Five back-to-back satellite launches starting today close 2018's rocket roster

Satellite launches by SpaceX, Arianespace, United Launch Alliance and ISRO all are on the cards.

The year 2018 has seen a little over hundred launches to orbit from around the world — the highest in any single year since 1990.

Now towards the year's close, rocket fanatics are set for a treat: four potential launches in the span of 24 hours starting Tuesday, 18 December. SpaceX, Arianespace, Blue Origin, United Launch Alliance and ISRO launches later will send up four satellites on three different continents during this time.

Here's more about each of these launch missions and where to watch them live.

French CSO-1 satellite on Soyuz rocket 

Arianespace will end its year's launches with a Russian-made Soyuz rocket launching an earth-observation satellite to orbit from the Guiana Space Center in South America.

The satellite, called CSO-1, is meant to expand the French government's defence and security applications.

The mission marks the 20th launch of a Soyuz booster rocket from the European spaceport since an arrangement made between Arianespace and the Russian government in 2011, to supply Russian booster rockets when the agency was in need of a medium-lift launch vehicle for its own launches.

The launch, scheduled for 6.07 pm IST Tuesday, will be streamed live on Arianespace's YouTube channel.

US Air Force GPS III satellite on Falcon 9

In the company's final launch this year, SpaceX is catering to the needs if the American Air Force in launching a new generation of GPS satellites that are more accurate than existing ones.

The Air Force ordered a brand new Falcon 9 rocket for this first launch with SpaceX as the mission requires that there be no landing attempt after the satellite launch.

However, if the Air Force is satisfied with the new partnership, they may consider using reusable boosters for future missions to save money, the Air Force mission director said, according to Space News.

“As we work through this first flight together, we will look at the performance, do all the calculations and analysis so we can continue to look for opportunities in the future,” he was quoted to have said.

The launch, which is scheduled for 7.41 pm IST on Tuesday for liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, will begin streaming live on SpaceX's YouTube channel around 7 pm IST.

Nine NASA satellites on New Shephard NS-10

Blue Origin’s New Shepard (NS-10) mission is aiming to bring nine NASA-sponsored research and technology satellites into space through the NASA's 'Flight Opportunities' program. The program gives researchers access to microgravity for technology development.

The experiments on the NS-10 flight are from a diverse range of universities, institutes and NASA centres. The payloads include experiments in fluid dynamics, planetary science, technology demonstrations to monitor conditions inside the vehicle, and an experimental 'green' rocket propellant to test the fuel’s behaviour in microgravity. A vibration isolation platform from Controller Dynamics Inc, an experiment to map behavior of dust particles on planetary surfaces from the University of Central Florida and a fluorescent imaging instrument for living cells from the University of Florida are also flying on the New Shepard mission.

The NS-10 mission is Blue Origin's test flight of the New Shepard suborbital vehicle, just as the company moves closer to flying people into space.

The New Shephard vehicle is scheduled to liftoff at 8 pm IST, a mere 19 minutes after SpaceX's launch at 7.41 pm IST on Tuesday, from a West Texas launch site as all previous Blue Origin missions. The launch will be streamed live on and the company's YouTube channel.

Classified spy satellite launched on Delta IV heavy rocket

The launch-spree will close with United Launch Alliance's launch of a classified American spy satellite for the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

The mission, called NROL-71, was pushed from its first attempt last week in the final seconds before liftoff after computers detected a problem after the launch sequence had begun.

ULA will now have its second attempt on Wednesday at 7.27 am IST with a Delta IV Heavy launch from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. But the weather conditions may not hold up for the launch around this time, a report in ArsTechnina said.

The launch will be broadcasted live on the United Launch Alliance's YouTube channel.

India's military communication satellite GSAT-7A on GSLV-F11

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch India's newest military communications satellite GSAT-7A for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Army on Wednesday.

GSAT-7A is expected to bring new and improved communication capabilities to the IAF, and in different ways. It will allow cross-connectivity between different ground radar stations, airbases and early warning and control system (AWACS) aircrafts. The satellite will also boost the Air Force's capabilities of network-dependent warfare, soon boosting its abilities to operate at a global scale.

The miliary communications satellite GSAT-7A with its solar panelled opened up. Image courtesy: ISRO

The military communications satellite GSAT-7A with its solar panelled opened up. Image courtesy: ISRO

It is also expected to give a big push to drone operations in the Indian military by helping the Navy reduce its reliance on ground-based control stations, switching to satellite-controlled unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), that offer better range and endurance, experts told Business Standard.

The satellite will be launched on ISRO's GSLV-F11 rocket from the agency's launchpad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

The launch is scheduled for 4.10 pm IST on Wednesday, and will be streamed live on DD National's Youtube channel and ISRO's wesbite.

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