2020 looks like becoming a very big year for launches, with record numbers of rockets set to blast off into space. Arianespace said it is planning up to 22 missions this year, almost double the company’s previous record of 12 launches in 2015.
Half of the 2020 launches will be for OneWeb, the rival to Starlink’s constellation of small broadband communications satellites.
OneWeb is planning a constellation initially of 648 satellites and eventually maybe more than 2,000. The first six were launched by Arianespace in February last year.
Ten OneWeb launches will be aboard Soyuz rockets and one on the inaugural launch of the new Ariane 62 rocket.
SpaceNews said Arianespace also had two launches planned for its smallest Vega rocket and two on the larger next-generation Vega C rockets.
Fourteen launches will blast off from the Guiana Space Center on the coast of South America.
The other eight will be divided between Russia’s spaceports, the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s far east.
The first launch of the year for OneWeb is planned for next month from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
OneWeb has ordered 21 Soyuz launches from Arianespace, the first conducted last February. Future missions are expected to each carry 34 satellites.
Arianespace chief executive Stephane Israël said they had enough rockets ready and could add another two Soyuz launches for OneWeb this year if OneWeb delivered enough satellites.
Arianespace’s first launch of 2020 will be its heavy lift Ariane 5 vehicle carrying two communications spacecraft for geostationary orbit – the Eutelsat Konnect satellite and the Indian space agency ISRO’s GSAT-30 satellite.
Arianespace has 11 Ariane 5 rockets left before it moves fully to the next-generation and less expensive Ariane 6.
First flight of the Ariane 6 is planned for fourth quarter.
Arianespace conducted nine launches in 2019 against a target of 12.
That was because of delays with an Ariane 5 mission, while two Vega launches were postponed after the failure of a Vega launch in July.
Despite the reduced number of launches, Arianespace still conducted more launches of geostationary satellites – eight – than rivals SpaceX and International Launch Services.
Overall, SpaceX did more launches – 13 – of which four were commercial geostationary satellites and five for US government customers.
Russia launched five Proton rockets last year, one a commercial dual launch for Northrop Grumman and Eutelsat Communications, while the rest were Russian government missions.
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