Timeline of first orbital launches by country

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Orbital launch projects and capabilities
  Confirmed orbital launch capable country
  Confirmed orbital launch capable intergovernmental organization (ESA) members
  Orbital launch project in development or planned
  Abandoned orbital launch project

This is a timeline of first orbital launches by country. While a number of countries have built satellites, as of 2022, eleven countries have had the capability to send objects into orbit using their own launch vehicles. 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 launched only from foreign (Kazakh and Russian) launch facilities until 2015, after which political differences with Russia effectively halted Ukraine's ability to produce orbital rockets.[1][2] 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.

Ten countries and one inter-governmental organisation (ESA) have a proven orbital launch capability, as of November 2021.[a] Three countries (France, Italy[3] and the United Kingdom) formerly had such an independent capability. In all cases where a country has conducted independent human spaceflights (as of 2021, three — China, the Soviet Union/Russia, and the United States), these launches were preceded by independent uncrewed 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.

Replica of Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, launched by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957

List of first orbital launches by country[edit]

Countries like Italy are not included since they have not yet developed an orbital rocket from scratch; i.e., an orbital rocket that was designed and engineered in its entirety in the country in question.

Order Country[a] Sector Satellite Rocket Location Date (UTC)
1  Soviet Union[c] Governmental Sputnik 1 Sputnik-PS Baikonur, Soviet Union (today Kazakhstan) 4 October 1957
2  United States[d] Governmental Explorer 1 Juno I Cape Canaveral, United States 1 February 1958
3  France[f] Governmental Astérix Diamant A CIEES/Hammaguir, Algeria 26 November 1965
4  Japan Governmental Ohsumi Lambda-4S Uchinoura, Japan 11 February 1970
5  China[d] Governmental Dong Fang Hong 1 Long March 1 Jiuquan, China 24 April 1970
6  United Kingdom[g] Governmental Prospero Black Arrow Woomera, Australia 28 October 1971
European Space Agency[h] Governmental CAT-1 (Obélix[7]) Ariane 1 Kourou, French Guiana 24 December 1979
7  India Governmental Rohini 1 (RS-1) SLV Sriharikota, India 18 July 1980
8  Israel Governmental Ofeq 1 Shavit Palmachim, Israel 19 September 1988
 Ukraine[c][i] Governmental Strela-3 (x6, Russian) Tsyklon-3 Plesetsk, Soviet Union (today Russia) 28 September 1991
 Russia[c] Governmental Kosmos 2175 Soyuz-U Plesetsk, Russia 21 January 1992
9  Iran[j] Governmental Omid Safir-1A Semnan, Iran 2 February 2009
10  North Korea Governmental Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2 Unha-3 Sohae, North Korea 12 December 2012[k]
11  South Korea Governmental Dummy satellite, performance verification satellite (with 4 CubeSats) Nuri (KSLV-II) Goheung, South Korea 21 June 2022


  1. ^ a b The eleven countries and successor states/union indicated in bold retain orbital launch capability.
  2. ^ Sea Launch is currently 85% owned by Russia's Energia.[4] Previously, it was a consortium of four companies from Norway, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States: Aker Kværner; Energia; Yuzhmash and Yuzhnoye Design Bureau; and Boeing, 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.
  3. ^ a b c The Soviet Union's successor state, Russia, took over the Soviet space program after the Soviet Union's dissolution in 1991 with Ukraine inheriting a smaller part of the Soviet space program's space launcher and satellite capability. Soviet heritage launcher designs were utilized for the joint Sea Launch system too.[b]
  4. ^ a b China and the United States also have private companies capable of space launch.
  5. ^ 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[5] and deposited the instruments of ratification on 10 October 1980,[5] when the convention came into force.[5] During this interval the agency functioned in a de facto fashion.[6]
  6. ^ 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 Guiana, transferring between 1975 and 1980[e] its capability to ESA as a founding member.
  7. ^ The United Kingdom only self-launched a single satellite (in 1971) and that from a commonwealth (Australian) spaceport. Later it joined the European Space Agency.
  8. ^ 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 on 24 December 1979 when Ariane 1 launcher placed the technological capsule CAT-1 on orbit). ESA signatories at the time of first launch were Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. 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, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, and Romania.
  9. ^ Ukraine provided its own space launcher to Russia and did 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).
  10. ^ Although it has signed the Outer Space Treaty, Iran is the only space launch capable nation that has not ratified the treaty.
  11. ^ 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;[8] however, US and South Korean officials stated that the launch failed to reach orbit.[9]

Other launches and projects[edit]

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[edit]

Launches of non-indigenous launch vehicles[edit]

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.[11] The second and final successful orbital launch from Woomera was performed on 28 October 1971 by the UK Black Arrow.
  •  Kazakhstan with the first launch after its independence from the Baikonur Cosmodrome[13] 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 rockets.
  •  Spain; a single Pegasus-XL was launched from Orbital Sciences' Stargazer aircraft flying from Gran Canaria Airport in April 1997.
  •  Marshall Islands with a successful launch of a Pegasus-H rocket from Orbital Sciences' Stargazer aircraft flying from Kwajalein Atoll in October 2000. Five ground-based launches were made by SpaceX using Falcon 1 rockets between 2006 and 2009, with the first success on 28 September 2008.[14] Three further Pegasus launches occurred between 2008 and 2012, using the Pegasus-XL configuration. Currently there are no plans announced for a Marshall Islands satellite.

Privately developed launch vehicles[edit]

Abandoned projects[edit]

  • Nazi Germany/ Germany was developing larger designs in the Aggregat series as early as 1940. A combination of A9 to A12 components could have produced orbital capability as early as 1947 if work had continued. Further preliminary development of numerous rocket space launchers and re-usable launch systems (Sänger II, etc.) took place after WWII, although 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.
  •  United Kingdom did not proceed with a 1946 proposal to develop German V-2 technology into the "Megaroc" system to be launched in 1949. The UK also developed the Black Arrow rocket system and successfully launched a satellite in 1971, shortly after the program had been cancelled.
  •  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.
  •  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 Iraq 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. 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.[26][27][28]
  •  Argentina previous attempts at developing space launcher based on their Condor missile were scrapped in 1993.[29][30]
  •  Brazil The VLS-1 was cancelled after decades of development and high expenditures with poor results and a failed association with Ukraine that slowed the program for years.[31]
  •  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.[32]
  •  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.[33]
  •  Switzerland Swiss Space Systems company planned to develop the micro satellite launcher-spaceplane SOAR by 2018 but went bankrupt.

Future projects[edit]

  •  Argentina is developing an orbital rocket called Tronador II, whose maiden flight is expected to take place in the next four years as of late 2020.[34]
  •  Australia's ATSpace is developing an orbital launch vehicle called Kestrel, tentatively launching in 2022 from Whalers Way.[35]

Satellite operators[edit]

Many other countries have launched their own satellites on one of the foreign launchers listed above, the first being British owned and operated; American-built satellite Ariel 1, which 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[edit]


  1. ^ "Zenit successfully launches on likely swansong with Elektro-L - NASASpaceFlight.com". Nasaspaceflight.com. 11 December 2015. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  2. ^ "Dnipro will not let Ukraine's space glory be forgotten". Euromaidan Press. 10 January 2017. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  3. ^ "Italy in Space" (PDF). ESA. Retrieved November 18, 2022.
  4. ^ "Russian money to drive Sea Launch relaunch". Flightglobal.com. August 6, 2010. Retrieved August 9, 2010.
  5. ^ a b c "CONVENTION for the establishment of a European Space Agency" (PDF). esa.int. 28 January 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 January 2012. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  6. ^ "Convention for the establishment of a European Space Agency" (PDF). ESA. 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-07-06. Retrieved 29 December 2008.
  7. ^ "N° 2994 - Rapport de M. Robert Lecou sur le projet de loi autorisant l'approbation de l'accord-cadre entre le Gouvernement de la République française et le Gouvernement de la République de l'Inde relatif à la coopération dans le domaine de l'utilisation de l'espace extra-atmosphérique à des fins pacifiques (n°2709)". www.assemblee-nationale.fr. Retrieved 1 May 2020..
  8. ^ "North Korea fires long-range rocket: reports". The Sydney Morning Herald. 5 April 2009. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  9. ^ "North Korea space launch 'fails'". BBC News. 5 April 2009. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  10. ^ "At Least 21 Killed, 20 Hurt in Brazil Rocket Explosion". News-Press. Fort Myers, Florida. Associated Press. August 23, 2003. p. 2A.
  11. ^ "Woomera, Encyclopedia Astronautica". Astronautix.com. Archived from the original on 30 October 2013. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  12. ^ "Bayterek system launch shifted to 2017". Tengrinews.kz. 14 April 2011. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  13. ^ Currently its Bayterek expansion to accommodate the Russian Angara rockets is delayed into 2017.[12]
  14. ^ "SpaceX Launch manifest". Archived from the original on April 14, 2009.
  15. ^ "Pegasus Mission History". Orbital.com. Retrieved 2013-08-12.
  16. ^ "Cygnus Cargo Ship Captured by International Space Station". CBS News. 2013-09-23.
  17. ^ "Sweet success at last for Falcon 1 rocket by STEPHEN CLARK, SPACEFLIGHT NOW". Spaceflightnow.com. Retrieved 2012-10-09.
  18. ^ "iSpace completes China's first private commercial satellite launch". ZDNet. Retrieved 2019-07-27.
  19. ^ Jones, Andrew (1 October 2019). "New Chinese commercial rocket firms move toward maiden launches". SpaceNews. Retrieved 10 May 2021.
  20. ^ Christian Davenport (2021-01-17). "Virgin Orbit rocket reaches Earth orbit, adding an entrant to the commercial space race". The Washington Post.
  21. ^ Sheetz, Michael (2021-11-22). "Astra stock surges after the rocket builder reaches orbit successfully". CNBC. Retrieved 2021-12-01.
  22. ^ Sesnic, Trevor (17 October 2022). "Firefly looking ahead after "To The Black" payloads reenter early". NASASpaceflight.com. Retrieved 3 April 2023.
  23. ^ "S. Korean startup Innospace announces successful test launch of space vehicle HANBIT-TLV". Yonhap News Agency. March 21, 2023. Retrieved May 9, 2023.
  24. ^ "热烈庆祝天龙二号首飞成功 开创我国商业航天新纪元". 天兵科技微信公众号 (in Chinese). 2023-04-02. Retrieved 2023-04-02.
  25. ^ Jones, Andrew (3 April 2023). "China's Space Pioneer reaches orbit with liquid propellant rocket". SpaceNews. Retrieved 3 April 2023.
  26. ^ UNMOVIC report, United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, p. 434 ff.
  27. ^ "Deception Activities". Fas.org. Retrieved 2017-08-09.
  28. ^ "Al-Abid LV". B14643.de. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  29. ^ "ORBIT LSA". B14643.de. Archived from the original on 23 February 2012. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  30. ^ "Argentina Missile Chronology" (PDF). Nti.org. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  31. ^ "Problemas de "Governança" e Gestão Explicam em Parte Extinção do VLS-1".
  32. ^ "Egypt Missile Chronology" (PDF). Nti.org. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  33. ^ "Capricornio". B14643.de. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  34. ^ "Argentina Aspires to Have its Own Pitcher in Four Years". infoespecial.com. Retrieved 2021-04-28.
  35. ^ "As 2021 draws to a close it's great to start looking to 2022 and the next steps we're taking to realise a resilient space launch capability in Australia!". Facebook. 30 December 2021. Archived from the original on 31 December 2021. Retrieved 1 January 2022.
  36. ^ "Launch remains distant". 2022. Retrieved 2022-04-22.
  37. ^ "România vrea să lanseze sateliți de telecomunicații geostaționari în spațiu pentru Armată și alte structuri de securitate. Când ar putea fi lansat primul satelit". www.hotnews.ro. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  38. ^ Felongco, Gilbert (30 August 2019). "Filipino dreams of developing space vehicle for countrymen". Gulf News. Retrieved 6 November 2020.
  39. ^ Samson, Oliver (14 July 2019). "Algae as spacecraft fuel? Possible, youth group says". BusinessMirror. Retrieved 6 November 2020.
  40. ^ "Launch Services - Independence X". IDXA. Retrieved 16 August 2022.

External links[edit]