Will any new smallsat rockets make it to orbit this year?

Enlarge / After being released from Cosmic Girl, LauncherOne ignited its engine successfully at the end of May. (credit: VirginOrbit)

In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re approaching mid-August. As of Wednesday, there are a mere 142 days left in the year. So as the calendar churns toward the end of the year, this is a good time to ask whether any new commercial rockets that launch small satellites will make it to orbit this year.

Back at the optimistic, pre-pandemic beginning of 2020, we had high hopes for the debut of new rockets from Astra, Firefly, and Virgin Orbit. We also expected to see the first flight of Europe’s Vega C rocket, which is now confirmed to slip into 2021.

Since then, a few companies have made launch attempts and failed to reach orbit. Others have been slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s a rundown of the companies that could still make orbit this calendar year.

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