December Rocket Launch Schedule 2021: Past & Planned Launches28th Dec 2021
This year, the December rocket launch schedule should be something exciting. The 2021 year is not over yet, but the record for 2020 has been broken. In the last 11 months, 123 orbital launches were made (115 successful), which is already more launches than the past year (114 total, 104 successful). At the same time, the rocket launch schedule for December 2021 includes another 24 missions (23 orbital and 1 suborbital). While we were working on this article, 5 have already taken place, the exact dates have already been announced for another 12, and 7 are still in the “to be determined” status.
So, let’s see who’s going to make the New Year’s Eve fireworks.
December Rocket Launch Schedule: Completed
2 December. Space X Falcon 9 – Starlink Group 4-3 BlackSky
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched the BlackSky geospatial reconnaissance satellite for the Pentagon and 48 Starlink satellites to LEO 2, thus increasing the total number of the constellation to 1,890 devices. The launch, postponed from 30 November, was carried out from the 40th launch site at Cape Canaveral in Florida, USA. 9 minutes after the launch, the rocket’s reusable first stage landed safely on the floating drone platform, A Shortfall of Gravitas, in the Atlantic, marking a successful start of the rocket launch schedule for December 2021.
05 December. Arianespace Soyuz 2.1.B Fregat – Galileo FOC FM23-FM24
Arianespace has launched two Galileo FOC (Full Operation Capability) global navigation satellites for the ESA. The mission was postponed from 2nd December due to bad weather and issues with the telemetry station. The Soyuz rocket took off from the Space Center in French Guiana. Approximately nine minutes into the flight, the carrier completed its job and deployed the Russian upper stage “Fregat” for the final maneuvers to put the Galileo satellites into orbit.
7 December. Galactic Energy Ceres 1 – Golden Bauhinia 1-03 and others
This is the second successful launch of the Ceres 1 four-stage light-class rocket by the Chinese company Galactic Energy. The mission was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and delivered 5 Chinese Earth observation and technology demonstration satellites to SSO.
7 December. ULA Atlas 5 – STP-3
United Launch Alliance has finally launched the STP-3 (space test program) mission for the US Space Force, which has been postponed six times since February 2021. Atlas 5 rocket, configured with a five-metre fairing, five solid-propellant rocket boosters, and a single-engine Centaur upper stage, launched from Cape Canaveral and placed eight payloads into geostationary orbit to demonstrate laser relay technology.
8 December Roscosmos Союз МС-20 – Space Tourism mission to ISS
Roscosmos is haunted by the success of Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and SpaceX, which were the first to send tourists into space. After a 12-day stay of Russian actors at ISS in October, two tourists from Japan — billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and media producer Yozo Hirano — went on the same mission. Russian government rocket “Soyuz” 2.1. launched the Soyuz MS-20 manned spacecraft to ISS from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Other December rocket launches
9 December Rocket Lab Electron – BlackSky 14 and 15
As part of the rocket launch schedule for December 2021, Rocket Lab carrier launched two second-generation satellites for the commercial fleet of 60 BlackSky high-precision Earth observation microsatellites. The mission, dubbed A Data With Destiny, took place from the company’s launch pad on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. This mission has been postponed from September due to Covid restrictions.
9 December SpaceX Falcon 9 – IXPE
As the continuation of the rocket launches scheduled for December 2021, SpaceX Falcon 9 launched NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer, a space observatory of the future with three telescopes to measure the polarisation of cosmic X-rays. The mission will study exotic astronomical objects and will map the magnetic fields of black holes, neutron stars, pulsars, supernova remnants, magnetars, quasars, and active galactic nuclei. The launch, postponed from 17th November, took place at the Kennedy Space Center.
Besides, SpaceX had three more launches in December. On 19th December, Falcon 9 put the Turkish telecom satellite Türksat 5B into orbit; on 21st December, Cargo Dragon went on a supply mission to ISS; and at the end of December, the Starlink constellation will be replenished by 51 more satellites.
9 December. Blue Origin New Shepard – NS 19
This will be the 19th suborbital New Shepard mission and 3rd one with tourists on board. This time, Michael Strahan, Laura Shepard Churchley, Dylan Taylor, Evan Dick, Lane Bess, and Cameron Bess were onboard. Of 11 total minutes of the flight, the crew spent about three in zero gravity, after which the capsule returned to the atmosphere, deployed its parachutes and softly landed in the West Texas desert at the Blue Origin training ground.
25 December. Arianespace Ariane 5 – JWST
The James Webb Telescope (JWST) is the largest expanding mirror space telescope ever built, with a 21.3-foot spreading mirror in diameter. NASA developed the device in conjunction with the ESA and the Canadian Space Agency as the successor to the Hubble Telescope to study the formation of galaxies, stars, and planets.
The Ariane 5 rocket launched the JWST on a trajectory to its operating position at the L2 Lagrange point, nearly a million miles from Earth. The launch, delayed since 31 October, took place from ELA-3 at the Guiana Space Center.
27 December. Arianespace Starsem Soyuz-2.1B / Fregat – OneWeb 12
As part of the 12th OneWeb mission, the Russian Soyuz rocket with the Fregat upper stage launched 36 broadband satellites to LEO for global Internet coverage. As a reminder, UK-based operator OneWeb will begin providing global 24/7 service to its customers in 2022-2023. Initially, the constellation included 648 satellites, but later One Web announced a possible expansion to 900. The launch of the 12th OneWeb mission took place from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
TBD – Virgin Orbit LauncherOne | STP-27VPB / Above the clouds
Virgin Orbit wanted to close the year with a third successful launch but has not decided on a date yet. The rideshare mission, dubbed Above the Clouds, will include six technology demonstrations and Earth observation CubeSats that the LauncherOne rocket will bring to LEO for the benefit of the SteamJet Space System, SatRevolution, Astrodigital, and Cornell University. The launch traditionally takes place from the Mojave Air and Space Port, California, USA. But having not yet revealed a date, this is likiely to carry into 2022.
Besides missions mentioned above, China, Russia, and Japan are also planning to launch their rockets, including experimental ones, so the end of the outgoing year promises to be exciting. And we promise to keep you informed of all notable events. Stay with Orbital Today and be ready to rumble as the December rocket launch schedule unravels!!!