Launch Records Topple in 2024 with Busiest January of Space Age

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying 23 starlink satellites launches from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, Jan. 7, 2024.

Averaging a liftoff every 33 hours and 49 minutes, January’s 22 successful launches to space marked the busiest start to a year since the Space Age dawned in 1957, and put the globe on track for 259 launches in 2024, which would easily eclipse records set in 2023, according to a Space Foundation database. If the pace holds, this year could shatter 2023’s record of one launch every 39 hours, which sped past a record set in 2022 with a launch every 47 hours. Since 1957, January launches have proven to be a key predictor for annual launch numbers, with annual launch figures meeting or exceeding the January pace 93% of the time.

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Iran’s Recent Space Success Could Advance Nuclear Aims, Retired General Says

A Sunday launch that placed three Iranian satellites into orbit could signal the Islamic Republic’s ability to use its launch vehicles to deliver warheads to distant targets, warned retired Air Force Gen. Lance Lord, a former leader of Pentagon space efforts. Announced by Iran’s state news agency IRNA, the Sunday launch was the nation’s second successful space mission in the past month and the first to deliver multiple satellites. The three satellites, Mahda, Keyhan-2, and Hatef-1, were described by Iran as research satellites designed to test a variety of technologies including communications.

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Facing Safety, Budget Concerns, NASA Delays Artemis Moon Missions

With budget cuts on the horizon and technical hurdles to vault before astronauts return to the Moon, NASA pushed the brakes on its Artemis program launch schedule Tuesday, delaying a planned lunar fly-by mission into 2025 and its planned landing into 2026. The agency cited safety concerns for the delay, including an ongoing investigation into problems with a heatshield, which was damaged when the uncrewed Artemis I capsule re-entered Earth’s atmosphere after a 2022 test flight. The move also comes as congressional negotiators mull slimming the agency’s budget by more than $500 million from its 2023, and $2.2 billion short of NASA’s 2024 budget request.

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With Maiden Flight, ULA’s Vulcan Joins 2024’s Stampede to Space

ULA's Vulcan launch vehicle blasts skyward for its maiden flight early Monday, Jan. 8, 2024. Credit: ULA

United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan launch vehicle successfully roared aloft Monday on its maiden flight from Florida, carrying lunar payloads and keeping up a blistering pace of spaceflight that could drive 2024 past annual records for payloads sent to space and launches set in 2023. The first eight days of 2024 have seen four launches from the United States, including three by SpaceX, along with missions to orbit from India and China.

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Policy Bill Offers Space Force $29 Billion for 2024, More Flexible Personnel Rules

The Space Force would get $29 billion under compromise plan for 2024 included in the National Defense Authorization Act. Credit: Space Force

The Space Force would get new, more flexible personnel rules under a compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets the Pentagon budget at $841 billion nest year, which was approved by lawmakers from the U.S. House and Senate. The $29 billion Space Force budget was trimmed by just over $1 billion from an earlier Pentagon request, but is boosted by $3 billion when compared to the service’s 2023 budget.

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Second Starship Test Flies Higher Before Failure

With 33 Raptor engines belching flame, SpaceX’s Starship demonstrated the full power of its main booster, reaching an altitude of 91 miles before the second uncrewed attempt to launch the massive rocket from Boca Chica, Texas, ended when the second stage apparently failed.

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ESA’s Euclid Telescope Reveals First Images of the Stars

The Horsehead nebula as seen by ESA's Euclid spacecraft. Credit: ESA.

The European Space Agency released an initial batch of full-color images from its Euclid space telescope, showing the capability of the spacecraft’s 600-megapixel camera, which will be used on Euclid’s planned six-year mission to measure the accelerating expansion of the universe.

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