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 2013, 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 2013[update], nine countries in addition to one inter-governmental organisation (ESA) currently have a proven orbital launch capability,[a] and one country (UK) formerly had such a capability. In all smaller cases where a country has conducted independent human spaceflights (as of 2012, 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.
List of first orbital launches by country 
- The ten countries and successor states/union indicated in bold retain orbital launch capability.
- Sea Launch is currently 85% owned by Russia's RKK Energia. 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.
- 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.[b]
- United States also has private companies capable of space launch
- 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 and deposited the instruments of ratification on 10 October 1980, when the convention came into force. During this interval the agency functioned in a de facto fashion.
- 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[e] its capability to ESA as a founding member.
- 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.
- 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 in 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.
- 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).
- 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; however, US and South Korean officials stated that the launch failed to reach orbit. The government of North Korea retracted these claims only after the launch of Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2, a Kwangmyŏngsŏng weather satellite which entered polar orbit on 12 December 2012.
- Rocket consists of a modified Russian first-stage developed and manufactured by Russia and South Korean developed second-stage and fairing. Launch was directed by South Korean and Russian engineers. The rocket was assembled in South Korea.
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 
- Brazil has yet to launch a satellite into orbit independently and its space program suffered three satellite launch failures, the latest being the explosion of a VLS-1 rocket on 22 August 2003 at the Alcântara Launch Centre, which resulted in 21 deaths.
Launches of non-domestic 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:
- Algeria with the first successful launch from Hammaguir of the French satellite Astérix on 26 November 1965 by French Diamant A. The last orbital launch from Hammaguir was on 15 February 1967 by French Diamant A and there are no further launches scheduled (the first Algerian satellite is AlSAT-1 launched by Russian Kosmos-3M from Plesetsk, Russia on 28 November 2002).
- Italy with the first successful launch from the San Marco platform of its satellite San Marco 2 on 26 April 1967 by US Scout B (the first Italian satellite is San Marco 1 launched by another Scout from Wallops, USA on 15 December 1964). The last orbital launch from San Marco was on 25 March 1988 by US Scout G-1 and there are no further launches scheduled.
- Australia with the first successful launch from Woomera Test Range of its first satellite WRESAT on 29 November 1967 by US Sparta. The second and final orbital launch from Woomera was performed on 28 October 1971 by the UK Black Arrow and there are no further launches scheduled.
- Kazakhstan with the first launch after its independence from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on 21 January 1992 of the Russian Soyuz-U2 and Progress M-11 (the first Kazakh satellite is KazSat launched by Russian Proton-K from Baikonur on 17 June 2006). Currently the spaceport continues to be utilized for launches of various Russian and Ukrainian rockets.
- Marshall Islands with the first successful launch from Omelek Island of SpaceX Falcon 1 Flight 4 on 28 September 2008. The second and final orbital launch from Omelek was performed on 14 July 2009 by another Falcon 1 and there are no further launches scheduled. Currently there are no plans announced for a Marshall Islands satellite.
Privately developed launch vehicles 
- SpaceX (USA) became the first company to launch a rocket into orbit using a rocket developed with private—not government—funds. Its first successful launch was performed on 28 September 2008 by Falcon 1 from the Omelek Island, Marshall Islands and its first launch from US spaceport was Falcon 9 Flight 1 on 4 June 2010 from Cape Canaveral. It docked with the International Space Station on October 11, 2012 to deliver supplies. Currently there are multiple scheduled further launches for their Falcon 9 rockets.
Abandoned projects 
- Canada had developed the gun-based space launchers Martlet and GLO as the joint Canadian-American Project HARP in the 1960s. These rockets were never tested.
- Germany had a preliminary development of numerous rocket space launchers and re-usable launch systems (Sänger II, etc.) after WWII. These were never realized as national or European projects. Also, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the private German company OTRAG tried to develop low-cost commercial space launchers. Only sub-orbital tests of the first prototypes of these rockets were carried out.
- South Africa developed the space launcher RSA-3 in the 1980s. This rocket was tested 3 times without a satellite payload in 1989 and 1990. The program was postponed and canceled in 1994.
- Iraq during Ba'athist rule claimed to have developed and tested "Al-Abid", a three-stage space launch vehicle without a payload or its upper two stages on 5 December 1989. The rocket's design had a clustered first stage composed of five modified scud rockets strapped together and a single scud rocket as the second stage in addition to a SA-2 liquid-fueled rocket engine as the third stage. According to a press release by the Iraqi News Agency, the "warhead" completed six orbits, but this launch was never confirmed by any international observer. The video tape of a partial launch attempt which was retrieved by UN weapons inspectors, later surfaced showing that the rocket prematurely exploded 45 seconds after its launch.
- Argentina previous attempts at developing space launcher based on their Condor missile were scrapped in 1993.
- Egypt tried to develop space launcher as part of its various ballistic missile programs in the second half of the 20th century. In different periods they worked independently or in cooperation with Argentina, Iraq and North Korea.
- Spain developed the space launcher Capricornio (Capricorn) in the 1990s. This rocket was related to Argentina's Condor missile and its test scheduled for 1999/2000 was not conducted.
Future projects 
- Romanian private company, ARCA, is developing a number of orbital launch systems (Haas, Stabilo, Orizont) that are expected to be launched from Black Sea military bases. The first orbital launch is scheduled for 2013.
- Brazil announced that it will launch its VLS-1 rocket from the Alcântara Launch Center in 2018. Brazil has also reached an agreement with Ukraine to launch its Tsyklon-4 from Alcântara Launch Center with the maiden flight expected in 2014.
- Ukraine is a manufacturer of soviet designed space launchers Tsyklon (Cyclone), Zenit, Dnipro (Dnepr) and Mayak. It provides launcher components to Russian government and other entities. It has never attempted its own national space launch but otherwise remains a potential space launch capable nation. Ukraine neither has domestic vehicle-launch facility nor is planning to establish such. It is currently working towards space launches of Tsyklon-4 from Brazil's Alcântara Launch Center with the maiden flight expected in 2014.
- Indonesia intends to develop its space launchers RPS-420 (Pengorbitan) and RX-550 by 2014.
- Argentina is now developing its space launcher Tronador II, which is expected to make its maiden flight in 2014.
- Taiwan has been developing its own spacecraft for several years. First flight is expected before 2018.
- South Korea will continue its space program with the completely indigenous KSLV-2 for launch in 2018.
- Turkey announced a project to develop the domestic space launcher. First flight is not expected before 2015.
- Australia has plans to develop a space launcher based on Ausroc.
- Kazakhstan has plans to develop Soviet Ishim project for an airplane-based space launch system based on MiG-31 in cooperation with Russia.
- Pakistan has developed two varieties of military ballistic rockets (Ghauri and Shaheen) in recent years that may form the basis for conversion into its own space launcher.
- South Africa commercial company Marcom Aeronautics & Space is working on a space launcher and expects the design to be finalized in 5 years if government funding is provided.
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 
- List of orbital launch systems
- List of missiles by country
- Orbital spaceflight
- Spaceport (including timeline of first orbital launches by spaceport)
- Timeline of first satellites by country
- Timeline of Solar System exploration
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- Bayterek system launch shifted to 2017
- Currently its Bayterek expansion to accommodate the Russian Angara rockets is delayed into 2017.
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- Ukraine retired its Tsyklon-3 fleet in 2009 after Russia decision to use its Angara launch system instead of Tsyklon.
- Brazil, Ukraine set satellite launch for 2014
- Russia's Energia corporation Sea Launch, US Orbital Sciences corporation Taurus II.
- 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."
- There do not appear to be any Ukrainian plans to develop a domestic space launch facility
- There is no decision to fund the airplane-based space launch system project Svityaz, and there are no plans for land based spaceport.
- Roket Pengorbit Satelit (RPS-01)
- "US qualms may have nixed Taiwan space launch program". Taipei Times. Dec 19, 2011.
- Taiwan’s Space launch Vehicle
- Turkey has launched a project to develop a space-launched vehicle (SLV)
- Taimur SLV
- Pakistan Space Program:"Pakistan does have a space program. In the future may they develop their own Spaceport and launch vehicle."
- Satellites for South Africa
- First Satellites Launched By Spacefaring Nations, Anthony R. Curtis, Ph.D., Space Today Online, accessed 17 February 2006.
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- BBC World: Brazil Launches rocket into space
- Space.com: Brazil completes successful rocket launch
- Herald Tribune: Brazil launches rocket for gravity research
- AFP: Iran rocket test 'unfortunate': White House
- Space-Travel.com: Iran opens its first space centre, riling the US
- New York Times: Iran Launches Rocket to Commemorate New Space Center
- MSNBC: Iran unveils space center, launches rocket