Space Conquest: SpaceX, ESA and NASA?s February 2020 events

Between now and mid-February, several rockets will take off around the world for various missions. This includes refuelling the International Space Station, deploying new communications satellites or sending a probe towards the Sun.

There will be several missions to follow in 2020 for those interested in the conquest of space, including ambitious operations to Mars and the Sun, but also crucial tests to prepare the return of astronauts to the Moon. But between each of these major events, which will focus all the media attention on them, the astronautics calendar is actually quite full.

In order not to miss any of these operations, which are certainly less spectacular than the events described above, here is a calendar of the shootings that are due to take place until mid-February, with a description of each flight, its launch date and take-off location. Only activities for which the date is known are listed here, even though it may change, particularly due to weather conditions.

Unless otherwise stated, the dates and times are for metropolitan France. Other launches are also planned for February 2020, such as a further shipment of 60 SpaceX satellites, but the exact timetable has not yet been decided. The article will therefore be updated as the dates are communicated by space agencies and companies operating launchers.

February 6: 34 OneWeb satellites sent out

Like Starlink, OneWeb has a dream of deploying hundreds of interconnected satellites that would allow people everywhere to connect to the Internet. The project aims to address possible deficiencies in land-based infrastructure. The implementation of the constellation began in January 2019 with the firing of a Soyuz rocket.

The first firing, which took place in French Guiana, consisted of only 6 satellites. A year later, the second shot contains almost six times as many. The launcher, another Soyuz, will contain no less than 34 in the Fregat stage, which houses the payloads to be sent into orbit. The satellites will be positioned in low Earth orbit. More shots are planned for later in the year.

  • What? The sending of 34 OneWeb ;
  • When? February 6, 2020, 10:42 p.m;
  • Where? Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan;
  • How? With the medium Soyuz launcher.

9 February: ISS refuelling

A refueling operation for the International Space Station is planned for February 9. It is to be provided by an Antares rocket designed by Northrop Grumman. It will propel the cargo ship Cygnus, which is built by the same industrialist. This is the thirteenth mission operated by Northrop on behalf of NASA, the U.S. space agency.

The cargo is intended to carry equipment, food, spare parts and scientific instruments for experiments including the cultivation of radishes on a space station, work on how to provide long-term fuel for a crew in deep space, tissue and cell culture, and a study on the behaviour and propagation of fire in space.

  • What? ISS refueling;
  • When? February 9, 2020, 11:39 p.m;
  • Where? The MARS Space Port on Wallops Island, Virginia, USA;
  • How? With the Antares launcher.

Space Conquest: SpaceX, ESA and NASA?s February 2020 events

Solar Orbiter in action, from an artist’s point of view // Source: ESA/ATG medialab

February 10: Solar Orbiter

The first half of February will be marked by a firing of the utmost importance, since it is the launch of the Solar Orbiter mission. As you can imagine, we are talking about sending a probe that will orbit around the Sun to better understand how it works and the phenomena it generates. It carries ten scientific instruments and is the result of a partnership between NASA and ESA.

His fields of study include the heliospheric magnetic field, solar energetic particles, the functioning of the heliosphere (a giant “bubble” that encompasses the entire Solar System), transient interplanetary disturbances and the solar wind. The mission should last between 7 and 10 years, i.e. until 2027 or 2030. It will also fly over the Venus Passage.

  • What? The study of the Sun;
  • When? February 10, 2020, 5:03 a.m;
  • Where? At the launch base at Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA;
  • How? With the Atlas V heavy launcher.

18 February: 2 satellites sent

On February 18, Arianespace will organize the second flight of the year of its Ariane 5 rocket, which will be shelved in a few years with the arrival of Ariane 6. The mission is quite simple: it involves transporting two satellites, one for a Japanese operator (SKY Perfect JSAT), the other for a South Korean operator (Korea Aerospace Research Institute – KARI).

The two satellites have very different missions: the first aims to improve telecommunications coverage in the Far East, especially Japan. The second has a scientific purpose, since it involves monitoring the state of the oceans and the environment from space. The two satellites will be positioned in geostationary orbit at an altitude of 35,786 km.

  • What? Placing two telecommunications satellites in orbit;
  • When? February 10, 2020, 5:03 a.m;
  • Where? At the Guiana Space Center, near Kourou (France);
  • How? With the Ariane 5 heavy launcher.

20 February: A Russian military satellite

Will February 20 be the right date for sending the Russian military satellite Meridian-M? The firing was postponed several times in January and February, in particular because of a problem detected in the third stage of the Soyuz rocket. If no further delays occur, and if all goes well, this satellite will be the eighth in its series to be deployed by Russia to consolidate its communication network in the north and east of the country.

  • What? Sending a Russian military communications satellite;
  • When? February 20, 2020;
  • Where? Plessetsk Cosmodrome, Russia;
  • How? With the Soyuz-2.1a launcher.

21 February: first firing of an Astra rocket

It will be the baptism of fire for the Astra startup. On 21 February, it wishes to demonstrate its ability to create low-cost rockets that can be produced industrially and thus carry out space flights on a production line, targeting low earth orbit. In a profile on Bloomberg, the founders say they want to be the FedEx of space. Astra is only three years old. It’s a bold gamble.

First orbital launch attempt of the Astra commercial smallsat launch vehicle.

  • What? First attempt for the new Astra launcher;
  • When? February 21, 2020;
  • Where? The launch pad on Kodiak Island, Alaska, USA;
  • How? A homemade pitcher.