Orbital launch attempts have more than tripled since a lull in activity in the early 2000s bottomed out at 55 attempts in 2004. Part of the rapid growth in the past few years is due to a sharp increase in launch vehicle operators after a long period with an average just shy of 10 distinct operators per year.
“Space education, research, and workforce development in the public and private sectors are core components of the U.S. national interest, with the potential to drive exploration and scientific discovery, to find new solutions for pressing challenges, including climate change, to strengthen American national security, and to provide good-paying jobs for Americans,” the roadmap document states.
The South Korean government continued development of a Korean-made launch vehicle and improvement in the country’s ability to utilize information gathered by satellites.
While the U.S. typically leads commercial satellite launches, China almost doubled its private missions in 2022—commercial payloads were 27% of the nation’s launches compared to 16% in 2021. Chang Guang Satellite Technology Co. launched five batches of high-resolution imagery satellites for its Jilin-1 constellation and has deployed approximately half of its planned 138 satellites.
The first attempted lunar mission was the Soviet Union’s Luna 1 impactor, which launched Jan. 2, 1959, and passed within only 5,995 kilometers of the Moon at its closest point. The Space Race brought a large wave of lunar activity in the 1960s, but there have only been a few missions in the decades since.
For the second consecutive year, space launches set all-time records as operators sent a historic number of 179 successful missions into orbit in 2022. With 41 more attempts than 2021, the year also set a new record for the sheer volume increase of launches year over year.
Space launch activity continued to grow rapidly in 2022, reaching a new high of 186 orbital launch attempts. Last year was filled with successes and had three fewer failures than 2021, even with 41 more attempts.
A flurry of military and intelligence satellite launches by rival powers this month came as the United States and two dozen partner nations wrapped up the largest global space defense wargame in history.
Russia launched what some leaders have described as a spy satellite for Iran and its own on-orbit snooping satellite Cosmos-2558, which is circling Earth in an orbit conspicuously close to a recently launched U.S. National Reconnaissance Office satellite, a Netherlands researcher confirmed.
Of the 55 commercial launches attempted in 2021, 31 occurred in the United States. Of these, 23 were carried out by SpaceX, all of which were successful. China and Russia each conducted nine commercial launches in 2021. All six Russian launches were conducted on the Soyuz launch vehicle, and all were successful.
The first six months of 2022 saw a record pace of space launches, matching the mark of 75 set in the first half of 1967. And through June 30, the year saw a record pace for successful launches, topping the mark of 70 set in 1984.