October Rocket Launches: Can 2021 Beat the 2020’s Launch Record?

12th Oct 2021
October Rocket Launches: Can 2021 Beat the 2020’s Launch Record?

The maximum number of planned October rocket launches is 33, but this figure will probably be lower in reality. For example, only 11 out of 23 launches took place in September, and such a trend is stable every month. Still, if at least half of the planned rocket launches in October 2021 take place, the last year’s record (114 launches) will be broken in 2021. In this case, the number of launches will be even this October, and there will be two more months left for more launches. So, let’s focus on the upcoming October launches and discuss the most interesting ones.

12th Oct. Blue Origin New Shepard Opens October Rocket Launches | NS-18

On 27th September, Jeff Bezos’ company announced the date of its second tourist suborbital flight. As a reminder, the first mission, with the personal participation of Bezos and his brother, took place in July and was successful. This time, New Shepard will take a former NASA engineer and Planet Labs co-founder, Dr. Chris Boshuizen, as well as Glen de Vries Co-Founder – Dassault Systèmes’ Life Sciences and Healthcare Vice-Chair, and Medidata Co-Founder, to space. The other two crew members have not been announced yet.

The rocket scheduled to launch on 12th October at 13.30 UTC from Blue Origin Launch Site One, West Texas. The booster will launch the passenger capsule to an altitude of 60 miles, after which the capsule will separate and, flying along the calculated trajectory, will land in the Texas desert on parachutes. The flight lasts about 11 minutes, three of which the crew will spend in zero gravity.

At the same time, clouds continue to gather around Blue Origin. After Elon Musk’s public criticism of the company’s technologies on 29th September, the very next day, some Blue Origin employees issued an open letter in which they accused Bezos of not only sacrificing employee safety for the space race but also creating a toxic, sexist work culture in the company. Let’s see if the scandals interfere with Blue Origin’s upcoming plans and affect October rocket launch schedule.

14th Oct. Starsem Soyuz 2.1B OneWeb № 11

Space X’s competitor in the deployment of a global satellite Internet network, the British company OneWeb, conducts its 11th mission on 14th October, increasing the number of satellites in its constellation by 34 devices. The satellites weighing 147 kg will go into polar orbit on a Soyuz 2.1B rocket from the Vostochny cosmodrome in Russia.

As a reminder, OneWeb plans to begin providing global 24/7 service to its customers in 2022/2023. The constellation has 648 satellites and this number can be expanded to 900. Each satellite supports 50 Mbps bandwidth and is designed to re-enter the atmosphere for 25 years after failure.

20th Oct. Rocket Lab Electron Photon – Capstone mission for NASA Artemis

On 20th October, a Rocket Lab rocket, with a Photon tug acting as its third stage, will deliver NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning Technology, Operation and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) mission to the Moon. Capstone will test navigation and communications in deep space in the same orbit that will be used by NASA’s lunar orbital station Gateway. The launch will take place from Rocket Lab LC-1A, Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand. The flight to the Moon will last three months, and this mission is one of the most anticipated events in the October rocket launch schedule.

Oct. TBD Rocket Lab Electron – Black Sky 10th-11th, 12th-13th, 14th-15th

The New Zealand launcher does not give up hope of carrying out a mission, called Love At First Insight, to deliver two EO satellites for Black Sky. The mission has been postponed since August. Four more Black Sky satellites are waiting in line after this mission. This launch has been postponed since September. The exact dates have not been confirmed yet, but let’s hope that this time there will be no delays affecting rocket launches in October 2021.

21th Oct South Korea KSLV 2 • Test flight

This is the first attempt at an orbital launch of a light South Korean rocket, Korea Space Launch Vehicle 2 or Nuri, developed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute. As a reminder, the previous version of the KSLV 1 rocket was tested from 2009 to 2013, made three launches, all of which failed. Let’s hope that the Korean rocket scientists have worked on their mistakes and the demo flight KSLV 2 will be successful, contributing to the number of rocket launches in October 2021.

22nd Oct Arianespace Ariane 5 — SES 17 and Syracuse 4A

The ESA Ariane 5 heavy rocket will send two communications satellites manufactured by Thales Alenia Space into a geostationary transfer orbit: SES 17 for the global satellite operator SES and Syracuse-4 for the French Armed Forces. The total mass of the satellites is 9.5 tons. The launch will take place from the Guiana Space Center at 00:15 UTC.

30th Oct Space X Falcon Heavy Crew-3

SpaceX Crew-3, the third operational crew change mission to the International Space Station using the Crew Dragon spacecraft, will end the month. It will be attended by NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, Kayla Barron, as well as ESA astronaut Mathias Maurer. The launch is scheduled from LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, at 06:43 UTC.

In addition, Space X’s October rocket launch schedule includes six more missions, which are still in TBD status. Three of those launches are for the Starlink constellation, one Rideshare mission, one launch for the Turkish operator Turksat, and another secret USSF 44 mission for the US Space Force.

Additional October rocket launches may include two events from Japan that has been silent for a while, Virgin Orbit’s 4th mission, as well as Russia and China, with 4 and 9 planned launches, respectively.

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