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The Week in Launch: Russia Orbits New ISS Crew, Falcon 9 Flies Twice & Delta IV Heavy’s West Coast Swan Song

The final Delta IV Heavy launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. (Credit: ULA)

Russia launched a new crew to the International Space Station (ISS) last week to begin a period of crew rotation on the orbiting laboratory. There were also five other launches by U.S. and Chinese companies over the past seven days.

Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin and American astronaut Frank Rubio were launched aboard the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft on Wednesday, Sept. 21, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Their arrival in at ISS brought the crew contingent on ISS to 10.

Rubio is the first NASA astronaut to fly aboard the Russian transport vehicle since Mark Vande Hei launched aboard Soyuz MS-18 on April 9, 2021. U.S. astronauts have flown aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft since that flight.

Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov are set to return to Earth aboard Soyuz-21 on Thursday, Sept. 29 after more than six months on the space station.

SpaceX will launch the Crew-5 mission on Monday, Oct. 3. NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Joss Cassada will be joined by Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata. Kikina will be the first Russian to fly on a Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Other Launches

SpaceX’s two Falcon 9 launches placed 106 Starlink broadband satellites into orbit from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Elon Musk’s company has now orbited 1,455 Starlink satellites this year on 29 Falcon 9 rockets. SpaceX has launched 43 times this year.

Orbital Launches
Sept. 18 – 25 2022

Date Launcher – Organization Payload – Organization Purpose Launch Site
Sept. 18, 2022 Falcon 9 – SpaceX 54 Starlink – SpaceX Broadband Cape Canaveral (USA)
Sept. 20, 2022 Long March 2D – CASC Yunhai-1 03 – SAST Meteorology Jiuquan (China)
Sept. 21, 2022 Soyuz-2.1a – Roscosmos Soyuz MS-22 – Roscomsos ISS Crew Baikonur (Kazakhstan)
Sept. 24, 2022 Delta IV Heavy – ULA NROL-91 – NRO Reconnaissance Vandenberg (USA)
Sept. 24, 2022 Kuaizhou-1A – ExPace Shiyan 14, Shiyan 15 Technology Demonstration Taiyuan (China)
Sept. 24, 2022 Falcon 9 – SpaceX 52 Starlink – SpaceX Broadband Cape Canaveral (USA)

United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Delta IV Heavy made its final flight from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Saturday. The booster, which ULA is phasing out, launched a reconnaissance satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office.

There were two launches in China. A Long March 2D rocket launched the Yunhai-1 03 meteorological satellite on Sept. 20. And ExPace’s Kuaizhou-1A booster orbited the Shiyan 14 and Shiyan 15 experimental spacecraft.

SpaceX Continues to Lead

SpaceX continues to lead the world with 43 launches. The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. is a close second with 33 flights of its Long March rockets. The next closest launch provider is Rocket Lab with seven.

Orbital Launches by Company/Agency
Jan. 1 – Sept. 25, 2022

Company/ Organization Nation Boosters Successes Failures Total Notes
SpaceX United States Falcon 9 43 0 43 Two 4-member crews launched to ISS, 15 dedicated Starlink launches, 3 Transporter rideshare missions
China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) China Long March 2C, 2D, 2F; Long March 3; Long March 4C; Long March 6A; Long March 7; Long March 8; Long March 11, 11H 33 0 33 Crew and cargo flights to Tiangong space station
Rocket Lab United States Electron 7 0 7 Launches from Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand; first deep-space launch (CAPSTONE)
Strategic Rocket Forces of the Russian Federation (RVSN SF) Russia Angara 1.2 (1), Soyuz-2.1a (2), Soyuz-2.1b (1) 6 0 6 Plesetsk Cosmodrome
United Launch Alliance (ULA) United States Atlas V 6 0 6 Boeing CST-100 Starliner launch to ISS
Roscosmos Russia Soyuz 2.1A 5 0 5 1 crew and 2 cargo launches to ISS
Arianespace Europe Ariane 5, Vega-C, Soyuz ST-B 3 0 3 Includes Russian launch from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana; maiden flight of Vega-C
ExPace China Kuaizhou-1A 4 0 4 Successful return to flight after failure in December
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) India PSLV, SSLV 2 1 3 Experimental module with 6 payloads attached to upper stage for first time; failed maiden flight of SSLV
Astra Space United States Rocket 3.3 1 2 3 Final flight of Rocket 3.3
Virgin Orbit United States LauncherOne 2 0 2 First night launch
Northrop Grumman United States Antares 1 0 1 ISS resupply mission
CAS Space China ZK-1A 1 0 1 Maiden flight
Galactic Energy China Ceres 1 0 1
Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) South Korea Nuri 1 0 1 First successful launch of domestically produced launch vehicle
Russian Aerospace Force (VKS) Russia Soyuz-2.1a 1 0 1 Plesetsk Cosmodrome
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Iran Qased 1 0 1 Shahrud Missile Test Site
i-Space China Hyperbola-1 0 1 1 Third straight launch failure
Total 119 4 123

SpaceX’s record launch year has kept the United States with 60 successful flights in 62 attempts. The number represents just over half of all 123 launch attempts. China is in second place with 39 successful launches in 40 attempts.

Orbital Launches by Nation
Jan. 1 – Sept. 25, 2022

Nation Successes Failures Total Percentage of Total Notes
United States 60 2 62 50.4 Includes Rocket Lab Electron launches from New Zealand; 2 Crew Dragon and 1 Cargo Dragon flights to ISS; CST-100 Starliner flight to ISS: final flight of Rocket 3.3 (failure)
China 39 1 40 32.5 Crew, cargo and module launches to space station; Reusable Experimental Spacecraft flight; successful maiden flights of Long March 6A and ZK-1A boosters
Russia 13 0 13 10.6 Includes 1 Soyuz ST-B launch from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana conducted by Arianespace; 1 Soyuz crew and 2 Progress freighters to ISS; 1 successful maiden flight of Angara 1.2
Europe 3 0 3 2.4 Successful Vega-C maiden flight, 2 Ariane 5 launches
India 2 1 3 2.4 2 Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, Small Satellite Launch Vehicle maiden flight (failure)
Iran 1 0 1 0.8 Qased launch vehicle
South Korea 1 0 1 0.8 First successful launch of domestically produced orbital launch vehicle (Nuri)
Total 119 4 123 100

Russia, which once led the world in orbital flight, lags behind with 13 launches. Europe and India have launched three times apiece, and Iran and South Korea are in the books with a single flight each. Japan has yet to launch in 2022.

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