As humans continue to explore space, their ingenuity brings the technology used for space operations and exploration down to Earth. Whether leading sport-fishermen to a favorite fishing hole, or helping farmers predict crop yields, space products and services continue to make things convenient for humans and help them survive during turbulent times.
2013 was a fairly typical year for the global orbital launch industry, with ## launch attempts—slightly higher than the 2009–2013 average of ##. Of the ## orbital launch attempts in 2013, ## were successful. A launch is considered successful if its payload is deployed in an orbit that allows it to successfully complete its mission.
Imagery intelligence is becoming more available to the public, as services such as Allsource Analysis gained attention in the news. In October 2014, the Longmont, Colorado, company wrote a comprehensive summary in which it identified a new kind of North Korean submarine in port during its monitoring of North Korean political prisoner camps.
Space launch vehicles and their payloads are prepared and subsequently launched or deployed from facilities called spaceports. The scale of spaceports varies widely, whether measuring the area they cover or the activities they host.
Military-specific observation satellites can be used for reconnaissance or other intelligence-gathering purposes. The capabilities of remote sensing satellites can sometimes obscure whether or not they are being used for civilian or military applications.
Spaceports are the facilities where launch vehicles and their payloads are prepared and subsequently launched. Spaceports vary widely in scale. They range from the relatively austere Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska, which typically conducts only one launch every year or two from its one pad, to a sprawling facility such as Baikonur, which covers thousands of square kilometers and conducts about one-third of all global launches per year, lifting off from more operational launch pads than are found in any other spaceport.
South Korea conducted ## successful orbital launch in 2013. After suffering two previous launch failures of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV)-1, arguments arose between the Russian manufacturers of the vehicle’s first stage and the South Korean manufacturers of the second stage over the responsibility for the vehicle’s failures.
In 2012, several smaller countries and organizations demonstrated their ability, or at least ambitions, to conduct an orbital space launch. The privately held Sea Launch company, which focuses on deploying commercial communications satellites to geosynchronous orbit (GEO), declared bankruptcy in 2010.
In May 2010, a researcher at Purdue University used a combination of NASA satellite imagery and information from Google Earth to determine that North Korea was conducting illegal logging operations in a U.N.-protected forest.
Launch vehicles can be grouped into two categories. The first consists of vehicles that can propel their payloads fast enough at a sufficient altitude to achieve orbit. A launch vehicle that is unable to place a payload in orbit, but can still carry a payload into space, is referred to as a suborbital launch vehicle.