Moving into the second half of 2024, the first week of July has already begun with the third launch of the Japanese H3 rocket in the early hours of Monday morning UTC—covered in our previous launch roundup.

The week ahead continues with two Starlink missions from SpaceX, pushing the number of Starlink satellites launched to over 6,700. Two more launches are due from China with the first flight of the year for i-Space’s Hyperbola-1, moved now to Friday, and another mission on a Chang Zheng 6A. SpaceX is also preparing to launch the first communication satellite built in Turkey this coming Monday.

The fifth flight of Firefly’s Alpha launch vehicle was scheduled for the night of Tuesday, July 2, from Vandenberg Space Force Base, but that date has now been postponed.

This week marks the first anniversary since the final flight of an Ariane 5. Its successor, the Ariane 6, now stands ready for its maiden launch next week.

Another new vehicle, Space Pioneer’s Tianlong-3, which has been expected to make its maiden launch later this year, suffered a setback on Sunday when part of the vehicle took flight earlier than expected. During a static fire test the first stage of the rocket, which uses kerosene and liquid oxygen as propellants, left the pad and was destroyed after several seconds of flight,  falling 1.5 km.

Wow. This is apparently what was supposed to be a STATIC FIRE TEST today of a Tianlong-3 first stage by China’s Space Pioneer. That’s catastrophic, not static. Firm was targeting an orbital launch in the coming months.

— Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) June 30, 2024

The company reported a structural failure in the connection between the rocket and the test stand. Still in development, this Chinese vehicle is similar in height and approach to the Falcon 9 with a reusable first stage.

The first half of the year saw 124 orbital launch attempts in total, with only a few failures, carrying 14 crew and over 1330 payloads into orbit. The US and China accounted for 81% of the launches over those six months, with 57% and 24% shares respectively. SpaceX was responsible for over half of all orbital launches with 54%. The only other launches flying from the US in the first half of the year were: the last Delta IV Heavy, the first Vulcan Centaur, the recent Atlas V launch of Starliner, and an Electron launching a mission for the National Reconnaissance Office.

For comparison, just two years ago this same number of launches was only reached with the last launch of September, and the count was at 75 by this midway point of the year. One year ago the industry had yet to pass the 100 mark, with 98 orbital launches by the end of June. With weather slowing launches recently, and 67 missions under its belt so far, SpaceX is not yet at the halfway mark for its ambitious goal of 148 launches in 2024. There is still time to reach that mark if the company returns to the launch cadence shown in May, with 14 flights in the month, based on local time.

Firefly Alpha FLTA005 | ELaNa 43 “Noise of Summer”

Originally scheduled for Wednesday, June 26, at 9:03 PM PDT (Thursday, June 27, at 04:03 UTC), the launch date for Firefly Aerospace’s two-stage Alpha rocket’s first flight of 2024 is now under review. A launch attempt on Monday, July 1, was aborted seconds before liftoff because of a problem with ground support equipment on the launch pad. The mission is due to launch from SLC-2W at VSFB carrying an array of CubeSats to orbit.

Firefly has decided to stand down on today’s Alpha #FLTA005 launch to give the team more time to evaluate data and test systems from the first attempt. We will work closely with the range and our @NASA customer to determine the next launch window. Stay tuned for more.…

— Firefly Aerospace (@Firefly_Space) July 2, 2024

This mission is part of the Venture Class Launch Services Demonstration 2 contract between NASA and Firefly. The eight CubeSat satellites in the payload include four built by universities, one built by an educational non-profit organization, and three built by NASA.

The Venture Class launch services program is intended to give more frequent and lower-cost access to space for payloads with a higher risk tolerance. Payloads built by educational institutions and non-profit organizations are eligible to be selected through NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI), intended to assist such projects, and each flight is given an Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission name and number, this flight being ELaNa 43.

See Also

Firefly “Noise of Summer” Launch ArticleCommercial Spaceflight Discussion BoardClick here to Join L2

NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston is flying two R5 satellites, S4 and S2 2.0. These small, free-flying devices are built using commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components and are intended to test their suitability as low-cost on-orbit inspection devices.

NASA Ames Research Center also has a satellite aboard — TechEdSat 11 (TES 11) — that includes the latest and largest iteration of NASA Ames’ exo-braking experiment, which uses an umbrella-like device to increase drag on a spacecraft and bring it safely out of orbit more quickly.

For more information on the payloads please see our article for the flight.

Firefly announced a partnership with the Swedish Space Corporation last week to jointly launch satellites from the recently inaugurated Esrange Space Center in Sweden, targeting a first launch in 2026. The FAA also added Firefly’s vehicles to its Space Data Integrator last week, tracking them in near-real time during launch operations.

Fleet leader B1062 launching Starlink Group 10-3 from SLC-40 last week (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 Block 5 | Starlink Group 8-9

The week’s first Starlink mission is scheduled to launch from SLC-40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Wednesday, July 3 at 2:57 AM EDT (06:57 UTC).

The previous launch from this pad saw booster B1062 reach the milestone of 22 flights for the first time last week. The pad is approaching its 200th Falcon 9 launch soon, though possibly not this month, with 195 launched from this location to date.

The booster and droneship supporting this mission have yet to be announced.

With this mission, the company will have launched over 6,700 Starlink satellites to date. At the start of this week, SpaceX had launched 6,698, of which 477 had re-entered, and 5,232 had moved into their operational orbit. The company added Madagascar to the long list of over 100 countries now able to access the high-speed, low-latency internet service last week.

Chang Zheng 6A ahead of the launch of Yunhai-3 02 in March 2024 (Credit: CASC / CCTV)

Chang Zheng 6A | Unknown Payload

A Chang Zheng 6A is scheduled to launch from LC-9A at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in China on Thursday, July 4 at 23:00 UTC.

This will be the third launch for this two-stage vehicle type which has been active since 2022 and is capable of lifting 5,000 kg to orbit, assisted by four side boosters. The single-stick CZ-6C variant made its debut this May.

The payload is likely to be unknown until after launch. One possibility is the third in the Yunhai-3 series of satellites reported to be used for atmospheric, ocean, and environmental research. This same vehicle type carried the second in that series earlier this March and the first in late 2022.

Hyperbola-1 | Unknown Payload

A launch is expected from Site 95A at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China on Friday, July 5 at 23:40 UTC. The Hyperbola-1, also known locally as the Shuang Quxian-1 or SQX-1, is a four-stage solid-fuel powered rocket, guided by liquid-propellant attitude control engines. This will be the seventh flight to date for this vehicle type.

First flown five years ago this month, the Hyperbola-1 has a 50% success rate following some issues on early flights, such as fuel valve blockages and payload fairings failing to separate. The last two missions have been successful, however, taking a dummy payload and subsequently the DEAR-1 prototype recoverable experimental spacecraft into a Sun-synchronous orbit last December. Beijing-based i-Space became the first Chinese private company to achieve orbit with the vehicle’s maiden flight.

At just under 21 m in length and 1.4 m in diameter, the vehicle can launch up to 300 kg into low-Earth orbit. Details of the payload and its destination have yet to be disclosed ahead of the launch.

Hyperbola-1 ahead of the launch of DEAR-1 in December 2023 (Credit CCTV)

Falcon 9 Block 5 | Starlink Group 9-3

A second Starlink mission is scheduled for the week, launching from SLC-4E at the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Saturday, July 6 at 8:33 PM PDT (03:33 UTC on July 7). While the booster has not yet been announced, it is expected to land on the autonomous droneship, Of Course I Still Love You, waiting approximately 600 km downrange.

Falcon 9 Block 5 | Türksat 6A

The launch of the first large communications satellite built in Turkey is scheduled for Monday, July 8 at 5:20 PM EDT (21:20 UTC) from SLC-40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The communications satellite will be released into a geosynchronous transfer orbit on the way to a geostationary orbit at 35,786 km over the equator, positioned at 42 degrees east longitude. The booster and autonomous droneship supporting this mission have yet to be confirmed.

Massing approximately 4,250 kg with onboard propellant, the satellite is equipped with 20 Ku-band and 3 X-band transponders. It will provide data relay for commercial, civil government, and military communications over Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East, and much of Asia.

Türksat 6A following construction and testing in March, ahead of being shipped to Florida (Credit: TÜBİTAK UZAY / Turkish Century)

The Türksat 6A project began almost ten years ago and the main contractor, TÜBİTAK UZAY, reported that its reach will cover 118 countries and up to 4.5 billion people.

(Lead image: Falcon 9 launch (Credit – Julia Bergeron for NSF)

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