Over the 12 months of 2019, a total of 102 orbital missions were launched from facilities around the world. Although that figure represents a more than 10% decline from the 114 missions launched in 2018, it was still more than was launched any year over the past three decades prior to last year.
Orbital launches by country
China completed the largest share of orbital missions in 2019 with a total of 34 launches. Significant achievements for the country over the 12-month period included launching the Chang’e 4 lunar lander, which became the first lander to touch down safely on the far side of the Moon, and the completition of the core constellation of the BeiDou-3 navigation system. Although the country suffered twice the number of launch failures last year, one of the two failures occurred aboard a test vehicle from the commercial launch provider OneSpace.
The United States launched seven less orbital missions last year than in 2018. Despite this, the country made significant headway into the development of its first crewed capabilities since the retirement of the Space Shuttle. Both SpaceX and Boeing launched orbital test missions of their respective crew-capable spacecraft. Although both suffered setbacks, the completition of these tests opens the door for the maiden crewed missions to be launched in 2020. In addition to the country’s progress towards its commercial crew capabilities, the Unites States also marked a second straight year without a single launch failure.
Russia increased its launch cadence by 25% with five additional orbital launches in 2019. The country also managed to shake off the Soyuz MS-10 mishap of 2018 to complete the year without a single failure.
India, Japan, and Europe all recorded underwhelming years as competition in the launch market continues to heat up.
Finally, Iran was the biggest loser of 2019 with two launch attempts and not a single successful flight.
Orbital launches by rocket
After two years of dominance, the SpaceX Falcon 9 finally slipped from the top spot with China’s Long March 3 launched more than any other rocket in 2019. The three-stage rocket was launched on 12 missions over the 12-month period. Additionally, a total of 25 missions were launched aboard Long March rockets with seven aboard the Long March 4, three aboard the Long March 11, two aboard the Long March 2 and a single mission launched aboard the heavy-lift Long March 5.
One of the most improved performances came from the small launch provider Rocket Lab. The provider launched a total of six orbital missions aboard its Electron rocket in 2019, which represents a 100% increase from the previous year. The company plans to continue to increase its launch cadence and hopes to launch at least one orbital mission a month in 2020.
Orbital launches by spaceport
A total of eight countries hosted orbital launch attempts in 2019. Baikonur, Cape Canaveral, and Xichang tied for the most missions launched from a single location each hosting 13 without suffering a single failure. Semnan in Iran holds the ignominious title of the least successful launch facility of 2019 with two launch attempts and not a single success. The three additional launch failures recorded last year occurred at Jiuquanm, Kourou, and Taiyuan.
All launch data referenced above was collected from Wikipedia’s 2019 in spaceflight page.