Update for 1:30 a.m. EDT: Rocket Lab has successfully launched the NROL-199 spy satellite for the US National Reconnaissance Office, with the satellite expected to deploy around 02:00 a.m. EDT (06:00 GMT). Next up on August 4 is the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V mission carrying the SBIRS GEO 6 missile warning satellite. This webcast will begin above at 6 a.m. EDT (1000 GMT) for a launch at 6 29:00 a.m. EDT (10:29 a.m. GMT).
Rocket fans, rejoice! If you’re a spaceflight fan, then Thursday (August 4) will be a banner day with no less than four different rockets launching missions off planet Earth.
Rockets built by Rocket Lab, United Launch Alliance, Blue Origin and SpaceX will launch into space today (if all goes well). China’s National Space Administration may also launch two rockets on Thursday, according to some media.
Related: How Rockets Work: A Complete Guide
Rocket Lab’s Antipode Adventure
Update: Read our launch story for the launch of Rocket Lab’s NROL-199 spy satellite!
The space action begins in the early hours of Thursday morning (August 4), when Rocket Lab will launch a small (and classified) spy satellite for the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). An Electron rocket will launch the mission, called NROL-199, from Rocket Lab’s launch site on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula.
Liftoff is scheduled for 1 a.m. EDT (0500 GMT), and you can watch it on Space.com and via Rocket Lab’s own website. (opens in a new tab). The livestream will appear on this page at launch, with Rocket Lab expected to start the webcast 15 minutes before liftoff.
Mission NROL-199, which Rocket Lab calls “Antipodean Adventure,” is the second of two back-to-back reconnaissance missions the company is flying for the NRO. Rocket Lab launched mission NROL-162 on July 13.
United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch of SBIRS GEO 6
Next in Thursday’s launch brief is a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket mission. The flight, scheduled to launch at 6:29 a.m. EDT (10:29 a.m. GMT), will launch the sixth and final satellite into geosynchronous Earth orbit of the Space Infrared System for the U.S. Space Force.
Called SBIRS GEO 6 for short, the satellite is designed to serve as a missile detection early warning system for the Space Force’s Space Systems Command. It will launch from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. ULA will stream the launch live on YouTube and its website, beginning approximately 20 minutes before liftoff. You can get launch updates from 11 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT) tonight on the ULA mission page (opens in a new tab).
“Equipped with powerful scanning sensors and infrared surveillance to protect our nation 24/7, the SBIRS spacecraft continues to serve as the spearhead for global missile warning as ballistic missile threats are proliferating worldwide,” ULA wrote in an overview of the mission. (opens in a new tab). “These infrared sensors, and others in a constellation of persistent airborne satellites, collect data that enables the U.S. military to detect missile launches, support ballistic missile defense, expand technical intelligence gathering, and enhance situational awareness on the battlefield.”
Blue Origin’s NS-22 space sightseeing flight
Space tourists will launch the third mission of the day on Thursday as Blue Origin counts down to its 22nd mission in space.
A Blue Origin New Shepard rocket will launch space sightseeing flight NS-22 from the company’s Launch Site 1 near Van Horn, Texas. The mission will carry six passengers on a journey through suborbital space, giving them unobstructed views of the Earth below and a few minutes of weightlessness before returning home.
Blue Origin Space Sightseeing Launches: NS-22 Mission Live Updates
Blue Origin’s NS-22 mission is scheduled to lift off in 9:30 a.m. EDT (1:30 p.m. GMT)with a live webcast scheduled to start an hour earlier at 8:30 a.m. EDT (12:30 p.m. GMT). You can watch it live on this page, as well as on YouTube (opens in a new tab) or directly from the Blue Origin website. (opens in a new tab)
NS-22 will mark Blue Origin’s sixth space sightseeing flight since the company began crewed launches. Rolling on this mission will:
- Coby Cotton, co-founder of YouTube channel Dude Perfect;
- Sara Sabry, founder of Deep Space Initiative and first Egyptian to fly in space;
- Mário Ferreira, an entrepreneur who will be the first Portuguese in space;
- Vanessa O’Brien, a British-American explorer who climbed Mount Everest and dived at Challenger Deep in the ocean;
- Clint Kelly III, founder of DARPA’s Autonomous Land Vehicle Project for research into self-driving technology;
- Steve Young, businessman and restaurateur who works for the Space Coast Conservation Association.
Launch of SpaceX’s Danuri lunar probe for South Korea
SpaceX will close Thursday’s rocket launch quartet by launching the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter mission to South Korea on a Falcon 9 rocket. Liftoff is scheduled for 7:08 p.m. EDT (23:08 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. SpaceX’s launch webcast will begin approximately 15 minutes before liftoff on the company’s webpage (opens in a new tab). You can also follow it live on the KARI YouTube page (opens in a new tab).
Also known as Danuri, South Korea’s lunar mission is the country’s first to aim beyond low Earth orbit. The mission will send an orbiter to the moon to study magnetic anomalies on the lunar surface and search for landing sites for future missions.
Related: All missions to the moon ever launched
The spacecraft carries six different instruments to study the moon and is expected to spend a year in lunar orbit studying the moon’s magnetic signature, searching for water ice on the surface and testing Earth-Moon communication technologies. The mission is overseen by scientists from the Korea Aerospace Research Institute.
Danuri will mark SpaceX’s second launch to the moon, following the company’s 2019 launch of the Israeli lunar lander Beresheet. While SpaceX managed to deliver Beresheet to the moon, the Israeli-built lander eventually crashed on the lunar surface. Israel’s Beresheet 2 mission is expected to follow in 2024.
SpaceX will launch the Danuri orbiter on a ballistic trajectory to the moon, with the spacecraft destined for orbit about 60 miles (100 kilometers) above the lunar surface.
The two Chinese rocket launches
As if those four missions weren’t enough, China could launch a new Earth observation satellite and an experimental spaceplane on two different rockets on Thursday.
From the Everyday Astronaut website (opens in a new tab), a Chinese Long March 4B rocket could launch the country’s Earth ecosystem carbon inventory satellite mission to study the Earth overnight from Aug. 3 to 4 from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. A Long March 2F rocket could also launch an experimental reusable spaceplane from China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center later Thursday, Everyday Astronaut reported. If those launches are confirmed, Space.com will have mission recaps.
Phew! That’s a lot of launches in a 24-hour period, so buckle up, space fans. It’s going to be a long Thursday filled with launches.
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