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SPACE LAUNCH REPORT
by
Ed Kyle



Recent Space Launches

09/28/20, 11:20 UTC, Soyuz 2.1b/Fregat w/ 3xGonets-M from PL 43/./4 to LEO
10/03/20, 01:16 UTC, Antares 230+ w/ Cygnus NG-14 from WI 0A to LEO/ISS
10/06/20, 11:29 UTC, Falcon 9 v1.2 w/ Starlink 1-12 from KC 39A to LEO
10/11/20, 16:57 UTC, CZ-3B/E w/ Gaofen 13 from XC 2 to GTO
10/14/20, 05:45 UTC, Soyuz 2.1a w/ Soyuz MS-17 from TB 31/6 to LEO/ISS
10/18/20, 12:25 UTC, Falcon 9 v1.2 w/ Starlink 1-13 from KC 39A to LEO
10/24/20, 15:31 UTC, Falcon 9 v1.2 w/ Starlink 1-14 from CC 40 to LEO
10/25/20, 19:08 UTC, Soyuz 2.1b/Fregat w/ Glonass-K 15L from PL 43/3 to MEO
10/26/20, 15:19 UTC, CZ-2C w/ Yaogan 30-07 from XC 3 to LEO
10/28/20, 21:21 UTC, Electron w/ CESAT 2B/Flock 4e from MA 1 to LEO/S

Worldwide Space Launch Box Score
as of 10/28/20
All Orbital Launch Attempts(Failures)

2020: 85(8)
2019: 102(5)
2018: 114(3)
2017:  90(6)
Crewed Launch Attempts(Failures)
2020:  3(0)
2019:  3(0)
2018:  4(1)
2017:  4(0)


Electron 15 Rocket LabElectron 15

Rocket Lab’s Electron performed its 15th launch on October 28, 2020, with a 21:21 UTC liftoff from New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula LC 1. The three-stage Electron/Curie rocket, named "In Focus”, orbited Canon Electronics 35.5 kg CE-SAT-IIB and nine Planet Flock 4e SuperDove cubesats that together weighed about 45 kg.

The first stage fired for about 2 minutes 42 seconds and the second for about 6 minutes 12 seconds to insert the storable propellant Curie upper stage and payload into an ellipical transfer oribt. Curie coasted to a 500 km apogee where, beginning at T+51:06, it fired for 2 minutes 6 seconds to circularize the 97.5 deg sun synchronous orbit. The satellites separated around one hour after liftoff.

The liftoff followed an October 21 launch attempt that was scrubbed by bad oxygen sensor data.

CZ-2C Y43CZ-2C/Yaogan 30-07

China orbited its seventh set of Yaogan 30 triplet satellites on October 26, 2020 with a Chang Zheng 2C launch vehicle. The two stage rocket rose from Xichang Satellite Launch Center's LC 3 at 15:19 UTC. The satellite triplet was named Yaogan-30 Group 7. The "electromagnetic detection" satellites were inserted into roughly 600 km x 35 deg orbits.

The satellites may be formation flyers similar to the U.S. NOSS system, which perform a signals intelligence mission designed to monitor surface ship electronic emissions. It was the seventh launch for this constellation, all by CZ-2C rockets from Xichang LC 3, since September 29, 2017.

Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat 102520Glonass-K Launch

Russia's Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat orbited a Glonass-K navigation satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on October 25, 2020. Liftoff from Site 43 Pad 3 took place at 19:08 UTC. Fregat performed three burns to deliver the satellite (Uragan-K 15L) into a roughly 19,100 km x 64.8 degree circular medium earth orbit about 3.5 hours after liftoff.

The satellite weighed about 935 kg at launch.

F9-98 SpaceX Ben CooperStarlink v1-14

Falcon 9 first stage B1060.3 powered the Starlink v1-14 mission toward orbit from Cape Canaveral SLC 40 on October 24, 2020 with 60 more Starlink satellites. Liftoff took place at 15:31 UTC. The 60-satellite, 15.6 tonne payload separated into a roughly 260 km x 53 deg low Earth orbit about 63 minutes after liftoff.

The first stage, which previously boosted the GPS 3-3 and Starlink v1-11 flights, fired for 2 minutes 32 seconds, then separated and performed entry and landing burns before landing on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship 634 km downrange in the Atlantic Ocean. The stage had been briefly static fired with second stage and payload at SLC 40 on October 21. An inital launch attempt was scrubbed about 15 minutes before T-0 on October 22 when a second stage engineering camera lost power.

The second stage fired its Merlin Vacuum engine for about 6 minutes 10 seconds to reach a parking orbit, then restarted at T+44:36 for two seconds to raise perigee. The stage was expected to perform a reentry burn targeting a reentry south of Australia during the second orbit.

It was the 75th successful orbital Falcon 9 v1.2, a record achieved in less than five years of service. It was also the 13th SpaceX-owned Starlink launch of 2020, out of 18 total orbital Falcon 9 flights.

F9-97 SpaceXStarlink v1-13

Falcon 9 first stage B1051.6 boosted the Starlink v1-13 mission toward orbit from Kennedy Space Center LC 39A on October 18, 2020 with 60 more Starlink satellites. Liftoff took place at 12:25 UTC. The 60-satellite, 15.6 tonne payload separated into a roughly 260 x 280 km x 53 deg low Earth orbit about 63 minutes after liftoff.

The first stage, which previously boosted the DM-1 unmanned Crew Dragon flight, Canada's RCM mission, and Starlink v1 Flights 3, 6, and 9, fired for 2 minutes 32 seconds, then separated and performed entry and landing burns before landing on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship 633 km downrange on the Atlantic Ocean. The stage had been hot fired at LC 39A on October 17. Both fairing halves were flying for the third time. They were caught by SpaceX recovery ships, though one broke through Ms Tree's catch net and may have been damaged.

The second stage fired its Merlin Vacuum engine for 6 minutes 5 seconds to reach a parking orbit, then restarted at T+44:04 for two seconds to raise perigee. The stage was expected to perform a reentry burn targeting a reentry south of Australia during the second orbit

Soyuz MS-17 RoscosmosSoyuz MS-17 Launch

A Russian Soyuz 2.1a boosted Soyuz MS-17 into orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome with three crew on October 14, 2020. Russia's Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and NASA's Kate Rubins lifted off from Site 31 Pad 6 at 05:45 UTC, beginning an ultra-fast three-hour ascent to dock with the International Space Station at 08:48 UTC. It was the first use of the three-hour ascent during a crewed mission.

The flight carried the final planned NASA-purchased seat for a U.S. astronaut. The Agency plans to switch to SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing Starliner spacecraft for future flights. It is possible that the U.S. and Russia will in the future perform seat-swaps, with Russians occasionally riding the U.S. vehicles and U.S. crewmembers riding Soyuz.

CZ-3B/E Y63 XinhuaCZ-3B/Gaofen 13

China's Chang Zheng 3B launched Gaofen 13, a big optical reconnaisance satellite, into geosynchronous transfer orbit from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on October 11, 2020. Liftoff of the "Enhanced" CZ-3B, tail number number Y63, from LC 2 took place at 16:57 UTC. The liquid hydrogen third stage performed two burns during the roughly half-hour mission.

The satellite appears to be an improvement from Gaofen 4, which was launched to GTO by another CZ-3B in 2015. It consists of a large central telescope section extending from a base section that itself sports twin solar arrays. In geosynchronous orbit, such a satellite could be aimed to image any area at any time on probably more than one-third of the Earth's surface whenever cloud cover permits. CZ-3B/E can boost more than 5.5 tonnes to GTO. This satellite likely approached the upper capability of the launch vehicle.

Once again, China provided only last-minute notice of the launch.  It was the 21st DF-5 based orbital launch of the year and 20th success. It was also China's 30th orbital attempt of the year and 26th success.

F9-95 Starlink 1-12 SpaceX/Ben CooperStarlink v1-12 Launch

Nineteen days after its first attempt, after suffering a late-count abort on October 1 and weather scrubs on September 17, 28, and October 5, a Falcon 9 powered by first stage B1058.3 finally launched from Kennedy Space Center LC 39A on October 6, 2020 with 60 more Starlink satellites. The Starlink v1.0-12 mission (SpaceX confusingly also identified it as "Starlink 13") lifted off at 11:29 UTC. The 15.6 tonne payload separated into a roughly 260 x 280 km x 53 deg low Earth orbit about 61.5 minutes after liftoff.

The first stage, which previously boosted the historic Commercial Crew DM-2 mission and the ANASIS 2 launch, fired for 2 minutes 32 seconds, then separated and performed entry and landing burns before landing on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship in the Atlantic Ocean. One of the fairing halves was caught by a SpaceX recovery ship - a rare success for that recovery method. One of the halves had previously flown twice, on the Starlink v0.9 and v1.0-15 launches.

The second stage fired its Merlin Vacuum engine for 6 minutes 5 seconds to reach a parking orbit, then restarted at T+42:26 for two seconds to raise perigee. Although the stage was expected to perform a reentry burn of some type after payload separation, it remained in a 238 x 261 km x 52.99 deg orbit as of October 17.

NG-14 Northrop GrummanAntares/Cygnus NG-14

The 13th Antares launch vehicle - and third upgraded Antares 230+ - boosted Northrop Grumman's Cygnus NG-14 cargo spacecraft into orbit from Wallops Island, Virginia on October 3, 2020. Liftoff from Pad 0A took place at 01:16 UTC. The liftoff followed an aborted attempt one day earlier at T-2:40 caused by a ground problem.

Like Antares 230, the Antares 230+ first stage is powered by two Energomash RD-181 engines in place of the AJ-26 engines that powered the first five Antares flights. Antares 230+ uses a stronger first stage structure to allow full-thrust operation through much of its burn. In addition, unneeded dry mass was stripped from the first and second stages and a single-piece interstage was implemented.

Cygnus NG-14 was the 11th enhanced Cygnus with a stretched Thales Alenia Space cargo module and the eighth to fly on Antares. Atlas 5 rockets orbited the other three. NG-14 probably weighed about 7,420 kg at launch, including 3,551 kg of cargo for the International Space Station. Cygnus NG-14 was named in honor of Kalpana Chawla, NASA's first female astronaut of Indian descent, who died during the failed STS-107 reentry of Space Shuttle Columbia.

The RD-181 engines produced 392 tonnes of thrust to power the nearly 293 tonne rocket off its pad. The Ukrainian-built first stage burned for about 198 seconds. After first stage shutdown, the upper composite separated at T+206 seconds and coasted upward. The shroud and interstage adapter separated at 235 and 240 seconds, respectively. At about T+258 seconds the Northrop Grumman Castor 30XL second stage motor ignited to produce an average of about 51 tonnes of thrust during its roughly 165 second burn. Cygnus separated at T+537 seconds into a 183 x 262 km x 51.649 deg orbit.

Soyuz 2.1b/Fregat M Launch 092820Gonets-M Launch

Russia's Soyuz 2.1b/Fregat M orbited three Gonets M communication satellites and 18 small rideshare payloads from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on September 28, 2020. Liftoff from Site 43 Pad 4 took place at 11:20 UTC. The Fregat M stage placed its primary payloads into 1,400 km x 82.5 deg orbits.

It was the first use of Soyuz 2.1b/Fregat M to orbit Gonets M satellites. Now-retired Rokot performed previous launches. Satellite numbers 27, 28, and 29 were launched on this mission. The satellites perform store and dump messaging.

Rideshare satellites from Finland, the USA, Canada, Lithuania, Germany, the UAE, and Russia were also orbited on this flight.

CZ-4B Y42CZ-4B Taiyuan Launch

China's Chang Zheng 4B (CZ-4B number Y42) boosted the HJ-2A and HJ-2B environmental monitoring satellites into orbit from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on September 27, 2020. Liftoff from Pad 9 took place at 03:23 UTC. The satellites replace HJ-1A and HJ-1B. They will provide multispectral imaging to monitor the environment, natural resources, water conservancy, and agriculture and forestry.

CZ-4B Y41 092120CZ-4B/HY 2C

China's Chang Zheng 4B (CZ-4B) number Y41 carried Haiyang 2C (HY 2C), an ocean observation satellite, into low earth orbit from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on September 21, 2020. Liftoff from LC 43 Pad 94 (43/603) took place at 05:40 UTC. The three-stage hypergolic propellant rocket inserted its payload into a 931 x 948 km x 66 deg orbit with third stage cutoff 12 minutes 27 seconds after liftoff. The stage performed a single 7 minute 35 second burn during the ascent. After spacecraft separation, the third stage performed a depletion burn to lower its apogee to 654 km, enabling its eventual reentry.

HY 2C carried a microwave radiometer to monitor sea states.

The first stage was fitted with four grid fins, similar to Falcon 9 first stages, for steering the stage toward a smaller drop zone box.

CZ-11 HY2CZ-11 Sea Launch

China's CZ-11 performed its second orbital launch from a floating platform on the Yellow Sea on September 15, 2020. The four-stage, DF-31 missile-based rocket, tail number HY2, boosted nine imaging satellites into 535 km sun synchronous orbits after an 01:23 UTC launch from the new Debo 3 ship. The ship replaces a barge used for the first sea launch in 2019.

Three Gaofen 03C video satellites and six Gaofen 03B push-broom (scanning) satellites were orbited. The rocket flew on a southbound ascent profile for the first time from this site. The first stage drop zone was offshore from China's east coast while the second stage flew directly over the length of Taiwan from north to south.

KZ-1A Y3 091220 KZ-1A Failure

China's Kuaizhou 1A launch vehicle failed to place its Jilin-1 Gaofen 02C remote sensing satellite into low earth orbit as planned after a 05:02 UTC liftoff from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on September 12, 2020. It was the first failure of the Kuaizhou 1/1A series after 11 previous successes since 2013. This rocket, tail number Y3, was the 10th improved KZ-1A variant to fly.

Gaofen 02C was to have been inserted into a 535 km sun synchronous orbit. It weighed about 230 kg at launch. Some reports suggested that the hypergolic liquid upper stage failed, preventing completion of the final apogee kick insertion burn.

Expace Technology Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp., managed the launch campaign.

Astra Rocket 3.1 AstraRocket 3.1 Fails

Astra's Rocket 3.1, a small two-stage LOX/Kerosene fueled rocket, failed during its first orbital launch attempt from Alaska's Kodiak Launch Pad 3B on September 12, 2020, after a 03:20 UTC liftoff. The rocket rose for slightly more than 20 seconds before, acccording to Astra, oscillations introduced by the guidance system caused "the vehicle to drift from its planned trajectory, leading to a commanded shutdown of the engines by the flight safety system". Witnesses saw the vehicle tumbling out of the sky to an explosive impact on the ground after its five battery-powered Delphin rocket engines cut off.

The company's earlier, March 2020 attempts to fly Rocket 3.0 for the Darpa Challenge failed to produce a launch after multiple countdowns. A final, March 23 attempt ended with a prelaunch failure that destroyed the rocket and started a fire at the launch site.

Astra Rocket stands 11.6 meters tall and is 1.32 meters diameter. Its probably weighs 10-11 tonnes at liftoff, rising on 14.275 tonnes of thrust. It uses an "ultra-low-cost" metal structure. Although designed to place at least 100 kg into a presumably near-polar low Earth orbit, Astra 3.1 carried no payload during this initial orbital flight test.

Astra performed two suborbital test launches during 2018 from Kodiak, Alaska, using only live first stages. The first, an Astra Rocket 1.0 flown from Launch Pad 2 on July  21, 2018, reportedly failed about 60 seconds after liftoff. The second, an Astra Rocket 2.0, failed shortly after its November 29, 2018 attempt from the same pad.

CZ-4B Y46CZ-4B Launch

China's Chang Zheng (CZ) 4B, tail number Y46, orbited another remote sensing satellite, named Gaofen 11-02, on September 07, 2020. Liftoff of the storable propellant rocket from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center's LC 9 took place at 05:57 UTC. The three-stage storable propellant rocket boosted its payload into a 248 x 694 km x 97.3 deg sun synchronous type low Earth orbit. The satellite will likely adjust itself toward a roughly 500 km near-circular orbit over time if the history of Gaofen 11-01 is a guide.

According to reports from China, the satellite carried high resoultion optical imaging equipment and will be used for civil planning, disaster prevention and mitigation, and national defense, among other uses. While the mass of the satellite was not announced, CZ-4B is able to lift 2.5 tonnes to a 700 km sun synchronous orbit.

It was the year's third CZ-4B launch and the 18th DF-5 based orbital attempt.


CZ-2F 090420  Unoffical, LaunchSpaceSecret CZ-2F Launch

China's CZ-2F, flying for the first time in nearly four years, boosted a top secret experimental reusable test spacecraft into orbit from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on September 4, 2020. Liftoff from Site 43/91 took place at about 07:30 UTC. Four objects were subsequently tracked, two in roughly 330 x 348 km x 50.2 deg orbits and two in roughly 346 x 566 km x 49.9 deg orbits. Xinhua announced that the test spacecraft would orbit for an unspecified period of time before returning to Earth at a "domestic landing site". No details about the spacecraft and no photographs of the launch or of the launch vehicle were initially released. It was not clear if the spacecraft was winged or was a ballistic reentry vehicle, for example.

On September 6, Xinhua news agency reported that the reusable spacecraft had landed. No details about the landing site or landing time and no photographs were provided. The type of spacecraft was also not mentioned. Meanwhile, some apparently unofficial videos of the launch were made available. These showed a rocket with a standard width fairing similar to that used by the type "T" CZ-2F.

F9-94 Starlink 1-11 SpaceXFalcon 9/Starlink 1 F11

A Falcon 9 performing the 100th SpaceX orbital launch attempt orbited the eleventh operational group of 60 Starlink internet satellites from Kennedy Space Center on September 3, 2020. Liftoff from Launch Complex 39 Pad A took place at 12:46 UTC. The Falcon 9 second stage performed a single ascent burn to reach a roughly 220 x 380 km x 53 deg deployment orbit. The Starlinks separated at about T+14 minutes 47 seconds. They will ultimately move themselves to 550 km operational orbits.

Total deployed payload mass was about 15,600 kg. The flight increased the total number of orbited Starlink satellites, both precursor and operational, to 715, though several have been retired and are being deorbited. A constellation of thousands of the 260 kg, Redmond Washington-built satellites is planned.

First stage B1060.2, on its second flight; which previously boosted GPS 3-3 from SLC 40 on June 30, 2020; performed entry and landing burns before landing on "Of Course I Still Love You" some 350 nautical miles downrange. The stage was not hot-fired on the pad prior to launch, a practice now becoming common. The stage is the newest currently-active Falcon 9 booster, though three or four more have been built and tested and are preparing for flight.

Attempts to recover the new payload fairing halves failed.  Recovery boats returned to Port Canaveral with only shroud fragments. The second stage was to have performed a deorbit burn during its first orbit in order to target an impact zone off the California coast. No confirmation of that burn and reentry was possible as of several days after the launch.

VV16 ArianespaceVega Returns

After months of delay caused by Covid-19, high altitude winds, and a typhon on the other side of the planet, Europe's Vega rocket finally returned to service with launch of the VV16 Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS) Proof of Concept (PoC) mission from Kourou Space Center on September 3, 2020. Liftoff from Kourou's Vega Launch Zone (ZLV) took place at 01:51 UTC. Vega's AVUM upper stage performed four burns to insert 53 micro and nanosatellites into 515 km and 530 km sun synchronous orbits. The final satellite separated about 1 hour 45 minutes after liftoff.

It was Vega's first launch since July 2019, when VV15's Zefiro 23 second stage motor suffered a forward dome burn-through as it fired.

The European Space Agency (ESA) funded SSMS development, which includes a modular SSMS dispenser. VV16 carried seven microsatellites (15 to 150 kg) on an upper dispensar part and 46 smaller CubeSats on a lower dispensar "Hexamodule". Total satellite mass was 877 kg.

Electron 14 Rocket LabElectron 14

Rocket Lab’s Electron returned to service with its 14th launch on August 31, 2020. The three-stage Electron/Curie rocket, named "I Can’t Believe It’s Not Optical”, boosted Capella Space's "Sequoia" synthetic aperature radar (SAR) mapping satellite. Liftoff from New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula LC 1 took place at 03:05 UTC. After a 2 minute 36 second first stage burn and a 6 minute 9 second second stage firing, the storable propellant Curie upper stage and payload coasted to a 530-ish km apogee where, beginning at T+52:52, Curie fired for 2 minutes 26 seconds to circularize the 45 degree inclination orbit. The 100 kg satellite separated about one hour after liftoff into a 531 x 546 km x 45.1 deg orbit.

After Sequoia separated, the Curie stage transitioned into Photon test spacecraft mode, flying in a 528 x 547 x 45.1 deg orbit for an extended test. Photon carries solar cells and rechargeable batteries and uses the Curie stage's RCS and control systems to maintain flight control. The roughly 50 kg Curie/Photon can carry up to 170 kg of payload while serving as a satellite bus in a manner reminiscent of Lockheed's long-retired Agena stage.

The launch took place nearly two months after Electron 13 failed to reach orbit when its second stage engine shut down early. Rocket Lab’s investigation determined that an overheating electrical connection that carried engine turbopump current was to blame for the failure. Improved testing methods were developed to detect such potential failures in the future.

It was the year's 60th successful orbital launch.

F9-93 SAOCOM 1B SpaceXFalcon 9 Orbits SAOCOM 1B

A Falcon 9 v1.2 placed Argentina's SAOCOM 1B into sun synchronous low Earth orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on August 30, 2020. Liftoff from SLC 40 took place at 23:19 UTC. It was the first near-polar orbit launch from the Cape since Delta 67 orbited ESSA 9 during 1969. After firing for 2 minutes 17 seconds during ascent, first stage B1059.4, on its fourth launch, performed boost-back, entry, and landing burns to land at Cape Canaveral's Landing Zone 1. It was the 15th successful landing at LZ 1 out of 16 attempts since 2015. Three additional landings have taken place at nearby LZ 2 during Falcon Heavy flights.

The second stage performed one, 461 second burn to carry the 3,050 kg satellite into a roughly 610 km orbit. During the burn, the stage doglegged from south-southeast to south-southwest along the eastern Florida coast. The stage then flew over Cuba and Panama before deploying SAOCOM 1B about 14 minutes 9 seconds after liftoff. Two microsatellites, GNOMES-1 and Tyvak-0172, separated at about T+61 and 62 minutes.

The first stage prevously launched CRS-19, CRS-20, and Starlink V1 F8 during 2019-2020. It was not static test fired prior to this launch. The SAOCOM 1B launch was originally scheduled for early 2020, but the Covid-19 pandemic prevented ground crew travel from Argentina, causing delays. A Falcon 9 orbited similar SAOCOM 1A from VAFB SLC 4E during 2018. The relatively light payload allowed SpaceX to shift the SAOCOM 1B launch to the Cape in a move meant to save money. The company shifted or shed most of its VAFB launch team after completing its Iridium NEXT constellation launches in 2018.

CZ-2D Y57 XinhuaCZ-2D/Gaofen 9-05

China's CZ-2D orbited Gaofen 9-05, adding to the growing Gaofen 9 Earth observation satellite constellation, from Jiuquan Satellite Launcher Center on August 23, 2020. Liftoff of CZ-2D Y57 from LC 43/94 (43/603) took place at 02:27 UTC. A pair of microsatellites, one named Tiantuo 5 and one identified as a "multi-functional test satellite" were orbited. Gaofen 9-05 separated into a sun synchronous orbit.

It was the fourth CZ-2D/Gaofen 9 launch in 2020 to date, all from Jiuquan.

F9-92 SpaceXFalcon 9/Starlink 1 F10

Falcon 9 first stage B1049.6 on its sixth flight - a new record for Falcon 9 - boosted the tenth operational group of 58 Starlink internet satellites from Cape Canaveral on August 18, 2020, along with three rideshare Planet Skysat imaging satellites. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 took place at 14:31 UTC. The Falcon 9 second stage performed a single ascent burn to reach a roughly 220 x 380 km x 53 deg deployment orbit. Skysats 19-21 separated between 12 and 14 minutes after liftoff. The Starlinks separated at about T+46 minutes. The Starlink satellites will ultimately move themselves to 550 km operational orbits.

Total deployed payload mass was about 15,440 kg, including about 120 kg for each of the Skysats. The flight increased the total number of orbited Starlink satellites, both precursor and operational, to 655, though several are being retired and deorbited. A constellation of thousands of the 260 kg, Redmond Washington-built satellites is planned.

The payload fairing halves previously flew and were recovered during the January, 2020 Starlink 1 F3 launch. The first stage, which previously boosted Telstar 18 VANTAGE in September 2018, Iridium-8 in January 2019, and three Starlink missions in May 2019, January 2020, and June 2020, performed entry and landing burns before landing on "Of Course I Still Love You" some 350 nautical miles downrange. The stage was hot-fired at SLC 40 on August 17 with payload attached. It is the oldest currently-active Falcon 9 booster.

It was the 70th orbital Falcon 9 v1.2 and the 13th orbital Falcon 9 flight of 2020. SpaceX-owned Starlink has accounted for 9 of the launches. The company has only performed two beyond-LEO launches during 2020 to date.

va253 ArianespaceAriane 5 Launch

Ariane 5 ECA L5112 performed the Arianespace Mission VA253 launch from Kourou on August 15, 2020. Liftoff from ELA 3 took place at 22:04 UTC. The 47 minute 39 second mission successfully deployed three satellites into geosynchronous transfer orbit.

Northrop Grumman-built Galaxy 30 and MEV-2, which were connected together at launch, rode atop the Sylda adapter. 3,298 kg Galaxy 30, a GEOStar-2.4E communications satellite for Intelsat to serve the USA, separated at T+27 min 47 sec. 2,976 kg MEV-2, the second Mission Extension Vehicle 2 (MEV-2) spacecraft, a GEOStar-3 designed to dock with old satellites to extend their lifetimes, separated at T+34 min 22 sec. MEV-2 will dock with Intelsat 10-02 in geosynchronous orbit.

BSAT-4b, a 3,530 kg Maxar (Space Systems/Loral) SSL-1300 series communications satellite, rode inside Sylda and separated at T+47 min 37 sec. It will serve Japan's Broadcasting Satellite System Corporation (BSAT) , which provides communication and broadcasting satellite services for Japan.

The launch followed an aborted July 31 launch attempt that forced a rollback to replace a defective sensor. It was the first Ariane 5 launch since February, operations having been affected by the Covid-19 pandamic.

LC 39A MST SpaceXULA/SpaceX Win NSSL

On August 7, 2020, the U.S. Space Force awarded National Security Space Launch Phase 2 contracts to United Launch Alliance and SpaceX, locking out bidders Blue Origin (New Glenn) and Northrop Grumman (Omega) as primary contractors, though both would serve as subcontractors for ULA's winning Vulcan launch vehicle.

ULA won about 60% of the launch services orders and SpaceX about 40% during 2020-2024. ULA will launch USSF-51 and USSF-106 during 2022. SpaceX will launch USSF-67 during 2022. ULA won $337 million and SpaceX $316 million for these initial launch services task orders. Some of the SpaceX money may be for development of an extended Falcon Heavy payload fairing and for a new Mobile Service Tower at LC 39 Pad A.

Vulcan ULAULA and SpaceX will now compete annually for up to 34 NSSL launches during during the 2020-2027 period. The initial launches will be from Florida, with California launch capability added after a couple of years. Vulcan Centaur will launch from Cape Canaveral SLC 41 and VAFB SLC 3E. Falcon 9/Heavy will launch from KSC LC 39A and VAFB SLC 4W, with some launches likely possible from Cape Canaveral SLC 40.

Blue Origin announced that it intended to continue development of its New Glenn launch vehicle, aiming to win civil and commercial space contracts. Northrop Grumman only said that it was disappointed in the announcement. Omega's first and second stage motors have already been test fired, its mobile launch platform is under construction, and its liquid hydrogen upper stage was to have been test fired in a few months.

The announcement sets the stage for US space launch during the next decade at least, since Pentagon money is a dominant engine for launch business.

F9-89 SpaceXFalcon 9/Starlink 1 F9

The 89th orbital Falcon 9, boosted by first stage B1051.5 on its fifth flight, launched the ninth operational group of 57 Starlink internet satellites from Kennedy Space Center on August 7, 2020, along with two rideshare BlackSky satellites. Liftoff from Launch Complex 39A took place at 05:12 UTC. The Falcon 9 second stage performed two burns to reach a roughly 380 x 400 km x 53 deg deployment orbit. BlackSky Global 7 and 8 deployment took place about an hour after liftoff, followed 30 minutes later by Starlink separation. The Starlink satellites will ultimately move themselves to 550 km operational orbits.

Total deployed payload mass was about 15.192 metric tons (tonnes), including 112 kg for the two Earth observation BlaskSky satellites. The flight increased the total number of orbited Starlink satellites, both precursor and operational, to 597, though several are being retired and deorbited. A constellation of thousands of the 260 kg, Redmond Washington-built satellites is planned.

The first stage, which previously boosted the DM-1 Crew Dragon, RCM, and Starlink 1 F3 and F6 during 2019-20, performed entry and landing burns before landing on "Of Course I Still Love You" downrange. The stage was hot-fired at LC-39A on June 24 with payload attached, but issues discovered during the test delayed the launch. On July 8 weather scrubbed a launch try and on July 11 the vehicle's third launch attempt was halted due to unspecified problems, possibly with the payload. The long-delayed flight was hop-scotched by two other Falcon 9 launches during its campaign.


CZ-2D 080620 XinhuaCZ-2D/Gaofen 9-04

China's 50th CZ-2D orbited Gaofen 9-04, another Earth observation satellite, from Jiuquan Satellite Launcher Center on August 6, 2020. Liftoff from LC 43/94 (43/603) took place at 04:01:54 UTC. A gravity and atmospheric science microsatellite named Tsinghua was also orbited. Gaofen 9-04 separated into a roughly 500 km x 97.5 deg sun synchronous orbit.

It was the third CZ-2D/Gaofen 9 launch in 2020 to date, all from Jiuquan.

Proton 073020 RoscosmosProton Launch

Russia's Proton M/Briz M launched two communication satellites to a supersynchronous transfer orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on July 30, 2020. Liftoff from Site 200 Pad 39 took place at 21:25 UTC, beginning an 18 hour 16 minute mission that included five burns by the Briz M upper stage. It was the longest Proton M/Briz M mission.

Two Russian communication satellites, Ekspress 80 and Ekspress 103, were orbited. Express 80 weighed 2.11 tonnes at launch. Express 103 weighed 2.28 tonnes. Express 80 separated first at T+17 hours 59 minutes 26 seconds. Express 103 followed at T+18 hours 16 minutes 40 seconds.

Briz M fired first to reach a low Earth parking orbit. It fired again beginning at 00:29:08 (HH:MM:SS), 02:12:52, and 09:11:43 to reach GTO. Its fifth burn to reach its final orbit began at T+17:49:30.

It was the first Proton launch of the year, the 99th Proton M/Briz M, and the 424th Proton launched since the big hypergolic launch vehicle began flying in 1965.

AV-088 ULAMars Rover Launch

Atlas 5 AV-088 launched NASA JPL's Mars-2020 mission with the Perserverance rover toward Mars from Cape Canaveral, Florida on July 30, 2020. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 took place at 11:50 UTC. The Atlas 5-541 dropped its four solid motor boosters 1 min 50 sec after liftoff, shed its payload fairing at T+3:28, and shut down its Russian RD-180 first stage engine at T+4:22. The Centaur second stage fired its RL10C-1 engine for 7 min 1 sec to reach a parking orbit, then restarted at T+45:21 over the Indian Ocean for a 7 min 38 sec burn that propelled the roughly 4,082 kg payload into solar orbit. Mars-2020 separated at T+57:42.

Mars-2020 includes a Cruise Stage, Aeroshell, Descent Stage, the 1,025 kg Perserverance Rover, and a Heat Shield. Riding along with the RTG-powered rover is the 1.8 kg Ingenuity helicopter, which will attempt to fly above the surface of Mars.

It was the third Mars-bound launch in recent weeks, all taking advantage of this bi-annual Earth-Mars alignment. AV-088 was the fifth Atlas 5 launch toward Mars, a total that includes NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2005, Curiosity rover in 2011, MAVEN orbiter in 2013 and InSight lander in 2018.

CZ-4B Y45 XinhuaZY-3 Launch

Chang Zheng 4B number Y45 orbited Ziyuan 3-3 and microsatellite Tianqi 10 from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on July 25, 2020. The three-stage, 249 tonne hypergolic propellant rocket lifted off from LC 9 at 03:17 UTC. The third stage inserted the 2.63 tonne high resolution civil remote sensing satellite into a roughly 505 km x 97.4 degree sun synchronous orbit. Tianqi, an 8 kg communication microsatellite for IoT communications, likely entered a similar orbit.

During ascent the second stage, after completing its burn and separating from the rocket, performed a maneuver to steer itself toward a small drop zone. The third stage lowered its orbit after inserting the satellites, likely through use of a RCS and propellant blow down.

It was the second CZ-4B launch of the year and the 14th DF-5 based CZ liftoff.

Progress MS-15 Launch RoscosmosProgress MS-15

Russia's Soyuz 2.1a launched Progress MS-15 from Baikonur Site 31 Pad 6 on July 23, 2020. Liftoff took place at 14:26 UTC. The robot cargo hauler spacecraft flew a fast-track, two orbit ascent to the International Space Station. Progress MS-15 docked successfully and automatically after initially mis-aligning its final approach.

It was Russia's first orbital launch in two months, since May 22, an usually long gap for a country that until recent years traditionaly led the world's launch totals.

Progress MS-15 carried 1,520 kg of dry cargo, about 600 kg of propellant for transfer to ISS, 420 kg of water, and 46 kg of compressed air.

CZ-5 Y4 CNSACZ-5 Tianwen 1

China launched its first Mars mission on July 23, 2020, when CZ-5 number Y4 boosted the Tianwen 1 spacecraft into solar orbit. The 870 tonne, 2.5-stage rocket lifted off from Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site Pad 101 at 00:41 UTC. The liquid-hydrogen-fueled second stage fired its twin YF-75 engines twice to accelerate the 5 tonne spacecraft toward Mars during a roughly 36 minute mission.

Ascent times were as follows. Booster separation T+175 seconds, shroud separation T+362 seconds, Staging T+492 seconds, Stage 2 cutoff T+702 seconds, Stage 2 restart T+1,165 seconds and shutdown at T+2,010 seconds, vernier cutoff T+2,107 seconds, and spacecraft separation at T+2,177 seconds.

Tianwen means "Questions to Heaven", from a poem written by Qu Yuan roughly 2,500 years ago. China National Space Administration (CNSA), which manages the orbiter/lander/rover project, provided no live information during the flight.

F9-91 ANASIS 2 SpaceXFalcon 9/ANASIS 2

The 68th orbital Falcon 9 v1.2 flight attempt launched ANASIS 2 (Army/Navy/Air Force Satellite Information System) for South Korea's military from Cape Canaveral on July 20, 2020. Liftoff from SLC 40 took place at 21:30 UTC. Falcon 9's second stage performed two burns during the roughly half-hour flight to insert the Airbus-built Eurostar E3000 series communications satellite into an unknown elliptical (likely supersynchronous) transfer orbit. ANASIS 2, which likely weighed 3.5 to 5 tonnes at liftoff, will presumably raise itself to geosynchronous orbit where it will operate. First stage B1058.2, which previously boosted the first NASA commericial crew mission on May 30, 2020, performed entry and landing burns to land on "Just Read the Instructions" downrange in the Atlantic Ocean.

B1058.2 performed a static test firing at SLC 40 on July 11, 2020 with no payload attached to the top of the rocket. At the time, plans called for a July 14 liftoff. That plan was stopped by a second stage problem that apparently cropped up during the combined wet dress rehearsal/static firing. The stage was either repaired or replaced prior to the final launch countdown.

Also on July 11, another Falcon 9, using first stage B1051.5 and topped by the Starlink v1-9 payload, had had its third launch attempt halted at LC 39A due to unspecified problems, possibly with the payload. That Falcon 9, which originally tried to launch nearly a month ago and has since been hop-scotched by two other Falcon 9 launches, continues to await launch.

South Korea received the satellite as part of a barter to offset that country's F-35A fighter jet purchase from Lockheed Martin. That company subcontracted the satellite to Airbus.

This was the 55th Falcon 9 launch from Space Launch Complex 40, matching the number of Titan launches (Titan 3C, 34D, Commercial Titan 3, and Titan 4) that previously took place from the site. While it took four decades for Titan to log 55 launches from (S)LC 40, Falcon 9 did it in one decade.

H-2A F42 MHIH-2A/Hope

Japan's H-2A launched the Emirates Mars Hope orbiter toward the Red Planet from Tanegashima Space Center on July 19, 2020. Liftoff from Yoshinobu Pad 1 took place at 21:58 UTC. Hope is the UAE's first Mars mission.

H-2A-202 F42 performed the launch. The LE-5B powered liquid hydrogen second stage performed two burns, the second beginning 56 min 39 sec after liftoff as the stage passed over the South Atlantic Ocean, to accelerate the 1,350 kg spacecraft into solar orbit. It was the first H-2A launch toward Mars.

Hope is the first of several Mars-bound launches planned for this summer.

Minotaur 4 NROL 129Minotaur 4 NROL-129

Flying for the first time under the Northrop Grumman banner, a Minotaur 4 boosted four National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellites into orbit from Wallops Flight Facility on July 15, 2020. The NROL-129 mission lifted off from Pad 0B at 13:46 UTC after a delay to allow a boat to clear the range. It was the first Minotaur 4 launch from Wallops. A similar Minotaur 5 rose from the same pad during 2013.

Minotaur 4 uses three solid motor stages from retired Peacekeeper ICBMs, topped by a commercial Orion 38 solid motor housed in a Guidance and Control Assembly. The 85 tonne rocket lifted off on 209 tonnes of thrust from its Thiokol SR-118 first stage motor, which burned for 56 seconds. The Aerojet SR-119 124.7 tonne force second stage motor immediately ignited and extended its nozzle for its 60 second burn. The 29.5 tonne force Hercules SR-120 third stage motor coasted for ten seconds while extending its nozzle before beginning its 72 second burn. Fairing separation took place around the time of third stage ignition, which saw the end of the launch webcast. The Orion 38 fourth stage likely performed its 3.65 tonne force, 68 second burn after a roughly dozen-minute coast.

The flight aimed southeast toward a likely 43 deg inclination low Earth orbit. Minotaur 4 can lift 1.4 to 1.5 tonnes to such an orbit, depending on altitude.

Northrop Grumman (previously Orbital ATK and, before that, Orbital Sciences) conducts Minotaur 4 launches under the U.S. Space Force Orbital/Suborbital-3 contract.

KZ-11 F1 071020 XinhuaKZ-11 Inaugural Failure

China's Kuaizhou 11 failed to orbit two small satellites during its inaugural flight from Juiquan Satellite Launch Center on July 10, 2020. Liftoff from a mobile transporter launcher parked on a flat pad took place at 04:17 UTC. The first minutes of flight look nominal through second stage separation, but an unknown failure occurred before orbit could be attained.  The ascent was planned to include a long coast phase to an insertion more than an hour after launch.

KZ-11, managed by Expace Technology and developed by China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp (CASIC), is a three stage solid-motor launch vehicle that is topped by a liquid "Propulsion Control Module". It is likely derived from China's DF-31 intercontinental ballistic missile. KZ-11 is 2.2 meters diameter, weighs 78 tonnes at liftoff, and is capable of placing 1 tonne in a 700 km sun synchronous orbit.

The payload included 230 kg BilibiliSat and 97 kg Xiangrikui 2, which were lost in the failure.

KZ-11 is the latest in a string of new launch vehicles developed in China since 2013 that are based on solid propellant missiles. These include the successful CZ-11 and KT-2, both DF-31 based, the successful DF-21/25 based KZ-1(A), and the so-far unsuccessful DF-26 based ZQ-1. KT-1, an early solid-motor design, failed in two attempts during 2002-2003.

CZ-3B/E 070920 XinhuaCZ-3B/APStar 6D

China's Chang Zheng 3B boosted the APStar 6D communications satellite to geosynchronous transfer orbit from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on July 9, 2020. Liftoff of "Enhanced" CZ-3B number Y64 from LC 3 took place at 12:10 UTC. The liquid hydrogen third stage performed two burns during the roughly half-hour mission.

The 5.55 tonne DFH-4E satellite was built by the China Academy of Space Technology. It will be operated by APT Satellite Company Ltd. The satellite will provide Ku/Ka-band broadband internet communications from geosynchronous orbit at 134 degrees East, after raising itself to that orbit.

It was the 13th DF-5 based orbital launch of the year and 12th success. It was also the 5th beyond-LEO attempt and 4th success, more than any other launch vehicle family despite an April CZ-3B failure.

Shavit-2 070620 IAIShavit-2 Spysat Launch

Israel's Shavit-2 rocket launched Ofeq 16, an electro-optical reconnaissance satellite, into a retrograde low earth orbit from Palmachim Air Base on July 6, 2020. Liftoff of the 32.9 tonne launch vehicle took place at 01:00 UTC. Ofeq 16, built by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI Ltd), was boosted into a retrograde low Earth orbit. It was the first Shavit-2/Ofeq launch since Ofeq 11 was successfully launched in 2016, but then suffered problems in orbit.

The launch was jointly carried out by IAI and the Defense Ministry’s Space Administration, which is a part of the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure. It may have been the 12th Shavit launch attempt since 1988.

Rarely-flown Shavit consists of three solid fuel motor stages topped by an optional liquid fuel fourth stage. Payloads of only 250-300 kg are possible due to the fact that the rocket must launch toward the west across the Mediterranean Sea, toward the Straits of Gibralter, from Palmachim Airbase on Israel's coast. The resulting westward, or retrograde orbit, reduces payload mass compared to an eastward launch that would gain free velocity from the Earth's rotation.

CZ-2D Y29CZ-2D Launch

China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 2D Y29 orbited Shiyan Weixing 6-02 from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on July 4, 2020. Liftoff from Site 43 Pad 603 took place at 23:44 UTC. The satellite was inserted into a roughly 700 km x 98.19 deg sun synchronous orbit.

The mission of Shiyan Weixing 6-02 was vaguely described by offical new reports from China to be for "space environmental exploration and related technical tests".

It was the 12th DF-5 based orbital launch of the year, more than any other launch vehicle family.

Electron 13Electron Fails

Rocket Lab's 13th Electron, named "Pics Or It Didn’t Happen’", failed to reach orbit with seven small satellites on July 4, 2020. Liftoff from Mahia, New Zealand's LC 1 took place at 21:19 UTC. The flight appeared normal through the first stage burn, staging, second stage engine start, and fairing separation. At about T+5 minutes 42 seconds, however, about 45 seconds before the planned second stage battery hot-swap that would have transferred second stage engine turbopump power to a second battery, video downlink ended and acceleration appeared to cease. The second stage normally would have burned until the 9 minute 2 second mark to place the Curie third stage into a parking orbit.

The primary payload was Canon Electronics CE-SAT-IB with experimental imaging equipment, five Planet SuperDove imaging satellites, and one In-Space 6U CubeSat named Faraday 1.

Rocket Lab confirmed that the vehicle was lost soon after its webcast ended. The company vowed that it would find the problem and return to flight soon. The failure came after 11 consecutive Electron successes.

CZ-4B Y43CZ-4B Launch

China's CZ-4B, tail number Y-43, orbited a high resolution imaging satellite from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on July 3, 2020. Liftoff from LC 9 took place at 03:10 UTC. The 2.4 tonne satellite, CAST's first "GF" series multi-mode "civil" optical imaging satellite, was inserted into a sun synchronous orbit. A student microsatellite named Xibaipo or Bayi 02 also rode to orbit during the launch.

It was the first CZ-4B launch of the year and the 11th DF-5 based CZ orbital launch of 2020.

F9-90 GPS 3-3 Lockheed MartinGPS 3-3

SpaceX Falcon 9 performed its second GPS 3 mission on June 30, 2020, boosting Global Positioning System 3 Space Vehicle 3 into a medium transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The 88th Falcon 9 to fly rose from Space Launch Complex 40 at 20:10 UTC with the Lockheed-Martin-built payload, beginning a 1.5 hour mission that included two ascent burns by the second stage. SpaceX recovered first stage B1060.1 on "Just Read the Instructions" after it performed ascent, entry, and landing burns.

During its previous, GPS 3-1 launch in 2018, Falcon 9's first stage was expended while lofting its 4.4 tonne payload to a roughly 1,200 x 20,200 km x 55 deg orbit. On this flight, the U.S. Space Force gave up some payload mass and orbital energy to allow first stage recovery, with 4.311 tonne GPS 3-3 inserted into a 400 x 20,200 km x 55 deg orbit.

Mission times were MECO at 2:31 follow by staging at 2:35. The second stage fired from 2:42 until 8:07 to reach a parking orbit. Fairing separation took place at 3:28. The first stage completed its entry burn at 6:45 and landing burn at 8:30. Stage 2 coasted until restarting at 1:03:28 for a 45 second transfer orbit insertion burn. The stage and payload coasted for 25 more minutes before GPS 3-3 separated.

The rocket stages were test fired at McGregor, Texas, likely during March, 2020. The assembled rocket performed a first stage static test firing at SLC 40 on June 25.

CZ-3B/E Y68 XinhouChina Navsat Complete

China's CZ-3B/E, serial number Y68, boosted 4.6 tonne Beidou 3 GEO-3 (Beidou 55) into geosynchronous transfer orbit from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on June 23, 2020. Liftoff from Pad 2 took place at 01:43 UTC. The launch, which took place after a June 13 attempt was scrubbed by a third stage vent valve issue, completed the Beidou 3 navigation satellite constellation.

It was the first CZ-3B launch since a failed April 9, 2020 attempt to orbit Palapa N1. That vehicle's liquid hydrogen fueled third stage suffered a failure during its first burn.

CZ-2D Y51 CZ-2D Launch

China's CZ-2D, serial number Y52, orbited high resolution Earth imaging satellite Gaofen 9-03, along with two microsatellites, from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on June 17, 2020. Liftoff from LC 43/603 (also called 43/94) took place at 07:19 UTC. The two-stage, hypergolic propellant rocket inserted the satellites into sun synchronous low earth orbit.

The small satellites included Pixing-3A - a Zhejiang University experimental pico/nano-satellite test, and HEDE-5 - a Beijing Hede Aerospace Technology Co., Ltd. ship tracking satellite.

It was the ninth DF-5 based launch of 2020.

F9 061320 SpaceXFalcon 9/Starlink 1 F8

The 88th Falcon 9, boosted by first stage B1059.3 on its third flight, launched the eighth operational group of 58 Starlink internet satellites from Cape Canaveral on June 13, 2020, along with three rideshare PlanetLabs satellites named Skysat 16-18. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 took place at 09:15 UTC. The Falcon 9 second stage performed a single, roughly 6 minute 10 second ascent burn to directly reach an elliptical deployment orbit where, about 13 minutes after liftoff, Skysat deployment took place. The Starlink satellites separated about 13 minutes later. They will ultimately move themselves to 550 km operational orbits. This was the fifth direct ascent Starlink flight.

Total deployed payload mass was about 15.41 metric tons (tonnes), including 330 kg for the three Skysats. The flight increased the total number of orbited Starlink satellites, both precursor and operational, to 540, though about a dozen or more of previously launched satellites are being retired and deorbited. A constellation of thousands of the 260 kg, Redmond Washington-built satellites is planned.

The first stage, which previously boosted CRS-19 and CRS-20 to ISS during 2019-2020, performed entry and landing burns before landing on "Of Course I Still Love You" downrange. SpaceX chose not to hot fire the first stage at SLC 40 before the launch, possibly the first time such a static test has been bypassed by the company. Both payload fairing halves had also previously flown, one on the JCSAT-18/Kacific1 mission and the other on Starlink v1.0 F2.

Electron 12 (Rocket Lab)Electron Launch

Rocket Lab's twelfth Electron launched five microsatellites on a rideshare mission from New Zealand on June 13, 2020. Liftoff of the "Don't Stop Me Now" mission from Mahia Peninsula LC 1 took place at 05:12 GMT. Payloads included three U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellites, a University of New South Wales "M2 Pathfinder" communications experiment satellite for the Australian military, and a NASA Boston University Cubesat mission named ANDESITE designed to measure plasma currents in orbit.

The launch had been delayed from March 30 when New Zealand's government implemented shut-down orders for most businesses to slow the COVID-19 pandemic.

Electron's first stage fired its nine battery-powered Rutherford LOX/Kerosene engines for 2 min 36 sec before shutting down and separating. The second stage vacuum Rutherford burned for 6 min 10 sec to reach an elliptical transfer orbit, performing a battery "hot-swap" after the first 3 min 49 sec of the burn. Payload fairing separation took place at T+3 min 12 sec. After a half-orbit coast, the Curie third stage fired its engine for 1 min 36 sec to circularize the orbit. Payload deployments occurred about one hour after liftoff.

CZ-2C 061020 XinuaCZ-2C Oceansat Launch

China's CZ-2C launched Haiyang 1D, fourth in an ocean survey satellite series, into orbit from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on June 10, 2020. Liftoff from LC 9 took place at 18:31 UTC. The two stage, 192 tonne, hypergolic propellant rocket boosted the 442 kg satellite into a sun synchronous low Earth orbit. HY-1D will form China's first marine civil service satellite constellation in conjunction with already-orbited HY-1C.

It was the year's 40th known orbital launch attempt worldwide, and the 36th success.

Falcon 9 060420 Starlink 1-7 SpaceXFalcon 9/Starlink 1 F7

The 65th Falcon 9 v1.2 to fly, boosted by first stage B1049.5 on its fifth flight, launched the seventh operational group of 60 Starlink internet satellites from Cape Canaveral on June 4, 2020. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 took place at 01:25 UTC. The Falcon 9 second stage performed a single, roughly 6 minute 12 second ascent burn to directly reach a roughly 213 x 365 km x 53 deg deployment orbit where, about 15 minutes after liftoff, the 60-satellite stack separated. The satellites were expected to subsequently separate from each other and move themselves to 550 km operational orbits. This was the fourth direct ascent Starlink flight.

Total deployed payload mass was about 15.6 metric tons (tonnes). The flight increased the total number of orbited Starlink satellites, both precursor and operational, to 482, though about a dozen of the precursor satellites are being retired and deorbited. A constellation of thousands of the 260 kg, Redmond Washington-built satellites is planned.

The first stage, which previously boosted Telstar 18 VANTAGE, Iridium-8, Starlink 0.9, and Starlink 1-2 during 2018-2020, performed entry and landing burns before landing on a refurbished "Just Read the Instructions" downrange. It was the first "fifth" landing for a Falcon 9 booster. The stage was hot-fired on SLC 40 on May 13 with payload attached in anticipation of a May 17 launch, but a tropical depression affecting the landing zone forced the launch to be delayed behind the Demo 2 crew launch mission.

The launch took place on the 10th anniversary of the first Falcon 9 launch, also from SLC 40. There have been a total of 85 orbital Falcon 9 launches, three Falcon Heavy flights, and one suborbital Falcon 9, with an 87th Falcon 9 lost during a prelaunch accident. Falcon 9 launches included 5 "v1.0" Merlin 1C powered types, 15 "v1.1" Merlin 1D types, and 65 "v1.2" Merlin 1D types with stretched second stages. A v1.2 Falcon 9 was lost during the September 2016 pad accident along with its AMOS 6 payload.

CZ-2D Y51 053120CZ-2D Launch

China's CZ-2D, serial number Y51, orbited Gaofen 9-02, a high resolution imaging satellite, and Hede 4, a small ship tracking satellite, from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on May 31, 2020. Liftoff from LC 43/603 (also called 43/94) took place at 08:53 UTC. The two-stage, hypergolic propellant rocket inserted the satellites into sun synchronous low earth orbit.

It was the first DF-5 based launch from Jiuquan this year, following two launches by small solid-rocket-motor based KZ-1A launch vehicles. CZ-2D rockets had also launched, one apiece, from Taiyuan and Xichang this year.

F9 DM-2 Launch NASAU.S. Crew Launch

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken flew to orbit in a SpaceX Crew Dragon atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center on May 30, 2020. It was the third spaceflight for both astronauts. Liftoff from LC 39 Pad A took place at 19:22:45 UTC, following a weather scrub attempt on May 27. The commercial Crew Dragon test flight to the International Space Station was the first U.S.-launched crewed mission since Space Shuttle retired in 2011. Crew Dragon separated from the Falcon 9 second stage about 12 minutes after liftoff to begin its roughly 19 hour trip to dock with ISS.

First stage B1058.1 fired its nine Merlin 1D engines for 2 min 33 sec, aiming the vehicle on a northeast trajectory off the eastern U.S. coast,  before shutting down and separating. The stage performed entry and landing burns before landing on the "Of Course I Still Love You" drone ship about 9 min 22 sec after liftoff. The second stage fired its single Merlin 1D Vacuum engine from T+2 min 44 sec until T+8 min 47 sec to reach a roughly 190 x 205 km low earth orbit inclined 51.6 deg to the equator.

Crew Dragon Demo 2 NASADoug Hurley and Bob Behnken Ride Crew Dragon to Orbit

The first stage was static fired at McGregor, Texas, likely during August, 2019. It performed a hot fire test at LC 39A on May 22, 2020 with Crew Dragon stacked atop the vehicle.

After reaching orbit, the crew named their Crew Dragon, spacecraft number C206, "Endeavour" in honor of the Shuttle orbiter in which they had previously flown to ISS.  Crew Dragon Endeavour docked successfully with ISS at 15:16 UTC on May 31.

C206 Docking NASA Crew Dragon "Endeavour" Approaches ISS on May 31

Crew Dragon C201 performed the Demo 1 flight to ISS in early 2019. That spacecraft was then lost in an abort system ground test explosion at the Cape. Crew Dragon C205 performed in In Flight Abort test earlier this year from KSC LC 39A. C205 splashed down after its successful abort, but will likely not fly again. C202 was a pressure vessel structural test article. The status of C203 and C204 is unknown.

CZ-11 Xichang 052920CZ-11 from Xichang

China's four-stage solid fuel CZ-11 launched two small "earth observation technology" satellites into low earth orbit from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on May 29, 2020. It was the first CZ-11 launch from Xichang. Liftoff took place at 20:13 UTC. Confirmation of a successful launch of XJS-G and XJS-H came about one-half hour later.

It was the ninth known CZ-11 flight since the type premiered on September 25, 2015. The 58 tonne rocket may be based on China's DF-31 series solid fuel ballistic missile, because the canister used to launch previous CZ-11 was similar to launch canisters used by the road-mobile DF-31A. CZ-11 is reportedly 20.8 meters long (other reports suggest 18.7 meters) and 2 meters in diameter with a 120 tonne liftoff thrust. Its fourth stage has demonstrated in-space maneuvering capability. CZ-11 may be able to lift 350 kg or more to sun synchronous orbit. On this flight, CZ-11 was topped by a new, wider, 2.5 meter diameter payload fairing.

LauncherOne Flight One Virgin OrbitLauncherOne Failure

Virgin Orbit LauncherOne Launch Demo Ignition (Virgin Orbit)

Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne suffered an inuagural Launch Demo failure after drop release from Virgin Orbit's Cosmic Girl 747 carrier aircraft off the California coast on May 25, 2020. The failure occurred moments after the 21.3 meter long, two-stage rocket's LOX/Kerosene NewtonThree engine ignited, sometime around 19:53 UTC at an altitude of about 10.7 km just south of the Channel Islands, about 160 km southwest of Long Beach. Cosmic Girl took off from Mojave Air and Space Port with LauncherOne less than an hour before the drop. Virgin Orbit announced that the release from the aircraft was "clean", that "LauncherOne maintained stability after release", and that the company's NewtonThree engine ignited. An "anomaly" then occurred "early in first stage flight".  Cosmic Girl returned safetly to Mojave.

On May 27, Virgin Orbit provided more details, noting that the flight was nominal for about 9 seconds after the drop. Propellant settling thrusters fired about three seconds after drop, followed two seconds later by NewtonThree main engine ignition. The rocket initially pitched down, then began to pull up, responding to its flight control system. About three or four seconds after ignition, for reasons still to be determined, the engine stopped producing thrust.

After igniting five seconds after the drop, NewtonThree was to produce 33,339 kgf thrust for about 2 min 55 sec. The second stage NewtonFour engine would then have made about 2,268 kgf thrust for 6 min 7 sec to accelerate itself and dummy payload either to a transfer orbit or to near-orbital velocity. NewtonFour would have restarted 31 min 26 sec after the drop, firing for about 15 seconds to reach its insertion orbit.

Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit LauncherOne development has lasted five years. The effort included the creation and testing of the rocket engines and stages, along with installing and perfecting the drop-launch system.

Soyuz 2.1b/Fregat Tundra 4 Launch Tundra 4 Launch

Russia's Soyuz-2.1b/Fregat launched an early warning satellite into orbit from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on May 22, 2020. Liftoff from Site 43 Pad 4 took place at 07:31 UTC. After firing to reach a low earth parking orbit, the Fregat M stage fired two more times during the 4.5 hour mission to lift its payload into an elliptical “Molniya" orbit of approximately 1,620 x 38,500 km x 63.4 deg.

The satellite is the fourth Tundra (EKS type) early warning satellite designed to detect ballistic missile launches.  It was the seventh R-7 launch of the year, most among the world's launch vehicles.

H-2B F-9H-2B/HTV Finale

The ninth and final H-2B boosted the HTV-9 cargo hauling spacecraft for Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) toward the International Space Station from Tanegashima on May 20, 2020. Liftoff from Yoshinobu Pad 2 took place at 17:31 UTC.

HTV-9, also named Kounotori 9, weighed 16.5 tonnes or more at liftoff. It carried 6.2 tonnes of cargo, including 4.3 tonnes pressurized and 1.9 tonnes unpressurized. Cargo included six lithium-ion battery Orbital Replacement Units to replace existing ISS nickel-hydrogen batteries.

H-2B F-8 burned four SRB-A3 solid motors for 1 min 48 sec to augument the 2xLR-7A powered core's 5 min 44 sec burn. The LE-5B powered second stage then fired for 8 min 11 sec to reach a low Earth orbit inclined 51.6 deg to the equator. Spacecraft separation took place about 16 min 40 sec after liftoff. The second stage subsequently performed a deorbit burn.

H-2B and HTV will be replaced by H-3 and HTV-X, respectively.

AV-081 OTV-6 ULAAtlas 5 Launches X-37B

AV-081, an Atlas 5-501 with no solid boosters and a 5.4 meter diameter payload fairing, orbited the United States Space Force-7 (USSF-7) mission on the sixth flight of an X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-6) from Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 17, 2020. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 took place at 13:14 UTC. The mission flew into a media blackout shortly after the Centaur second stage RL10C-1 engine completed the first of its two acknowledged burns.  ULA announced launch success about 1.5 hours after liftoff.

AV-081 ascended on a northeast track consistent with previous OTV flights that carried five tonne X-37B spaceplanes into low earth orbits inclined about 40 degrees to the equator. OTV-6, believed to involve the third flight of the first of two X-37B airframes, included, for the first time, a service module mounted aft of the spaceplane body. Although a prelaunch payload integration photograph of the X-37B was published, no images of the service module were provided. The service module is likely an expendable component that will separate before reentry.

Though the primary mission of OTV-6 is classified, officials did state that FalconSat-8, a U.S. Air Force Academy microsatellite, will be released during the mission. OVT-6 also includes two NASA radiation exposure experiments and a Naval Research Laboratory experiment into solar power transfer to Earth via. microwave.

KZ-1A Y6KZ-1A Launch

China's Kuaizhou 1A (KZ-1A) performed the 11th launch of the KZ-1(A) family on May 12, 2020 from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The three-stage solid fuel rocket, serial number Y6, lifted off from a mobile launcher on a flat pad at 01:16 UTC. Two 93 kg communication satellites, Xingyun 2-1 and 2-2, were boosted to 557 x 573 km x 97.55 deg sun synchronous orbits. They were the first two operational satellites for an L-band communications constellation.

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. A small N2O4/MMH bipropellant insertion fourth stage likely provided final orbit insertion. The fourth stage also likely lowered its orbit after satellite separation.

CZ-5B Y1CZ-5B First Flight

CZ-5B Rollout

China introduced a 1.5-stage version of its CZ-5 launch vehicle, identified as CZ-5B, on May 5, 2020, with a test flight from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island off China's southern coast. Liftoff from Pad 101 took place at 10:00 UTC. The mission carried an uncrewed "New Generation Crewed Spacecraft" (XZF Chinese abbreviation) to a roughly 162 x 377 km x 41.1 deg low Earth orbit within a giant new 5.2 x 20.5 meter payload fairing. At least one auxiliary payload was also orbited, an inflatable reentry heat shield named RCS.

CZ-5B Y1 LaunchCZ-5B Launch

The 53.7 meter tall rocket rose on the combined 1,080 tonnes of thrust produced by 10 engines; two YF-77 gas generator engines on the 5-meter diameter LH2/LOX core and two YF-100 staged-combustion engines each on four 3.35 meter diameter kerosene/LOX strap-on boosters. The boosters separated about 173 seconds after liftoff. The core stage burned all the way to orbit, shutting down about 467 seconds after liftoff. Payload separation took place at about T+483 seconds. The XZF spacecraft, slated to fly a three-day mission before reentering and landing on China's mainland, likely weighed 21.6 tonnes, making this by-far China's heaviest-ever payload to orbit.

CZ-5B is intended to lift China's new space station modules. It is designed to lift as much as 25 tonnes to low earth orbit, making it more capable than Proton or Ariane 5 and possibly matching or exceeding Delta 4 Heavy.


Progress MS-14 RoscosmosProgress MS-14

A Soyuz 2.1a launched Progress MS-14 from Baikonur Site 31 Pad 6 on April 25, 2020. Liftoff took place at 01:51 UTC. The robot cargo hauler spacecraft was inserted into a 193 x 240 km x 51.6 deg orbit. It reached the International Space Station in two orbits, or just under 3.5 hours before docking.

The rocket, named "Victory", was adorned with symbols commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over the Axis Powers during World War 2.

Progress MS-14 carried almost 1,350 kg of dry cargo, about 700 kg of propellant, for transfer to ISS, 420 kg of water, and 46 kg of compressed air.

F9-85 SpaceXFalcon 9/Starlink 1 F6

A Falcon 9 boosted by first stage B1051.4 on its fourth flight, launched the sixth operational group of 60 Starlink internet satellites from Kennedy Space Center on April 22, 2020. Liftoff from Launch Complex 39 Pad A took place at 19:30 UTC. The Falcon 9 second stage performed a single, roughly 6 minute 12 second ascent burn to directly reach an elliptical, 53 deg deployment orbit where, about 15 minutes after liftoff, the 60-satellite stack separated. The satellites were expected to subsequently separate from each other and move themselves to 550 km operational orbits. This was the third direct ascent Starlink flight.

Total deployed payload mass was about 15.6 metric tons (tonnes). The flight increased the total number of orbited Starlink satellites, both precursor and operational, to 422, though more than 10 of the precursor satellites are already being retired and deorbited. A constellation of thousands of the 260 kg, Redmond Washington-built satellites is planned.

The first stage, which previously boosted Crew Dragon DM-1, Radarsat Constellation, and Starlink 1 F3 during 2019-2020, performed entry and landing burns before landing on "Of Course I Still Love You" downrange. The success ended a string of two failed OSCILY landing attempts. The stage was hot-fired at LC 39A on April 17, with payload attached.

Qased 042220Iran Orbits Satellite

On April 22, 2020, Iran achieved its first successful orbital launch since Febraury 2, 2015. The launch placed a military satellite named "Noor" into a 426 x 444 km x 59.8 deg orbit. A previously-unknown Qased launch vehicle performed the ascent from a truck-trailer based transporter/erector/launcher parked on a flat pad at the Shahrud Missile Test Site in Iran's Central Desert, possibly around 04:00 UTC.  It was the first orbital launch attempt from Shahrud, which is located at 36.200560 N, 55.333232 E.

Qased appeared to use a Shahab-3/Safir derived liquid fueled first stage, topped by a smaller diameter, possibly solid propellant second stage. A smaller solid propellant third stage, serving as an apogee kick motor, might have been housed within the payload shroud.

CZ-3B/E Palapa N1 Failure XinhuaCZ-3B/Palapa N1 Launch Failure
(Updated 04/11/20)

China's CZ-3B/E failed to orbit Indonesia's Palapa N1 communications satellite from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on April 9, 2020. Liftoff from LC 2 took place at 11:46 UTC.  The first two stages of flight were normal, but the third stage failed to complete its initial parking orbit insertion.  One report suggested that only one of the two third stage engines operated properly.   The upper stage and satellite were observed reentering in the vicinity of Saipan, more than 4,800 km downrange.

Palapa N1 was a 5,550 kg DFH-4 series satellite designed to replace Papapa D in geostationary orbit.

It was the first CZ-3B failure since June 18, 2017, following 28 consecutive successes. The type has flown since 1996, failing four times in 84 launches.

Soyuz MS-16 Launch NASA-TVSoyuz Crew Launch

A Soyuz 2.1a launched three International Space Station crewmen in the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 9, 2020. On board were NASA's Chris Cassidy and Russia's Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. Liftoff from Site 31 Pad 6 took place at 08:05 UTC, beginning a planned four-orbit, six-hour fast track ascent to the station.

It was the first crewed launch by Soyuz 2.1a. Soyuz-FG had performed the task since 2002. Soyuz 2.1a is essentially a Soyuz-FG with a digital control computer and inertial measurement unit replacing the previous analog systems. The new control systems allow Soyuz to perform in-flight roll and dog-leg maneuvers. Previously, R-7 launchers had to be rotated on the pad to the proper flight azimuth prior to launch. Soyuz 2.1a has been flying uncrewed missions since 2006 and began handling Progress cargo missions to ISS in 2015.

The launch was carried out with little fanfare in the midst of the ongoing, world-wide Covid-19 pandemic. Family members were not allowed to travel to the launch site, for example.

AV-086  ULAAtlas 5 Orbits AEHF 6

AV-086, an Atlas 5-551 variant with five AJ-60A solid rocket motors and a 5.4 meter diameter payload fairing, boosted the sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellite for the U.S. Space Force into orbit from Cape Canaveral SLC 41 on March 26, 2020. Liftoff took place at 20:18, following a scrub and 81 minute combined delay/recycle caused by a ground hydraulics issue.

The 5 hour 41 minute mission included three burns by the Centaur RL10C-1 upper stage engine, said to be the 500th RL10 production engine. Centaur used a "GSO kit" for the third time on an AEHF flight to perform the extended mission. The final burn, near geoysynchronous apogee of the initial transfer orbit, boosted the $1.1 billion Lockheed Martin A2100M series satellite toward a planned 10,876 x 35,299 km x 13.9 deg orbit. Perigee variation from this plan was expected because a minimum residual propellant depletion burn was used to maximize orbit energy.

The insertion orbit requires 6,168 kg AEHF 6 to provide only a few hundred m/s of its own delta-v to reach geostationary orbit, compared to around 1,500 m/s for the first three 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 year's second Atlas 5 launch.

CZ-2C 032420CZ-2C Orbits Yaogan 30-06

China orbited its sixth set of Yaogan 30 triplet satellites on March 24, 2020 with a Chang Zheng 2C launch vehicle. The two stage rocket rose from Xichang Satellite Launch Center's LC 3 at 03:43 UTC. The satellite triplet was named Yaogan-30 Group 6. The "electromagnetic detection" satellites were inserted into roughly 600 km x 35 deg orbits.

The satellites may be formation flyers similar to the U.S. NOSS system, which perform a signals intelligence mission designed to monitor surface ship electronic emissions. It was the sixth launch for this constellation, all by CZ-2C rockets from Xichang LC 3, since September 29, 2017.

It was the fifth DF-5 based CZ orbital launch of the year, matching Falcon 9 as most-flown to date.

ST28 032120Soyuz Orbits OneWeb 41-74

Despite a Bloomberg report that OneWeb was contemplating bankruptcy in the midst of the "Coronavirus Crash", Russia's Soyuz 2.1b/Fregat launched 34 more OneWeb satellites into low Earth orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome on March 21, 2020. Liftoff of the Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat M from Site 31 Pad 6 took place at 17:06 UTC. The 3 hour 45 minute Starsem ST28 mission placed the 34 satellites, each weighing 147.5 kg, into 450 km x 87.4 deg orbits. Total payload mass was 5,015 kg.

Fregat completed its first burn at 14 min 34 sec to reach a 140 x 425 km transfer orbit. Its second burn, begun at apogee 1 hour 6 minutes 45 seconds after liftoff, circularized the orbit. Satellites deployed in nine groups of two to four during the subsequent 2 hours 39 minutes, separated by Fregat ACS burns. Fregat performed a deorbit burn a little more than 5 hours after launch.

F9-84 Launch SpaceXFalcon 9/Starlink 1 F5

A Falcon 9, boosted by a first stage on its fifth flight, launched the fifth operational group of 60 Starlink internet satellites from Florida on March 18, 2020. Liftoff from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 Pad A took place at 12:16 UTC. Orbit was achieved despite a first stage Merlin 1D engine failure during the final seconds of first stage flight. An attempted downrange first stage recovery failed, likely a consequence of the engine failure event.

Total deployed payload mass was about 15.6 metric tons (tonnes). The flight increased the total number of orbited Starlink satellites, both precursor and operational, to 362, though more than 10 of the precursor satellites are already being retired and deorbited. A constellation of thousands of the 260 kg satellites built by SpaceX's Redmond, Washington satellite group is planned.

The Falcon 9 second stage performed a single ascent burn to directly reach an elliptical, 53 deg deployment orbit where, less than 15 minutes after liftoff, the 60-satellite stack began to separate from the second stage. The satellites were expected to subsequently separate from each other and move themselves to 550 km operational orbits. This was the second direct ascent for a Starlink payload. The Falcon 9 second stage was passivated and left to reenter unguided within a few months.

F9-84 Engine Loss SpaceXUnplanned Merlin 1D Shutdown

First stage B1048.5, which previously boosted the Iridium 7 and SAOCOM 1A missions from Vandenberg AFB and the Nusantara Satu and Starlink 1 missions from Cape Canaveral during 2018 and 2019, suffered the engine failure/shutdown at about T+146 seconds, about 10 seconds before the planned nominal shutdown. On board video showed a pattern consistent with the shutdown of one of the outer eight engines. The engines were beginning to, or about to, throttle down when the failure took place. The stage continued to burn for a few seconds longer than planned, possibly 2 or 3 seconds longer, to achieve its planned velocity. The second stage then fired for a nearly nominal duration to achieve orbit.

The first stage reoriented after staging and began its entry burn, but the thrust pattern appeared unusual. The stage was not able to attempt a landing on the "Of Course I Still Love You" drone ship. It was the second consecutive first stage landing failure during a Starlink mission. It was the first ground-ignited Merlin 1D in-flight failure in 774 full-duration orbital engine-missions.

The stage was hot-fired on LC 39A on March 14, with payload attached. A March 15 launch attempt was stopped at engine start at T-0 by a "high engine power" abort.

Glonass-M 031620Glonass Launch

Russia's Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat orbited another Glonass navigation satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on March 16, 2020. Liftoff from Site 43 Pad 4 took place at 18:28 UTC. Fregat performed multiple burns to deliver the satellite (Uragan-M 760) into a 19,131 x 19, 155 km x 64.8 degree medium earth orbit.

The satellite, likely to be named Kosmos 2545 in orbit, weighed about 1,415 kg at launch.

CZ-7A Y1CZ-7A Y1 LiftoffCZ-7A Inaugural Fails

China's CZ-7A, an upgraded version of its previously-flown CZ-7 with a cryogenic third stage added, failed during its inaugural launch attempt on March 16, 2020. The tall rocket lifted off from LC 201 at Wenchang Space Launch Center at 13:34 UTC. The early portion of the ascent appeared nominal, but something went wrong within a roughly half-hour span after liftoff. China's Xinhua news service announced that after the early part of the launch "a malfunction occurred later".

Intial rumors suggested an issue with the third stage, but these were unconfirmed.  A video posted online later showed a possible failure during the early moments of the second stage burn.  The launch vehicle aimed to place the XJY-6 satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit, a goal that would have required the third stage to perform two burns, with the second taking place about 20-30 minutes after liftoff.

CZ-7A uses a 3.35 meter diameter core stage powered by two 122.5 tonne thrust YF-100 RP/LOX staged combustion engines. Four 2.25 meter diameter strap-on boosters, each powered by one YF-100, augment the core to produce a total of 734.1 tonnes (1.618 million pounds) of thrust at liftoff. Four 18 tonne thrust YF-115 RP/LOX staged combustion engines power the 3.35 meter diameter second stage. Two YF-75 engines produce a combined 16.3 tonnes thrust to power the third, 21 tonne LH2/LOX stage. Two previous, successful CZ-7 launches, with no cryogenic third stage, took place in 2016 and 2017.


CZ-3B/E 030920  XinhuaBeidou-3 GEO-2

China's CZ-3B/E, serial number Y69, orbited the second Beidou 3 geosynchronous type navigation satellite (Beidou 3G2) from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on March 9, 2020. Liftoff from LC 2 took place at 11:55 UTC. The 3.5 stage rocket's liquid hydrogen third stage fired twice to boost the 4.6 tonne DFH-3B navigation satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit. Beidou 3G2 will raise itself into geostationary orbit.

It was the 54th Beidou launch for China's global navigation satellite constellation.

F9-83/CRS-20  NASACargo Dragon Finale

A Falcon 9 launched NASA's CRS-20 ISS cargo mission from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 on March 7, 2020, closing out the first SpaceX Cargo Resupply Services (CRS-1) contract and use of the company's original cargo Dragon spacecraft type. Liftoff took place at 04:50 UTC. Block 5 first stage B1059, on its second flight, fired for 2 minutes 18 seconds during ascent. Dragon 12.3, a refurbished spacecraft that previously flew the CRS-10 and CRS-16 missions in 2017 and 2018, was then powered on to low earth orbit by a single 6 min 6 sec second stage burn. Dragon carried about 2,041 kg of cargo for the International Space Station, making it likely the lightest Dragon launched by a v1.2 series Falcon 9. It was the ninth flight of a previously-flown Dragon.

B1059 performed boost back, entry, and landing burns to land at Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1, the first LZ-1 landing since July 25, 2019 during the CRS-18 flight. It was the 49th successful stage recovery in 59 attempts and the 14th in 15 attempts on LZ-1. One additional landing on the drone ship OCISLY did take place, performed by FH-2 Core B1055.1, but that stage subsequently toppled on deck and was lost.

B1059 previously boosted Dragon 6.3 on the CRS-19 mission on December 5, 2019 and landed downrange on OCISLY. The stage, topped by its second stage but without Dragon, was static test fired at SLC 40 on March 1. The second stage was a replacement, swapped with an upcoming mission's stage to allow that stage to have a part replaced.

Soyuz 2-1a/Fregat 022020Meridian Launch

Russia's Soyuz 2-1a/Fregat orbited Meridian-M 19L from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on February 20, 2020. Liftoff from Site 43 Pad 3 took place at 08:24 UTC, starting a 2 hour 20 minute mission. Fregat fired three times to place the military communications satellite into a 996 x 39,724 km x 62.85 deg, 12-hour Molniya orbit.

The launch had been delayed by one month after an electrical problem forced replacement of the Soyuz rocket upper ("third") stage. A new, replacement stage was used in place of the original.

CZ-2D 021920  XinhuaCZ-2D Xichang Launch

China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 2D performed its first launch from Xichang space center on February 19, 2020, boosting four experimental satellites into orbit. Liftoff from LC 3 took place at 21:07 UTC. The two-stage rocket boosted the four satellites, named XJS C, D, E and F, into roughly 480 km x 35 deg orbits.

China's Xinhua news agency stated that the satellites would be used to test new Earth observation technology. Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, a division of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, developed two of the satellits. Harbin Institute of Technology and DFH Satellite Co. Ltd. developed the other two satellites.

All 45 previous CZ-2D launches had been from China's Jiuquan or Taiyuan space centers. Xichang typically hosts larger CZ-3 series launches to GTO, but it has in the past handled CZ-2C, also a two stage rocket that is slightly smaller than CZ-2D.

VA252  ArianespaceAriane 5 Launch

Ariane 5 ECA VA252 launched JCSat 17 and GEO-KOMPSAT 2B from Kourou on February 18, 2020. Liftoff from ELA 3 took place at 22:18 UTC. After an 8 minute 39 second core stage burn and 16 minute 24 second stage burn, both satellites separated into geosynchronous transfer orbit during the roughly 31 minute mission.

Lockheed Martin Space built 5,857 kg JCSat 17 for Japan's SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation, using an LM 2100TM bus. It will provide S, C, and Ku-band coverage of the Asia-Pacific region from 136 degrees East. Korea Aerospace Reserach Institute (KARI) built 3,379 kg GEO-KOMPSAT-2B. It will provide Earth environment and ocean monitoring services from 128.2 deg East.

VA252, the 75th Ariane 5 ECA, used the second ESC-D cryogenic upper stage, the first having flown on VA-249. ESC-D features a 4 cm stretch to carry about 360 kg more propellant, adding about 90 kg more payload capability. The stage weighes 19 tonnes and is 4.71 meters long. When flown, its launch vehicle is sometimes identified as an Ariane 5 ECA+.

F9-82 SpaceXFalcon 9/Starlink 1 F4

Falcon 9-82, a v1.2 Block 5 variant, launched the fourth operational group of 60 Starlink internet satellites from Cape Canaveral, Florida on February 17, 2020. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 took place at 15:05 UTC. Total deployed payload mass was about 15.6 metric tons (tonnes). The insertion raised the total number of orbited Starlink satellites, both precursor and operational, to 302, though 10 or so of the precursor satellites are already being retired and deorbited. A satellite constellation numbering in the thousands is planned. The satellites, each weighing up to 260 kg, were built by SpaceX's Redmond, Washington satellite group.

On this flight, the Falcon 9 second stage performed a single 6 minute 7 second ascent burn to directly reach a 216 x 386 km x 53 deg deployment orbit where, only 14 minutes 6 seconds after liftoff, the 60-satellite stack began to separate from the second stage. The satellites were expected to subsequently separate from each other and move themselves to 550 km operational orbits. This was the first direct ascent for a Starlink payload.

First stage B1056.4, which previously boosted the CRS-17 and CRS-18 Cargo Dragon flights and the JCSat 18 mission, all during 2019, performed entry and landing burns after its 2 minute 32 second ascent burn before failing to land on "Of Course I Still Love You" positioned downrange in the Atlantic Ocean. The stage landed in the water near the ship. It was the 10th Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy stage landing or recovery failure in 58 attempts. The Falcon 9 second stage was passivated and left to reenter unguided within a few months.

Antares Cygnus NG-13  NASAAntares/Cygnus NG-13

The second upgraded Antares 230+ launch vehicle orbited Northrop Grumman's Cygnus NG-13 cargo spacecraft from Wallops Island, Virginia on February 15, 2020. Liftoff from Pad 0A took place at 20:21 UTC. It was the 12th Antares launch. The liftoff followed a Febraury 9 abort at T-3 minutes caused by a ground sensor problem and a February 14 scrub due to excessive high altitude winds.

Like Antares 230, the Antares 230+ first stage is powered by two Energomash RD-181 engines in place of the AJ-26 engines that powered the first five Antares flights. Antares 230+ uses a stronger first stage structure to allow full-thrust operation through much of its burn. In addition, unneeded dry mass was stripped from the first and second stages and a single-piece interstage was implemented.

Cygnus NG-13 was the 10th enhanced Cygnus with a stretched Thales Alenia Space cargo module and the seventh to fly on Antares. Atlas 5 rockets orbited the other three. NG-13 probably weighed about 7,500 kg at launch, including 3,633 kg of cargo for the International Space Station. A February 18 rendezvous with ISS is planned. Cygnus NG-13 was named in honor of Maj Robert Lawrence, the first African American astronaut who died in a aircraft accident before he could fly to orbit.

The RD-181 engines produced 392 tonnes of thrust to power the nearly 293 tonne rocket off its pad. The Ukrainian-built first stage burned for about 196 seconds. After first stage shutdown, the upper composite separated at T+210 seconds and coasted upward. The shroud and interstage adapter separated at 236 and 240 seconds, respectively.  At about T+247 seconds the Northrop Grumman Castor 30XL second stage motor ignited to produce an average of about 51 tonnes of thrust during its roughly 163 second burn. Cygnus separated at T+534 seconds into a 191 x 283 km x 51.653 deg orbit.

av087 ULASolar Orbiter

Atlas 5 AV-087 sent European Space Agency's Solar Orbiter into heliocentric orbit from Cape Canaveral on Febraury 10, 2020. Liftoff of the Atlas 5-411 variant from Space Launch Complex 41 took place at 04:03 UTC. This Atlas 5-411 used a single solid rocket booster, a Centaur second stage powered by a single RL10A-4-2 engine, and a 4 meter diameter payload fairing. Centaur fired twice. The first 8 minute burn sent the vehicle into a 204 x 237 km x 35 deg parking orbit. After a half-hour coast, the second, 2 minute 56 second burn sent the stage and its payload into a solar orbit.

The 1,800 kg, Airbus-built spacecraft will pass near Mercury this summer and fly past Venus during December. After multiple Venus/Earth flybys, Solar Orbiter will reach a 0.28 x 1.2 AU orbit inclined 24 to 33 degrees to the ecliptic, providing close-up views of the sun's polar regions.

Simorgh Pre-Launch 020920Iran Simorgh Fails

Iran's Simorgh launch vehicle failed to reach orbit during its February 9, 2020 attempt to orbit the Zafar 1 satellite. Liftoff from the Khomeini Space Center at Semnan took place at 15:45 UTC. The early stages of the launch were nominal and the vehicle reached a 540 km apogee, close to its planned orbital altitude, but final velocity fell about 1,000 m/s short of orbital velocity.

Simorgh uses a BM-25 like first stage topped by smaller diameter second stage. BM-25 is four-engine single-stage IRBM, similar to N. Korea's Musudan stage. It was Simorgh's fourth flight after launches in 2016, 2017, and 2019. None of the attempts have yet reached orbit.

H-2A F41  JAXAH-2A Launches Spysat

Japan's H-2A boosted its classified IGS Optical 7 reconnaissance satellite into sun synchronous orbit from Tanegashima on February 9, 2020. Flying in the standard 202 configuration with two SRB-A strap on solid boosters, H-2A F41 lifted off from Yoshinobu Pad 1 at 01:34 UTC and flew directly to a sun synchronous low earth orbit.

The launch followed a 12-day delay after a ground system leak forced a scrub. It was the first H-2A launch of 2020, and the first H-2A launch since October 29, 2018.

ST27 ArianespaceSoyuz Orbits OneWeb 7-40

Russia's first orbital launch of 2020 put 34 OneWeb satellites into low Earth orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome on February 6, 2020. Liftoff of the Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat M from Site 31 Pad 6 took place at 21:42 UTC. The 3 hour 45 minute Starsem ST27 mission placed the 34 satellites, each weighing 147.5 kg, into 450 km x 87.4 deg orbits. Total payload mass was 5,015 kg.

Fregat completed its first burn at 14 min 34 sec to reach a 140 x 425 km transfer orbit. Its second burn, begun at apogee 1 hour 6 minutes 45 seconds after liftoff, circularized the orbit. Satellites deployed in nine groups of two to four during the subsequent 2 hours 39 minutes, separated by Fregat ACS burns. Fregat performed a deorbit burn about 5 hours after launch.

Electron 11  RocketlabElectron 11

Rocketlab's 11th Electron orbited the NROL-151 mission for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) from Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand on January 31, 2020. Lift off of "Birds of a Feather" from LC 1 took place at 02:56 UTC. Electron's first two stages placed the Curie kick stage and payload into an elliptical transfer orbit about 9 minutes after liftoff. The first stage fired for 2 min 37 sec and the second for 6 min 13 sec. Curie coasted until T+51 min 47 sec before performing a 2 min 13 sec apogee burn to reach a circular low earth orbit. Curie presumably again used a bipropellant non-toxic hypergolic propellant and again performed a deorbit burn at mission's end.

In a repeat test, the first stage carried a reaction control system and guidance equipment as development for future recovery efforts.

The Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket (RASR) launch contract was designed to allow the NRO to test lower cost commercial launch alternatives.

F9-81 SpaceXFalcon 9/Starlink 1 F3

Falcon 9-81, a v1.2 Block 5 variant, orbited the third operational group of 60 Starlink internet satellites from Cape Canaveral, Florida on January 29, 2020. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 took place at 14:06 UTC. Total deployed payload mass was about 15.6 metric tons (tonnes). The insertion raised the total number of orbited Starlink satellites, both precursor and operational, to 242, though 10 or so of the precursor satellites are already being retired and deorbited.

Starlink aims to provide high-speed, low-latency Internet service world-wide. A satellite constellation numbering in the thousands is planned. The satellites were built by SpaceX's Redmond, Washington satellite group.

The Falcon 9 second stage performed two burns to reach a 290 km x 53 deg deployment orbit where, about 61 minutes after liftoff, the 60-satellite stack separated from the second stage. The satellites were expected to subsequently separate from each other and move themselves to 550 km operational orbits.

First stage B1051.3, which previously boosted the DM-1/Crew Dragon test flight and Canada's Radarsat Constellation Mission during 2019, performed entry and landing burns before landing on "Of Course I Still Love You" positioned about 630 km downrange northeast of the Cape. The first stage was static test fired at SLC 40 with the payload attached on January 21, 2020.

The Falcon 9 second stage was expected to fire a third time, during its second orbit, to reenter over the Indian Ocean.

F9-80 IFA NASACrew Dragon IFA

The 80th SpaceX Falcon 9, consisting of first stage B1046.4 and a new second stage without a Merlin 1D Vacuum engine, boosted the company's dramatic Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort (IFA) test from Kennedy Space Center LC 39 Pad A on January 19, 2020. Liftoff took place at 10:30 ET, following a 24 hour plus 3.5 hour delay caused by winds in the recovery area.

Crew Dragon initiated the abort at Max-Q, about 84 seconds into flight at a 19 km altitude. The Falcon 9 first stage engines shut down as Dragon fired its eight hypergolic SuperDraco engines producing 58 tonnes of thrust for five seconds to accelerate off the top of the stack, reaching Mach 2.2 in the process. The spacecraft and its trunk were recovered and returned to Port Canaveral. The trunk was surprisingly intact, but still damaged since it was not equipped with parachutes.

F9-80 IFA SpaceXCrew Dragon shed its trunk a couple minutes later near its 40 km apogee, then reentered, deployed drogue and main parachutes, and splashed down about 32.5 km downrange less than 9 minutes after liftoff. Meanwhile, several seconds after Crew Dragon departed, Falcon 9 broke up, its first stage exploding at altitude while its second stage plummeted to a high speed Atlantic impact.

B1046.4, the first "Block 5" Falcon 9 first stage, performed the first of its four liftoffs on May 11, 2018. During its life, the stage launched from all three Falcon 9 launch pads and performed three downrange landings on drone ships. For IFA, the stage was shorn of landing legs and steering grid fins. It performed a final static test firing at LC 39A on January 18, 2020 with the second stage and no payload.

IFA had been delayed for months after the originally-assigned Crew Dragon spacecraft, which had flown to ISS on the DM-1 mission in early 2019, was lost in an early 2019 SuperDraco ground test explosion at Cape Canaveral LZ-1. A new spacecraft had to be completed, incorporating changes in the SuperDraco propellant feed system, prior to the mission.

VA251 ArianespaceAriane 5 Launch

Ariane 5 ECA VA251 launched Eutelsat KONNECT and GSAT 30 from Kourou on January 16, 2020. Liftoff from ELA 3 took place at 21:05 UTV. The liquid hydrogen fueled second stage performed its standard single long burn to directly insert the satellites into a geosynchronous transfer orbit during the roughly 30 minute mission.

Thales Alenia Space built 3,619 kg Eutelsat KONNECT for Eutelsat, using a Spacebus NEO all-electric propulsion platform. It will provide a total capacity of 75 Gbps data for Europe and Africa. Indiana Space and Research Organization (ISRO) built GSAT 30. The 3,357 kg communications satellite, built on the I-3K platform, will provide C and Ku band communications services to India.

KZ-1A Y9 011620KZ-1A Launch

China's Kuaizhou 1A (KZ-1A) performed the 10th launch of the KZ-1(A) family on January 16, 2020 from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The three-stage solid fuel rocket, serial number Y9, lifted off from a mobile launcher on a flat pad at 03:40 UTC. GS-SparkSat 3, a 227 kg technology demonstration satellite for GalaxySpace, enter a low earth orbit. The satellite will test LEO broadband communication technologies for use in a planned 5G type global satellite constellation.

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. A small N2O4/MMH bipropellant insertion fourth stage likely provided final orbit insertion. The fourth stage also likely lowered its orbit after satellite separation.

CZ-2D Y58 011520CZ-2D Launch

A Chang Zheng (Long March) 2D orbited a Jilin 1 remote sensing satellite named Kuanfu 1 and three microsatellites - Argentina's NuSat 7 and NuSat 8 and China's Tianqi 5 - from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on January 15, 2020. Liftoff from LC9 took place at 02:53 UTC. The satellites separated into roughly 535 km sun synchronous orbits. CZ-2D Y58 performed the launch.

It was the 45th CZ-2D orbital launch and the 44th success. The type has been flying since 1992.

CZ-3B/E 010720 CZ-3B/TJSW-5

China performed its first orbital launch of 2020 with a CZ-3B/E launch from XiChang on January 7. The 3.5 stage rocket (Y64) carried TJSW 5 (Tongxin Jishu Shiyan Weixing, or Communications Engineering Test Satellite) aloft from LC 2 at 15:20 UTC. TJSW 5 presumably entered a geosynchronous transfer orbit about one-half hour later after two burns by the liquid hydrogen-fueled third stage.

Like the first four TJSW satellites launched periodically since 2015, TJSW-5 appears to have a classified purpose, although official pronoucements say that it is a demonstration of "satellite communications, TV broadcasting, data transfer and high output communication technologies". SAST is believed to be the manufacturer.

F9-79 SpaceXFalcon 9/Starlink 1 F2

Falcon 9-79, a v1.2 Block 5 variant, orbited the second operational group of 60 Starlink internet satellites from Cape Canaveral, Florida on January 7, 2020. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 took place at 02:19 UTC. Total deployed payload mass was about 15.6 metric tons (tonnes).

Starlink is meant to provide high-speed, low-latency Internet service world-wide. A satellite constellation numbering in the thousands is planned. The satellites were built by SpaceX's Redmond, Washington satellite group.

The Falcon 9 second stage performed two burns to reach a 290 km x 53 deg deployment orbit where, about 61 minutes after liftoff, the 60-satellite stack separated from the second stage. The satellites were expected to subsequently separate from each other and move themselves to 550 km operational orbits.

First stage B1049.4, which previously flew on the Telstar 18V, Iridium NEXT 8, and precursor Starlink 0.9 missions during 2018-19, performed entry and landing burns before landing on "Of Course I Still Love You" positioned about 629 km downrange northeast of the Cape. It was the second time that a Falcon 9 first stage had flown a fourth mission. The first stage was static test fired at SLC 40 with the payload attached on January 4, 2020.

The Falcon 9 second stage was expected to fire a third time, during its second orbit, to reenter over the Indian Ocean.


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