Launch

Human Space Launch


2009 – Russia Human Launch – Snapshot

Russia increased in its human spaceflight operations significantly in 2009 by doubling the launch rate of its Soyuz spacecraft. Russia had been launching Soyuz missions twice a year, roughly six months apart, to support three-person crews on the ISS. In 2009, Russia launched four Soyuz missions, each carrying three people. This increased flight rate reflects the transition to six-person ISS crews now that the station can accommodate its full crew complement. Once the Space Shuttle is retired, Soyuz will be the sole provider of ISS crew transfers until an alternative system is in place. The four Soyuz flights in 2009 also carried two private spaceflight participants on trips arranged by U.S. company Space Adventures.

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2009 – U.S. Human Launch – Snapshot

The Space Shuttle, also known as the Space Transportation System (STS), consists of an active fleet of three orbiters: Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour. The Shuttles are the United States’ primary method of transferring crew, supplies, and new modules to the ISS.

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2009 – U.S. Suborbital – Snapshot

Although no suborbital human-rated vehicles flew in 2009, there was considerable progress by several companies actively developing such vehicles. Among the most visible of these was the formal unveiling in December 2009 of SpaceShipTwo, a suborbital vehicle built by The Spaceship Company, a joint venture of Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites. The event culminated a year of continued development of SpaceShipTwo and its carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo. In May 2009, Virgin Galactic announced the beginning of tests of the rocket motor that will power SpaceShipTwo on its suborbital flights. The hybrid rocket motor uses a solid fuel and liquid nitrous oxide oxidizer developed by Sierra Nevada Corporation, the company that developed the rocket motor for SpaceShipOne.

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2008 – European Suborbital

In addition to development of personal spaceflight vehicles in the United States, in July 2007 the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) announced plans to develop a suborbital vehicle to serve the personal spaceflight market. The EADS vehicle, yet to be named, would employ conventional jet engines to climb to ## kilometers (## miles) before igniting rockets to reach altitudes above ## kilometers (## miles). EADS estimates vehicle development will cost €## billion (US$## billion). The company plans to begin operation of the vehicle in 2012.

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2008 – U.S. Suborbital

The SpaceShipTwo vehicle, scheduled to begin commercial service by 2010, is the product of The Spaceship Company, a joint venture between Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic. The design of SpaceShipTwo is similar to that of SpaceShipOne, the only suborbital spacecraft with a demonstrated capacity for carrying humans. A carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, unveiled in July 2008, is designed to carry SpaceShipTwo to launch altitude and release the spacecraft, which will then ignite rockets to achieve suborbital altitude before returning to the Earth. SpaceShipTwo can accommodate up to six passengers and two pilots. In addition to human suborbital spaceflight, Virgin Galactic has explored the idea of launching suborbital cargoes aboard SpaceShipTwo, such as U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climatology experiments.

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2008 – Other Countries, Launch, Human

In 2006, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced plans to develop a human-rated version of its proposed GSLV Mark 3 vehicle. The vehicle, whose maiden launch is proposed for 2015, would be capable of carrying a crew capsule to LEO. Additionally, in January 2007, ISRO successfully launched and retrieved the Space Recovery Experiment, the nation’s first recoverable spacecraft, demonstrating the reentry and recovery technologies required for a future human-rated spacecraft.

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2008 – China Launch, Human

In 2003, China became the third nation to achieve orbital human spaceflight. The Long March 2F vehicle and its Shenzhou capsule are similar in design and function to the Soyuz rocket and capsule configuration. In October 2008, China launched Shenzhou 7, whose three-person crew performed the first Chinese extra vehicular activity, or spacewalk. In 2006, the Chinese government updated its China’s Space Activities white paper, which lists potential activities of follow-on Shenzhou missions. These include testing docking procedures, with the eventual objective of creating a space station.

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2008 – Russia Launch, Human

Russia’s Soyuz is the most frequently launched human-rated vehicle. The Soyuz typically performs five to six missions per year at regular intervals to ferry crew and cargo to the ISS. In the period between retirement of the Space Shuttle and introduction of a new U.S. human-rated launch system, the Soyuz is expected to be the only vehicle able to transport crew members to the space station. Since 2001, the Soyuz has also been used six times to transport private spaceflight participants to and from the ISS under a partnership with the space exploration company, Space Adventures.

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2008 – U.S. Launch, Human

NASA plans to retire the Space Shuttle in 2010, though the agency has considered extending the vehicle’s life to support continued operation of the ISS. ## shuttle missions took place in 2008, all devoted to ISS assembly.

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2007 – Russia Launch, Human

The Clipper (Kliper) vehicle, under design by Russia’s Energia, has not yet found a customer. Clipper may become a follow-on to the Soyuz vehicle, and has attracted interest from the European Space Agency (ESA) for ISS access. In 2006, Anatoly Perminov, the director of Russia’s Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), said the agency planned to start construction of the vehicle in 2012.

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