Lost in the noise of all the preparations to launch the SpaceX Falcon 9 a week or so ago, I’m not sure anyone in the space community really noticed it, but on one day, Thursday, May 17, here’s what happened…
After launching from Kazakhstan late on Monday the 15th, on Thursday the 17th at 12:36 a.m. EDT, the next Soyuz spacecraft carrying three crewmembers, including NASA astronaut Joe Acaba, docked with the International Space Station.
Then on that same Thursday, at 10:05 a.m. EDT, another Soyuz rocket launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia with an imaging spy satellite.
Then at 12:39 p.m. EDT, at the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan, an H2-A rocket launched into orbit carrying an Earth observation satellite for South Korea, a Japanese climate observing satellite, a small technology demonstration satellite for the Japanese Space Agency and an experimental, student-built satellite.
And then, at 3:12 p.m. EDT, that same Thursday, a Russian Proton rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with a Canadian communications satellite.
All that, on one day during a week that also saw an Ariane 5 rocket launched from the Guiana Space Center in South America with a pair of communications satellites for Japan and Vietnam.
All of those launches were successful. All of those satellites were safely deployed into orbit.
I tell you this because it should be made very clear that the rest of the world is staying busy in space, and we better never lose sight of that. Yes, we in the United States have just had a great week too, thanks to SpaceX and NASA, but we absolutely must not ignore the fact we’re not the only game in town, especially if we want to remain this planet’s leader in the exploration and use of space.