Timeline of first orbital launches by country
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This is a timeline of first orbital launches by country. While a number of countries have built satellites, as of 2009, nine countries historically have developed the capability to send objects into orbit using their own launch vehicles. In addition, Russia and Ukraine inherited the space launchers and satellites capability from the Soviet Union, following its dissolution in 1991. Russia launches its rockets from its own and foreign (Kazakh) spaceports; Ukraine - only from foreign (Russian and Kazakh) spaceports. Another two, France and the United Kingdom, after becoming space powers independently (but by using a foreign spaceports), later joined space launcher facilities in the multi-national European Space Agency. Thus, as of 2009, eight countries currently have a proven orbital launch capability. In all cases where a country has conducted human spaceflights (as for 2009, three - USSR/Russia, USA, China), these launches were preceded by unmanned launches.
The race to launch the first satellite was closely contested by the Soviet Union and the United States, and was the beginning of the Space Race. The launching of satellites, while still contributing to national prestige, is a significant economic activity as well, with public and private rocket systems competing for launches, using cost and reliability as selling points.
List of first orbital launches by country
|| Soviet Union
||Baikonur, Soviet Union (today Kazakhstan)
||4 October 1957
|| United States
||Cape Canaveral, Florida, United States
||1 February 1958
||26 November 1965
||11 February 1970
||People's Republic of China
||Dong Fang Hong I
||Long March 1
||24 April 1970
|| United Kingdom
||28 October 1971
||18 July 1980
||19 September 1988
||Strela-3 (x6, Russian)
||28 September 1991
||21 January 1992
||2 February 2009
- Countries indicated in bold retain orbital launch capability.
- The Soviet Union's successor state, Russia, took over the Soviet space program after the Soviet Union's dissolution.
- France launched its first satellite by its own rocket from Algeria, which had been a French territory when the spaceport was built but had achieved independence before the satellite launch. Later France provided a spaceport for ESA space launchers in French Guyana.
- The UK only self-launched a single satellite and that from a foreign (Australian) spaceport. Britian did not maintain a space launcher capability later.
- Russia and Ukraine inherited space launcher and satellite capability from the Soviet Union rather than developing it indigenously.
- Ukraine provides its own space launcher to Russia rather than used its own space launcher to launch satellite (first time - Sich-1 in August 31, 1995).
Other launches and projects
The above list includes confirmed satellite launches by rockets produced by the launching country. Lists with differing criteria might include the following launches.
- Iraq developed and tested the Tammouz space launch vehicle without a payload on 5 December 1989. According to a press release by the Iraqi News Agency, the warhead completed six orbits, but this was never confirmed.
- North Korea announced on 31 August 1998 that they successfully launched the Kwangmyŏngsŏng from Musudan-ri, but this was never confirmed. Another launch on 5 April 2009, with the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2 satellite, was also reported to have reached orbit,; however, US and South Korean officials stated that the launch failed to reach orbit.
Launches of non-domestic launch vehicles
- Some countries ( Italy, Australia, Kazakhstan) have no self-developed rocket systems, but provide their spaceports (San Marco platform, Woomera, Baikonur Cosmodrome) for launches of their own satellites (San Marco 2 on 26 April 1967, WRESAT on 29 November 1967, KazSat on 17 June 2006) and foreign satellites on aboard of foreign rockets (American, European, Russian, Ukrainian).
- More than three dozen other countries (beginning with Canada on 29 September 1962) launched their satellites onboard foreign rockets (including those listed above, and Chinese, Indian, etc) from foreign spaceports.
- South Africa developed the space launcher RSA-3 in the 1980s. This rocket was tested 3 times without a satellite payload in 1989 and 1990. The program was postponed and cancelled in 1994 for political reasons.
- Germany had a preliminary development of numerous rocket space launchers and re-usable launch systems (Sänger II, etc.) after WWII. These were never realized as national or European projects. Also, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the private German company OTRAG tried to develop low-cost commercial space launchers. Only sub-orbital tests of the first prototypes of these rockets were carried out.
- Canada had developed the gun-based space launchers Martlet and GLO as the joint Canadian-American Project HARP in the 1960s. These rockets were never tested.
- Spain developed the space launcher Capricorno (Capricorn) in the 1990s. This rocket was never tested.
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Published - July 2009
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