Issue No. 45

The Orbital Index

Issue No. 45 | Dec 31, 2019

🚀 🌍 🥂 🛰

Happy New Year’s Eve!

2019 was a huge year for space exploration. Highlights included the first image of a black hole, the US’s politically-motivated return to the Moon, the Commercial Crew Program nearing fruition, India’s unfortunate test of an ASAT missile, Chang’e 4 exploring the far side of the Moon, SpaceX starting to launch their Starlink constellation and presenting their first Starship prototype, Hayabusa2 dropping a kitchen sink’s worth of hardware on Ryugu, arrival of the interstellar comet 2I/Borisov, Vikram and Beresheet crashing on the Moon, approval of the Comet Interceptor, Europa Clipper. NEO Surveillance, and Dragonfly missions, LightSail 2, and the (clearly equally important) launch 45 weeks ago of The Orbital Index. We think 2020 is going to be an even bigger year for the space industry, and we can’t wait to share it with all of you.

¶Our predictions for 2020. A few of the many space-related events that will likely happen this coming year:

¶The return of the Long March 5. China performed a successful launch of their redesigned Long March 5 heavy-lift vehicle, paving the way for their upcoming crewed space station and missions to the Moon and Mars (cf. Issue 43). This is the third launch of the Long March 5, which has been on hold for redesigns since a turbopump failure in 2017. The 57 m tall vehicle has almost twice the payload capacity of the second most powerful Chinese vehicle and uses liquid hydrogen and oxygen for propellant instead of the exceptionally toxic hydrazine.

¶News in brief.  SpaceX completed its 10th successful Crew Dragon parachute test; Christina Koch broke the record for longest female spaceflight; TSUBAME, JAXA’s super low altitude test satellite became the lowest earth-orbiting observation satellite at just 167.4 km (a measly 48.6 km higher than New Shepard’s highest apogee); and, Betelgeuse is rapidly dimming (but as a historically variable star, it probably won’t supernova any time soon). 


The trans-lunar injection burn of Apollo 8, the rocket that first took humans out of Earth’s orbit.

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