May 2021 Rocket Launch Schedule: a Close Look at Missions, Launches, and Spaceflights22nd May 2021
According to nextspaceflight.com, 20 launches are planned for the May rocket launch schedule. SpaceX Falcon 9 has launched the 26th batch of Starlink satellites. Of those remaining, a half have got exact dates, the rest are still in question. In addition to the regulars, it’s worth highlighting Virgin Galactic, which will conduct another SpaceShipTwo test, as well as the return of the Pegasus XL after a year and a half break. This Northrop Grumman rocket launch will be the 45th since 1990 and hopefully the 40th successful one.
So, traditionally, we start with the leaders.
SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Launch with Starlink L 25, 26, 27, 28
Elon Musk is apparently stepping up with the launch of the Starlink global satellite Internet network. In addition to its L 25 mission on 4th May, SpaceX is planning three more this month and the second took place with an interval of only 5 days. There are no exact dates for the rest of May rocket launches. Thus, the number of Starlink satellites in orbits will increase by 240 pieces, and in total, 12 thousand of them are planned. All missions will take place from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
SpaceX Starship SN15
On 5th May, at SpaceX’s Boca Chica base, Texas, Starship SN15 conducted its 7th test flight of 10km. Once launched, the spacecraft landed in the area of Starbase A. We are happy for the SpaceX team’s success, and are glad that this launch went without any major issues and hopefully all other future launches will go ahead without fault.
Long March 7, Tianzhou 2
Among the many May rocket launches this year was the Chinese heavy rocket launch on the 20th of May – Tianzhou 2 robotic cargo spacecraft will be sent out to resupply the future modular space station. Its predecessor, Tianzhou 1, was launched on the same rocket in the spring of 2017 and demonstrated autonomous fuel pumping.
Interestingly, just a few weeks ago, on April 29, the second stage of the Long March 5 heavy rocket weighing 25 tons made an uncontrolled deorbit when the Tianhe module for the Chinese station was injected and should now fall to the ground. Thankfully, this did not happen with the Long March 7, which is slightly smaller.
However, failures do not stop China, and they traditionally plan many launches every year. So, 4 more May rocket launches of various Long March modifications were promised, as well as 2 launches of Quaizhou 1A with satellites on board. Two of these launches went ahead on 6th and 18th March; the rest are in TBD status, so postponements are possible, as is often practiced by Chinese space operators.
Rocket Lab Electron/Curie | Running Out of Toes
The Rocket Lab mission, that occurred on 15th May, was Electron’s 20th launch in a row. The rocket launched 2 Black Sky EO satellites on SSO from LC-1A, Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand. As part of the mission, the company will try to land the first stage in the ocean for a second time for reuse.
ULA Atlas 5 – SBIRS 17th of May on the 2021 rocket launch schedule
On 17th May, the ULA Atlas 5 heavy rocket launched the US Air Force’s Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) into a geostationary transfer orbit to warn of missiles and determine the characteristics of the combat airspace. The launch took place at SLC-41, Cape Canaveral SFS, Florida, USA and was the 87th in a row for Atlas 5.
Virgin Galactic – SpaceShipTwo
Richard Branson’s company, not wanting to be outdone in the competition with its longtime competitor SpaceX, will conduct the third test flight of the SpaceShipTwo prototype spacecraft. The test will take place at a private spaceport in New Mexico, USA. Great hopes are pinned on the flight. First, at the beginning of the month, Virgin Galactic announced the start of ticket sales for private suborbital flights, and secondly, the test should show that Virgin’s brainchild is superior to SpaceX Starship. We wish both of them the best of luck with their May rocket launches.
Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL TacRL-2
The Pegasus XL air launch rocket returns to service after a year and a half break with the TacRL-2 (Tactically Responsive Launch) mission. Its purpose is to demonstrate the possibility of quickly placing a payload into orbit by order of the US Air Force. The launch will take place from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, USA.
The mission is likely to be the last for the Pegasus project since the rocket, due to the high launch cost (40 million) and low payload (450 kg), can no longer compete with more modern carriers. In particular, with Virgin Orbit Launcher One, the cost of launching with the same carrying capacity is three times less.
The suitable carrier could have saved the Stratolaunch project, which is involved in the Pegasus. But after the death of Paul Allen, it was closed. As a result, Northrop Grumman was left with two unclaimed rockets, which are now used in the interests of the US Air Force.
OneWeb # 7 Soyuz-2.1b May rocket launch
The Starlink competitor, OneWeb, will complete the May rocket launch schedule. Unlike Musk’s Napoleonic plans, the British company has much more modest ambitions; its network will include only 650 satellites. As part of the 7th OneWeb mission, the Russian Soyuz 2.1b rocket will launch 36 satellites into geostationary orbit. The launch is scheduled for 27th May from Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia.
India and Russia are planning to launch satellites. The first will launch the EOS-3 or GISAT satellite on the PSLV rocket, and the second will launch the updated Glonass-K for the global navigation satellite system on Soyuz-2.1b with the Fregat upper stage. The exact dates and times of the launches have not yet been announced.