Falcon 9 is a partially reusable two-stage medium-lift launch vehicle designed and manufactured by the American aerospace company SpaceX. Both the first and second stages are powered by SpaceX Merlin engines and the first stage is capable of re-entering the atmosphere and landing vertically after separating from the second stage. Falcon 9 can lift payloads of up to 22,800 kilograms (50,300 lb) to low Earth orbit (LEO) and 8,300 kg (18,300 lb) to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). Due to the great success of the Falcon 9, it is often used today to launch commercial payloads such as communications satellites. Falcon 9 has been considered as the world's most advanced space launch vehicle and as of January 2021, this launch vehicle has the most launches among all U.S. rockets currently in operation. Learn all about the different commercial unmanned launches of the Falcon 9 rocket from the American space company SpaceX in 2024 thanks to this overview!
Kinetica-1, also known as 'Lijian-1', is a solid-fuel launch vehicle developed by the Chinese commercial space launch services enterprise CAS Space. This launch vehicle is 30 m (98 ft) tall and consists of four all solid fuel stages. It is the largest Chinese solid propellant launcher to date. The Kinetica-1 rocket is capable of lifting 1.65 tons to SSO (sun-synchronous orbit) at an altitude of 500 km or 2.20 tons to LEO (low-earth orbit). Because of its design, the Kinetica-1 rocket is often called the Chinese answer to the European VEGA launcher. After the first ground tests, which took place in November 2021, Kinetica-1 performed its maiden flight on 27 July 2022, successfully positioning six satellites in SSO (sun-synchronous orbit). For the second flight, the Kinetica-1 carried a cluster of 26 minisatellites into SSO, prepared by various national research institutes, together with an Earth observation satellite, equipped with SAR Radar (Synthetic Aperture Radar), called Fucheng -1. CAS Space was founded in 2018 and is partially owned by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). Learn all about the different launches of the Kinetica-1 commercial rocket from the Chinese space company CAS Space thanks to this overview!
Terran 1 is an expendable two-stage small-lift launch vehicle developed by the American aerospace manufacturing company Relativity Space. What is remarkable about the design of this rocket is that most of the parts are built with a 3D printer. Terran 1 consists of two stages. The first stage is powered by nine Aeon 1 engines burning methane and oxygen propellants in a gas-generator cycle. The second stage is powered by a single vacuum-optimized version of Aeon 1, known as AeonVac. Terran 1 is capable of up to 1,500 kg (3,300 lb) to low Earth orbit. The space company claims that they can reduce the part count in the vehicle by 100 times compared to traditionally-manufactured rockets and manufacture an entire flight article from raw materials in 60 days. Terran 1 is a prototype for a larger, fully reusable launch vehicle called Terran R. Learn all about the different launches of the commercial Terran 1 rocket from the American space company Relativity Space thanks to this overview!
Dragon 2 is a class of partially reusable spacecraft developed and manufactured by American aerospace manufacturer SpaceX, primarily for flights to the International Space Station (ISS). The spacecraft consists of a reuseable space capsule and an expendable trunk module. The spacecraft launches atop a Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket and the capsule returns to Earth via splashdown. Cargo Dragon 2 supplies cargo to the ISS under a Commercial Resupply Services-2 (CRS) contract with NASA. Cargo Dragon 2 spacecraft are different from the crewed variant by launching without seats, cockpit controls, astronaut life support systems, or SuperDraco abort engines. Cargo Dragon 2 improves on many aspects of the original Dragon design, including the recovery and refurbishment process. The first flight of Dragon 2 in a cargo configuration launched in December 2020. Learn all about the different Dragon 2 commercial cargo space missions thanks to this overview!
SpaceX Starship is planned to be a fully-reusable two-stage super heavy-lift launch vehicle. This private launch vehicle will consist of the Super Heavy booster stage and the Starship spacecraft on top. In total, Starship will be the tallest and most powerful rocket ever built. One launch may deliver more than 100 t (220,000 lb) to low Earth orbit. SpaceX will also develop several variants of the Starship rocket that should make it possible to take people to the moon again and to fuel Starship spacecraft in space. Before putting this giant rocket into space, SpaceX is conducting a series of test flights with prototypes at its private rocket production and test facility located at Boca Chica, Texas. In July 2019, Starhopper, a prototype vehicle with extended fins, was able to successfully hover. In May 2021, Starship SN15 prototype successfully flew to 10 km and landed, after four failed attempts by previous prototypes. Learn all about the different Starship test flights thanks to this overview!