Timeline of first orbital launches by country


This is a timeline of first orbital launches by country. While a number of countries have built satellites, as of 2015, ten countries historically had 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) launch facilities. France became a space power independently, launching a payload into orbit from Algeria, before joining space launcher facilities in the multi-national Ariane project. The United Kingdom became a space power independently following a single payload insertion into orbit from Australia, before discontinuing official participation in space launch capability, including the Ariane project, in the 1970s.

Thus, as of 2015, nine countries in addition to one inter-governmental organisation (ESA) currently have a proven orbital launch capability,[lower-alpha 1] and one country (UK) formerly had such a capability. In all cases where a country has conducted independent human spaceflights (as of 2015, three - USSR/Russia, USA, China), these launches were preceded by independent unmanned launch capability.

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.

Replica of Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, launched by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957

List of first orbital launches by country or international organization with their own rockets

Order Country[lower-alpha 1] Satellite Rocket Location Date (UTC)
1  Soviet Union[lower-alpha 2]</ref> Sputnik 1 Sputnik-PS Baikonur, Soviet Union (today Kazakhstan) 4 October 1957
2  United States[lower-alpha 4] Explorer 1 Juno I Cape Canaveral, United States 1 February 1958
3  France[lower-alpha 5] its capability to ESA as a founding member.</ref> Astérix Diamant A Hammaguir, Algeria 26 November 1965
4  Japan Ōsumi Lambda-4S Uchinoura, Japan 11 February 1970
5  China Dong Fang Hong I Long March 1 Jiuquan, China 24 April 1970
6  United Kingdom[lower-alpha 7] Prospero Black Arrow Woomera, Australia 28 October 1971
European Space Agency[lower-alpha 8] CAT-1 Ariane 1 Kourou, French Guiana 24 December 1979
7  India Rohini D1 SLV Sriharikota, India 18 July 1980
8  Israel Ofeq 1 Shavit Palmachim, Israel 19 September 1988
 Ukraine[lower-alpha 2][lower-alpha 9] Strela-3 (x6, Russian) Tsyklon-3 Plesetsk, Russia 28 September 1991
 Russia[lower-alpha 2] Kosmos 2175 Soyuz-U Plesetsk, Russia 21 January 1992
9  Iran[lower-alpha 10][2] Omid Safir-1A Semnan, Iran 2 February 2009
10  North Korea Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2 Unha-3 Sohae, North Korea 12 December 2012[lower-alpha 11]


  1. 1 2 The ten countries and successor states/union indicated in bold retain orbital launch capability.
  2. 1 2 3 The Soviet Union's successor state, Russia, took over the Soviet space program after the 1991 Soviet Union's dissolution with Ukraine inheriting a smaller part of the Soviet space program's space launcher and satellite capability. Soviet heritage launcher designs were utilized also for the joint Sea Launch system.[lower-alpha 3] Previously, it was a consortium of four companies from the United States, Russia, Ukraine and Norway: Boeing, Energia, Yuzhmash and Yuzhnoye Design Bureau, and Aker Kværner, respectively. Its first demonstration satellite, DemoSat, was launched on 27 March 1999 using a Ukrainian-mainly Zenit 3SL rocket from the Ocean Odyssey (a former drilling-rig) in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Sea Launch has launched numerous satellites since, with few failures.
  3. Sea Launch is currently 85% owned by Russia's RKK Energia.<ref>"Russian money to drive Sea Launch relaunch". Flightglobal.com. August 6, 2010. Retrieved August 9, 2010.
  4. United States also has private companies capable of space launch
  5. 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, transferring between 1975 and 1980[lower-alpha 6]
  6. ESA in its current form was founded with the ESA Convention in 1975, when ESRO was merged with ELDO. France signed the ESA Convention on 30 May 1975[1] and deposited the instruments of ratification on 10 October 1980,[1] when the convention came into force.[1] During this interval the agency functioned in a de facto fashion.<ref name='convention1'>"Convention for the establishment of a European Space Agency" (PDF). ESA. 2003. Retrieved 29 December 2008.
  7. UK only self-launched a single satellite (in 1971) and that from a commonwealth (Australian) spaceport. Later it joined the ESA, but not the launcher consortium Arianespace, therefore becoming the only nation that developed launch capability and then officially lost it.
  8. The European Space Agency developed the Ariane rocket family (the second European launcher program after the failed Europa rocket program under ELDO) operating from its Guiana Space Centre spaceport (first successful launch on 24 December 1979 when Ariane 1 launcher placed the technological capsule CAT-1 on orbit). ESA signatories at the time of first launch were Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Italy, United Kingdom, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, France and Ireland. Private/public companies and/or governments of these countries (with the exception of Ireland and the United Kingdom) became shareholders in the commercial company Arianespace dealing with production, operation, and marketing. Later Norway became an ESA member and Arianespace shareholder. Additional subsequent ESA member states are Austria, Finland, Portugal, Greece, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Romania and Poland.
  9. Ukraine provides its own space launcher to Russia and does not use its own space launcher to put satellites in orbit (first Ukrainian satellite is Sich-1 launched on August 31, 1995 by Ukrainian Tsyklon-3 from Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia).
  10. Although it has signed the Outer Space Treaty, Iran is the only space launch capable nation that has not ratified the treaty.
  11. The North Korean government first claimed a successful launch on 31 August 1998 with Kwangmyŏngsŏng-1 from Musudan-ri, which was internationally determined to be a failure. Another launch on 5 April 2009, with the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2 satellite, was also reported by North Korea to have reached orbit;[3] however, US and South Korean officials stated that the launch failed to reach orbit.[4]

Other launches and projects

The above list includes confirmed satellite launches with rockets produced by the launching country. Lists with differing criteria might include the following launches:

Failed launches

Launches of non-indigenous launch vehicles

Some countries have no self-developed rocket systems, but have provided their spaceports for launches of their own and foreign satellites on foreign launchers:

Privately developed launch vehicles

Abandoned projects

Future projects

Satellite operators

Many other countries have launched their own satellites on one of the foreign launchers listed above (the first being the British owned and operated, although American-built satellite Ariel 1, was launched by a US rocket in April 1962. In September 1962 the Canadian satellite, Alouette-1, was launched by a US rocket, but unlike Ariel 1 it was constructed by Canada).

See also


  1. 1 2 3 ESA Convention
  2. https://warisboring.com/iran-just-cancelled-its-space-program-5b1d5ce50bd6#.4cwlkcf4q
  3. "North Korea fires long-range rocket: reports". The Sydney Morning Herald. 5 April 2009. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  4. "North Korea space launch 'fails'". BBC News. 5 April 2009. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  5. Woomera, Encyclopedia Astronautica
  6. Currently its Bayterek expansion to accommodate the Russian Angara rockets is delayed into 2017.[7]
  7. Bayterek system launch shifted to 2017
  8. SpaceX Launch manifest Archived April 14, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. "Naro-1 space rocket carries future of S. Korean satellites". Yonhap. 30 January 2013. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
  10. Bergin, Chris (30 January 2013). "South Korea launch STSAT-2C via KSLV-1". NASASpaceflight.com. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
  11. "Pegasus Mission History". Orbital.com. Retrieved 2013-08-12.
  12. "Cygnus Cargo Ship Captured by International Space Station". CBS News. 2013-09-23.
  13. "Sweet success at last for Falcon 1 rocket by STEPHEN CLARK, SPACEFLIGHT NOW". Spaceflightnow.com. Retrieved 2012-10-09.
  14. UNMOVIC report, United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, p. 434 ff.
  15. https://fas.org/nuke/guide/iraq/deception.htm
  16. http://www.b14643.de/Spacerockets_1/Rest_World/Al_Abid/Description/Frame.htm
  18. Argentina Missile Chronology
  19. Egypt Missile Chronology
  20. Capricornio
  21. "ELE & Haas". ARCA. Archived from the original on February 8, 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-11.
  22. http://www.cenariomt.com.br/noticia.asp?cod=175759&codDep=8
  23. Revista AEB 12 Brazilian Space Agency. Retrieved on 2012-03-06. (Portuguese).
  24. Ukraine retired its Tsyklon-3 fleet in 2009 after Russia decision to use its Angara launch system instead of Tsyklon.
  25. Mayak
  26. Russia's Energia corporation Sea Launch, US Orbital Sciences corporation Taurus II.
  27. There is no decision to fund the airplane-based space launch system project Svityaz,[28] and there are no plans for land based spaceport.[29]
  28. 1 2 Russia, Kazakhstan to develop unique space system: "Ukrainian experts moved to develop the Svityaz system based on the An-225 Mriya (Dream) Cossack jumbo transport plane and the Zenit-2 rocket", "The Ishim complex will include two MiG-31I aircraft, a three-stage launch vehicle on a streamlined store between engine nacelles, as well as an Ilyushin Il-76MD Midas surveillance plane."
  29. There do not appear to be any Ukrainian plans to develop a domestic space launch facility
  30. http://www.parabolicarc.com/2011/10/09/argentina-plans-first-domestic-satellite-launch/
  31. "US qualms may have nixed Taiwan space launch program". Taipei Times. Dec 19, 2011.
  32. Taiwan’s Space launch Vehicle
  33. http://news.naver.com/main/read.nhn?mode=LSD&mid=sec&sid1=105&oid=034&aid=0002462631
  34. Turkey has launched a project to develop a space-launched vehicle (SLV)
  35. Taimur SLV
  36. Pakistan Space Program Archived February 2, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.:"Pakistan does have a space program. In the future may they develop their own Spaceport and launch vehicle."
  37. CHEETAH-1
  38. Satellites for South Africa

External links

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