Three different rockets - one each from Russia, China and Japan - launched satellites into orbit over three days in back-to-back-to-back space missions.
The launch triple play occurred between Thursday (Feb. 1) and Saturday (Feb. 3), and came one day after the U.S.-based company SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the GovSat-1 communications satellite into orbit from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Russia kicked off the international rocket rally Thursday with the launch of a Soyuz 2 rocket from its Vostochny Cosmodrome. The Soyuz 2 carried two Kanopus-V Earth observation satellites into orbit to monitor the planet from space. The mission also delivered 9 smaller satellites into orbit, according to the Russian space agency Roscosmos.
Up next was China, which launched a Long March 2D rocket on Friday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. That rocket carried the Zhangheng 1 satellite, which is designed to detect signals that might precede earthquakes from space to help earthquake prediction efforts. The mission, also known as the China Seismo-Electromagnetic Satellite, is a joint project by the China National Space Administration and the Italian Space Agency, according to Spaceflight Now.
The Long March 2D also carried six other satellites into orbit. According to Spaceflight Now, they include: the European cubesats GomX-4A (which will track ship and plane movements in the Arctic for the Danish Ministry of Defence) and the European Space Agency's experimental GomX-4B; ÑuSat 4 and ÑuSat 5 microsatellites built for the company Satellogic in Argentina to monitor Earth; and two Chinese cubesats called FMN 1 and Shaonian Xing.
That brings us to Saturday, where the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched a modified SS-520 sounding rocket from the agency's Uchinoura Space Center. The rocket carried the tiny satellite TRICOM-1R, nicknamed "Tsuki" into orbit.
TRICOM-1R is a cubesat designed to take photographs of Earth and beam observations back to Earth. It's launch comes just over a year after JAXA's first attempt to launch a small satellite on an modified SS520 sounding rocket failed. The satellite TRICOM-1 was lost in that Jan. 15, 2017 launch failure.
Whew, what a week! The year 2018 is certainly off to a fast start with more launches to come over the next 11 months.