Launch

Human Space Launch


2016 – Infrastructure: Space Infrastructure

Space infrastructure is a fundamental prerequisite for all activities that make use of space. It comprises all the hardware, software, and operators responsible for creating and supporting the construction, launch, and deployment of spacecraft.

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2015 – China Launch, Human

China’s most recent human mission to space was in June 2013, when three taikonauts docked a capsule with the Tiangong-1 space station. Since then, China has announced plans to launch a second space station, Tiangong-2, to replace Tiangong-1. The Chinese government continued assembling and testing Tiangong-2 in 2015, intending to launch it into orbit sometime in 2016. A subsequent crewed mission, Shenzhou-11, would be launched later in 2016. The crew will dock with the Tiangong-2 and may stay in the space station as long as a month.

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2015 – Russia Launch, Human

In 2015, Russia continued to be the only nation flying humans into space since June 2013. The Russian Soyuz capsule was conceived, designed, and first launched nearly five decades prior to 2015. The Soyuz space launch vehicle that boosted the Soyuz capsule into space has an even longer heritage. The first of its family launched as the world’s first intercontinental ballistic missile, and a succeeding generation launched Sputnik, the world’s first satellite. Capsule and launch vehicle continued to be modified over the years, enabling them to remain in service.

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2015 – U.S. Launch, Human

Nearly five years have passed since the United States stepped back from launching humans with its own space vehicles, the last of which flew in July 2011. The country conducts human operations in space on the ISS, contracting the launch of U.S. astronauts through the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos. In August 2015, NASA reserved six seats for 2018 from the Russians for $490 million. NASA’s leadership reported that the contract was necessary due to underfunding of the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), which reduced NASA’s ability to support private companies developing human space launch capabilities.

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2015 – U.S. Suborbital – Snapshot

NASA’s efforts with its Commercial Crew Program and Space Launch System primarily focus on launching humans into Earth orbit and beyond. However, other organizations and companies are pursuing the goal of reusable suborbital launch vehicles for humans.

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2014 – Iranian Suborbital

An example of a country using suborbital rockets for testing is Iran, which sent its second monkey into space in December 2013. Lifted aboard a Kavoshgar-e Pazhuhesh sounding rocket to an altitude of 120 kilometers (75 miles), the capsule containing the monkey parachuted safely back to Earth. The monkey, capsule, and rocket are part of Iran’s efforts to send a human into space by 2024.

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2014 – U.S. Suborbital

Private companies are developing suborbital reusable launch vehicles as well. Virgin Galactic flight-tested its SpaceShipTwo crewed suborbital vehicle in 2014. The second of the year’s powered test flights of SpaceShipTwo ended in a crash, with the vehicle breaking up mid-flight and killing one pilot. In spite of the tragedy, Virgin Galactic’s ## customers remain committed to their reservations for a flight aboard SpaceShipTwo, with tickets costing $## per seat.

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2014 – Russia Launch, Human

In 2014, Russia operated the only crewed vehicle currently serving the ISS, and it is expected to retain that monopoly through 2017, when the first flights of the new NASA-supported commercially developed vehicles are slated to begin. Russia’s current crewed spacecraft is the Soyuz, a vehicle that made its first flight in 1967 and has been upgraded several times in the ensuing decades. Advances in construction techniques and computer technology have resulted in a craft that is more maneuverable, lighter, and has a greater carrying capacity than earlier versions.

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