In January 2017 I posted a graph that showed the total successful rocket launches, by company and nation, from the years 1998 through 2016. That graph allowed me to note some interesting trends, of which the following were the three most significant:
First, 2016 was the worst year for the Russian rocket industry in decades. In fact, their launch total of only 18 might be the fewest Russian launches in a year since the beginnings of the space race.
Second, China has been aggressively ramping up its launch rate, and in 2016 moved clearly into the top tier of space-faring nations. Their prediction that they are aiming for 30 launches in 2017 is further evidence that this effort is not a temporary thing.
Third, the United States is clearly transitioning away from a government owned and operated rocket industry to one owned and operated by the private sector. Since the retirement of the space shuttle, the federal government has not launched a single rocket that it designed, built, and owns. Instead, every payload put in space by the U.S. has been put there by a private sector rocket.
Below the fold is a new graph. It now includes 2017, but also goes back to 1980, which I think makes a good starting point for the true beginning of the modern the rocket industry. In December 1979 Arianespace successfully completed the first launch of Ariane 1, beginning its effort to build a commercial rocket that would capture market share in the communication satellite industry. In 1980 India launched its first rocket. And in 1981 the space shuttle began flying.
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