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SPACE LAUNCH REPORT
by
Ed Kyle



Recent Space Launches


06/05/19, 04:06 UTC, CZ-11 w/ 7 satellites from YL to LEO
06/12/19, 14:17 UTC, Falcon 9 v1.2 w/ RCM from VA 4E to LEO/S
06/20/19, 21:43 UTC, Ariane 5-ECA w/ VA248 from KO 3 to GTO
06/24/19, 18:05 UTC, CZ-3B/E w/ Beidou 3I2 from XC 3 to GTO
06/25/19, 06:30 UTC, Falcon Heavy w/ STP-2 from KSC 39A to EEO
06/29/19, 04:30 UTC, Electron w/ Rideshare from MA 1 to LEO
07/05/19, 05:41 UTC, Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat w/Meteor M2-2 from VO 1S to LEO/S
07/10/19, 17:14 UTC, Soyuz 2.1v/Volga with Kosmos 2523-38 from PL 43/4
07/11/19, 01:53 UTC, Vega w/ FalconEye 1 from KO ZLV to [FTO]
07/13/19, 12:30 UTC, Proton M/DM-03 w/ Spektr-RG from TB 81/24 to EEO

Worldwide Space Launch Box Score
as of 07/13/19
All Orbital Launch Attempts(Failures)

2019:  45(5)
2018: 114(3)
2017:  90(6)
2016:  85(3)
Crewed Launch Attempts(Failures)
2019:  1(0)
2018:  4(1)
2017:  4(0)
2016:  5(0)


Proton 071319 RoskosmosProton/Spektr-RG

Russia's Proton M, topped by a rarely-flown Blok DM-03 LOX/kerosene upper stage, boosted the Spektr-RG x-ray observatory into deep space from Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 13, 2019. Liftoff from Site 81 Pad 24 took place at 12:30 UTC, beginning a 2-hour mission that sent the 2,713 kg, NPO Lavochkin-built satellite into a roughly 500 x 1,293,041 km x 51.6 degree highly elliptical orbit that will allow the spacecraft to move itself toward a halo orbit around the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrangian point located 1.5 million km from the Earth opposite the direction of the Sun.

Blok DM-03 performed two burns during the mission. The first boosted the vehicle into a roughly 170 x 1,970 km parking orbit beginning about 15 minutes 44 seconds after liftoff. The second burn took place after about one orbit.

Spektr-RG is an international collaboration including Russia's Roskosmos and Germany's DLR.

vv15 arianespace Vega Failure

Europe's Vega launch vehicle failed during an attempt to orbit United Arab Emitates' FalconEye 1 satellite from Kourou on July 11, 2019. It was the first Vega failure after 14 initial successes.

Liftoff from ZLV took place at 01:53 UTC. The P80 first stage solid rocket motor fired for 1 minute 54 seconds as planned, but the Zefiro 23 second stage solid rocket motor suffered some type of failure at, or shortly after, its planned ignition time. It was to have performed a 1 minute 43 second burn. The 1,197 kg satellite, an optical reconnaisance satellite built for the UAE military by Airbus Defense and Space and Thales Alenia Space, failed to reach its planned 611 km sun synchronous orbit.

Soyuz 2.1v Launch

Russia's Soyuz 2.1v with a Volga upper stage orbited four unidentified, secret satellites from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on July 10, 2019. Liftoff from Site 43/4 took place at 17:14 UTC. The satellites will likely be identified as Kosmos 2535 through 2538. It was the fifth Soyuz 2.1v flight, and the fourth Soyuz 2.1v/Volga.

Soyuz Vostochny 070519 RoscosmosVostochny Launch

A Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat M orbited Russia's Meteor M2-2 weather satellite and 32 microsatellites from Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia's Far East on July 5, 2019. Liftoff from Site 1S took place at 05:41 UTC, beginning the fifth orbital attempt from the base and the first during 2019. The Fregat M upper stage performed two burns during the first hour of the mission to reach a roughly 826 km sun synchronous orbit, where the 2,750 kg primary payload separated.

Fregat M performed more burns during the remaining mission to deploy 32 microsatellites. The stage was expected to end the mission with a deorbit, or orbit-lowering, burn.

Electron 7  Rocket LabElectron Launch

Rocket Lab's seventh Electron orbited seven satellites on a ride-share mission on June 29, 2019. Liftoff from Mahia, New Zealand LC 1 took place at 04:30 UTC. The "Make it Rain" mission for Spaceflight included BlackSky’s Global-3 microsat, two U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Prometheus satelltites, and Melbourne Space Program’s ACRUX-1 CubeSat. Total mission payload mass was only 80 kg.

Electron's Curie third stage fired for about 44 seconds beginning 50 minutes 27 seconds after liftoff to insert the satellites into a 450 km x 45 degree low earth orbit. Satellite separation was completed by T+53 minutes 26 seconds.

The launch took place after a two-day delay caused by faulty ground tracking equipment hardware that served as part of Electron's flight termination system.

FH-3 NASAFalcon Heavy STP-2 (6/28/19 Update)

The third SpaceX Falcon Heavy, consisting of previously-flown side boosters B1052-2 and B1053-2 with new core B1057-1, launched the U.S. Air Force Space Test Program 2 mission from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 Pad A on June 25, 2019. Liftoff took place at 06:30 UTC.   It was the first Falcon Heavy launch for the U.S. Air Force.

The complex 3.5 hour mission inserted 24 satellites into three different orbits, using four burns by the second stage Vacuum Merlin engine. Total payload mass was only 3.7 metric tons and deployed mass only about 2.94 tonnes, but the mission perform two large plane-changes requiring significant delta-v performance.

The upper stage entered a 300 x 860 km x 28.5 deg orbit after its first burn, where 13 microsatellites deployed. Its second, 21 second-long burn, 1 hour 12 minutes 39 seconds after liftoff, shifted the vehicle into a 720 x 720 km x 24 deg orbit. Six NOAA/Taiwan weather satellites separated along with the rest of the microsatellites into this orbit. A third, 29 second-long burn at T+2 hours 7 minutes 37 seconds raised apogee to setup the final, 36 second-long burn beginning at T+3 hours 27 minutes 27 seconds, which maneuvered the stage and its heaviest, 700 kg payload, DSX, into a 6,000 x 12,000 km x 43 deg orbit. DSX is the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Demonstration and Science Experiments satellite. It will measure the effects of space radiation on electronics, among other tasks.

FH-2 SpaceXFalcon Heavy No. 3's side-boosters, which had boosted the previous Falcon Heavy on April 11, 2019, performed boost-back, entry, and landing burns to land at Cape Canaveral Landing Zones 1 and 2. The core stage performed entry and landing burns, but missed the "Of Course I Still Love You" drone ship positioned 1,236 km downrange, further than any previous attempt. Elon Musk later explained that high entry forces and reentry heating breached the engine bay, causing the center engine thrust vector control system to fail. All three Falcon Heavy core stages have now been lost after downrange landing tries.

For the first time, the former "Mr. Steven", renamed "Ms. Tree", recovery ship caught a parachute-guided payload fairing half in its redesigned "catchers mitt" netting".

Falcon Heavy Number 3 was static test fired at LC 39 on June 19, 2019. An empty payload fairing topped the stack during the test. This was a non-flight fairing used to collect acoustic test data for the U.S. Air Force.

CZ3B/E 062419 XinhuaBeidou 3I2 Launch

China orbited the second Beidou 3IGSO navigation satellite, named 3IGSO-2 (also referred to as Beidou 3I2 or Beidou 46), on June 24, 2019. Enhanced Chang Zheng 3B (CZ-3B/E) number Y60 boosted the 4.6 tonne, DFH-3B satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit from Xichang Satellite Launch Center after a 18:05 UTC liftoff from LC 3.

The CZ-3B liquid hydrogen fueled third stage fired twice to inject the vehicle into GTO. Beidou 3I2 is expected to maneuver itself into a geosynchronous orbit inclined 55 degrees to the equator.

VA248 ArianespaceAriane 5 Launch

The year's second Ariane 5 ECA orbited two communication satellites from Kourou on June 20, 2019. Arianespace Mission VA248 lifted off from ELA-3 at 21:43 UTC. The ESC-A LOX/LH2 second stage performed its standard single burn to place T-16 and Eutelsat 7C into geosynchronous transfer orbit during a 34 minute mission.

T-16, a 6,330 kg satellite built by Airbus Defence and Space for AT&T, separated first. It will provide communications services from 99.2 to 119 degrees West, geostationary. Eutelsat 7C, a 3,405 kg Maxar-built satellite, separated last from the lower position after the Sylda 5 adapter had separated. It will provide services from 9 degrees East.

F9-73 RCM SpaceXRadarsat Launch

The 73rd Falcon 9, and 53rd v1.2 variant, launched Canada's Radarsat Constellation Mission (RCM) from Vandenberg AFB on June 12, 2019. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 4 East took place at 14:17 UTC, with the two-stage rocket quickly punching through a summer marine fog layer that obstructed ground views of the launch. Falcon 9's second stage performed two burns during the roughly hour-long mission to insert three 1,430 kg MDA-built radar mapping satellites into 600 km x 97.74 deg sun synchronous orbits.

First stage B1051.2, on its second flight after boosting the DM-1 Crew Dragon demo mission from KSC 39A on March 2, 2019, performed boostback, reentry, and landing burns before landing at still-foggy VAFB Landing Zone 4, site of the former SLC 4W launch pad. The landing - the second at LZ4 - took place about 7 minutes 53 seconds after liftoff. During ascent, Stage 1 fired for 2 minutes 13 seconds. Stage 2 performed a 6 minute 2 second initial burn to reach a roughly 160 x 600 km elliptical parking orbit. The stage restarted at T+50 minutes 8 seconds for only 4 seconds to circularize the orbit. Satellite deployment began at T+54:43. Stage 2 was expected to perform a final, deorbit burn at mission's end.

After spacing themselves 120 degrees apart in orbit, the RCM satellites will use C-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) to provide up to 1 meter resolution mapping of the Earth's surface for multiple government agencies. The three satellites separated from a dispenser made by Ruag Space of Switzerland. The dispenser included a tilt system designed to provide clearance as the satellites separated in sequence about four minutes apart.

CZ-11 060519CZ-11 Launched from Sea

China's seventh four-stage solid fuel CZ-11 launched for the first time from a floating platform anchored in the Yellow Sea on June 5, 2019, boosting seven satellites into a low Earth orbit inclined roughly 45 degrees to the equator. The launch platform was positioned at 34.9 deg. North, 121.19 deg. East.

CZ-11 was cold-launched from a canister mounted to a specially built launch frame on the 110 x 80 meter barge at 04:06:01 UTC. The cold launch technique shoots the rocket up out of the canister where it hangs in mid-air for a moment before the first stage ignites to rapidly boost the vehicle upward. Payloads included Bufeng 1A and 1B, Xiaoxiang 1-04, Tianqi 3, Zhongdianwangtong 1A and 1B, and Jilin 1.

CZ-11 first flew on September 25, 2015. The 58 tonne rocket is likely based on China's DF-31 series solid fuel ballistic missile, which also used the canister launch method. 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 in-space maneuvering capability. CZ-11 reportedly can lift at least 350 kg to a 700 km sun synchronous orbit.

The floating platform could potentially be used to allow near-equatorial launches and it eliminates the need to evacuate downrange land areas for stage drop zones.

Proton Yamal 601 RoskosmosProton Launch (Updated 06/05/19)

Russia’s Proton-M/Briz-M launched with Yamal 601, a powerful communications satellite built for Gazprom Space Systems, on May 30, 2019. Liftoff from Baikonur Cosmodrome's Site 200 Pad 39 took place at 17:42 UTC, starting a 9 hour 13 minute mission that would include multiple burns by the Briz-M upper stage to boost the 5.4 tonne Thales Alenia Space Spacebus 4000C4 series satellite into a 6,423 x 35,726 km x 17.8 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit.

Yamal 601 carries 18 C-band transponders and a Ka-band payload with 32 spot beams. It will provide communications and broadband services from its geostationary position at 49 degrees East.

It was the first Proton launch of 2019.


soyuz 052719Soyuz Navsat Launch

A Soyuz 1-2b/Fregat lifted off with a GLONASS-M (Uragan-M) navigation satellite from Site 43/4 at Plesetsk Cosmodrome on May 27, 2019 at 06:23 UTC. Although lightning appeared to have struck the rocket shortly after launch, it continued on to perform an apparently successful flight.

The Fregat upper stage three times during the 3.5 hour mission to raise the satellite to its roughly 19,100 km x 64.8 degree deployment orbit. Assigned the Kosmos 2534 designation, it was the 49th Uragan-M navsat.

F9-72 SpaceXStarlink Launch

The 72nd SpaceX Falcon 9 (71st to launch) boosted 60 Starlink internet satellites into low earth orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 24, 2019. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 took place at 02:30 UTC. It was Falcon 9's heaviest payload to date at a combined 13,608 kg for the 60 satellites.

Starlink is meant to provide high-speed, low-latency Internet service world-wide. A satellite constellation numbering in the thousands is planned. This first mass satellite launch carried production satellites that did not include the intersatellite links planned for operational satellites. The satellites were built by SpaceX's Redmond, Washington satellite group.

The Falcon 9 second stage performed two burns to reach a 440 km x 53 deg deployment orbit where, about an hour after liftoff, the satellite deployment began. The satellites were expected to subsequently move themselves to 550 km operational orbits.

First stage B1049.3, which previously flew on the Telstar 18V and Iridium NEXT 8 launches in September 2018 and January 2019, respectively, performed entry and landing burns before landing on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship positioned about 645 km downrange, northeast of the Cape. It was the third first stage to complete three launches. All were Block 5 types.

The first stage was static test fired at SLC 40 with the payload attached on May 14. Launch attempts on May 16 and 17 were scrubbed, first by upper level winds and then by a need to update software on the satellites.

CZ-4C 052219CZ-4C Failure

China's Chang Zheng (CZ) 4C failed to orbit the Yaogan Weixing 33 remote sensing satellite from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on May 22, 2019. Liftoff from LC 9 took place at 22:49 UTC. The launch was aimed toward a near-polar, sun synchronous orbit, but a third stage failure prevented orbit, according to Xinhua.

The satellite was likely a synthetic aperature radar mapping spacecraft.

It was the 7th DF-5 based launch, and China's 9th launch, of 2019, two of which have failed.  CZ-4C had flown 9 consecutive successes since its last failure on August 31, 2016.

PSLV C-46 ISROPSLV Orbits Radarsat

India's PSLV, flying in a "Core Alone" version as flight C46, orbited RISAT 2B, a radar reconnaissance satellite, from Sriharikota on May 22, 2019. Liftoff from the First Launch Pad pad took place at 00:00 UTC as May 22 began, Universal Time. After a 15.5 minute mission, the 615 kg radar imaging satellite separated into a roughly 557 km x 37 deg orbit.

RISAT 2B is the first of a new generation of radar imagers. It uses X-band Synthetic Aperature Radar to map the surface of the Earth. It is the first in a series of three planned for launch during 2019.

CZ-3C 051719CZ-3C Orbits Navsat

CZ-3C/E (Y16) launched Beidou 2 GEO 8 from Xichang LC 2 on May 17, 2019. Liftoff took place at 15:48 UTC. The liquid hydrogen third stage fired twice to boost the satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit during the roughly half-hour mission.

Beidou 2 GEO 8, a navigation satellite to be added to China's growing constellation, is likely based on the DFH-3 satellite bus weighing about 3,800 kg at liftoff.

Electron 6 Rocket LabElectron Launch

Rocket Lab's sixth Electron orbited three satellites for the U.S. Department of Defense Space Test Program on May 5, 2019. Liftoff from Mahia, New Zealand LC 1 took place at 06:00 UTC. The STP-27RD mission included the SPARC-1, Falcon ODE, and Harbinger technology demonstration satellites. Total payload mass was 180 kg, most-yet for Electron.

Electron's Curie third stage fired for about 2.5 minutes beginning 49 minutes 12 seconds after liftoff to insert the satellites into a low earth orbit with a roughly 40 degree inclination - the first eastward trajectory performed by Electron. Satellite separation took place a few minutes later.

Electron 6 was named "That’s a Funny Looking Cactus" after the desert cactus of New Mexico where the Space Test Program offices are located.

F9-71 CRS-17 NASACRS-17 Launch

Falcon 9 orbited NASA's CRS-17 ISS cargo mission from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 on May 4, 2019. Liftoff took place at 0648 GMT UTC. New Block 5 first stage B1056.1 powered the two-stage rocket for 2 minutes 17 seconds. Dragon 13.2, a refurbished spacecraft that first flew during the CRS-12 mission on August 14, 2017, rode atop the second stage during its 6 min 11 sec burn to a low earth orbit inclined 51.6 deg to the equator. Dragon carried 2,482 kg of cargo for the International Space Station. It was the sixth flight of a previously-flown Dragon.

B1056.1 performed boost back, entry, and landing burns to land on the "Of Course I Still Love You" converted barge positioned only about 20 km off shore. Original plans for a landing at Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1 had to be replaced with a near-shore OCISLY landing after the DM1 crew Dragon exploded during a propulsion system test at LZ-1 on April 20, 2019.

It was the 50th Falcon 9 v1.2 launch, all successful.  A 51st Falcon 9 v1.2 was destroyed in a 2016 pre-launch ground test explosion that also destoyed its AMOS 6 payload. 

The first stage was briefly static test fired with a second stage but no payload attached at SLC 40 on April 26, 2019. An ISS power system failure forced a slip from May 1 to May 3, and the May 3 attempt had to be scrubbed after a power supply failure on OCISLY.

CZ4B 042919 XinhuaCZ-4B Launch

China's Chang Zheng (CZ) 4B orbited a pair of remote sensing satellites named Tianhua-2 Group 01 A and B on April 29, 2019. Liftoff from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center's LC 9 took place at 22:52 UTC. The three-stage storable propellant rocket boosted the satellite pair into 504 x 518 km x 97.44 deg sun synchronous orbits. Xinhua announced that the satellites would be used for "scientific experiments, land resource survey, geographic survey and mapping".

It was the first 2019 launch from Taiyuan.

CZ-3B/E 042019 XinhuaBeidou 3IGSO Launch

China orbited the first Beidou 3IGSO navigation satellite, named 3IGSO-1, on April 20, 2019. An Enhanced Chang Zheng 3B (CZ-3B/E) boosted the satellite, named Beidou 3IGSO-1, into a 220 x 35,787 km x 28.49 degree geosynchronous transfer orbit, from Xichang Satellite Launch Center after a 14:41 UTC liftoff from LC 3.

The CZ-3B liquid hydrogen fueled third stage fired twice to inject the vehicle into GTO. Surprisingly, CASC officials announced that the roughly 4.6 tonne satellite would maneuver itself into a geosynchronous orbit inclined 55 degrees to the equator. Previous "inclined" Beidou navsats have used the launch vehicle to provide the inclination by flying on a more direct azimuth from the launch site.

NG-11 NASAAntares NG-11

Northrop Grumman's Antares launch vehicle orbited the company's Cygnus NG-11 cargo spacecraft from Wallops Island, Virginia on April 17, 2019. Liftoff from Pad 0A took place at 20:46 UTC. It was the second Antares launch under the Northrop Grumman banner and the 10th Antares liftoff. Antares previously launched five times for Orbital and three times for Orbital ATK.

The launch was the fifth by an Antares 230, 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 an explosion above Pad 0A in 2014.

Cygnus NG-11 was the eighth enhanced Cygnus with a stretched Thales Alenia Space cargo module, but only the fifth to fly on Antares. Atlas 5 rockets orbited the other three. NG-11 weighed about 7,300 kg at launch, including 3,436 kg of cargo for the International Space Station. Cygnus NG-11 was named in honor of Roger Chaffee, the rookie NASA astronaut who perished in the Apollo 1 fire on January 27, 1967.

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 215 seconds. After first stage shutdown, the upper composite separated and coasted upward. The shroud and interstage adapter separated, then at about T+264 seconds the Northrop Grumman Castor 30XL second stage motor ignited to produce an average of about 51 tonnes of thrust during its roughly 160 second burn. Cygnus separated at T+546 seconds into a roughly 190 x 296 km x 51.63 deg orbit.

FH-2  SpaceXFalcon Heavy Arabsat 6A (4/16/19 Update)

SpaceX's second Falcon Heavy, the first using Block 5 stages, successfully boosted 6,465 kg Arabsat 6A into supersynchronous transfer orbit from Kennedy Space Center LC 39A on April 11, 2019. During the flight, the twin side boosters flew back to Cape Canaveral Landing Zones 1 and 2 while the core stage landed downrange on the converted barge "Of Course I Still Love You". The second stage fired its Merlin Vacuum twice to complete the insertion toward a 327 x 89,815 km x 22.96 deg transfer orbit.

Although B1055 landed succesfully, it was subsequently lost when it toppled in heavy seas, although Elon Musk noted that the Merlin engines remained on board OCISLY in unknown condition. The loss caused the second Falcon Heavy mission to match the inaugural's record of one lost core and two recovered boosters. Slightly offsetting the loss was the successful recovery of both fairing halves after they splashed down in the Atlantic, a step not achieved during FH-1.

New stages B1052.1 and B1053.1 served as the side boosters, each topped with composite nose cones used during the first Falcon Heavy launch. Core stage B1055.1 completed the trio. Together, their 27 Merlin 1D engines produced about 10% more thrust (about 2,327 metric tons or 5.13 million pounds) during the 22:35 UTC launch than the first Falcon Heavy. The boosters cut off about 2.5 minutes after liftoff and separated four seconds later. They performed boostback, entry, and landing burns to land side by side at LZ 1 and 2 at about T+7 minutes 51 seconds. The core stage, which had throttled down during the early ascent, fired for an additional minute after the boosters jettisonned before separating to perform its own entry and landing burns to land on OCISLY at about T+9 minutes 48 seconds.

The second stage fired from T+3:42 until T+8:48 to reach a low earth parking orbit. The payload fairing separated about 56 seconds into the second stage burn. After a coast, the second stage ignited again at T+27:34 for 1:26 to accelerate into the final orbit. Arabsat 6A separated about 34 minutes after liftoff. Lockheed Martin built Arabsat 6A, which is an enhanced LM 2100 satellite fitted with lightweight solar arrays. It will serve the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.

FH-2 performed a static test firing at LC 39A on April 5. An April 10 launch attempt was scrubbed by high winds before propellant loading began.

VS22 ArianespaceSoyuz Kourou O3b Launch

A Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat carried four O3b satellites into orbit from Guiana Space Center at Kourou on April 4, 2018. Launched by Russian crews from the Sinnamary Soyuz Launch Complex (ELS) at 17:03 UTC, the 3.5 stage rocket flew as the Arianespace VS22 mission. The Fregat third stage performed three burns to reach a 7,830 km x 0.04 deg, near-circular deployment orbit about 2 hours after liftoff.

After the third burn, the satellites were released two by two during the next half hour.

Four 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.

It was the second R-7 launch of the day, and the fifth of the year.

Progress MS-11Soyuz/Progress MS-11

Russia's Soyuz 2-1a boosted the Progress MS-11 cargo mission toward the quickest-ever ISS rendezvous from Baikonur on April 4, 2019. Liftoff from Area 31 Pad 6 took place at 11:01:35 GMT. Progress MS-11 docked with ISS only 3 hours 21 minutes later.

Progress MS-11 carried 3,410 kg of cargo, including 1,530 kg of propellant, 1,413 kg of dry cargo, 420 kg of water, and 47 kg of oxygen and air.

PSLV-C45 ISROIndia ELINT Launch

India's PSLV orbited an electronic signals intelligence satellite, along with 28 microsatellites, from Sriharikota on April 1, 2019. PSLV-C45, the first PSLV-QL variant with four strap-on solid motors, lifted off from the Second Launch Pad at Satish Dhawan Space Center at 03:57 UTC. EMISAT, the 436 kg primary satellite, separated into a 749 km x 98.376 deg orbit about 17 minutes after liftoff, following the first burn by the PS4 restartable hypergolic fourth stage.

After EMISAT separation, PS4 performed two burns to move to a 504 km x 97.468 deg orbit at about T+109 minutes. 28 CubeSats were deployed into this orbit, then the PS4 stage fired two more times to move itself to a 485 km x 97.468 deg orbit about three hours into the mission. There, it will serve as an orbital platform hosting three on-board experiments for up to six months. For the first time, the PS4 stage was fitted with solar panels for this mission. A total of about 670 kg of payload was carried by PSLV-C45.

CZ-3BE 033119 XinhuaCZ-3B/E Launches Tianlian 2-1

China's CZ-3B/E orbited Tianlian 2-1, a second generation data relay satellite, from Xichang satellite launch center on March 31, 2019. The Enhanced CZ-3B lifted off from LC 2 at 15:51 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, Tianlian 2-1, which likely weighed about 5.2 tonnes at launch, will be used to transfer data between other satellites and ground stations.

It was the 3nd DF-5 based launch of 2019. DF-5 has been the world's busiest orbital launch vehicle by far during the past decade.

Electron 5  Rocket LabElectron DARPA Launch

Rocket Lab's Electron boosted DARPA's R3D2 satellite to orbit from Mahai New Zealand on March 28, 2019. Liftoff from LC 1 took place at 18:35 UTC. The Curie kick stage fired for 113 seconds at first apogee about 50 minutes after launch to accelerate the 150 kg Radio Frequency Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration satellite into a 421 x 438 km x 39.5 degree orbit.

The launch followed a scrub and several weather delays during the final week of the launch campaign. It was the fifth Electron launch and the fourth success. The 150 kg payload was the heaviest yet carried by Electron.

OS-M OneSpaceOS-M Inaugural Failure

The first OS-M rocket launched by Chinese startup OneSpace failed to reach orbit after rising from Jiuquan space center in northwest China on March 27, 2019. Liftoff from the TLE-2 flat pad took place at 09:39 UTC. The four stage solid fuel rocket flew correctly until the second stage took over about one minute into the flight. The vehicle began to spiral at that point, exhibiting a loss of flight control. A small CubeSat satellite named Lingque 1B was lost. It was intended to enter a low earth orbit to test earth observation technology for ZeroG Lab, another new Chinese space company.

OS-M (also called OS-M1) stands about 18.9 meters tall and is designed to lift about 112 kilograms into a 500 km sun-synchronous orbit. It appears to use solid motor stages adapted from short range military missiles. The first three stages have fixed nozzles with steering vanes in the exhaust. The first, and possibly the second, stages, which appear to use idential motors, also use aerodynamic fins.

VV14 ArianespaceVega Orbits PRISMA

Europe's Vega, flying the Arianespace VV14 mission, orbited Italy's PRISMA (PRecursore IperSpettrale della Missione Applicativa), an earth observation satellite, from Kourou Space Center on March 22, 2019. Liftoff from the ZLV pad took place at 01:50:35 UTC.

The first three solid propellant stages fired during the first 6 min 26 sec. After a brief coast, the liquid hypergolic AVUM fourth stage performed a 4.5 minute burn to reach an elliptical parking orbit. After a 39 minute coast to apogee, AVUM reignited for 1 min 12 sec to reach a 615 km x 97.88 deg sun synchronous orbit.

The 879 kg, OHB Italia-built PRISMA separated 54 min 8 sec after liftoff. PRISMA will monitor the environment, natural resources, crops, and pollution, among other things.

Delta 383 ULAWGS-10 launch

Delta 383, a Delta 4M+5,4 with four solid rocket motors, a five meter diameter Delta cryogenic second stage (DCSS), and a five meter diameter fairing, lofted Wideband Global SATCOM No. 10 into supersynchronous transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral Florida on March 16, 2019. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 37B took place at at 00:26 UTC on 829.7 tonnes (1.829 million pounds) of thrust created by its RS-68A first stage engine and its four GEM-60 solid motors.

DCSS performed two burns of its 11.23 tonne thrust RL10B-2 LOX/LH2 engine during the ascent. The first placed the vehicle into a 185 x 5,430 km x 27.7 deg parking orbit about 19.5 minutes after liftoff. After a 10 minute coast to the equator the second, roughly 3 minute 20 second burn pushed the 5.987 tonne Boeing 702 series satellite into a 433 x 44,392 km x 27 deg transfer orbit.  Spacecraft separation occurred about 36 minutes 50 seconds after liftoff. DCSS was slated to perform a deorbit burn at about T+1 hour 12 minutes, leading to destructive reentry at about T+12 hours 10 min.

WGS-10 will provide more than 11 Gbps data transfer rates for the U.S. military using X-band and Ka-band transponders and on-board data processors.

It was the second Delta 4 launch of 2019. This was the last WGS launch planned for Delta 4, and the penultimate Delta 4 Medium launch.

Soyuz MS-12 Soyuz Crew Launch

Russia's Soyuz FG orbited the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft from Baikonur, Kazakhstan with three International Space Station crew on March 14, 2019. It was the second crewed Soyuz flight since the MS-10 failure and crew-saving abort during October, 2018. The MS-10 crew, Aleksey Ovchinin and Nick Hague, rode MS-12 successfully to orbit this time, along with NASA's Christina Koch. They will serve as ISS Expedition 59-60 crew. Liftoff from Baikonur Cosmodrome Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 19:14 UTC. Soyuz MS-12 was slated to perform a four-orbit, six-hour ascent to ISS.

It was the year's first crewed launch, and third R-7 flight.

CZ-3B 030919 XinhuaCZ-3B/E Orbits ChinaSat 6C

China's CZ-3B/E orbited Zhongxing 6C (ChinaSat 6C), a communications satellite, from Xichang satellite launch center on March 9, 2019. The "Enhanced" CZ-3B, currently China's heaviest GTO lifter in active service, launched from LC 3 at 16:28 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, Zhongxing 6C, which likely weighed about 5.2 tonnes at launch, will use its 25 C-band transponders to serve China from 130 deg East.

It was the 2nd DF-5 based launch of 2019.

DM1 NASACrew Dragon Premier

The first SpaceX Crew Dragon was boosted into low Earth orbit on an uncrewed test flight by a Falcon 9 v1.2 Block 5 from Kennedy Space Center on March 2, 2019. Liftoff from Launch Complex 39 Pad A took place at 07:49 UTC. The 13 foot diameter spacecraft, consisting of a 4.9 meter tall capsule and a 3.7 meter tall "trunk" sheathed in fixed solar arrays, was, at about 12.5 tonnes, the heaviest payload yet launched by a Falcon 9.

New first stage B1051.1 provided 771 metric tons of liftoff thrust produced by its nine Merlin 1D LOX/Kerosene engines. It shut down about 2.5 minutes after launch, then performed entry and landing burns to land downrange on Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY). It was the 35th successful first stage landing. The second stage fired until reaching orbit about 9 minutes after liftoff.

Dragon DM-1 (Commercial Crew Program Demonstration Mission 1), carrying a dummy astronaut named "Ripley" and about 180 kg of cargo, docked with the International Space Station on March 3. It will remain attached until March 8 before splashing down about 370 km miles east of Cape Canaveral. The test is part of a $3.1 billion contract awarded to SpaceX by NASA for crew launch services. If all goes well, the first crewed flight is expected later this year.

B1051 was test fired at McGregor, Texas during August, 2018. The entire vehicle with Dragon attached was rolled out for mechanical fit checks at LC 39A on January 3, 2019. It rolled out again for a brief static test, again with Dragon attached, on January 24, 2019.

VS21  ArianespaceOneWeb Launch

The 21st Soyuz to fly from Kourou Space Center, a Soyuz 2.1b/Fregat M with an ST payload fairing, orbited the first six OneWeb pathfinder satellites on February 27, 2019. Liftoff of the VS21/OneWeb F6 mission from the ELS pad took place at 21:37 UTC. London's OneWeb plans to build a constellation consisting of hundreds of satellites to provide internet services.

Fregat performed two burns to place the satellites into roughly 1,000 km x 87.77 deg orbits. The hypergolic upper stage performed an orbit lowering burn after the satellites separated in two groups. The last separation event took place 82.5 minutes after liftoff.

Each satellite weighed 147.7 kg, making a total 886 kg deployed payload mass. A cylindrical RUAG Space-built "OneWeb Dispenser System" carried the satellites and four APCO Technologies mass simulators. The satellites and mass simulators were mounted to the sides of the vertical cylinder, which is designed to carry up to 32 satellites. The dispenser, the mass simulators, and the adapter to Fregat together weighed 1,059 kg.

F9-70 SpaceX 022219Falcon 9 Launch

A Falcon 9 v1.2 "Block 5" variant with a previously flown first stage orbited the Nusantara Satu communications satellite along with two smaller payloads - one aiming for the Moon - from Cape Canaveral SLC 40 on February 22, 2019. The Falcon 9 second stage fired twice to boost all three payloads into a supersynchronous transfer orbit, completing its second burn about 28 minutes after the 01:45 UTC liftoff. The SSL-built Nusantara Satu satellite weighed about 4,100 kg at liftoff. SpaceIL's Beresheet - the first privately-funded lunar lander attempt - weighed 582 kg. A U.S. Air Force S5 microsatellite also rode along. Total payload mass including dispensers was 4,850 kg.

Used first stage B1048.3, which was previously used to boost the Iridium 7 mission in July 2018 and the SAOCOM 1A mission in October, 2018, burned for about 2 min 40 sec before separating to perform reentry and landing burns to land on Of Course I Still Love You floating on the Atlantic downrange. The second stage performed a 4 min 21 sec first burn to reach a parking orbit, then restarted at T+27 min 3 sec for about 65 seconds to accelerate to the insertion orbit.

Nusantara Satu will provide broadband data service for Indonesia. Beresheet (Hebrew for “in the beginning”), a privately-funded Israeli spacecraft, will boost itself toward the Moon over a two month period before attempting a landing.

B1048.3 was briefly test fired at SLC 40 with the second stage but no payload attached on February 18, 2019.  It was the first Falcon 9 GTO launch in over three months.

Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat 022119Soyuz Orbits EgyptSat A (Feb 26 Update)

Russia's Soyuz 2.1b/Fregat launched EgyptSat A, an optical reconnaissance satellite, into low earth orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Febraury 21, 2019. The 2.5 stage rocket lifted off from Area 31 Pad 6 at 16:47 UTC and boosted the roughly 1.05 tonne satellite into a sun synchronous low earth orbit.

Russia's Tass news agency reported that the Fregat M upper stage and satellite were tracked in a lower than expected orbit, but the final orbit was reported to be as-expected. It turned out that Fregat had, during the first of its two burns, made up a delta-v deficit caused by a slightly low LOX load of the Block I "third" stage of the Soyuz 2.1b launch vehicle, which led to an early LOX-depletion cutoff. Fregat retained sufficient propellant to complete its second burn, inserting EgyptSat A into its planned, roughly 650 km x 98 deg orbit. Improper propellant loading procedures were blamed.

Russia's RKK Energia developed and built the new imaging satellite for Egypt's military and other government agencies. It replaces EgyptSat 2, which failed one year after its 2014 launch on another Soyuz.

It was Russia's first launch of the year.

VA247 ArianespaceAriane 5 Launch

An Ariane 5 ECA orbited two communication satellites from Kourou on February 5, 2019. Arianespace Mission VA247 began with a 21:01 UTC liftoff from ELA-3. The ESC-A LOX/LH2 second stage performed its standard single burn to place Hellas-Sat 4/Saudi Geostationary Satellite 1 and GSAT 31 into geosynchronous transfer orbit during a roughly 42.5 minute mission.

Hellas-Sat 4, a 6,495 kg satellite built by Lockheed Martin, separated first. It will provide communications services for both Hellas-Sat and the government of Saudi Arabia from a geostationary position at 39 degrees East Longitude. India's GSAT 31, an ISRO-built 2,536 kg satellite, separated last from the lower position after the Sylda 5 adapter had separated. It will provide services from 48 degrees East.

PSLV-DL C44 ISROPSLV-DL Inaugural

India debuted a new PSLV variant named PSLV-DL on January 24, 2019. Flying with only two two PS0M-XL strap-on solid motors, and for the first time testing PS4/L-2.5 long-duration upper stage operation, the C44 mission lifted off from the First Launch Pad at Sriharikota at 18:07 UTC. Payloads included Microsat-R, a military imaging satellite, and Kalamsat, a student experiment package that remained attached to the fourth stage.

The PS4 fourth stage fired first to enter a 274 km x 96.6 deg orbit where 740-kilogram Microsat-R was deployed. After a 41 minute coast, PS4 ignited again to raise its apogee to 450 kilometers. At apogee 45 minutes 35 seconds later, PS4 fired for a third time to enter a 450 km x 98.8 deg final orbit. Kalamsat was expected to operate attached to the PS4 stage for about 13.25 hours before exhausting its battery power.

It was the 46th PSLV flight.

CZ-11 012119 XinhuaCZ-11 Launch

China's four-stage solid fuel CZ-11 launched two optical remote sensing satellites named Jilin-1 Video 09 and 10, into sun synchronous low earth orbit from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on January 21, 2019. 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 05:42 UTC. The site was one of two flat pads built in recent years northeast of the CZ-2F launch site.

Jilin-1 Video 09 and 10 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 several previously-orbited Jilin-1 satellites.

It was the sixth known CZ-11 flight. CZ-11 first flew on September 25, 2015. The 58 tonne rocket is likely based on China's DF-31 series solid fuel ballistic missile. 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 in-space maneuvering capability. CZ-11 reportedly can lift at least 350 kg to sun synchronous orbit.

D382 ULADelta 4 Heavy Launches NROL-71

The 11th Delta 4 Heavy lifted off from Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Complex 6 on January 19, 2019 with NROL-71, a mysterious National Reconnaissance Office satellite. Liftoff took place at 19:10 UTC. Delta 382 flew on a south-southeast azimuth consistent with a low Earth orbit inclined roughly 74 degrees to the equator, an unusual orbit for a large NRO payload.

After spacecraft separation, the five-meter Delta Cryogenic Upper Stage was expected to fire to de-orbited itself into the Pacific Ocean after completing about one orbit of the planet.

While some analysts believe that the satellite is a new KH-11 IKON optical reconnaissance satellite, others believe it might be a radar reconnaisance type flying as a prograde complement to the latest TOPAZ radar satellite.

It was the 38th Delta 4, and only the third Delta 4 Heavy to fly from Vandenberg AFB. The last Delta 4 Heavy to fly from SLC 6 did so in 2013.

Delta 382 suffered through a challenging launch campaign that included an abort caused by a bad sensor at T-7.5 seconds on December 8, 2018, a weather scrub on December 18, and a scrub caused by a leaking hydrogen valve in one of the side-mounted core stages on December 19.

Epsilon 4 JAXAEpsilon Launch

Japan's fourth Epsilon launch vehicle, the third improved "Enhanced" variant, boosted seven small Japanese and Vietnamese satellites into low Earth orbit from Kagoshima on January 18, 2019, one year after the last Epsilon flight. Liftoff from the former M-5 pad at Uchinoura Space Center took place at 00:50 UTC, starting a roughly 70 minute mission.

Epsilon No. 4'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. 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 minutes in a trim burn that began at T+14 min 39 sec. After coasting toward apogee, the PBS started again at T+43 min 17 sec to perform a 6 min 32 sec burn to enter a roughly 500 km x 97.24 deg sun synchronous orbit.

The 200 kg RAPIS 1 satellite separated first, followed by 60 kg RISESAT, 50 kg MicroDragon, 4 kg OrigamiSat, 1 kg NEXUS and 3 kg Velox 4, followed by 68 kg ALE 1. PBS performed a series of five burns between satellite separation events. Payload mass totalled 386 kg.


Simorgh 011519Iran Orbital Failure

Iran's Simorgh launch vehicle failed to reach orbit during a  three-stage attempt on January 15, 2019. The 2.5 meter diameter rocket lifted off from the Simorgh pad at Semnan Space Center at approximately 00:30 UTC, carrying a remote sensing satellite named "Payam" and possibly a second satellite. A failure occcurred during the third stage phase of ascent, causing the stage to fall short of orbital velocity. A 500 km x 55 deg orbit was likely planned.

Simorgh consists of a hypergolic propellant first stage powered by four, fixed Nodong/Safir type engines augmented by a set of four roll control thrusters that may use gas generator exhaust. Together the engines produce a reported 130 tonnes thrust at liftoff. The second stage is believed to be a stretched version of the smaller Safir launch vehicle's second stage. The small, third, "kick" stage is likely housed within the payload fairing. Simorgh reportedly stands 27 meters and weighs 87 tonnes at liftoff. The rocket may be able to lift 350 kg to low Earth orbit in its ultimate form.  Payam reportedly weighed less than 100 kg.

Simorgh has flown at least twice before, on April 19, 2016 and July 27, 2017. The goals and results of these flights are disputed outside of Iran. Some analysts believe that the 2016 flight was a planned, successful suborbital test and that the 2017 flight was a failed orbital attempt, with failure occurring during the second stage of flight.

F9-68 SpaceXIridium NEXT 8

A SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.2 boosted the final 10 Iridium NEXT satellites into 600 x 625 km x 86.68 deg orbits from Vandenberg AFB on January 11, 2019. Liftoff of the Iridium NEXT 8 mission took place at 15:31 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, second, circularizaion burn at first apogee. The stage had fired for 6 minutes 8 seconds during its first burn to enter a roughly 180 x 625 km parking orbit. A third burn was planned to deorbit the stage after satellite separation.

It was the eighth and final Falcon 9 Iridium NEXT launch. During the nearly two-year campaign, SpaceX successfully orbited a total of 75 satellites.

Used first stage B1049.2 performed the initial 2 minute 27 second boost. After separation, the stage performed boostback, entry and landing burns before landing on the drone ship "Just Read the Instructions" floating in the Pacific Ocean downrange. The stage had previously been used to power the Telstar 18V launch from Cape Canaveral LC 40 on September 10, 2018, when it also performed a downrange platform landing.

Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy core/booster stages have now landed successfully 33 times in 40 attempts, including 2 of 3 Falcon Heavy attempts. Seven 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. One stage has flown three times.

B1049.2 performed a static test firing at SLC 4E on January 6, 2019 with the second stage but no payload attached.

CZ-3B 0110192019 First Launch

China's Chang Zheng 3B (Enhanced Version) tabulated the world's first orbital launch of 2019 on January 10. The 3.5 stage rocket orbited Zhongxing 2D (Chinasat 2D) from Xichang Satellite Launch Center after an 17:11 UTC liftoff from Launch Complex 2. The liquid hydrogen fueled third stage fired twice to boost Chinasat 2D into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

Chinasat 2D is a DFH-4 based communications satellite that may be designed to serve China's military. It likely weighed 5.2 tonnes or more at liftoff.

CZ-2D  12-29-18CZ-2D Launch

A Chang Zheng-2D with a YZ-3 in-space manuevering third, upper stage closed out China's 2018 calendar year with a December 29 launch. Liftoff from Jiuquan 43/603 took place at 08:00 UTC. The rocket orbited Hongyan 1 (“Big Geese”), the precursor to a low earth orbit communications satellite constellation slated to include 54 primary satellites and 270 smaller "coordination" satellites. Hongyan 1 was inserted into an 1,100 km x roughly 50 deg orbit.

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CAST) is the Hongyan satellite builder.

It was the 34th DF-5 based launch of the year, and the 38th China orbital success in 39 attempts during 2018.

Soyuz Launches Kanopus 5/6Soyuz Orbits Kanopus Pair

A Soyuz 2-1a/Fregat M launched from Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia's Far East on December 27, 2018, carrying two more Kanopus-Vulkan remote sensing satellites and numerous microsatellites. Liftoff from Site 1S took place at 02:07 UTC, beginning the fourth 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. 5 and 6, each 465 kg, separated.

Fregat M was to perform more burns during the remaining mission to deploy as many as 26 microsatellites. The stage was expected to end the mission with a deorbit, or orbit-lowering, burn.

The mission was the third 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. The third flight successfully orbit Kanopus 3 and 4 during February of 2018.

CZ-3C/E TJSW 3CZ-3C Classified Launch

China's CZ-3C/E orbited TJSW 3 (Tongxin Jishu Shiyan Weixing, or Communications Engineering Test Satellite)from XiChang on December 24, 2018. The 3.5 stage rocket lifted off from LC 3 at 16:53 UTC. TJSW 3 entered 180 x 35,812 km x 28.5 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit about one-half hour later after two burns by the liquid hydrogen-fueled third stage.

Like the first two TJSW satellites launched in 2016 and 2017, TJSW 3 appears to have a classified purpose. The first TJSW was used, in part, to test Ka-band technology for broadband communications.

It was the 33rd DF-5 based CZ launch of 2018 and the 37th successful orbital launch by China during the year.

F9-67 SpaceXGPS 3-1

SpaceX Falcon 9 performed its first National Security Space (NSS) mission on December 23, 2018 when it boosted the first Global Positioning System 3 space vehicle into a medium transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida. F9-67, a Falcon 9 v1.2 Block 5, lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at 13:51 UTC with its 4.4 tonne Lockheed-Martin-built payload, beginning a two hour mission. Due to the requirements of the mission, new first stage B1054 was expended and was not equipped with landing legs or grid fins.

Falcon 9 flew on a northeast trajectory. The first stage burned out at T+2 min 44 sec. The second stage then performed a 6 min 26 sec first burn to reach an estimated, roughly 168 x 1,320 km x 55 deg parking orbit. The fairing, capped with a new heat shield on its tip to handle higher ascent temperatures, separated at T+3 min 22 sec, during the second stage burn.

After a one hour 35 sec coast, the second stage restarted for 46 seconds to accelerate itself and GPS 3-1 into a roughly 1,200 x 20,200 km x 55 deg insertion orbit. Spacecraft separation took place after another long coast period, 1 hour 58 min 56 sec after liftoff, to allow for ground communications coverage.  The second stage was expected to perform a deorbit burn after spacecraft separation.

The rocket stages were test fired at McGregor, Texas during October or November. The assembled rocket performed a first stage static test firing at SLC 40 on December 13. A December 18 launch attempted was scrubbed about 7 minutes before T-0 due to a first stage sensor issue. Weather caused scrubs on December 20 and 22. It was the 20th Falcon 9 launch of 2018, a new record for the launch vehicle. SpaceX also performed an inaugural Falcon Heavy launch during the year.

CZ-11 Launch

China's four-stage solid fuel CZ-11 boosted the Hongyun LEO communications satellite into sun synchronous low earth orbit from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on December 21, 2018. Liftoff from a canister on a mobile transporter/erector parked on a flat pad, likely at 40.9691 N 100.343 E, took place at 23:51 UTC. The site was one of two flat pads built in recent years northeast of the CZ-2F launch site.

Hongyun separated into a 1,063 x 1,075 km x 99.9 deg orbit. The fourth stage fired its reaction control system thrusters to lower its orbit after satellite separation.

It was the fifth known CZ-11 flight and the third this year. CZ-11 first flew on September 25, 2015. The 58 tonne rocket is likely based on China's DF-31 series solid fuel ballistic missile. 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 in-space maneuvering capability. CZ-11 reportedly can lift at least 350 kg to sun synchronous orbit.

It was the year's 110th known orbital launch attempt, and 107th success, the most since 1990.

Proton Blagovest 13LProton Orbits Blagovest 13L

Snow shakes off lightning towers as Proton launches.

A Proton M Briz M launched Blagovest 13L, Russia's third Blagovest military communications satellite, from Baikonur Cosmodrome on December 21, 2018. The liftoff from Site 81 Pad 24 took place at 00:20 UTC, with no live coverage provided. The Briz M upper stage most likely performed four burns during a nine-hour mission to insert the satellite into near-geosynchronous orbit. Upon reaching orbit the satellite was named Kosmos 2533.

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.

It was the second and final Proton launch of 2018, the lowest number of launches in a year by Russia's most capable rocket since 1972.

VS20  CUS-1 Launch

The 20th Soyuz to fly from Kourou Space Center, a Soyuz 2.1a/Fregat M with an ST payload fairing, orbited CUS 1, a French optical reconnaissance satellite, during Arianespace Mission VS20 on December 19, 2018. Liftoff from the ELS pad took place at 16:37 UTC, 24 hours after a scrub cause by high altitude winds. CUS 1 is the first of three satellites planned for the Optical Space Component (CSO – Composante Spatiale Optique) program. Airbus Defense and Space France built the 3,565 kg optical imaging satellite.

The Fregat upper stage performed an initial burn to enter an elliptical parking orbit, then restarted at T+54 min 15 sec for 1 min 29 sec to raise itself into an 800 km sun synchronous orbit. CSO 1 separated about 1 hr 44 sec after liftoff. Fregat later performed a third, deorbit burn.

GSLV F11 ISROGSLV Mk2 Launch

India's GSLV Mk2 successfully boosted GSAT 7A to geosynchronous transfer orbit from Sriharikota on December 19, 2018. Liftoff of the F11 mission from Satish Dhawan Space Center's Second Launch Pad took place at 10:40 UTC. The indigenous liquid hydrogen fueled cryogenic upper stage (CUS) performed a single, 841.84 sec. burn to lift the 2.25 tonne military communications satellite into a 152.4 x 38,939.4 km x 19.4 deg orbit. GSAT 7A separated about 1,153 seconds after liftoff.

GSLV Mk2 F11 used the first indigenous "CUS-15" upper stage variant, which carried 14.996 tonnes of propellant compared to the 12.8 tonnes of earlier models. Its CE-7.5 engine produced about 3.7% more thrust and burned longer. The 2.8 meter diameter stage was stretched from 8.47 to 9.89 meters length, increasing total vehicle height to 50.926 meters. It was the sixth success in seven GSLV Mk 2 missions since 2010 using the indigenous CUS. The original GSLV, which used a Russian-engined upper stage, succeeded twice in six flights during 2001-2010.

Electron 4  Rocket Lab Trevor MahlmannElectron NASA Mission

The fourth Rocket Lab Electron orbited a NASA mission from New Zealand on December 16, 2018. The two stage Electron, topped by a monopropellant kick stage named "Curie", carried 13 CubeSats into roughly 500 km x 85 deg orbits. Named "This One's for Pickering", in honor of the late, New Zealand-born former JPL Director William Pickering, the 12.55 tonne rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand's North Island at 06:33 UTC 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 31 sec. The second stage's single vacuum-optimized Rutherford engine ignited at T+2 min 37 sec and fired until T+9 min 6 sec to enter an elliptical transfer orbit. The two-part payload shroud separated about 3 min 7 sec after launch. After a coast to apogee, the Curie kick stage fired its 12.2 kgf engine beginning about 50 minutes after liftoff and ending about 90 seconds later. The kick stage burned a non-toxic “green” monopropellant. Specific details of the fuel have not been released by Rocket Lab.

The ELaNa-19 (Educational Launch of Nanosatellites 19) mission orbited 13 CubeSats weighing a combined 78 kg. This was Rocket Lab's first mission for NASA.

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 about 7,150 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 about 7,150 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.



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