Successful Falcon Heavy Launch Ends Busy & Failure Plagued Week
SpaceX launched its giant Falcon Heavy rocket from Florida on Sunday night to cap off a busy but failure-plagued period that saw nine launch attempts in three nations over eight days.
Falcon Heavy launched the CBAS-2 military communications and LDPE-3A technology demonstration satellites to geosynchronous orbit from Space Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The two first stage side boosters landed back in Florida. The core booster was not recovered due to the weight of the payloads.
It was SpaceX’s second successful launch in the past week and third of the year. Elon Musk’s company launched 40 OneWeb satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Jan. 9. Six days earlier, a Falcon 9 launched 114 satellites on its Transporter-6 rideshare mission.
Jan. 8-15 2023
|Date||Launcher – Organization||Payload – Organization(s)||Purpose(s)||Launch Site|
|Jan. 8||Long March 7A – CASC*||Shijian-23 – SAST**||Tech demo||Wenchang|
|Jan. 9||Ceres-1 – Galactic Energy||5 satellites – multiple||Multiple||Jiquan|
|Jan. 9||LauncherOne – Virgin Orbit||9 satellites – multiple||Multiple||Cornwall
|Jan. 9||Falcon 9 – SpaceX||40 OneWeb – OneWeb||Communications||Cape Canaveral|
|Jan. 10||RS1 – ABL Space||VariSat 1A, 1B – OmniTeq||Communications||PSC – Alaska
|Jan. 12||Long March 2C – CASC*||APStar 6E – APT Satellite||Communications||Xichang|
|Jan. 13||Long March 2D – CASC*||Yaogan 37 (CAS^), Shiyan 22A & 22B (SAST**)||Reconnaissance, tech demo||Jiuquan|
|Jan. 15||Long March 2D – CASC*||14 Satellites – multiple||Earth observation, tech demo||Taiyuan|
|Jan. 15||Falcon Heavy – SpaceX||CBAS-2, LDPE-3A – U.S. Space Force||Communications, tech demo||Kennedy|
^Chinese Academy of Sciences
**Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology
Other U.S. launch providers were not as lucky last week. On Jan. 9, Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne booster failed when an anomaly caused its second stage to shut down prematurely. It was LauncherOne’s second failure in six launches and first after four straight successes. Nine satellites were lost in the accident.
It was the first orbital launch to originate from Western Europe. Virgin Orbit’s Boeing 747 carrier aircraft took off from Cornwall Newquay Airport in England, and dropped LauncherOne over the Atlantic Ocean off the southern coast of Ireland.
The UK’s Space Accident Investigation Authority and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration are overseeing Virgin Orbit’s investigation into the failure.
The maiden launch of ABL Space Systems’ RS1 booster failed 24 hours after LauncherOne’s ill-fated flight. ABL said that all nine first-stage engines failed simultaneously shortly after liftoff from the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska (PSCA). The rocket fell back on the launch pad and exploded, resulting in significant damage to the facility.
China’s five launches included four flights of Long March rockets and a single one of Galactic Energy’s Ceres-1.
Earth observation satellites made up 13 of the 24 spacecraft launched by China last week. The other satellites by function included: five technology demonstration, two meteorology, and one each for communications, reconnaissance, education and the Internet of Things.
The table below shows upcoming launched for which there are dates currently set. There will undoubtedly be more flights added as we enter the second half of January.
|Date||Launcher – Organization||Payload – Organization||Purpose||Launch Site|
|Jan. 18||Falcon 9 – SpaceX||GPS III-06 Amelia Earhart – U.S. Space Force||Navigation||Cape Canaveral|
|Jan. 18||Falcon 9 – SpaceX||51 Starlink – SpaceX||Communications||Vandenberg|
|Jan. 23||Electron – Rocket Lab||Hawk 6A, 6B, 6C – HawkEye 360||Signal collection||Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport|
|Jan. 25||H-IIA||IGS-Radar 7 – CSICE*||Reconnaissance||Tanegashima|
Electron’s launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia will be the first Rocket Lab mission conducted from the United States. The company has performed all previous launches from its spaceport on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.
Orbital Launches to Date
The United States and China are tied with five launch attempts apiece through the first 15 days of the year. All five Chinese launches succeeded, while SpaceX is responsible for three successful missions by American companies.
Orbital Launches by Nation
Through Jan. 15, 2023
SpaceX is far ahead of China in terms of satellites launched with 135 on the strength of the Transporter-6 and OneWeb missions.
The LauncherOne and RS1 failures destroy nine and two satellites, respectively.
Launches by Spaceport
Florida has hosted a combined three launches from Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center.
Launches by Spaceport
Through Jan. 15, 2023
|Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska||USA||0||1|
China split its five launches among its four land-based spaceports. China has also launched a number of rockets from floating platforms in the East China and Yellow seas.
Cornwall and PSCA are each 0-1 in launches this year.