American launchers led all other countries, carrying out 44 missions in 2020 aimed at placing payloads in Earth orbit or deep space, with 40 successes. China followed suit with 35 successful orbital missions in 39 launch attempts.
Russia’s space program ranked third with 17 successful Russian-made missile launches in numerous attempts, including two Soyuz missions from a European-run spaceport in French Guiana. European launchers reached orbit four times in five attempts, and Japanese vehicles launched four times, all with success.
India’s space program, established most of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic, has launched two orbital missions that have been successful in several attempts. Iran made two attempts to launch two orbits, one of them succeeded, and Israel launched one mission to deliver a military espionage satellite into orbit.
The most flying type of space bombers in 2020 was the Falcon 9 from SpaceX and Russia’s Soyuz. China’s Long March missiles have flown 34 times – more than the Falcon 9 or Soyuz missiles – but they come in a range of configurations, making them difficult to classify into a single family.
The final number of orbital launches worldwide in 2020 ended with 104 successful flights in 114 attempts. The ten launch failures were more than what global launch providers have suffered in one year since 1971.
Despite the global pandemic, the 114 launch attempts last year equaled 2018 in most orbital launches globally since 1990, when Cold War era military budgets helped push more missions into orbit.
In 2019There have been 102 orbital launch attempts around the world, with 97 missions successfully reaching Earth’s orbit.
SpaceX led all launch companies in 2020 with 25 orbital missions that sent hundreds of satellites to the company’s Starlink internet, and the first two flights were with Astronauts in SpaceX’s Dragon Crew Spaceship, two Space Station resupply missions, And three launches Payloads of national security In orbit for the United States government.
All 25 orbital missions used Falcon 9 missiles, with 20 launches powered by reused Falcon 9 boosters, a capability only SpaceX demonstrated. One of the first stages of SpaceX’s fleet flew five times in 2020, the same number of missions carried out by United Launch’s Atlas 5 consumable missiles or all European missiles last year.
ULA, a 50-50 joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, completed six missions last year. Five flights were carried by ULA Atlas 5 missile Payloads of national security In orbit, the European spacecraft was launched Solar craft science mission, And sent NASA Roving Perseverance Towards Mars.
One Delta 4-Heavy launched in December A top-secret spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office deployed.
Rocket Lab, builder of the light electron missile family, He conducted seven expeditions Last year with One failure. The company is headquartered in Long Beach, California, and it manufactures engines and other components in the United States, but it assembles and launches its missiles in New Zealand.
Electron rockets are set to start flying from a new launch pad in Virginia this year. Because of Rocket Lab’s US headquarters, its launch statistics are calculated under the US companies column.
Northrop Grumman made three launches from the Regional Spaceport in the Mid-Atlantic in Virginia last year, including two. Cargo launch to the International Space Station Using Antares missiles, single-flight solid propellant Minotaur Rocket 4 With NRO satellites.
Two newcomers to a small satellite launch company in the United States made their first orbital launch attempts in 2020.
Virgin Orbit, founded by billionaire businessman Richard Branson, performed The first test flight of its Air-launched LauncherOne missile Off the coast of Southern California in May. Astra, another small-sized launcher launched Two of its orbital missiles On test flights from Alaska.
All test flights of Virgin Orbit and Astra stalled before reaching orbit, but companies say they have collected critical data to prepare them for additional attempts in 2021.
The 39 Chinese orbital launch attempts last year tied a record level of Chinese launch activity recorded in 2018, but China had more successful space launches that year.
This year’s four Chinese launch failures included a An unfortunate accident during the first launch of the Long March 7A missile In March, Prof. Long March 3B failed in April With the Indonesian communication satellite Palapa N1, and problems during the launch of the light class in China Koicho 11 And the Kwaicho 1 A. Missiles in July and September.
The main successes of the Chinese space program in 2020 included the launch of a rocket Tianwen 1 heads towards Mars in July, Launch, landing, and return Chang’e 5 mission to collect lunar samples in December.
Russian missiles delivered payloads into orbit 17 times in 2020, with the venerable Soyuz launcher carrying out 15 of those flights. Heavier in Russia proton And the Angara Launch vehicles completed every single mission last year.
In addition to the launches with Russian military payloads, two Soyuz missions were launched Crews to the International Space Station, Two Provides logistical trips To the station, and three batches of more than 30 satellites for OneWeb commercial broadband network.
Soyuz missiles were also launched on two missions with UAE And the French Military reconnaissance satellites from the European-managed Guiana Space Center in French Guiana. These flights were managed by French launch services company Arianespace, but Russian engineers and technicians built and assembled Soyuz’s boosters, and assisted with the launches.
European missiles, also operated by Arianespace, were launched from French Guiana five times in 2020. Three heavy-duty Ariane-5 missiles Successfully took off from French Guiana using commercial communications satellites for Eutelsat, Intelsat, Sky Perfect JSAT, B-SAT, and Indian Space Research Organization, South Korean weather satellite, And A. Northrop Grumman’s Space Logistics vehicle.
smallest The Italian-led Vega missile program It suffered one failure in two launch attempts last year.
Japan’s four orbital launch attempts last year – all successful – included three flights of the H-2A missile, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ backbone. The tasks of the H-2A were carried out Two Japanese defense satellites In orbit, spread Mars’ hope for the United Arab Emirates.
The Ninth and final launch Of the most powerful twin-engine H-2B missile in May, Japan’s last generation HTV cargo ship boosted several tons of supplies for the International Space Station.
India carried out two missions with the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle at November And the DecAfter a long period of grounding due to restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. They both delivered their payloads into orbit.
Iran tried to launch two satellites at February And the AprilBut only the second attempt was successful. The Israeli Shavit launcher successfully placed the country Ofek 16 military surveillance satellite In orbit, the first Israeli satellite launch since 2016.
The Florida Space Coast hosted more orbital launches than any other location last year, with 30 successful missions originating from the launch facilities at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and the Kennedy Space Center.
Prior to 2020, the previous record for launches from the Space Coast reaching orbit was 29, a mark set in 1966. There were 31 orbital launch attempts from Cape Canaveral that year, as well as two sub-orbital test flights of the Saturn 1B launcher from The Apollo Era, for a total of 33 space launches from Florida in 1966, according to Launch record It’s held by Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who tracks global satellite launch activity.
The attempt to break this record will have to wait another year.
The Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station was the most used launch pad worldwide in 2020, with 14 Falcon 9 missions taking off from there.
The Chinese launch sites in Jiuquan and Xichang each hosted 13 satellite launches in 2020. The Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the Russian Plesetsk Cosmodrome, the Rocket Lab launch site in New Zealand, and the Guyana Space Center in South America had seven launches. in the last year. .
Below is an analysis of orbital launch attempts from space ports around the world, with numbers in parentheses representing the failed missions:
- Cape Canaveral Space Station / Kennedy Space Center, Florida: 30 (0)
- Jiuquan, China: 13 (2)
- Xichang, China: 13 (1)
- Baikonur Space Base, Kazakhstan: 7 (0)
- Guyana Space Center, French Guiana: 7 (1)
- Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand: 7 (1)
- Plesetsk Space Base, Russia 7 (0)
- Taiyuan, China: 7 (0)
- Wenchang, China: 5 (1)
- Tanegashima Space Center, Japan: 4 (0)
- Mid-Atlantic Regional Space Port, Virginia: 3 (0)
- Pacific Port Complex, Alaska: 2 (2)
- Satish Dhawan Space Center, India: 2 (0)
- De Bo 3 platform, Yellow Sea: 1 (0)
- Imam Khomeini Space Port, Iran: 1 (1)
- Mojave Air and Space Port (staging point for 747 carriers): 1 (1)
- Palmach Air Base, Israel: 1 (0)
- Shahroud, Iran: 1 (0)
- Vandenberg Air Force Base, California: 1 (0)
- Vostochny cosmodrome, Russia: 1 (0)
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