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China launches military satellite

Using its Long March 2D rocket, China today successfully launched a satellite in its classified Yaogan series, suspected to be for military reconnaissance.

In fact, so little is known about the Yaogan satellites that we aren’t even sure how many were placed in orbit today. Normally a Yaogan launch puts three satellites into orbit (which is what this article assumes). The story from China’s state-run press above however does not say this at all. Instead, it implies that only one Yaogan satellite was launched.

Regardless, the leaders in the 2022 launch race:

47 SpaceX
45 China
14 Russia
8 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise still leads China 67 to 45 in the national rankings. It is now tied with the entire world combined 67 to 67. This launch today also brings the launch total this year to 134, which ties the record for the most successful launches in a single year, set last year. With two and a half months still to go, 2022 should end up breaking that record significantly.

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  • sippin_bourbon

    Curious how you are counting the Firefly Alpha launch.
    Some are calling is a partial failure, others a launch failure.

    Not sure what your metric is on these things, or how you have counted them in the past.

    Granted, this was a still a test run, and it did get to orbit, though not the intended orbit.

  • Gary H

    “Curious how you are counting the Firefly Alpha launch.
    Some are calling is a partial failure, others a launch failure.”
    How can we confirm that Chinese launch to the intended orbit?
    It seems to me that launch to orbit without qualifiers is the best that can be done.

  • sibbin_bourbon: My rule for counting launches is essentially my own judgment. Generally, if the launch is from an operational rocket (already tested and flying customers), the launch has to be a success, putting the satellites where they were supposed to go. If the launch is a test of a new rocket, then simply getting the payloads into any orbit where they can operate counts.

    With Firefly, Alpha got the payloads into an orbit that allowed these short term cubesats to function. Their live spans were shortened by the lower orbit, but they still worked. One operator told me he counted this as “a success.”

    Note that this is still a judgment call on my part. As the numbers of launches rises, counting one questionable launch will matter less and less, in the general scheme of things. And since my goal in doing this list is to illustrate the overall trends, these specific details also matter less overall.

  • sippin_bourbon

    “Note that this is still a judgment call on my part.”

    Yes, indeed for all of us.
    There is no hardened criteria.


  • Edward

    Counting this as an orbital launch makes much sense, even if it had been an operational rocket. The launch vehicle achieved orbit, and is this not the measurement here?

    One of the Space Shuttle launches had a premature shutdown of one of its main engines, resulting in a lower orbit than intended. Should this have been considered a failed launch? In the late 1990s, there was a launch of two satellites on an Ariane V, but one of the satellites was heavier than it was supposed to be, resulting in both satellites having to use far too much of their own fuel to reach geostationary orbit. Should this have been considered a failure of the Ariane?

    It seems to me that if the launch vehicle reaches orbit, then it is a successful orbital launch, as it successfully reached orbit. If Robert wants to consider whether the orbit reached was useful for the payload, then that is his prerogative.

    On the other hand, in order to be consistent he would have to verify that the historic launch record also conforms to his definition of a successful orbital launch, so maybe we should allow for a little inconsistency in the annual launch report and its charts.

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