Enlarge / SpaceX’s 18th (and final) mission of 2017 put on a show in the skies above Los Angeles. (credit: SpaceX)
For the United States, last year was a watershed in the launch industry. With 29 orbital launches from US soil, America led the world in total launches in 2017 for the first time in more than a decade.
And it wasn’t really a close competition, as the United States was followed by Russia, with 20 launches, and China, with 19. More than one-third of successful orbital missions flew from US soil last year.
All of the 29 US launch attempts were successful, whereas Russia had one failure (a Soyuz 2.1b rocket in November), and China had one failure (a Long March 5 rocket in July) and one partial failure (ChinaSat 9A in June).
In 2016, the United States tied China for 22 launch attempts. Prior to that, Russia had led the world in orbital launch attempts every year since 2003, when space shuttle Columbia burnt up during its return through Earth’s atmosphere.
The surge in US launch attempts last year was led by SpaceX, which had a record year and completed 18 missions with its Falcon 9 rocket. United Launch Alliance contributed eight flights, with six Atlas V missions and two Delta launches. Overall, with 18 flights, SpaceX very nearly exceeded the number of successful missions flown by any other country, with 18 flights compared to Russia’s 19.
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