Four Launches to End Record Year as Europe Picks Up Pieces After Vega-C Failure
Four launches have been scheduled this week that would bring orbital attempts to a record 186 if all of the missions are conducted as planned. The last minute flurry comes as SpaceX seeks to exceed 60 launches, and Arianespace deals with the fallout from the failure of a Vega-C rocket last week.
Scheduled Orbital Launches
Dec. 27-31, 2022
|Date||Launcher – Organization||Payload – Organization||Purpose(s)||Launch Site|
|Dec. 27||Long March 4B – CASC*||Gaofen 11-04 – CNSA**||Reconnaissance||Taiyuan|
|Dec. 28||Falcon 9 – SpaceX||54 Starlink – SpaceX||Broadband||Cape Canaveral|
|Dec. 30||Long March 3B – CASC*||BeiDou-3 M25, M26 – CNSA**||Navigation||Xichang|
|Dec. 30||Falcon 9 – SpaceX||EROS-C3 – ImageSat||Earth observation||Vandenberg|
** China National Space Administration
+ China Meteorological Administration
Launches This Week
SpaceX has two launches on the manifest as the company attempts to reach CEO Elon Musk’s goal of 60 flights this year. The company has launched 58 Falcon 9 boosters and one Falcon Heavy.
A Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch 54 Starlink broadband satellites from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday. It will be the 34th dedicated Starlink launch of the year. SpaceX has launched 1,668 Starlink spacecraft in 2022.
SpaceX is also scheduled to launch the EROS-C3 Earth observation satellite for ImageSat of Israel from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Friday. That is, if the weather cooperates. The forecast for most of the week is rain.
China has already completed one of its launches this week. A Long March 4D booster launched the Gaofen 11-04 reconnaissance satellite from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on Monday.
China is scheduled to launch the BeiDou-3 M25 and BeiDou-3 M26 navigation satellites from the Xichang on Friday.
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, which builds all Long March rockets, is second behind SpaceX with 52 launches to date.
Europe Ends Year on a Failure
There was only one launch during Christmas week, and it didn’t end well.
An European Vega-C rocket failed last Tuesday on its second flight, destroying Airbus Defence and Space’s Pléiades Neo 5 and Pléiades Neo 6 Earth observation satellites.
“Approximately 2 minutes and 27 seconds after liftoff an anomaly occurred on the Zefiro 40 [motor] thus ending the Vega C mission. Data analyses are in progress to determine the reasons of this failure,” Arianespace tweeted.
Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël said an “under pressure” condition was detected in the second stage Zefiro 40 solid-fuel motor followed by a deviation in the booster’s trajectory. The rocket then self destructed.
It was the second launch of Vega-C, which successfully orbited seven satellites on its maiden flight in July. Vega-C is an upgraded version of the Vega booster, with a payload capacity of 2,300 kg to a 700 km high polar orbit. Vega can place 1,430 kg into the same orbit.
Vega has a record of 18 successes and two failures. Vega-C has one success and one failure.
Launches to Date
There have been 183 orbital launch attempts, with 175 successes, seven failures and one partial failure.
Orbital Launches by Nation
Through Dec. 27, 2022
|Nation||Successes||Failures||Partial Failures||Total||Percentage of Total|
The United States and China lead with world with a combined 148 launches, or 80.9% of the total. There have been 143 successes, four failures and one partial failure.
Russia is a distant third with 22 launches. The rest of the world has combined for 13 launches, with 10 successes and three failures.