SpaceX’s Falcon 9 returned to glory on Saturday as it successfully took off from the Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast and the first stage of the rocket successfully touched down on a platform in the Pacific Ocean after 10 minutes — a feat previously accomplished by four other returning Falcon rockets. This was the first mission undertaken by the company since one of its vehicles exploded on the launch pad in September after fire ripped through its upper stage, consuming the vehicle and the Amos-6 telecommunications satellite it was due to carry to orbit.
September’s launch pad mishap was a spectacular reminder of just how unpredictable rockets can be sometimes. On today’s flight are 10 spacecraft for Iridium, a global leader in mobile voice and data satellite communications. The 10 satellites are the first of at least 70 satellites that SpaceX will be launching for Iridium’s next generation global satellite constellation, Iridium NEXT.
WATCH our exclusive feature: SpaceX explosion – What does it mean for SpaceX and Elon Musk
Satellite launches in 2017
2017 is looking like an exciting one for the satellite industry, judging by the number of significant launches planned for this year. We thought it would be interesting to put together a complete list of the launches scheduled for the year. While compiling, we have gone beyond the classical “geospatial” definition and tried to make a wholesome list of bringing all kinds of satellites, including earth observation, navigation and telecommunication and weather satellites launches in one place. A careful sifting through the Satellite launches list, however, shows that there are several important EO missions slated for the year. Another very interesting thing is to note is the very dominating presence of SpaceX throughout the year.
Jan 5: China opened the year 2017 with the launch of its TJS 2 satellite aboard the Long March 3B rocket on January 5 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. TJS 2 is the second spacecraft in a series of Chinese demonstration missions to test broadcast communications technologies.
Jan 15: (Updated on Sunday) Japan’s space agency aborted a mission to use a mini-rocket to send a satellite into orbit after the spacecraft stopped sending data to ground control shortly after liftoff.The rocket, regarded as one of the smallest units in the world capable of sending satellites into the space, was carrying the three-kilogramme (6.6 pound) “TRICOM-1” observation satellite.
Earlier, its scheduled flight of January 11 was postponed due to bad weather at the Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima.
Jan 19: A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket will launch the Space-Based Infrared System Geosynchronous satellite 3 (SBIRS GEO 3) into orbit from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. SBIRS is a consolidated system that will provide missile early-detection services for the US military. SBIRS is an integrated “system of systems” that will include satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO), sensors hosted on satellites in highly elliptical orbit (HEO), and ground-based data processing and control.
Jan 24: Japan will launch its H-2A rocket with the DSN 2 military communications satellite from the Tanegashima Space Center for the Japanese Ministry of Defense. The satellite will provide X-band communications services for the Japanese military.
Jan 26: A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket will launch a classified spacecraft payload for the US National Reconnaissance Office, from the Vandenberg Air Force Base. The rocket will have a four meter fairing, no solid rocket engines, and a single Aerojet Rocketdyne RL-10C engine in the Atlas’ Centaur upper stage.
Jan 26: SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 rocket with the EchoStar 23 communications satellite from Kennedy Space Center. EchoStar 23 is a Ku-band geostationary communications satellite capable of providing service from eight different orbital positions. The satellite, which has an estimated service life of 15 years or longer, will provide television broadcast services over Brazil.
Jan 27: An Arianespace Soyuz rocket will launch a mission from the Guiana Space Center in South America. The Soyuz will carry the Hispasat AG1 communications satellite, which will provide communications services over Spain, Portugal and the Americas. Originally the geostationary Hispasat AG1 communications satellite was scheduled to fly as a passenger on an Ariane-5 flight, but in late 2016 Arianespace moved it to a dedicated Soyuz-STB Fregat-MT rocket. After several delays from 2012, launch is now planned for January 2017.
Jan 28: A Russian Soyuz rocket will launch the Kanopus-V-IK infrared Earth observation satellite along with Russia’s Zond solar research satellite and multiple small spacecraft from US companies. The launch will take place from Baikonur Cosmodrome. Kanopus-V-IK is a Russian infrared remote sensing satellite that was built by NPO VNII Elektromekhaniki. Its primary purpose is to detect sources of fire. The satellite can resolve fire down to an area as small as five by five meters on a 2,000-km swath of land.
Feb 8: SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft on a cargo delivery mission from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the International Space Station (CRS-10). This will be SpaceX’s eleventh overall flight to the International Space Station, and the tenth of the twelve planned Dragon/Falcon 9 flights supporting NASA‘s Commercial Resupply Service (CRS) program. The company’s Dragon spacecraft will be loaded with approximately 3,006 kg of cargo, crew supplies, and experiments to be used on the orbiting lab.
Feb 14: Arianespace will use the VA235 5 ECA rocket to launch two geostationary communications satellites — Intelsat 32e/SKY-Brasil 1 and Telkom 3S — from the Guiana Space Centre. Intelsat 32e/SKY-Brasil 1 was built at the request of DIRECTV to expand broadcasting service capacity across Brazil and ensure continuity of legacy services countrywide. Telkom-3S is a Indonesian communications satellite that replaces the Telkom 3 satellite which failed to achieve proper orbit.
Feb 21: A Russian government Soyuz rocket will launch the 66th Progress cargo delivery ship to the International Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhsan.
Also scheduled for launch in Feb but the dates couldn’t be confirmed: India’s ISRO will launch its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle from the Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota. The PSLV-C37 mission will be used to launch Cartosat 2D high-resolution Earth observation satellite and several smaller payloads from international customers. ISRO aims to launch a record 103 satellites in one go. Given that the current record for satellites launched in one go is 37, this will be a significant achievement.
- SpaceXwill launch a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with the SES 10 communications satellite. Owned by SES S.A. of Luxembourg, the SES-10 will replace the AMC-3 and AMC-4 satellites to provide enhanced coverage and significant capacity expansion over Latin America. The satellite will provide coverage over Mexico, serve the Spanish speaking South America in one single beam, and cover Brazil with the ability to support off-shore oil and gas exploration.
- SpaceXwill launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Koreasat 5A communications satellite South Korea from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Koreasat 5A will provide television broadcast and other communications services for Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Guam, Indochina, and South Asia. The satellite will also support maritime communications.
- SpaceXwill launch a Falcon 9 rocket with the Formosat 5 spacecraft for Taiwan’s National Space Organization and the Sherpa deployer from Spaceflight Industries carrying approximately 90 small payloads and CubeSats for a variety of scientific and commercial customers.
- International Launch Services (ILS) is slated to launch a Russian Proton-M rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with a Briz-M upper stage with the EchoStar 21 communications satellite to orbit. EchoStar 21 is an S-band spacecraft designed to provide mobile satellite services (MSS) to the European Union. The satellite is planned to have a service life of 15 years and carry a state-of-the-art MSS payload featuring a large unfurlable reflector antenna.
Mar 6: An Arianespace Vega rocket will launch with the Sentinel 2B Earth observation satellite for the European Space Agency and the European Commission from Europe‘s spaceport in French Guiana. Sentinel-2 is an Earth observation mission comprised of two identical satellites that provide high resolution optical imagery of land and sea, natural disaster mapping, and ship detection, as well as providing continuity for the current SPOT and Landsat missions. The mission provides global coverage of the Earth’s land surface every 10 days with one satellite and every 5 days with 2 satellites.
Mar 8: A United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket will launch the ninth Wideband Global SATCOM spacecraft, formerly known as the Wideband Gapfiller Satellite (WGS 9) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Part of the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) constellation, WGS-9 is a high capacity military communications satellite operating on Super High Frequency (SHF) and using Ka band Global Broadcast Service (GBS). The first WGS satellite was launched in 2007.
Mar 9: SpaceX will conduct its twelfth overall flight to the International Space Station, and the eleventh of twelve planned Dragon/Falcon 9 flights (from Cape Canaveral base) supporting NASA‘s Commercial Resupply Service (CRS) program. The company’s Dragon spacecraft will be loaded with approximately 3,310 kg of cargo, crew supplies, and experiments to be used on the orbiting lab.
Mar 16: A Cygnus cargo spacecraft (OA-7) will launch from the Cape Canaveral base to the International Space Station on an Atlas 5 rocket provided by the United Launch Alliance. Orbital ATK’s OA-7 mission is to deliver the company’s Cygnus cargo vessel to the ISS. OA-7 will mark the eighth flight of the Cygnus spacecraft, and it will be the seventh of ten planned Cygnus flights to the ISS under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Service (CRS) program. This will mark the third flight of Cygnus on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V.
Mar 21: Arianespace will launch an Ariane 5 ECA rocket from French Guiana carrying Brazil’s Geostationary Defense and Strategic Communications Satellite (SGDC) and Koreasat 7, which will provide broadcasting and telecommunications services over Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia and India.
Also to be launched in March: India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk. GSLV Mk.3 will launch on its first orbital test flight with the GSAT 19E experimental communications satellite.
Apr 4: An Arianespace Soyuz rocket will launch from the Guiana Space Center carrying the SES 15 communications satellite for SES of Luxembourg.
Also slated for Apr: SpaceX will launch the Heavy variant of the company’s Falcon booster on its first demonstration flight from the Kennedy Space Center. This new system uses a standard Falcon 9 core with two strap-on boosters derived from the Falcon 9 first stage for a total of 27 Merlin 1D engines firing at liftoff. SpaceX plans to launch Falcon Heavy from Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39A, the same site from which Apollo and Space Shuttle missions once launched.
- A Chinese Long March 7 rocket will launch the Tianzhou 1 cargo freighter with supplies and fuel for the Tiangong 2 space lab.
May 4: The US military will launch its fourth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite aboard an Atlas 5 rocket provided by the United Launch Alliance from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Also slated for May: The latest addition to Terra Bella’s Skybox Earth observation constellation of small satellites will launch aboard an Orbital ATK Minotaur C rocket from the Vandenberg AFB. Google is said to be in talks to sell the Terra Bella’s Skybox business to Planet. Terra Bella’s Seven Skybox satellites are already in orbit. Each satellite weighs less than 220.5 lbs. (100 kg.) and measures 60cm x 60cm x 80cm (24in x 24in x 31in), but they have the capability to capture high resolution color and near-infrared photos and video (30 frames per second) of objects the size of a car.
Jun 1: SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon spacecraft on the 12th cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Jun 14: A Russian Soyuz rocket will launch the 67th Progress cargo delivery ship to the International Space Station.
Jun 15: An Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rocket will send NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite into orbit. The mission will provide observations of Earth’s ionosphere and thermosphere; exploring the boundary between Earth and space.
Also slated for Jun: A Eurockot rockot vehicle will launch with the Sentinel 5 Precursor Earth observation satellite for the European Space Agency and the European Commission.
- The second flight of Orbital ATK’s Antares 230 rocket will deliver the eighth Cygnus resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station.
Jul 6: An Orbital ATK Antares rocket will launch of the ninth Cygnus cargo freighter on the eighth operational cargo delivery flight to the International Space Station (OA-8).
Also slated for Jul: The first of the latest generation of US polar-orbiting satellites, JPSS-1, will launch from the Vandenberg AFB. The satellite will provide environmental data to be used in weather prediction models as well as for climate monitoring.
- SpaceX plans to conduct an uncrewed in-flight abort test of its Crew Dragon/Dragon 2 spacecraft using a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center. The Falcon 9 rocket will be equipped with only 3 engines to launch a Crew Dragon test vehicle to an altitude as high as Max-Q (approximately 35,000 ft. or 11 km.) Upon reaching maximum aerodynamic drag, an intentional in-flight abort will be initiated to test the spacecraft’s abort system.
- SpaceX will conduct its 13th overall flight to the International Space Station, and the last of twelve planned Dragon/Falcon 9 flights (from Cape Canaveral AFS) supporting NASA’s Commercial Resupply Service (CRS) program. The company’s Dragon spacecraft will be loaded with approximately 7,298 lb. (3,310 kg.) of cargo, crew supplies, and experiments to be used on the orbiting lab.
- Orbital ATK will launch a Minotaur 4 rocket carrying a mission for the US military’s Operationally Responsive Space program. ORS 5, also known as SensorSat, will scan for satellites and debris to help track objects in Earth’s orbit.
Aug 3: A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, designated AV-075, will launch the NASA’s TDRS M communications and data relay satellite. The Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) connects mission control with the International Space Station and other satellites.
Aug 31: A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket will launch a classified spacecraft payload for the US National Reconnaissance Office from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Also slated for Aug: Sentinel-3B will be launched in 2017 on a Vega rocket from Kourou in French Guiana.
Sentinel-3 is a twin of the earlier launched Sentinel-2B, and is primarily an ocean mission. However, the mission will also be able to provide atmospheric and land applications. The mission will provide data continuity for the ERS, Envisat and SPOT satellites.
- A Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) “full thrust” Falcon 9 rocket will launch the crewd variant of the Hawthorne, California-based aerospace firm’s Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station on a test flight. The flight is slated to get underway from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
- An ArianespaceVega rocket will launch with the Optsat 3000 high-resolution reconnaissance satellite for the Italian military and the French-Israeli Venus environmental satellite to monitor the health of vegetation and test an experimental plasma thruster system in orbit.
- Arianespacewill use an Ariane 5 ES rocket to launch four Galileo full operational capability satellites for the Galileo navigation constellation.
- The Vegetation and Environment monitoring on a New MicroSatellite (VENµS) is a partnership between France and Israel has a planned launch of August. As its name suggests it will be monitoring ecosytems, global carbon cycles, land use and land change.
Sept 13: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the 15th Dragon spacecraft on the 13th operational cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station.
Sept 23: A United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket will launch the first spacecraft in the Joint Polar Satellite System, NOAA’s next-generation series of polar-orbiting weather observatories. The rocket will fly in the 7920 configuration with nine solid rocket boosters and no third stage.
Oct 3: A United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket will launch a classified spacecraft payload for the US National Reconnaissance Office. The rocket will fly in the Medium+ (5,2) configuration with two solid rocket boosters.
Oct 12: A Russian Soyuz rocket will launch the 68th Progress cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station.
Also slated for launch in Oct: SES-14 will launch from the Cape Canaveral AFS sometime during October. SES-14 replace SES’s satellite NSS-806 and support new capacity over the Americas and the North Atlantic Region. The Ku-band wide beams will bring augmented capacity to serve growing video neighborhoods in the Americas and support existing VSAT services. The HTS (High Throughput Satellite) Ku-band multi-spot beams are ideal for traffic-intensive data applications such as mobile backhaul, maritime and aeronautical services.
Nov 9: A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, designated AV-078, will launch the US military’s fourth Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous satellite, or SBIRS GEO 4, for missile early-warning detection. The rocket will fly in the 411 vehicle configuration with a four-meter fairing, one solid rocket booster and a single-engine Centaur upper stage.
Nov 17: An Orbital ATK Antares rocket will launch a Cygnus cargo freighter on the ninth cargo delivery flight to the ISS from Wallops Island, Virginia. The mission is known as OA-9. The rocket will fly in the Antares 230 configuration, with two RD-181 first stage engines and a Castor 30XL second stage.
Also scheduled for Nov: A United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket will launch NASA’s ICESat-2 satellite to measure ice sheet elevation and ice sheet thickness changes linked to climate change, along with measurements of Earth’s vegetation biomass.
- A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket will launch the AFSPC 11 mission for the US Air Force from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Dec 7: A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, designated AV-079, will launch the AFSPC 11 mission for the US Air Force.
Scheduled sometime in 2017
There are some important launches scheduled for 2017 but the exact dates couldn’t be confirmed:
- ADM-Aeolus satellite is intended to be launched by the end of the year carrying an Atmospheric Laser Doppler Instrument. This is essentially a LiDAR instrument which will provide global measurements of wind profiles from ground up to the stratosphere with 0.5 to 2 km vertical resolution
- Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment – Follow-On (GRACE_FO) are a pair of twin satellites to extend measurements from the GRACE satellite, maintaining data continuity. A partnership between NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences, GRACE-FO is scheduled for launch right at the end of 2017.
- To be launched by a Mitsubishi launch vehicle, KhalifaSat is a remote sensing Earth observation satellite currently being developed by Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre. KhalifaSat will be the third UAE satellite to be in orbit. It will be used by the UAE government in its projects and by the private sector for various commercial uses. The satellite is the first to be constructed in the UAE by a 100% Emirati team.
- Japan’s Epsilon rocket will launch the ASNARO 2 radar Earth observation satellite, a mission developed by Japan Space Systems and NEC Corp. The project is the second for the ASNARO program, which stands for Advanced Satellite with New System Architecture for Observation. The satellite has been commissioned by the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology for climate and natural disasters observation.
- A United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket will launch the US Air Force’s first third-generation navigation satellite for the Global Positioning System. The rocket will fly in the Medium+ (4,2) configuration with two solid rocket boosters. The mission has been delayed since May 3, 2016.
- ISRO‘s Cartosat-2E is also planned for late 2017. Cartosat-2E is the seventh in Cartosat series of ISRO‘s EO satellites to be deployed in sun-synchronous orbit. Its main purpose is to collect high-resolution large-scale maps which will be used for urban planning, infrastructure development, utilities planning and traffic management.