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2020 in Launches: Successes, Failures, and Everything in Between

Here’s a snapshot from the upcoming Q4 edition of The Space Report 2020, which will be released within the month.

Major launch trends for 2020:

  • Despite the pandemic-related halts in space operations, all countries and cooperative bodies with dedicated active orbital launch vehicles conducted launch activities in 2020.

  • The number of launches conducted annually has increased over the past two decades — 2020 tied with 2018 with 114 launch attempts, itself the highest launch tempo since the mid-Shuttle era. More launch vehicles debuted in 2020 than any year of the past decade.
  • More launches failed in 2020 than any year since 1971. It’s easy to conclude that launches are becoming less reliable, but the global launch vehicle reliability has not dropped below 90% in over 50 years.
  • Preliminary totals from NORAD place 2020 spacecraft deployment at over 1,200 — triple the amount deployed in 2019. Furthermore, only 15 payloads (not counting dummies) were lost over the year, meaning nearly 99% of payloads loaded in a fairing this year made it to orbit. It is worth noting, however, that not all lost payloads are equal — the Vega failure in November incinerated two spacecraft with a combined value of $400 million.