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Wow! 8 Rocket Missions Launched in 6 Days Last Week

A Soyuz rocket launches toward the International Space Station from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 27, 2015, carrying NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka. Kelly and Kornienko will stay aboard
A Soyuz rocket launches toward the International Space Station from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 27, 2015, carrying NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka. Kelly and Kornienko will stay aboard the orbiting lab for nearly a year.
(Image: © NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Spacefaring nations greeted the arrival of the Northern Hemisphere spring with a pretty impressive fireworks display last week.

Countries including the United States, Russia, Japan and India combined to launch eight space missions in a six-day span last week, beginning just a few days after winter relinquished its grip on the land with the spring equinox on March 20.

Here's a brief rundown of all the spaceflight action, which ranged from suborbital missile tests to the liftoff of the first-ever yearlong mission to the International Space Station. [See photos of the 1-year mission]

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile accelerates toward a test range near Guam on March 27, 2015 after launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. (Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Joe Davila)

Missile tests: March 23 and March 27

The United States Air Force conducted tests of its Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) twice last week, once on March 23 and again on March 27.

Both tests blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and involved unarmed missiles outfitted with a test re-entry vehicle, Air Force officials said. Such maneuvers help verify the performance of the nation's ICBM weapon system, they added.

New GPS satellite: March 25

The Air Force was pretty busy last week. It also launched an advanced new Global Positioning System satellite, known as GPS IIF-9, to orbit atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on March 25.

GPS IIF-9 will help improve and modernize the GPS constellation, which now consists of 31 operational satellites of a variety of ages.

The U.S. Air Force's GPS IIF-9 satellite launches from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket on March 25, 2015. (Image credit: ULA)

Japanese spy satellite, March 25

Japan lofted a satellite of its own to Earth orbit on March 25, a reconnaissance craft known as IGS Optical 5.

The satellite blasted off from Tanegashima Space Center, located on a small island south of the main island of Kyushu, atop a Japanese H-2A rocket.

Korean Earth-observation satellite, March 25

South Korea's KOMPSAT-3A lifts off from Russia atop a Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr rocket on March 25, 2015. (Image credit: ISC Kosmotras)

March 25 was quite a busy day in spaceflight. That day also featured the launch of South Korea's KOMPSAT-3A satellite atop a Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr rocket from the Dombarosky launch site in southwestern Russia.

KOMPSAT-3A, whose name is short for Korean Multipurpose Satellite, will provide high-resolution optical and infrared images of the Korean peninsula to help monitor agricultural output, forest fires, volcanic activity and other phenomena.

One-year mission to the space station, March 27

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka blasted off atop a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 27.

The liftoff kicked off the first-ever (nearly) yearlong mission to the International Space Station: Kelly and Kornienko will stay aloft for 342 days, allowing researchers to collect data that should aid in the planning of missions to distant destinations such as Mars.

Padalka, who has already accrued nearly two years in space over the course of his cosmonaut career, will come back down to Earth after about six months on this stint.

A Soyuz rocket carrying two spacecraft for Europe's Galileo satellite navigation system launches on March 27, 2015 from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. (Image credit: ESA/CNES/ARIANESPACE-Service Optique CSG, S. Martin)

European navsats, March 27

Europe built up its own fledgling satellite navigation system, known as Galileo, with the March 27 launch of two spacecraft atop a Soyuz rocket from French Guiana in northern South America.

The two satellites, nicknamed Adam and Anastasia, bring the number of Galileo spacecraft in orbit to eight, European Space Agency officials said. The constellation will eventually consist of 30 satellites and their associated ground infrastructure.

India's IRNSS-1D navigation satellite launches on March 28, 2015 from Satish Dhawan Space Center. (Image credit: ISRO)

Indian navsat, March 28 

Another navsat took to the skies on March 28, this time from India.

The IRNSS-1D spacecraft blasted off atop India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle from Satish Dhawan Space Center on the barrier island of Sriharikota, on India's east coast. IRNSS-1D is the fourth of seven satellites that will comprise the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System, which aims to provide service throughout India and beyond, to points within 900 miles (1,500 kilometers) of the country's borders.

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published on Space.com.

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