Timeline of first orbital launches by country

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Orbital launch projects and capabilities
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Confirmed orbital launch capable country
Confirmed orbital launch capable intergovernmental organization (ESA) members
Orbital launch project in development or planned
Abandoned orbital launch project Orbital launch projects.svg
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, incl. Canada, Australia, Germany, Brazil, Algeria, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Argentina, Italy, Malaysia, Poland, South Africa, Nigeria, the Philippines, Egypt, Spain, Mexico, Thailand and Chile, have built or launched satellites, as of 2022, eleven countries, incl. the United States, Japan, India, China, Iran, Israel, France, the United Kingdom and South Korea, have had the capability to send objects into orbit with their own launch vehicles. Russia and Ukraine inherited the capability of the space launchers and satellites 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. [lower-alpha 1] 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 Sputnik asm.jpg
Replica of Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, launched by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957

List of first orbital launches by country

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.

OrderCountry [lower-alpha 1] SectorSatelliteRocketLocationDate (UTC)
1Flag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union [lower-alpha 3] Governmental Sputnik 1 Sputnik-PS Baikonur, Soviet Union (today Kazakhstan)4 October 1957
2Flag of the United States.svg  United States [lower-alpha 4] Explorer 1 Juno I Cape Canaveral, United States 1 February 1958
3Flag of France.svg  France [lower-alpha 6] Astérix Diamant A CIEES/Hammaguir, Algeria 26 November 1965
4Flag of Japan.svg  Japan Ohsumi Lambda-4S Uchinoura, Japan 11 February 1970
5Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China [lower-alpha 4] Dong Fang Hong 1 Long March 1 Jiuquan, China 24 April 1970
6Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom [lower-alpha 7] Prospero Black Arrow Woomera, Australia 28 October 1971
Flag of Europe.svg European Space Agency [lower-alpha 8] CAT-1 (Obélix [7] ) Ariane 1 Kourou, French Guiana 24 December 1979
7Flag of India.svg  India Rohini 1 (RS-1) SLV Sriharikota, India 18 July 1980
8Flag of Israel.svg  Israel Ofeq 1 Shavit Palmachim, Israel 19 September 1988
Flag of Ukraine.svg  Ukraine [lower-alpha 3] [lower-alpha 9] Strela-3 (x6, Russian) Tsyklon-3 Plesetsk, Soviet Union (today Russia)28 September 1991
Flag of Russia.svg  Russia [lower-alpha 3] Kosmos 2175 Soyuz-U Plesetsk, Russia 21 January 1992
9Flag of Iran.svg  Iran [lower-alpha 10] Omid Safir-1A Semnan, Iran 2 February 2009
10Flag of North Korea.svg  North Korea Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2 Unha-3 Sohae, North Korea 12 December 2012 [lower-alpha 11]
11Flag of South Korea.svg  South Korea STSat-2C Naro-1 Goheung, South Korea 30 January 2013

Partial contributions to orbital launch systems

Two countries, Italy and New Zealand, have contributed in the creation or continuation of orbital launch systems.

OrderCountrySectorSatelliteRocketLocationDate (UTC)
1 Flag of Italy.svg Italy Governmental San Marco 1 Scout-X4 San Marco platform, Kenya 15 December 1964
2 Flag of New Zealand.svg New Zealand Private Humanity Star Electron Mahia LC-1A, New Zealand 21 January 2018


  1. 1 2 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. 1 2 3 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. [lower-alpha 2]
  4. 1 2 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 [lower-alpha 5] 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

The above list includes confirmed satellite launches with rockets produced by the launching country, like Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom or the United States. Lists with differing criteria might include the following launches:

Failed launches

Launches of non-indigenous 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:

Privately developed launch vehicles

Sub-orbital launch

Other launches

Abandoned projects

Other projects

Satellite operators

Many other countries, such as Mexico, Poland, Chile, Japan and India, 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

Related Research Articles

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