The Week Ahead: Virgin Orbit, ABL Space, SpaceX and Chinese Launches Scheduled (Image Credit: Parabolic Arc)
While the first week of 2023 saw only one launch worldwide, things will get a lot busier in week 2. Virgin Orbit is set to conduct its first launch from the UK, ABL Space hopes to launch its first rocket ever, and SpaceX and China have three launches apiece on their manifests.
Updated at 1/8/23 at 3:23 p.m. PST: SpaceX OneWeb launch postponed 24 hours to Jan. 9 at 11:50 pm EST. Awaiting word on whether this will impact the rest of SpaceX’s manifest this week.
|Date||Launcher – Organization||Payload – Organization||Purpose||Launch Site|
|Jan. 8||Long March 7A – CASC+||Shijian-23 – CAST*||Tech demo||Wenchang|
11:50 pm ET
|Falcon 9 – SpaceX||40 OneWeb – OneWeb||Broadband||Cape Canaveral|
|Jan. 9||Ceres-1 – Galactic Energy||TBA||TBA||Yellow Sea|
5 pm ET
|RS1 – ABL Space||VariSat-1A, 1B – VariSat||Tech demo||PSC-Alaska|
5:16 pm ET
|LauncherOne – Virgin Orbit||Multiple||Multiple||Cornwall|
11:15 pm ET
|Falcon 9 – SpaceX||51 Starlink – SpaceX||Broadband||Vandenberg|
5:45 pm ET
|Falcon Heavy – SpaceX||CBAS-2, LDPE-3A – U.S. Space Force||Communications, tech demo||Kennedy|
|Jan. 14||Long March 3B/E – CASC+||ChinaSat-26 – China Satcom||Communications||Xichang|
+China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation
Virgin Orbit’s will conduct its “Start Me Up” launch from Spaceport Cornwall in England. The company’s Cosmic Girl 747 jetliner will take off from Newquay Cornwall Airport and drop the LauncherOne rocket off the southern coast of Ireland. It will be the first orbital launch to originate from the United Kingdom.
The rocket is carrying nine satellites from the United Kingdom, United States, Oman and Poland. The AMAN Earth observation satellite will be Oman’s first satellite.
Start Me Up Launch Payloads
|CIRCE A, B||DSTL*/NRL#||Ionospheric research||UK/USA|
|DOVER||RHEA Group||Tech demo||UK|
|ForgeStar-0||Space Forge||Tech demo||UK|
|IOD-3 Amber||Satellite Applications Catapult||Maritime domain awareness||UK|
|Prometheus 2A, 2B||UK Ministry of Defence/NRO+||Tech demo||UK/USA|
# U.S. Naval Research Laboratory
+ National Reconnaissance Office
All previous Virgin Orbit flights have originated from the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, Calif. LauncherOne has a record of four successes and one failure.
ABL Space is hoping to get its RS1 launcher off the ground for the first time this week from the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska after multiple unsuccessful attempts last year. The launch window runs from Jan. 9-13. The rocket is carrying a pair of VariSat technology demonstration satellites designed to provide high frequency marine data communications.
RS1 is a two-stage rocket designed to place payloads weighing 1,350 kg (2,976 lb) into low Earth orbit.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 is set to launch 40 OneWeb broadband satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Monday. It is the second of three Falcon 9 launches booked by OneWeb.
Another Falcon 9 will launch 51 Starlink broadband satellites from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. It will be SpaceX’s first Starlink launch of the year. The company has launched 3,666 Starlink satellites on 70 flights since February 2018.
Elon Musk’s company will shift its attention back to Florida for a Falcon Heavy launch on Thursday. The giant rocket will carry a pair of satellites into orbit for the U.S. Space Force.
China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) has a pair of launches scheduled that will carry communications and technology demonstration satellites.
Galactic Energy has a launch of its Ceres-1 rocket scheduled. The payload for the flight is unknown.
Last Week’s Launch
SpaceX launches its sixth Transporter mission with 114 payloads aboard on Jan. 3.
Transporter 6 — Top Payloads
|Planet Labs||SuperDove||Earth observation||36|
|Swarm Technologies (SpaceX owned)||SpaceBEE||Communications||12|
|Skykraft||Skykraft||Air traffic management||6*|
|Spire Global||Lemur-2||Meteorology, ship & aircraft tracking||6|
|Astrocast||Astrocast||Internet of Things||4|
|Sen||EarthTV||Earth observation – UHD streaming||4|
|Albania government/Satellogic||Albania-1, -2||Earth observation||2|
|D-Orbit||ION SCV-007, -008||CubeSat deployer||2|
|Lynk Global||Lynk Tower 3, 4||Communications||2|
|Royal NLR++/TNO^/FFI**||MilSpace-2 1, -2 2||Tech demo||2|
|Satellogic||ÑuSat 34, 35||Earth observation||2|
|Umbra Lab||Umbra-05, -06||Earth observation||2|
*5 satellites and Skykraft satellite deployer
++Royal Netherlands Space Centre
^Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research
**Norwegian Defence Research Establishment
SpaceX has launched 550 payloads on six Transporter missions since January 2021. All flights have been to sun-synchronous orbits.