China yesterday completed two different launches from two different spaceports using two different rockets.
First it used its Long March 2D rocket to launch an Earth observation satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northern China.
Then, a few hours later, a Long March 3B rocket launched a classified military satellite from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China.
Both launches dropped first stage boosters in the interior of China. No word on whether either used parachutes or grid fins to better control the stages so that they avoid habitable areas.
These two launches bring China’s total number of successful launches in 2021 to 52, a record for that country and the most any single country has achieved since Russia successfully launched 54 times in 1992 as its high launch rate slowly shut down following the fall of the Soviet Union.
The two launches also bring the total number of successful launches in 2021 to 134, the most in any single year in the entire history of space exploration. The last time global launches reached such numbers was in the 1970s and 1980s, numbers that were produced mostly by the launch of a lot of short term low orbit surveillance satellites by the Soviets, using technology that the U.S. had abandoned in the 1960s as inefficient. It took the collapse of the communist state for Russia to finally cease such launches itself.
Now the high number of launches is increasingly being fueled by commercial competition and profits, though China’s record this year is partly due to the same top down communist set-up similar to the Soviet Union. Even so, the number of competing private rocket companies worldwide is on the rise, and in most places (even China in a few cases), it is those companies that are providing the launch services to the government. Profit and private ownership are the watchwords, and so there is aggressive competition that is lowering the launch cost.
I will have more to say about this in my annual report, which I will publish on Monday, January 3rd.
The leaders in the 2021 launch race:
7 Europe (Arianespace)
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