined Progress MS-08, Soyuz MS-08, Soyuz MS-09, Cygnus OA-9 and Dragon CRS-15 at the station, making six spacecraft docked at once. It was the 7th R-7 launch of 2018, the 7th launch to ISS by any rocket so far this year, and the 10th Russian orbital launch of the year.

CZ-3A July 9, 2018 Xinhua CZ-3A Navsat Launch

China's Chang Zheng 3A launched another Beidou navigation satellite from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on July 09, 2018. Liftoff from LC 2 took place at 20:58 UTC. The three-stage rocket boosted Beidou 2 I7 into a highly inclined geosynchronous transfer orbit. The satellite will likely lift itself into a geosychronous orbit inclined 55.5 deg to the equator.

Beidou is based on the DFH-3 bus. China has been steadily building its first navigation satellite constellation during the last few years. As many as 35 satellites are planned, including three in inclined geosynchronous orbits, five in geostationary orbits, and 27 in 12-hour, 21,500 km circular orbits.

CZ-3A serial number Y27 performed the launch. It was the second CZ-3A launch of the year, the second orbital launch by China on July 9, and the second of three orbital launches worldwide on July 9.

CZ-2C July 9, 2018 (CALT)

CZ-2C Launches Satellites for Pakistan

China's Chang Zheng 2C launched a pair of satellites for Pakistan from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on July 9, 2018. The two-stage CZ-2C, topped by an "SMA" kick stage, lifted off from LC 43/94 at 03:56 UTC. The payloads included the 1,200 kg Pakistan Remote Sensing Satellite (PRSS 1) and the 285 kg Pakistan Technology Evaluation Satellite (PakTES 1A) satellite.

After a coast to apogee, a small solid motor on the SMA stage fired to insert the satellites into roughly 588 x 624 km x 98.05 deg orbits.  SMA is a small third stage consisting of a small HTPB solid motor kick stage controlled by a Hydrazine reaction control system. A dual payload adapter tops the configuration.

PRSS 1 will use its 1 meter pan-chromatic and 4 meter multi-spectral resolution imagers to survey land resources. PakTES 1A will also perform remote sensing observations.


F9-58 CRS-15 SpaceXCRS-15 Liftoff

Falcon 9 orbited NASA's CRS-15 ISS cargo mission from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 on June 29, 2018. Liftoff took place at 09:42 UTC. Falcon 9 first stage B1045.2, which had previously boosted NASA's TESS toward orbit on April 18, 2018 and returned to a downrange landing on "Of Course I Still Love You", powered the two-stage rocket for 2 minutes 51 seconds. Dragon 11.2, a refurbished spacecraft capsule that first flew during the CRS-9 mission on July 18, 2016, rode atop the second stage to a 227 x 387 km x 51.64 deg orbit. Dragon carried more than 2,676 kg of cargo for the International Space Station. It was the fourth flight of a previously-flown Dragon.

B1045 was the seventh and final "Block 4" Falcon 9 v1.2 first stage manufactured, and this was likely the final "Block 4" first stage orbital launch. The seven Block 4 stages together boosted twelve Falcon 9 missions. The stage was expended - the ninth fully expended mission during the last twelve Falcon 9 launches. The stage was not equipped with landing legs or steering grid fins. It was the 14th flight of a previously-flown Falcon 9 first stage, eight of which were purposefully expended during their second flights.

The Block 5 second stage completed its burn about 8 minutes 31 seconds after liftoff to insert Dragon 11.2 into orbit. The burn was about 36 seconds shorter than previous, lower thrust "Block 4" second stage burns. Plans called for the second stage to perform an "extended coast" mission after Dragon separation. Dragon was expected to rendevous with ISS on July 2.

B1045.2 performed a hot fire test at SLC 40, with the second stage attached, on June 23, 2018. The soot-covered stage had apparently remained at the Cape since its first launch. 

CZ-2C June 27, 2018CZ-2C Launch

 China's Chang Zheng 2C orbited a previously unannounced payload from XiChang Satellite Launch Center on June 27, 2018. The 42 meter tall, two-stage rocket carried two technology demonstration satellites into low earth orbit after a 03:30 UTC liftoff from Launch Complex 3. A roughly 470 x 485 km x 35 deg orbit was achieved.

Named "Binary Stars A and B", the satellites, which were stacked atop on another within a modified CZ-2C payload fairing, will reportedly test inter-satellite communications and new earth observation technologies.

It was the 16th launch of the year by China's DF-5 based CZ family, more than any other launch vehicle.

Glonass-M 47Soyuz Orbits Navsat

Russia's Soyuz 2-1B/Fregat launched GLONASS-M (Uragan-M) No.47, a navigation satellite, from Plesetsk Cosmodrome Site 43/4 on June 16, 2018. Liftoff took place at 21:30 UTC. The satellite was named Kosmos 2527 after reaching orbit.

After the Soyuz rocket boosted Fregat and its payload into low earth orbit, the Fregat upper stage performed three burns to lift the 1.415 tonne satellite into a roughly 19,140 km x 64.8 deg orbit. Spacecraft separation occurred about 3.5 hours after liftoff.

It was the sixth R-7 launch of 2018, and the ninth Russian orbital launch of the year.

H-2A F39 IGS-Radar 6H-2A Orbits Radarsat

An H-2A boosted Japan's Information Gathering Satellite (IGS) Radar 6 to a roughly 500 km sun synchronous orbit on June 12, 2018. Liftoff from Yoshinobu Launch Complex 1 at Tanegashima Space Center took place at 04:20 UTC. The 202 series rocket, tail number F39, was boosted by a pair of SRB-A solid motors. The LH2/LOX second stage most likely fired its LE-5B engine one time for several minutes duration to reach the insertion orbit.

It was the second H-2A launch of 2018.

IGS Radar 6 is a radar reconnaissance satellite built by Mitsubishi Electric that will be operated by the Cabinet Satellite Information Center. It will support Japan's national defense and aid in civil natural disaster monitoring.

Soyuz MS-09 (NASA)Soyuz Launches ISS Crew

Russia's Soyuz FG orbited the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft from Baikonur, Kazakhstan with three International Space Station crew on June 6, 2018. It was the year's second crewed launch. Liftoff from Baikonur Cosmodrome Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 11:12 UTC. Eight minutes 44 seconds later, the spacecraft separated from the R-7 third stage into a low earth orbit inclined roughly 51.6 deg to the equator. Onboard were Russia's Sergey Prokopyev, Germany's Alexander Gerst, and NASA's Serena Aunon-Chancellor, comprising the Expedition 56/57 crew.

Soyuz MS-09 aimed for a two-day ascent to ISS. The MS-09 crew will join Drew Feustel, Ricky Arnold and Oleg Artemyev at the station.

It was the fifth R-7 launch of 2018, and the fifth launch by any launch vehicle to ISS this year.  It was also only the eighth Russian launch of the year.

CZ-3A Fengyun 2H (Xinhua)CZ-3A Orbits Weather Satellite

China's Chang Zheng 3A boosted Fengyun 2H (Fengyun 2-9), a spin-stabilized geostationary weather satellite, into geosynchronous transfer orbit on June 5, 2018. The three stage rocket lifted off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center's LC2 at 13:07 UTC. Its liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen third stage, powered by twin YF-75 engines producting a total of about 16 tonnes thrust, performed two burns during the roughly 30 minute long mission.

Fengyun 2H likely weighed about 1.4 tonnes at liftoff.

It was the 15th DF-5 based CZ launch of 2018 and China's 17th orbital launch of the year, both world-leading numbers.  It was also the year's 50th orbital launch attempt, world-wide.

F9-57 SES 12 (SpaceX)SES 12 Launch

SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.2 F9-57, using previously-flown first stage B1040.2, launched SES 12 into supersynchronous transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 on June 4, 2018. Liftoff took place at 04:45 UTC.

The first stage was purposefully expended during this flight. It did not carry landing legs or steering grid fins. The stage had previously flown during the September 7, 2017 X-37B launch, when it returned to land at Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1.

The first stage fired for about 2 min 44 sec. The second stage performed a 330 second burn to reach a low earth parking orbit, followed by a 17.5 minute coast and a 67 second burn to loft the 5,384 kg Airbus Defense and Space-built satellite into a 250 x 58,370 km x 26 deg supersynchronous transfer orbit. SES 12 will fire its own electric xenon plasma thrusters to gradually raise itself into a 35,900 km geostationary orbit positioned at 95 degrees East.

The first stage was briefly hot-fired at SLC 40 on May 24 during a wet dress rehearsal/static test of the two-stage rocket, with no payload attached.

It was the 13th flight of a previously-flown Falcon 9 first stage, seven of which have been purposefully expended during their second flights.

CZ-2D Gaofen 6 (Xinhua)Gaofen 6 Launch

China's Chang Zheng 2D, serial number Y20, boosted Gaofen 6, a high resolution remote sensing satellite, into orbit from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on June 2, 2018. Liftoff from LC 43/603 took place at 04:13 UTC. The two-stage storable propellant rocket lofted Gaofen 6 into a sun synchronous low earth orbit.

Gaofen 6 is a 1,064 kg CAST 2000 series satellite with mulitple multi-spectral cameras that will serve China's civilian earth observation program.

A CubeSat named Luojia-1 was also orbited. It carries a low resolution imager.

F9-56 (NASA)Iridium NEXT 6/GRACE-FO

F9-56, a Falcon 9 v1.2 variant with a used Block 4 first stage, a new Block 5 second stage, and a "Fairing 2.0" shroud, orbited five 10 Iridium NEXT satellites and two GRACE Follow-On satellites from Vandenberg AFB on May 22, 2018. Liftoff of the Iridium NEXT 6/GRACE-FO mission took place at 19:47 UTC from B Space Launch Complex 4 East.

The mission profile differed from previous Iridium NEXT launches, which all sent ten satellites into orbit at a time. Replacing half of those payloads this time were two Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites built by Airbus DS for NASA and the German Research Center for Geosciences (GFZ). The GRACE-FO satellites, which weighed either 580 kg or 600 kg each depending on which press release was to be believed, separated about 11.5 minutes after liftoff directly into a roughly 490 km x 89 deg orbit, following the first, 436 second burn of the Falcon 9 second stage. This differed from the 180 x 625 km x 86.5 deg parking orbits used during previous Iridium NEXT missions

After coasting for about 46.5 minutes, the second stage restarted for eight seconds to boost the Iridium satellites into what was likely a 490 x 710 km x 86.7 deg deployment orbit. The 860 kg Thales Alexia Space satellites then began deploying in sequence about an hour after launch. This differed from the previous circular 625 km deployment orbits.

A used first stage (B1043.2), which previously boosted the failed Zuma payload on January 7, 2018, performed the initial 2 minute 46 second boost. The Block 4 stage, which did not carry landing legs, was purposefully expended. It was the 12th flight of a previously-flown Falcon 9 first stage, six of which have been purposefully expended during their second flights.

B1043.2 apparently returned to the SpaceX factory in Hawthorne, California after its Zuma flight for refurbishment. It then moved to Vandenberg AFB where, with the second stage attached, it performed a static test firing at SLC 4E on May 18, 2018.

The Mr. Steven recovery ship again attempted, but failed, to catch one of the fairing halves in a giant net.

Antares OA-9 (NASA)Antares OA-9

Orbital ATK's Antares launch vehicle successfully orbited the company's Cygnus OA-9 cargo hauling spacecraft from Wallops Island, Virginia on May 21, 2018. Liftoff from Pad 0A took place at 08:44 UTC. It was the third flight of an Antares 230 variant, the redesigned Antares powered by two Energomash RD-181 engines in place of the AJ-26 engines that powered the first five Antares flights. The change was made after an AJ-26 turbopump failure triggered a destructive Antares launch explosion above Pad 0A in 2014.

Cygnus OA-9 was the sixth enhanced Cygnus with a stretched cargo module, but only the third to fly on Antares. Atlas 5 rockets orbited the other three. OA-9 carried 3,250 kg of cargo for the International Space Station, along with several Cubesats that with deployer hardware added another roughly 120 kg. According to Orbital ATK, Cygnus OA-9 weighed 6,173 kg at launch, matching the OA-8 payload for heaviest launched by Antares. Cygnus OA-9 was named in honor of J.R. Thompson, former Orbital Sciences CEO, who passed away in 2017.

The RD-181 engines produced a total of about 392 tonnes of thrust (864,000 lbf) at liftoff to power the nearly 293 tonne rocket off its pad. The Ukrainian-built first stage burned for about 211 seconds. After first stage shutdown, the second stage, interstage, and payload section separated and coasted "up hill" for about 50 seconds before the Orbital ATK Castor 30XL second stage motor ignited to produce an average of about 51 tonnes of thrust during its 160 second burn. The payload fairing separated 12 seconds before second stage ignition. Interstage separation took place 7 seconds before the Castor 30XL burn. Cygnus separated into a 198 x 317 km x 51.63 deg orbit about 9 min 6 sec after liftoff.

CZ-4C Y27 (Xinhua)China Launches Lunar Relay Satellite

China's Chang Zheng 4C orbited the Queqiao data relay satellite from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on May 20, 2018. Liftoff from LC 3 took place at 21:25 UTC.

Queqiao, a 425 kg CAST 100 series satellite will serve as a communications relay for the upcoming Chang'e 4 lunar landing mission, which plans to perform the first robotic landing on the far side of the Moon. Queqiao will position itself into halo orbit around the Earth-Moon L2 Lagrange Point to allow communications with the lander from Earth.

Queqiao and two 45 kg microsatellites, named Longjiang 1 and 2, were injected into a roughly 200 x 400,000 km transfer orbit by the three-stage rocket. Queqiao will use its hydrazine propulsion system to reach its final orbit.

The launch vehicle, serial number Y27, was the first CZ-4 to fly from Xichang.

F9-55 (SpaceX)"Block 5" Inaugural

F9-55, the first "Block 5" increment of the Falcon 9 v1.2 design, orbited Bangabandhu 1, Bangladesh's first geostationary communications satellite, from Kennedy Space Center LC 39A on May 11, 2018. The 3.7 tonne Thales Alenia Space Spacebus 4000B2 series satellite separated into a geosynchronous transfer orbit about 33 minutes 38 seconds after the 20:14 UTC liftoff, following two burns by the Falcon 9 second stage. The launch followed an automatic abort on May 10 about 1 minute before that planned liftoff.

SpaceX has incrementally upgraded the Falcon 9 v1.2 design since it first appeared in December, 2015. The Block 5 version incorporates higher-thrust Merlin 1D engines that feature turbopump modifications requested by NASA to support upcoming crew launches. Block 5 includes second stage pressurization changes, made after the AMOS 6 Falcon 9 explosion, that allow for faster, later, denser, chilled kerosene fuel loading. Block 5 also sports new landing legs that will be able to retract after landing without needing to be removed as was prior practice. Other changes appeared in earlier Block designs, including a bolted rather than a welded first stage engine thrust structure, titanium grid fins, and an improved second stage design.

F9-55 (SpaceX)F9-55 Launch, Drone View

The Block 5 first stage thrust increases to 775.65 tonnes (1.71 million pounds) at sea level, an increase of 8% from Block 4. Thrust has increased about 12% from the 694 tonnes (1.53 million pounds) thrust of the initial Falcon 9 v1.2 Merlin 1D-powered vehicles and nearly 30% from the 600 tonnes (1.32 million pounds) thrust of the Falcon 9 v1.1 Merlin 1D-powered rockets that began flying in 2013. Second stage thrust remained at 95.26 tonnes for this flight, though the Merlin 1D Vacuum engine is reported to be capable of a future upgrade to 99.79 tonnes thrust. The changes should allow Falcon 9 to finally approach the payload performance numbers that have been listed on the SpaceX web site since April 2016.  SpaceX believes that the design should also allow for more than that the single first stage reflights so far attained.

First stage number B1046 burned for about 2 min 31 sec, a few seconds shorter than earlier, similar missions, before separating to perform reentry and landing burns to land on the "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship postioned about 630 km downrange. The second stage performed a planned 5 min 43 sec first burn to reach a parking orbit at T+8 min 19 sec. This burn was substantially shorter than earlier, similar missions. The stage restarted at T+27 min 38 sec for a 59 second long second burn that accelerated Bangabandhu 1 to GTO.

The satellite will employ 26 Ku-band and 14 C-band transponders to provide communications services to Bangladesh and nearby regions from its final geostationary position at 119.1 deg East.

B1046 was test fired at McGregor, Texas during late February or early March, 2018 and was briefly hot fired at LC 39A with the second stage but no payload attached, on May 4, 2018.

A total of 25 Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy core and booster stages have now been recovered in 31 attempts, including 2 of 3 Falcon Heavy stage landing tries. Four of the successful landings have been on "Just Read the Instructions" off California, 10 at Cape Canaveral LZ 1, one at LZ 2, and 10 on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" off Florida.

Nineteen individual first stages have been recovered. Eleven have flown twice, but five of those were either expended or lost during their second flights. All of the recovered stages have been v1.2 types.

CZ-4C Gaofen 5 Launch (Xinhua)CZ-4C Launches Gaofen 5

China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 4C orbited Gaofen 5, an earth observation satellite, from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on May 8, 2018. The three-stage rocket lifted off from LC 9 at 18:28 UTC. It successfully boosted the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology 5000B2 series satellite into a 705 km sun ynchronous orbit.

Gaofen 5 is equipped with six instruments, which include visible, infrared, and spectral imagers, and atmospheric sensors.

It was the 12th DF-5 based CZ launch of the year, more than any other launch vehicle type.

AV-078 (NASA)Atlas 5 Boosts InSight Toward Mars

AV-078, a two-stage Atlas 5-401 topped by a 4-meter diameter Large Payload Fairing, boosted NASA's Mars InSight toward Mars from Vandenberg Air Force Base on May 5, 2018. It was the first interplanetary launch ever performed from the U.S. West Coast launch base. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 3 East took place at 11:05 UTC.

AV-078 flew on a 158 degree azimuth, aiming toward a 63.4 degree low earth parking orbit. The LOX/RP-1 fueled RD-180 powered first stage fired for 4 min 4 sec. Centaur's RL10C-1 LOX/LH2 engine then ignited for its first, 8 min 48 sec burn to reach the parking orbit. The payload fairing separated eight seconds after Centaur began its burn.

Centaur and InSight coasted for about 65 min 40 sec before performing a second, 5 min 23 sec burn to accelerate away from Earth into a trans-Mars solar orbit. InSight separated about 9 minutes after the burn ended, at about T+1 hour, 33 minutes, 19 seconds. The CubeSats separated in sequence shortly after InSight.

InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) weighed 694 kg at launch, including a 425 kg lander (fueled), a 79 kg cruise stage, and a 189 kg aeroshell. The lander carried a probe that will be hammered about 15 meters into Mars surface, a seismometer, a magnetometer (the first expected to land on Mars surface), a laser reflector, and other instruments. A robot arm will place the primary instrument package onto the surface.

The two MarCO CubeSats, named MarCO-A and MarCO-B, each weighed about 13.5 kg. They will flyby Mars while conducting a data relay experiment with InSight.

InSight was derived from the earlier landers launched by Delta 2 rockets. Atlas 5 had excess performance for the mission, which allowed it to be launched from Vandenberg AFB. Previous solar orbit missions were launched from Cape Canaveral to gain that site's eastward Earth rotational velocity, which is mostly not available from Vandenberg because rockets have to launch from that California base toward the south or west across the Pacific Ocean. InSight was originally planned to launch in 2016, but instrument development problems delayed the flight.

CZ-3B/E Apstar 6C (Xinhua)CZ-3B/E Orbits APStar 6C

China's CZ-3B/E orbited Asia Pacific Satellite 6C (APStar 6C), a communications satellite, from Xichang satellite launch center on May 3, 2018. The "Enhanced" CZ-3B, China's long-serving GTO lifter, rose from LC 2 at 16:06 UTC.

The rocket's liquid hydrogen-fueled upper stage inserted the DFH-4 series satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit about one half-hour after liftoff.

After it propels itself to geosynchronous orbit, APStar 6C, which likely weighed more than 5 tonnes at launch, will use its 45 C, Ka, and Ku-band transponders to serve the Asia Pacific region for Hong Kong based APT Satellite Company Limited.

It was the 46th CZ-3B launch and the 43rd success.

CZ-11 Y4 Launch (Xinhua)CZ-11 Launch

China's four-stage solid fuel CZ-11 launched five small remote sensing satellites, including one named Zhuhai 1, into sun synchronous low earth orbit from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on April 26, 2018. Liftoff from a canister attached to a mobile transporter/erector parked on a flat pad at 40.9691 N 100.343 E took place at 04:42 UTC. The site was one of two flat pads built in recent years northeast of the CZ-2F launch site.

Zhuhai 1 is a video-based earth observation satellite. Four additional "hyperspectral" satellites, identified as "OHS-1" types, were also orbited. They are designed to provide lower resolution imaging of the Earth's surface.

It was the fourth known CZ-11 flight, following previous launches on September 25, 2015, November 9, 2016, and January 19, 2018. The 58 tonne rocket may be based on China's DF-31 series solid fuel ballistic missile, because the canister used to launch CZ-11 is similar to launch canisters used by the road-mobile DF-31A. CZ-11 is reportedly 20.8 meters long (other reports suggest 18.7 meters), and 2 meters in diameter with a 58 tonne launch mass and a 120 tonne liftoff thrust. Its fourth stage has demonstrated in-space maneuvering capability. CZ-11 may be able to lift 350 kg or more to sun synchronous orbit.

It was the year's 40th known orbital launch attempt, a rate well in excess of the post-Cold War average.

Rokot Sentinel 3B Launch (ESA)Rokot Orbits Sentinel 3B

Russia's Rokot/Briz KM orbited Europe's Sentinel 3B earth observing satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on April 25, 2018. Liftoff from Site 133 Pad 3 took place at 17:57 UTC. The Briz KM stage performed a more than nine-minute first burn during ascent to reach an elliptical parking orbit. The stage restarted at 19:12 UTC for a roughly 30 second burn to insert the 1,150 kg satellite into a roughly 800 km sun synchronous orbit.

Satellite separation took place a few minutes after the second Briz KM firing. Confirmation took place at 19:30 UTC when the European Space Agency received signals from the satellite at the Kiruna station in Sweden.

Briz KM was to perform two deorbit burns after satellite separation to lower its orbit.

Sentinel 3B, a Thales Alenia Space Prima Bus satellite, Will be part of Europe's Copernicus environmental monitoring network. The satellite will measure ocean temperatures, color, surface height, and sea ice thickness. Over land, it will measure river and lake height, monitor wildfires, provide land use mapping, and monitor the extent of vegetation.

It was the final commercial Rokot launch, and thus the final Eurokot mission. A handful of Rokot missions remain for the Russian government, after which the repurposed missile system will reportedly be retired.

Falcon 9 TESS Launch (NASA)Falcon 9 Boosts TESS Planet Finder

SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.2 F9-54, using the final new "Block 4" first stage, B1045, launched NASA's planet-finder TESS into a higly elliptical earth orbit from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 on April 18, 2018. Liftoff took place at 22:51 UTC.

After performing its 2 min 29 sec boost, the first stage slowed itself and landed on downrange platform "Of Course I Still Love You". It was the first successful downrange platform landing since the October 30, 2017 Koreasat 5A launch.

TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, only weighed 350 kg, having originally been planned to fly atop a smaller rocket. The Orbital ATK LEOStar-2 satellite was targeted toward a 200 x 275,000 km x 29.5 deg orbit and deployed about 49.5 minutes after liftoff. The Falcon 9 second stage performed two burns to reach the deployment orbit. A third burn was also planned that would propel the stage into solar orbit at mission's end.

During its first several weeks, TESS will fire its on-board propulsion system five times prior to a lunar swing-by and a final trim burn to reach a 108,400 km x 376,300 km (14 day) operational orbit.

The B1045 first stage was tested at McGregor during early December, 2017 and delivered to Cape Canaveral in early March, 2018. The stage, topped by its second stage but no payload, was briefly static fired at SLC 40 on April 11, 2018. An April 16 launch attempt was scrubbed with about 3.5 hours to go in the count to allow additional "GNC analysis" according to SpaceX.

A total of 24 Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy core and booster stages have now been recovered in 30 attempts, including 2 of 3 Falcon Heavy stage landing tries. Four of the successful landings have been on "Just Read the Instructions" off California, 10 at Cape Canaveral LZ 1, one at LZ 2, and nine on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" off Florida.

Eighteen individual first stages have been recovered. Eleven have flown twice, but five of those were either expended or lost during their second flights. All of the recovered stages have been v1.2 types.


Proton Orbits Blagovest 12L

A Proton M Briz M launched Blagovest 12L, Russia's second Blagovest military communications satellite, from Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 18, 2018. The liftoff from Site 81 Pad 24 took place at 22:12 UTC, with no live TV coverage or launch photographs provided. The Briz M upper stage performed a series of burns (most likely four burns) to insert the satellite into near-geosynchronous orbit. Upon reaching orbit the satellite was named Kosmos 2526.

Blagovest ("good news") is an Ekspress-2000 series satellite built by ISS Reshetnev in Zheleznogorsk, Russia, for Russia's Ministry of Defense. It carries Ka and C-band transponders. Europe's Thales Alenia provided attitude control system sensors and communications payload elements. Blagovest 11L was the first, and 12L the second, of four planned in the series.


AV-079 (ULA) Atlas 5 Launch

United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5, tail number AV-079, boosted multiple satellites to near-geosynchronous orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on April 14, 2018. The 2.5 stage Atlas 551 variant, with five solid rocket motors, a Centaur second stage powered by a single RL10C-1 LOX/LH2 engine, and a 5-meter diameter payload fairing, lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41 at 23:13 UTC, beginning the nearly seven-hour Air Force Space Command AFSPC 11 mission.

Two primary satellites were stacked atop one another. On top was CBAS (Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM), a military communications satellite. The aft satellite was named EAGLE (ESPA Augmented GEO Laboratory Experiment). EAGLE is an experiment for the Air Force Research Laboratory. Based on an Orbital ATK ESPA bus, EAGLE can carry up to six "hosted or deployable payloads".  A subsatellite named "Mycroft" is reportedly carried on this flight.  EAGLE may have weighed as much as 780 kg.

The solid motors burned out and separated about 1 min 47 sec after liftoff. Atlas RD-180 first stage fired for 4 minutes 33.5 seconds. Centaur was then slated to perform three burns, which all took place during a media black-out phase. The first burn was planned to last about 6 min 1 sec to reach a low earth parking orbit. A second burn was to begin about 12 min 7 sec after the first cutoff and last about 4 min 49 sec to push the vehicle into a geosynchronous transfer orbit, beginning a roughly 5 hour 6 min coast to apogee. A third, roughly 2 min 36 sec burn would complete the insertion. A spacecraft separation window extended for another 1.5 hours, until T+6 hours 57 min 24 sec.

PSLV-C41 (ISRO)PSLV Launch

India's PSLV-XL successfully orbited IRNSS 1I, the country's eighth-planned navigation satellite, from Sriharikota on April 11, 2018. The 4.5-stage PSLV-XL variant, flying the C-41 mission, lifted off from Satish Dhawan Space Center's First Launch Pad at 22:34 UTC. IRNSS 1I was targeted toward a 284 x 20,650 km x 19.2 deg transfer orbit. The satellite was a replacement for IRNSS 1H, which was stranded inside its unjettisonned payload fairing during a failed August 31, 2017 PLSV-XL launch.

The 1,425 kg satellite will raise itself from the subsynchronous transfer orbit to a geosynchronous orbit with a 29 deg inclination, tracing a small figure-8 pattern over the Earth's surface, centered on 55 deg East longitude.

India's first generation navigation constellation consists of four satellites in inclined geosynchronous orbit and three in equatorial geostationary orbits.

It was the 43rd PSLV flight and the 20th by a PSLV-XL variant.

CZ-4C Y25 (Xinhua)Surprise Launch

China performed an unannounced launch that orbited three spy satellites from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on April 10, 2018. A three-stage hypergolic propellant-fueled Chang Zheng (CZ-4C) rocket lifted off from site 43/603 at 04:25 UTC with a Yaogan 31 triplet. One or two smaller satellites may also have been orbited.

The Yaogan 31 satellites were boosted toward 1,100 km x 63.4 deg orbits. The satellites are thought to be formation flyers that triangulate the location of radio emitters, most likely used to track naval ships.

It was the 10th DF-5 based CZ launch of the year, more than any other launch vehicle family.

VA-242 (Arianespace)Ariane 5 Returns with Success

Ariane 5 ECA vehicle number L5102 orbited two communication satellites from Kourou on April 5, 2018, a successful return to flight after a January 25, 2018 launch failure that sent two satellites into incorrect orbits. Arianespace Mission VA242 began with a 21:34 UTC liftoff from ELA-3. It placed Japan's DSN 1/Superbird 8 and Britain's Hylas 4 into their planned 250 x 35,786 km x 3 deg geosynchronous transfer orbits about 34 minutes later, after the ESC-A liquid hydrogen-fueled upper stage completed its single, 16 minute 5 second burn.

DSN 1/Superbird 8, a 5,348 kg NEC Corporation DS2000 series satellite, separated first. It will provide X-band communications for Japan's Ministry of Defense and will also provide Ku and Ka band commercial services for Sky Perfect JSAT Group from 162 deg East.

Hylas 4, a 4,050 kg GEOStar 3 series Orbital ATK satellite built for British-based Avanti Communications, separated from the lower position after the Sylda 5 adapter had separated. Hylas 4 will provide Ka band communication services to Europe and Africa from 33.5 deg West.

VA242 was the 64th Ariane 5 ECA success in 66 flights.

F9-53 (NASA)CRS-14 Launch

The 53rd Falcon 9 orbited a cargo carrying Dragon for NASA from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 on April 2, 2018. Liftoff took place at 20:30 UTC. Falcon 9 first stage B1039.2, which had previously boosted the CRS-12 mission on August 14, 2017 and returned to Landing Zone 1, powered the two-stage rocket during the first 2 minutes 41 seconds of this CRS-14 mission. Dragon 10.2, a refurbished spacecraft capsule that first flew during the CRS-8 mission on April 8, 2016, rode atop the second stage. It was the third flight of a previously-flown Dragon.

For the sixth time during the last seven Falcon 9 launches, the first stage was purposefully expended. The stage carried landing legs and steering grid fins to allow for reentry and/or landing testing with no landing platform present. It was the 11th flight of a previously-flown Falcon 9 first stage, five of which have been purposefully expended during their second flights. Only about three first stages remain that might be reflown.

The second stage completed its burn about 9 minutes 11 seconds after liftoff to insert Dragon 10.2 into a low earth orbit inclined 51.6 deg to the equator. Dragon was expected to rendevous with ISS on April 4.

Dragon carried about 2,630 kg of cargo for the International Space Station. CRS-14 was the 14th of up to 20 CRS missions contracted with NASA. After the 20th mission, SpaceX will begin performing its part of the CRS-2 contract, which will involve use of a Crew Dragon variant to carry cargo.

B1039.2 performed a hot fire test at SLC 40, with the second stage attached, on March 28, 2018. The stage had apparently remained at the Cape since its first launch. As has become customary, the first stage was left "sooty" after its first flight.

CZ-4C Y26 (Xinhua)CZ-4C Orbits Gaofen 1 Triplet

China's Chang Zheng (CZ) 4C orbited three remote sensing satellites from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on March 31, 2018. Liftoff from LC 9 took place at 03:22 UTC. The three 805 kg satellites were inserted into roughly 640 km x 98 deg sun synchronous orbits.

The satellites, named Gaofen 1-02, 1-03, and 1-04, were built by China Spacesat Co. Ltd, a commercial spinoff of CAST. They have a 2 meter resolution digital camera and an 8 meter resolution multi-spectral imager. Plans call for up to 14 satellites to form a near-real-time earth observing constellation.

It was China's 10th orbital launch of the year, and the 9th by the DF-5 based CZ family.  The launch was also the year's 30th orbital success, world-wide.

F9-51 (SpaceX)Iridium NEXT 5

The 52nd Falcon 9, a v1.2 variant, delivered 10 Iridium NEXT satellites into 625 km x 86.6 deg orbits on March 30, 2018.

Liftoff of the Iridium NEXT 5 mission took place at 14:13 UTC from Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Complex 4 East. The 860 kg Thales Alenia Space satellites deployed about an hour after launch after the second stage performed a brief (11 seconds according to the SpaceX press kit, 4 seconds according to the SpaceX webcast) second burn. The stage fired for 6 minutes 23 seconds during its first burn according the the press kit, but it was not possible to confirm the timing because the webcast was purposefully cut short of the burn's ending due to new NOAA remote sensing licensing requirements. The first burn was planned to place the vehicle into a roughly 180 x 625 km parking orbit according to the webcast.

It was the fifth of eight planned Falcon 9 Iridium NEXT launches.

A used first stage (B1041.2), which previously flew during the Iridium NEXT 3 launch on October 9, 2017, performed the initial 2 minute 34 second boost. The stage was purposefully expended, though it performed what SpaceX called a "simulated landing" in the ocean.

Five of the most recent six Falcon 9 vehicles have been fully expended. It was the tenth flight of a previously-flown Falcon 9 first stage, four of which have been purposefully expended during their second flights. Since SpaceX appears to be limiting its recovered stages to only one reflight, the company currently possesses only about four first stages that might be reflown.  One of those is allocated to the upcoming CRS-14 mission.

B1041.2 apparently returned to the SpaceX factory in Hawthorne, California after its October, 2017 flight for refurbishment. It then returned to Vandenberg AFB where, with the second stage attached, it performed a static test firing on March 24, 2018.

F9-52 was topped by another "Fairing 2.0", a slightly enlarged payload fairing that was equipped with recovery systems, including thrusters, a guidance system, and a parafoil. SpaceX again deployed a specially equipped ship named Mr. Steven that attempted, but again failed, to catch one of the fairing halves in a giant net, again due to a parachute system issue.

CZ-3B Beidou 3 M9/10CZ-3B/YZ-1 Orbits Beidou 3M Pair

China's Chang Zheng 3B (CZ-3B) orbited two Beidou 3M navigation satellites from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on March 29, 2018. Liftoff from LC 2 took place at 17:56 UTC. The satellites were designated Beidou 3 M9 and M10, or in some lists as Beidou 30/31.

The CZ-3B liquid hydrogen fueled third stage fired twice to inject the vehicle into a transfer orbit. A hypergolic propellant Yuanzheng 1 (YZ-1) upper stage then inserted the roughly 1.014 tonne satellites into their final 21,500 km x 55.5 deg orbits about four hours after liftoff.

It was the fourth launch of operational Beidou 3 satellites, according to Xinhua. The Beidou 3 series will offer improved navigation accuracy compared to previous Beidou and Beidou 2 constellations. Plans call for 18 Beidou 3 satellites to be orbited by the end of 2018 and more than 30 by 2020.

Soyuz 2-1v No. 4Soyuz 2-1v Launch

Russia's fourth Soyuz 2-1v launched with a classified payload from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on March 29, 2018. Liftoff from Pad 4 Site 43 took place at 17:38 UTC. The two-stage Soyuz 2-1v boosted Kosmos 2525, believed to be a lightweight military reconnaissance research satellite named EMKA, into a roughly 316 x 319 km x 96.64 deg low earth orbit.

It was the first Soyuz 2-1v to fly without a Volga upper stage. All missions have launched from Plesetsk 43/4.


GSLV-F08 (ISRO)India Launches Communications Satellite (04/11/18 Update)

India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) successfully launched the GSAT-6A communications satellite from Sriharikota on March 29, 2018. Liftoff from the Second Launch Pad at Satish Dhawan Space Center took place at 11:26 UTC. The 2,140 kg satellite separated into geosynchronous transfer orbit about 17 minutes 47 seconds later. The targeted orbit was 170 x 35,975 km x 20.67 deg.

The GSLV-F08 mission used a "Mk 2" launch vehicle with the sixth flight of India's indigenously developed Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS). The rocket also featured an upgraded "High Thrust Vikas Engine" on its GS2 hypergolic second stage that produced 86.35 tonnes of thrust, an increase from 81.4 tonnes.

GSAT-6A, built by ISRO, was to have been used by India's military, but it suffered a catastrophic power supply failure after it performed its first orbit-raising maneuver. It had S and C band payloads. The S-band payload used a 6 meter diameter unfurlable antenna - largest ever for ISRO. The satellite's 45 kgf liquid apogee motor burned MMH/MON-3 during the first of a planned series of burns designed to reach geosynchronous orbit.

Soyuz FG with Soyuz MS-08 (Roskosmos)Soyuz Launches ISS Crew

Russia's Soyuz FG orbited the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft from Baikonur, Kazakhstan with three International Space Station crew on March 21, 2018. It was the year's first crewed launch. Liftoff from Baikonur Cosmodrome Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 17:44 UTC. Eight minutes 45 seconds later, the spacecraft separated from the R-7 third stage into a low earth orbit inclined roughly 51.6 deg to the equator. Onboard were Russia's Oleg Artemyev and NASA's Andrew Feustel and Rick Arnold, veteran spacefarers comprising the Expedition 55/56 crew.

Soyuz MS-08 aimed for a two-day ascent to ISS. The MS-08 crew will join Norishige Kanai, Anton Shkaplerov, and Scott Tingle at the station.

It was the fourth R-7 launch of 2018.

CZ-2D Y50 (LKW 4)CZ-2D Launches LKW 4

China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 2D orbited Ludikancha Weixin 4 (LKW 4, or Land Survey Satellite No. 4) from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on March 17, 2018. It was the fourth CZ-2D launch of an LKW satellite from the same launch pad since December 3, 2017.

Liftoff by CZ-2D serial number Y50 from Site 43 Pad 603 took place at 07:10 UTC. The new-type Earth imaging satellite was expected to enter a roughly 500 km x 97.46 deg sun synchronous orbit.

Xinhua News Agency, the official press agency of the People's Republic of China, has reported that the satellites, made by CAST, will be used for remote sensing of land resources.

It was the year's 25th world-wide orbital launch attempt.

VS18 (Arianespace)Soyuz Orbits O3b Satellites from Kourou

More than 3 years after the last O3b launch, Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat carried four more O3b satellites into orbit from Guiana Space Center at Kourou on March 09, 2018. A Russian crew performed the launch from the Soyuz Launch Complex (ELS) near Sinnamary at 17:10 UTC. The 3.5 stage rocket performed Arianespace mission VS18.

After a 9 min 23 sec ascent by the 2.5 stage Soyuz launcher to a suborbital trajectory, Fregat performed a roughly 4 min burn to reach a 160 x 205 km x 5.16 deg parking orbit. The stage coasted for 8 min before starting its second, 8 min 36 sec burn to enter a 190 x 7,869 km x 3.88 deg transfer orbit. Following a 1 hour 21 min coast to apogee, Fregat fired again, this time for 5 min 6 sec, to enter its 7,830 km x 0.04 deg insertion orbit.

After the third burn, the satellites were released two by two, with the first released about two hours after liftoff. The second release occurred about 22 minutes later, after a short firing of Fregat's Attitude Control System (ACS). Fregat subsequently performed two more short burns to lower itself into a disposal orbit about 200 km below the O3b release point.

Three previous Soyuz missions from Kourou orbited a total of 12 satellites for O3b Networks during 2013-2014. Thales Alenia Space built the satellites, which weigh about 700 kg each. The satellites are designed to provide low latency, high bandwidth connectivity using 12 Ka band transponders per satellite.

F9-51 (SpaceX)Falcon 9 Launches Hispasat 30W-6

SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.2 F9-51, using new first stage B1044, launched Spain's Hispasat 30W-6 into subsynchronous transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 on March 6, 2018. Liftoff took place at 05:33 UTC. It was the 50th Falcon 9 launch, though the 51st Falcon 9 stacked for a launch campaign.

The first stage was purposefully expended during this flight due to high sea-state conditions that prevented the landing platform from leaving Port Canaveral. Plans had originally called for a landing attempt on the platform at sea. The Block 4 stage was equipped with landing legs and titanium steering grid fins.

The first stage fired for about 2 min 35 sec before staging. The second stage started four seconds after first stage cutoff. Separation of the "Type 1" fairing took place at about T+3 min 39 sec. Second stage cutoff at about T+8 min 39 sec left the vehicle in a low earth parking orbit. Falcon 9 coasted toward its first equator crossing before restarting at about T+26 min 38 sec. The second burn of the Merlin 1D Vacuum engine lasted for about 55 seconds to accelerate the 6,092 kg SS/Loral-built satellite into a 184 x 22,261 km x 26.9 deg subsynchronous transfer orbit.  Spacecraft separation took place at about T+32 min 51 sec.

Hispasat 30W-6 will fire its four SPT-100 plasma thrusters, providing more than 2,100 m/s delta-v to gradually raise itself into a 35,900 km geostationary orbit positioned at 30 degrees West. The satellite will provide broadband services in Europe and Northwest Africa.

It was the fourth all-expendable Falcon 9 launch during the past five flights. This was the first time that a Block 4 stage had been expended during its inaugural flight.

The two F9-51 stages were tested fired at McGregor, Texas during late October or early November, 2017. They were delivered to Cape Canaveral during early January. The stacked stages were loaded with propellants and the first stage static tested at SLC 40 on February 20, 2018.  A planned February 25 launch date was shelved to allow SpaceX to investigate payload fairing pressurization system issues.

AV077 (NASA TV)Atlas 5 Launches GOES-S

AV-077, an Atlas 5-541 with four solid rocket boosters and a five meter payload fairing, boosted GOES-S, the second of a new generation of weather satellites, into orbit on March 1, 2018 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 took place at 22:02 UTC. The 5,192 kg Lockheed A2100 series satellite separated into a 8,215 x 35,286 km x 9.52 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit about 3.5 hours later.

The Centaur second stage fired its RL10C-1 engine three times during the mission. The first burn put the stage and payload into a low earth parking orbit 12 min 11.7 sec after liftoff. The second burn began 22 min 38.4 sec after liftoff and lasted 5 min 31 sec, resulting in a standard type geosynchronous transfer orbit with a low perigee and 25-28 deg inclination. The final 1 min 35 sec burn at apogee began 3 hr 28 min 8 sec after liftoff. It raised the perigee and lowered the inclination.

GOES-S will use its own LEROS-1C Hydrazine/MON engine to raise itself to geostationary orbit.

H-2A F38H-2A Launches Spysat

Japan's H-2A boosted its classified IGS Optical 6 reconnaissance satellite into sun synchronous orbit from Tanegashima on February 27, 2018.  Flying in the standard 202 configuration with two SRB-A strap on solid boosters, H-2A F38 lifted off from Yoshinobu Pad 1 at 04:34 UTC and flew directly to low earth orbit. 

It was the first H-2A launch of 2018. 



F9-50 Paz Launch (SpaceX)Falcon 9 Paz Launch

The 49th Falcon 9 to liftoff boosted Spain's Paz radarsat to sun synchronous orbit, along with two experimental microsatellites for SpaceX, from Vandenberg AFB on February 22, 2018. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 4 East took place at 14:17 UTC, with the rocket rising on thrust provided by a used first stage, serial number B1038.2, which had previously boosted the Formosat 5 mission from the same launch pad on August 24, 2017.

During B1038's first flight, the stage landed on downrange floating platform "Just Read the Instructions". This time, the Block 3 stage was not equipped with landing legs and was purposefully expended. It was the third booster so expended during the last four Falcon 9 launches. All three were used Block 3 stages performing their second launch.

It was the ninth flight of a previously-flown Falcon 9 first stage, three of which have been purposefully expended during their second flights.

1,450 kg Paz was deployed into a 514 km x 97.4 deg orbit about 11 minutes after liftoff, following a 2 min 29 sec first stage burn and a 6 min 18 sec second stage firing. Paz, built by Airbus Defence and Space, was assembled in Spain. It will provide radar imaging for Spain's military and for commercial customers. The two SpaceX satellites, named Microsat 2a and 2b, were to be deployed later, after the SpaceX webcast of the launch ended.

A brief first stage engine firing, with the second stage, but no payloads, attached, took place at SLC 4E on February 11. An initial launch attempt was scrubbed due to high winds on February 21.

F9-50 was topped by the first "Fairing 2.0", a slightly enlarged payload fairing that was equipped with recovery systems, including thrusters, a guidance system, and a parafoil. SpaceX deployed a specially equipped ship named Mr. Steven that attempted to catch one of the fairing halves in a giant net, but the fairing missed the boat by several hundred yards. The fairing floated intact after the attempt.

Progress MS-08 Launch (Roscosmos)Progress MS-08 Launch

A Soyuz 2-1a orbited Russia's uncrewed Progress MS-08 space station cargo spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome on February 13, 2018. Liftoff from Area 31 Pad 6 took place at 08:13 UTC. Progress will dock with the International Space Station two days after launch.

An initial launch attempt was scrubbed during the final moments of the countdown on February 11 for reasons unannounced. If the original launch date had held, Progress MS-08 would have attempted a rapid, 3.5 hour ascent to rendezvous with ISS. The two-day delay forced use of the time-honored two-day ascent.

Progress MS-08 carried 1,390 kg of dry cargo, 890 kg of refuelling propellant, 420 kg of water, and 46 kg of compressed oxygen, for a total 2,746 kg cargo, bringing the loaded spacecraft mass at liftoff to about 7,280 kg.

CZ-3B/YZ-1 Feb 12, 2018 (Xinhua)CZ-3B/YZ-1 Orbits Beidou 3M Duo

China's Chang Zheng 3B (CZ-3B) orbited two Beidou 3M navigation satellites from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on February 12, 2018. Liftoff from LC 2 took place at 05:03 UTC. The satellites were designated Beidou 3 MEO 3 and MEO 4.

The CZ-3B liquid hydrogen fueled third stage fired twice to inject the vehicle into a transfer orbit. A hypergolic propellant Yuanzheng 1 (YZ-1) upper stage then inserted the roughly 1.014 tonne satellites into their final 21,500 km x 55.26 deg orbits about four hours after liftoff.

It was the third launch of operational Beidou 3 satellites, according to Xinhua. The Beidou 3 series will offer improved navigation accuracy compared to previous Beidou and Beidou 2 constellations. Plans call for 18 Beidou 3 satellites to be orbited by the end of 2018 and more than 30 by 2020.

Falcon Heavy 1 (SpaceX)Falcon Heavy Debut

Long delayed, long anticipated, the first SpaceX Falcon Heavy performed its Demo Mission from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 Pad A on February 6, 2018. Flying in a one-off interim configuration using two older used boosters and a new core first stage, the roughly 1,400 tonne, 70 meter tall triple-barrel rocket lifted off at 20:45 UTC on 2,128 tonnes (4.7 million pounds) of thrust created by a total of 27 Merlin 1D engines, 9 on each core/booster stage. Future operational Falcon Heavies will produce more thrust and will use the more-advanced "Block 5" stages.

Elon Musk's used Tesla roadster, which typically weighs 1,250 kg on the street in driveable configuration, served as a non-seperating simulated payload mass atop the second stage. The second stage performed three burns during the six hour mission to accelerate itself and the Tesla into a heliocentric orbit ranging from the orbit of Earth to beyond Mars (0.99 x 1.71 AU).  An important goal of the mission was to demonstrate a long coast between the second and third burns, an ability needed for some DoD EELV Heavy class missions for which SpaceX hopes to compete.

Falcon Heavy 1 (SpaceX)Given a 50-50 chance of success by its creator on this inaugural flight, Falcon Heavy checked off mission milestones as it rose cleanly from its reconfigured launch pad, passed through Max-Q, and survived booster shutdown (2 min 29 sec) and separation (2 min 33 sec). The core stage, having flown at a lower throttle setting during much of its burn, continued on for another 25 seconds after booster cutoff before it, too, shut down and seperated.

The second stage ignited at 3 min 15 sec and burned until 8 min 31 sec to reach a temporary parking orbit. The stage perform its second burn beginning at about 28 min 22 sec and lasting 30 seconds. It was subsequently tracked in a 180 x 6,951 km x 29.0 deg elliptical orbit, where it circled the Earth twice for about 5.5 hours before igniting a third time, as it approached second perigee, over the Southwestern U.S. states. During the coast, SpaceX webcast live video of the roadster, complete with a space-suited dummy driver named "Starman", floating through space with the Earth, Moon, and Sun periodically filling the background.

Falcon Heavy Booster Landings (SpaceX) The two side boosters both performed three-engine boost-back and reentry burns, and single-engine landing burns briefly augmented by two additional engines that cut off when the landing legs deployed, to land side-by-side at Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1 and 2, creating a surreal, science-fiction-like sight. The core booster performed three-engine boost-back and reentry burns, and attempted a three-engine landing burn, aimed toward landing on the converted barge "Of Course I Still Love You", but two of the engines failed to ignite for landing and the stage crashed into the Atlantic.

The Falcon Heavy Demo vehicle consisted of side booster B1023.2, side booster B1025.2, and new core stage B1033.1. The side boosters were originally "Block 2" variants while the core was a "Block 3" version. Future Falcon Heavies will likely use "Block 5" stages.

B1023.2 was previously used during the May 27, 2016 Thaicom 8 launch, when it landed on OSCILY. B1025.2 boosted the CRS-9 mission on July 18, 2016, landing at LZ 1. Both cores returned to Hawthorne for refurbishment and conversion into the side core configuration, with sleek nose cones added in place of their interstage sections. B1023.2 was static tested at McGregor during mid-April 2017. B1025.2 was tested at McGregor on August 29, 2017. Both spent the intervening months in the KSC LC 39A HIF. The B1033 core stage was test fired at McGregor during early May, 2017. Its second stage was tested around the same period.

Falcon Heavy was assembled in the HIF and rolled to the pad for the first time for mechanical fit checks on December 28, 2017. A propellant loading test was attempted, but aborted, on January 11, 2018. A second attempt was stopped on January 14 and a third on January 20. Finally, on January 24, a successful propellant loading test ended with a successful static firing that lasted about 8 to 10 seconds. The February 6 launch occurred on the first attempt, though high winds at altitude delayed the launch by several hours.

Elon Musk said that SpaceX spent about $500 million on Falcon Heavy development leading to the Demo Flight.

A total of 23 Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy core and booster stages have now been recovered in 29 attempts, including 2 of 3 Falcon Heavy stage landing tries. Four of the successful landings have been on "Just Read the Instructions" off California, 10 at Cape Canaveral LZ 1, one at LZ 2, and eight on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" off Florida. Seventeen individual first stages have been recovered. Eight have flown twice, but two have now been purposefully expended during their second flights. All of the recovered stages have been v1.2 types.

SS-520-5 (JAXA)Modified Sounding Rocket Orbits Cubesat

Japan's SS-520, serial number 5 (SS-520-5), a small experimental three-stage orbital launcher based on an existing two-stage sounding rocket, succeeded during its second orbital attempt from Uchinoura Space Center at Kagoshima on February 3, 2018. The success made SS-520-5 the smallest rocket ever used to orbit a satellite.

SS-520 is a two-stage sounding rocket developed by Japan's ISAS that first flew in 1998. A small solid third stage motor was added for orbital launch attempts. Its first orbital attempt, on January 14, 2017, ended in failure when telemetry was lost during the first stage burn, preventing ignition of the second stage. An investigation determined that a power supply failed, likely due to a short circuit that appeared during the high-g ascent.

The 2.6 tonne, 9.65 meter tall solid-fueled rocket zipped skyward from its rail launcher at the KS sounding rocket pad at 05:03 UTC, aiming to place a tiny, 3kg cubesat named Tricom 1R into a 180 x 1,500 km x 31 deg orbit after a rapid ascent lasting only 4 minutes 23 seconds. The finned, spin-stabilized first stage fired for 31.7 seconds, producing a maximum of about 18 tonnes of thrust, and seperated after one minute, sending the vehicle on a suborbital trajectory with a 179 km apogee. A nitrogen gas attitude control system controlled the upper stages during the latter part of the coast. Near apogee at T+3 minutes the 325 kg second stage ignited to burn for 24.4 seconds.

SS-520-5's 78 kg third stage seperated and ignited at T+3 minutes 58 seconds and burned out at T+4 minutes 23.6 seconds. Tricom 1R was jettisonned 7.5 minutes after liftoff. U.S. tracking data subsequently showed two objects in a 191 x 2,010 km x 30.9 deg orbit.

The mission was a validation test of the "nano-launcher" concept. Japan currently has no plans to fly more SS-520 rockets to orbit.

CZ-2D 02/02/18CZ-2D Launches Zhangheng 1

China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 2D orbited Zhangheng 1, an ionospheric research satellite, from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on February 2, 2018. Liftoff of the Y13 vehicle from Site 43 Pad 603 took place at 07:51 UTC. The 730 kg CAST2000 series satellite, along with six small cubesates, were aimed toward a roughly 500 km x 97.5 deg sun synchronous orbit.

Zhangheng 1 is also known as the China Seismo-Electromagnetic Satellite. It was created by the Chinese Academy of Space Technology. It will measure the correllation of seismic activity with ionospheric and electromagnetic activity, among other tasks. The satellite is named for Zhang Heng, who studied earthquakes during the East Han Dynasty nearly 1,900 years ago.

It was the fifth DF-5 based CZ launch of 2018.

Soyuz 2.1a/Fregat Feb 1, 2018 (Roscosmos)Soyuz 2-1a/Fregat Flies from Vostochny

A Soyuz 2-1a/Fregat M lifted off from Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia's Far East on February 1, 2018, carrying two Kanopus-Vulkan remote sensing satellites and several microsatellites. Liftoff from Site 1S took place at 02:07 UTC, beginning the third orbital attempt from the base. The Fregat M upper stage performed two burns during the first hour of the mission to reach a roughly 510 km sun synchronous orbit, where Kanopus V Nos. 3 and 4, each 465 kg, separated.

Fregat M was to perform two more burns during the subsequent 2 hours 11 minutes prior to deploying four S-NET, four Lemur, and one D-Star One microsatellites. Fregat M was expected to perform a total of seven burns during its nearly five-hour mission, possibly hinting at several unknown satellite insertions. The final burn was designed to deorbit the stage.

The mission was the second for Fregat from Vostochny. A Volga upper stage rode atop a Soyuz 2-1a during an April 28, 2016 inaugural launch from the site. A Fregat M upper stage guidance failure caused the loss of Russia's Meteor M2-1 weather satellite, along with 18 microsatellites, during the second flight, by a Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat M, on November 28, 2017.

F9-49 (GovSat 1) Launch (SpaceX)Falcon 9 Launches GovSat 1

SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.2 F9-49, using previously-flown first stage B1032.2, launched Luxembourg's GovSat 1 into a supersynchronous transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 on January 31, 2018. Liftoff took place at 21:25 UTC. The launch came one day after a scrub caused both by high winds and by the need for SpaceX to replace a second stage transducer.  

The first stage was purposefully expended during this flight, although it was equipped with landing legs and steering grid fins and did perform three-engine boost-back, reentry, and landing burns as a test before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean. The stage had previously flown during the May 1, 2017 NROL 76 launch, when it returned to land at Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1.

The first stage fired for about 2 min 38 sec before staging. The second stage started three seconds later, after staging. Fairing separation took place at about T+3 min 44 sec. First stage cutoff at T+8 min 35 sec left the vehicle in a low earth parking orbit. Falcon 9 coasted toward the equator crossing of the west African coast before restarting at about T+26 min 40 sec. The second burn of the Merlin 1D Vacuum engine lasted for about 1 min 3 sec to accelerate the 4,230 kg Orbital ATK-built satellite into GTO. Spacecraft separation took place at about T+32 min 20 sec.

GovSat 1, formerly known as SES 16, will fire its own thrusters to gradually raise itself into a 35,900 km geostationary orbit positioned at 21.5 degrees East. SES will operate the satellite to serve Luxembourg's government with X and Ka-band transponders.

The first stage was refurbished at Cape Canaveral after its first flight. It was briefly hot-fired at SLC 40 on January 26 during a wet dress rehearsal/static test of the two-stage rocket, with no payload attached.

It was the second all-expendable Falcon 9 launch during the past three flights. Both expendable missions used first stages flying for the second time.

A total of 21 Falcon 9 first stages have been recovered in 26 attempts. Four of the successful landings have been on "Just Read the Instructions" off California, nine at Cape Canaveral LZ 1, and eight on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" off Florida. Seventeen first stages have been recovered. Six have flown twice, but two have now been purposefully expended during their second flights. All of the recovered stages have been v1.2 types.

VA241 (Arianespace)Ariane 5 Failure Places Satellites in Wrong Orbits

Ariane 5 ECA vehicle number L5101 boosted two communication satellites toward planned geosynchronous transfer orbits from Kourou on January 25, 2018. Arianespace Mission VA241 began with a 22:20 UTC liftoff from from ELA-3. It was slated to end about 35 minutes later with insertion and separation of the SES-14 and Al Yah 3 communication satellites into supersynchronous transfer orbits. However, shortly after the ESC-A second stage ignited, telemetry from the vehicle was lost, and not regained during the remainder of the scheduled flight.

After a delay, Arianespace announced that "both satellites were confirmed separated, acquired and ... on orbit". SES-14 and Al Yah 3 were reported to be communicating with their control centers, but no confirmation was given that they had achieved their planned orbits. Hours later, Arianespace and SES confirmed that an incorrect, but still unspecified, orbit had been achieved. Later still, tracking data showed objects in roughly 232 x 43,160 km x 20.64 deg orbits, far from the planned 250 x 45,234 km x 3.00 deg orbits. Some evidence suggested that the trajectory deviation may have begun with an off-azimuth ascent that became apparent shortly after liftoff, even before the solid boosters separated.

The deviation may require roughly 150-200 m/s extra delta-v from the satellites to reach their operational geostationary orbits, likely using up significant amounts of operational lifetime. SES-14 would likely be less affected than Al Yah 3 since it is equipped with an efficient primary electric thruster system. Al Yah 3 itself has electric station keeping thrusters.

The failure follows 63 consecutive Ariane 5 ECA successes dating back to 2002.

The 54.8 meter tall, 780 tonne rocket rose on 1,325 tonnes of liftoff thrust provided by two EAP solid boosters and a Vulcain 2 powered EPC cryogenic core. L5101's two boosters burned out and separated 2 min 24 sec after liftoff. The core stage shut down 8 min 44 sec after liftoff, having ignited 7 sec before liftoff. After a 10 second coast, the ESC-A upper stage was to begin its single 18 min 74 sec burn to reach the 250 x 45,000 km x 3 deg insertion orbit.

SES-14, a 4,423 kg Airbus Defence and Space satellite, separated first. It would provide multiple communications services to the Americas and Western Europe from its geostationary perch at 47.5 deg West. SES-14 hosted a NASA payload named Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD). GOLD is an ultraviolet imaging spectrograph that would image Earth’s disk.

Al Yah 3, a 3,795 kg Orbital ATK satellite, separated from the lower position after the Sylda 5 adapter had separated. Al Yah 3 would serve Brazil and Africa from 20 deg West.

The relatively light 8,218 kg total payload allowed for the higher planned apogee transfer orbit.

It was the year's first Ariane 5 launch, and the 65th Ariane 5 ECA flight since the type began flying in 2002.

CZ-2C YG 30-04 (Xinhua)CZ-2C Orbits Yaogan 30-04

China orbited its fourth set of Yaogan 30 triplet satellites on January 25, 2018 with a Chang Zheng 2C launch vehicle. The two stage rocket rose from Xichang Satellite Launch Center's LC 3 at 05:39 UTC. The satellite triplet was named Yaogan-30 Group 4. The "electromagnetic detection" satellites were inserted into roughly 600 km x 35 deg orbits.

The satellites may be formation flyers similar to the U.S. NOSS system, which perform a signals intelligence mission designed to monitor surface ship electronic emissions. It was the fourth launch for this constellation, all by CZ-2C rockets from Xichang LC 3, since September 29, 2017.

It was the fourth DF-5 based CZ launch of the year. No other launch vehicle family has seen more than one launch this year to date.

Electron No. 2 (Rocket Lab)Electron Success (January 25, 2018 Update)

Rocket Lab's Electron succeeded on its second test launch from New Zealand on January 21, 2018. The new small launch vehicle, named "Still Testing", lifted off from Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand's North Island at 01:43 UTC. The 17 meter tall, 1.2 meter diameter, less than 13 tonne rocket, its carbon composite case propellant tanks filled with kerosene and liquid oxygen, aimed toward a south, south-east azimuth, rising on about 15.65 metric tons of thrust from its nine electric-motor-pump-fed Rutherford engines.

Electron carried three cubesats and test instrumentation on this test flight. The first stage engines ignited at T-2 seconds, with liftoff at T-0. The stage burned out at T+2 min 30 sec and separated four seconds later. The second stage's single vacuum-optimized Rutherford engine ignited at T+2 min 36 sec and fired until T+8 min 14 sec to reach orbital velocity. The two-part payload shroud separated about 3 min 5 sec after launch.

Two Lemur-2 cubesats and one Dovesat were carried aloft. Rocket Lab's webcast suggested that all three separated at T+8 min 31 sec and were aimed toward 300 x 500 km x 83 deg orbits. Three objects were subsequently tracked in an orbit generally consistent with that target. But three additional objects were also tracked in nearly-circular 500 km orbits.

On January 23, 2018, Rocket Lab announced that the second Electron had carried an unannouced monopropellant kick stage that fired at first apogee to insert the two Lemur-2 cubesats into roughly 490 x 530 km, near-circular orbits. The kick stage used a 12.2 kgf restartable engine named "Curie". The Dove satellite was jettisonned into the previously announced 300 x 500 km orbit shortly after the Electron second stage shut down. The kick stage did not perform its insertion burn until T+48-49 minutes, long after Rocket Lab's webcast of the launch ended suggesting that a successful flight had been concluded when it was, in fact, still underway. A photograph of the kick stage showed that it had on-board avionics and three-axis control jets.

On January 24, Rocket Lab announced that a fourth payload, also previously unannounced, had been orbited, apparently accounting for a third object tracked in the 300 x 500 km orbit. The Rocket Lab payload, named Humanity Star, was "a geodesic sphere made from carbon fibre with 65 highly reflective panels". The spinning payload should relect sunlight to create a flashing effect visible to ground observers.

The success followed a May 25, 2017 inaugural failure, when the "It's a Test" rocket developed a roll, followed by misconfigured telemetry equipment losing contact with the rocket about 4 minutes after launch, causing a range safety flight termination.

Five scrubbed or aborted launch attempts preceeded the launch. They took place on December 9, 11, 12, and 15 and on January 20.

It was the first flight to orbit by an all-composite tank liquid fueled rocket, the first orbital flight using electric-motor-pump-fed engines, and the first orbital success from New Zealand.

AV-076 (ULA)Atlas 5 Orbits SBIRS GEO 4

AV-076, an Atlas 5-411 variant with a single AJ-60A solid rocket motor and a 4.2 meter diameter Long Payload Fairing, launched the fourth Space Base Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellite (SBIRS GEO 4) into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on January 20, 2018. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 took place at 00:48 UTC.

After a 2 min 20 sec SRB burn augmenting a 4 min 3 sec first stage RD-180 engine burn, Centaur fired its RL10C-1 LOX/LH2 engine twice to insert the 4.54 tonne, Lockheed-Martin-built early warning satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit. Satellite separation took place about 42.5 minutes after liftoff.

The SBIRS constellation satellites are equipped with advanced infrared sensors designed to sense and track missile launches.

The launch came one day after an initial launch attempt was scrubbed by a ground system propellant valve issue. It was the first use of a 411 variant for SBIRS GEO launches. Earlier missions used 401 variants with no solid rocket boosters. The switch allowed for a lower insertion inclination and for the Centaur stage to fully deorbit itself using a third burn about a half-hour after payload separatoin.

It was the 75th Atlas 5 flight and the 65th consecutive success.

CZ-11 No. 3Third CZ-11 Launch

China's four-stage solid fuel CZ-11 launched two optical remote sensing satellites named Jilin-1 Video 07 and 08, into sun synchronous low earth orbit from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on January 19, 2018. Liftoff from a canister attached to a mobile transporter/erector parked on a flat pad at 40.9691 N 100.343 E took place at 04:12 UTC. The site was one of two flat pads built in recent years northeast of the CZ-2F launch site.

Jilin-1 Video 07 and 08 were identified as commercial satellites "independently developed by Chang Guang Satellite Technology Co. Ltd." that "will provide remote sensing data and products for government and industry users". They join eight previously-orbited Jilin-1 satellites. Four additional microsatellites were also orbited.

It was the third known CZ-11 flight, following previous launches on September 25, 2015 and November 9, 2016. The 58 tonne rocket may be based on China's DF-31 series solid fuel ballistic missile, because the canister used to launch CZ-11 is similar to launch canisters used by the road-mobile DF-31A. CZ-11 is reportedly 20.8 meters long (other reports suggest 18.7 meters), and 2 meters in diameter with a 58 tonne launch mass and a 120 tonne liftoff thrust. Its fourth stage has demonstrated in-space maneuvering capability. CZ-11 may be able to lift 350 kg or more to sun synchronous orbit.

Epsilon 3 (JAXA)Epsilon Launch

Japan's third Epsilon launch vehicle, the second improved "Enhanced" variant, boosted the ASNARO 2 compact radar satellite into sun synchronous orbit from Kagoshima on January 17, 2018. Liftoff from the former M-5 pad at Uchinoura Space Center took place at 21:06 UTC, starting a 52.5 minute mission.

Epsilon No. 3's 74.5 tonne SRB-A based first stage produced about 293.6 tonnes of liftoff thrust to lift the 26 meter tall, 95.6 tonne rocket. The first stage fired for 1 min 48 sec. After the burn the entire vehicle coasted until the 2 min 41 sec mark, when the upper stages separated and, four seconds later, the second stage ignited. The payload fairing separated during the coast at T+2 min 31 sec. The 17.2 tonne M-35 solid motor second stage burned out at T+4 min 54 sec.

The vehicle coasted again, building up an axial spin, before the KM-V2c third stage separated at T+6 min 30 sec, igniting four seconds later. The stage burned out at T+8 min 2 sec at orbital velocity. ASNARO 2 and the Post Boost Stage (a fourth stage) separated at T+9 min 54 sec. The hydrazine fueled PBS stopped the spin, then fired its thrusters producing a total of 20.2 kgf thrust for 5 min 16 sec in a trim burn that began at T+14 min 31 sec. After coasting toward apogee, the PBS started again at T+43 min 4 sec to perform a 7 min 7 sec insertion burn to enter a 505 km x 97.4 deg orbit.

ASNARO 2 separated at T+52 min 35 sec. The 570 kg high resolution X-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite will provide radar mapping for land and resource management.

CZ-2D LKW-3 LaunchCZ-2D Launches LKW 3

China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 2D orbited Ludikancha Weixin 3 (LKW 3, or Land Survey Satellite No. 3) from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on January 13, 2018. It was the third CZ-2D launch of an LKW satellite from the same launch pad in less than six weeks time.

Liftoff from Site 43 Pad 603 took place at 07:10 UTC. The new-type Earth imaging satellite was expected to enter a roughly 500 km x 97.46 deg sun synchronous orbit.

Xinhua News Agency, the official press agency of the People's Republic of China, has reported that the satellites, made by CAST, will be used for remote sensing of land resources.

Delta 379 NROL-47 (ULA)Delta 4 Orbits Spysat

Delta 379, a Delta 4M+5,2 with two GEM-60 solid boosters, a five-meter upper stage, and a five-meter payload fairing, launched from Vandenberg AFB with a secret National Reconnaisance Office satellite on January 12, 2018. After rising from Space Launch Complex 6 at 22:10 UTC, the rocket headed on a southwest azimuth with the NROL-47 payload toward what analysts expected to be a 108-ish degree inclination retrograde orbit. Previous similar missions, including the 2010 Atlas 5 launch of NROL-41, the 2012 Delta 4 launch of NROL-25, and the 2013 Atlas 5 launch of NROL-39, which were all believed to be Topaz Future Imaging Architecture radar imaging satellites, entered 1,100 km x 123 deg inclination retrograde orbits. NROL-47 is thought to be a fifth Topaz, but if it goes to a different orbit it might something different.

Delta 4M+5,2 is capable of lifting 7.85 tonnes to sun synchronous orbit or 4.68 tonnes to geosynchronous transfer orbit. The upper stage likely performed two ascent burns before deploying the satellite, followed by a deorbit burn.

The launch followed scrubs on January 10 and 11 caused by weather and ground equipment issues.  Delta 379 was the 36th Delta 4, the 27th Delta 4 Medium, and the third Delta 4 M+5,2. It was the first Delta 4 launch from SLC 6 since the February 10, 2016 NROL-45 launch.  It was also the final Medium-type Delta 4 expected to fly from Vandeberg AFB.

PSLV-C40 (ISRO)PSLV Orbits Cartosat 2F/Microsats

PSLV-C40, an XL version of Indian Space Research Organizaion's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, boosted 710 kg Cartosat 2F - a cartographic mapping satellite - and 31 micro and nanosatellites that together weighed about 613 kilograms into sun synchronous orbits from Sriharikota, India on January 12, 2018.

Liftoff from the First Launch Pad at Satish Dhawan Space Center took place at 03:58 UTC. The 4.5-stage, 320 tonne, 44 meter tall rocket fired its four stages (solid, liquid, solid, and liquid fueled, respectively) in succession during the first 16 minutes 37 seconds of the ascent, with a 10 second coast before fourth stage ignition. Six strap-on solid motors (four ground lit and two air lit) augmented thrust during the first stage burn. The liquid MMH/MON-3 fourth stage fired for about 8 minutes 15 seconds during its insertion burn.

Cartosat 2F and nine co-passenger satellites then separated into roughly 505 km x 97.47 deg orbits. The fourth stage then performed two additional burns, at T+58 min 14 sec and T+1 Hr 44 min 54 sec, to move to a different orbital altitude, where the remaining microsatellites were deployed. A final fourth stage deorbit burn took place about 2 hours after liftoff.

It was the 42nd PSLV launch, and the first PSLV flight since an August, 2017 failure caused by a failed payload fairing separation. An investigation determined that an inflatable bellows in the fairing separation system had ruptured, preventing its pressurization for aiding fairing half separation.

CZ-3B Beidou 3M LaunchCZ-3B/YZ-1 Orbits Beidou 3M Duo

China's Chang Zheng 3B (CZ-3B) orbited the third and fourth Beidou 3M navigation satellites from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on January 11, 2018. Liftoff from LC 2 took place at 23:18 UTC.

The CZ-3B liquid hydrogen fueled third stage fired twice to inject the vehicle into a transfer orbit. A hypergolic propellant Yuanzheng 1 (YZ-1) upper stage then inserted the roughly 1.04 tonne satellites into their final 21,500 km x 55.26 deg orbits about four hours after liftoff.

 It was the second launch of operational Beidou 3 satellites, according to Xinhua. The Beidou 3 series will offer improved navigation accuracy compared to previous Beidou and Beidou 2 constellations. Plans call for 18 Beidou 3 satellites to be orbited by the end of 2018 and more than 30 by 2020.

CZ-2D Superview-1 2/3 LaunchCZ-2D SuperView Launch

A Chang Zheng (Long March) 2D orbited the second pair of Gaojing-1 (SuperView-1) remote sensing satellites from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on January 9, 2018. Liftoff from LC9 took place at 03:17 UTC. The satellites separated into roughly 515 x 535 km x 97.58 deg sun synchronous orbits.

SuperView-1 will be a civilian remote sensing satellite constellation operated by the Siwei Star Co. of Beijing. Four 560 kg optical imaging satellites will ultimately comprise the SuperView-1 constellation.

The first SuperView launch, on December 28, 2016, placed its satellite pair into low orbits after its CZ-2D suffered a failure during ascent. The satellites had to lift themselves to higher orbits at the expense of on-orbit propellant.

F9-46 (SpaceX)F9 Launches Zuma, Satellite Reported Lost (January 9, 2018 Update)

Falcon 9 performed the year's first orbital launch on January 8, 2018, boosting a mysterious classified payload named Zuma toward earth orbit from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40. Liftoff took place at 01:00 UTC. New Falcon 9 v1.2 (Block 4) first stage B1043 performed a 2 minute 23 second ascent boost before separating and performing 3-engine boost-back and reentry burns, following by a single-engine landing burn to return to Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1.

The second stage continued down-range, flying into a media black-out period due to the classified mission. Northrop Grumman is known to be the prime contractor for the payload. The stage flew toward the northeast on a trajectory similar to those used during ISS missions and during the NROL-76 and X-38B launches.  The second stage was scheduled to reenter southwest of Australia about 2.5 hours after liftoff, hinting of a possible two-burn to payload insertion mission for the stage.  Amatuer observations of venting after the reentry burn suggested that the stage was at the time in a 900 to 1,000 km x 50-ish deg orbit.

No announcements confirming a launch success were made, though one object, listed as USA-280, was officially cataloged, indicating that an orbit of some type had been achieved at least for some period of time. Nearly one day after the liftoff, Peter B. de Selding of Spaceintelreport reported that sources had told him that Zuma might have died in orbit after it separated from the Falcon 9 second stage. Eric Berger of Ars Technica reported similar rumors about Zuma. He said that SpaceX told him that its Falcon 9 had experienced "no anomalies" during its mission while Northrop Grumman had said that it could not comment on the classified mission. A few hours later, the Wall Street Journal reported that "lawmakers and congressional staffers" had been briefed about a mission failure that was "believed to have plummeted back into the atmosphere, they said, because it didn't separate as planned from the upper part of the rocket".

The Wall Street Journal report triggered additional reporting that assumed that the SpaceX Falcon 9 was responsible for the presumed satellite separation failure. On January 9, Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX, responded directly to those reports as follows. “For clarity: after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night. If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately. Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false. Due to the classified nature of the payload, no further comment is possible."

Based on the available information, Space Launch Report will list F9-46 as a launch vehicle success unless new, verifiable, contradictory information becomes available.

It was the second launch from SLC 40 since it was returned to service during December, 2017 after repairs of damage caused by a Falcon 9 explosion on the pad on September 1, 2016.

The F9-46/Zuma launch was originally planned to take place from LC 39A, but the campaign was halted after a fleet-wide fairing problem was discovered during ground testing. Zuma's F9-46 booster had completed a static test fire on the pad on November 11, 2017 in preparation for a planned November 15 launch, but the fairing issue stopped the campaign. The Zuma launch vehicle was moved to SLC 40 on December 15, 2017, allowing LC 39A to be turned over to preparations for the Falcon Heavy Demo Mission.

F9-46 performed wet dress rehearsals at SLC 40 on January 3 and 4, 2018.  The Falcon 9 first and second stages were originally test fired at the SpaceX McGregor, Texas test site during early October, 2017.

It was the 21st successful Falcon 9 first stage landing and the 26th landing attempt. Four of the successful landings have been on "Just Read the Instructions" off California, nine at Cape Canaveral LZ 1, and eight on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" off Florida. Seventeen first stages have now been recovered. Five have flown twice, but one was purposefully expended during its second flight. All of the recovered stages have been v1.2 types.


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