China set to send a new crew to its space station this week – TWIRL #161

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TWIRL logo in front on Long March rocket
Background image via CNSA

We have several missions coming up This Week in Rocket Launches, including a Falcon 9 launch from SpaceX. The most interesting launch, though, is the Long March rocket carrying Shenzhou 18 to the Chinese Space Station. It will be carrying three Chinese astronauts, who have yet to be named.

Monday, 22 April

  • Who: SpaceX
  • What: Falcon 9
  • Where: Florida, US
  • When: 10:40 p.m. – 2:40 a.m. UTC
  • Why: SpaceX will be using a Falcon 9 to launch 23 Starlink satellites to a low Earth orbit. This group will be known as Starlink Group 6-53, you can use this identifier on various apps to identify Starlink satellites that you might see in the sky. SpaceX will most likely also land the first part of the Falcon 9 rocket for reuse.

Wednesday, 24 April

  • Who: Rocket Lab
  • What: Electron
  • Where: Mahia, New Zealand
  • When: 9:30 – 11:45 p.m. UTC
  • Why: Rocket Lab will use an Electron rocket to launch an Earth observation satellite for Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) dubbed NeonSat 1. As a rideshare mission, NASA’s Advanced Composite Solar Sail System (ACS3) will be aboard too.

Thursday, 25 April

  • Who: CNSA
  • What: Long March 2F/G
  • Where: Jiuquan, China
  • When: 12:58 p.m. UTC
  • Why: This rocket will launch the Shenzhou 18 spacecraft carrying crew members to the Chinese Space Station. The crew of this mission is still to be announced.


  • The first mission last week saw a Long March 2D carry the SuperView Neo 3-01 remote sensing satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center to orbit. The satellite will provide remote sensing data services for emerging scenarios like digital agriculture, urban information modelling and live 3D. It will also provide data for land surveying and mapping, disaster prevention and mitigation, and maritime monitoring.

  • Next up we had a Falcon 9 launch carrying 23 Starlink satellites to a low Earth orbit from Florida, US. These will beam internet back down to Starlink subscribers.

  • The final launch took place a day later, it was another Falcon 9 carrying 23 Starlink satellites from Florida again.

That’s it for this week, check in next time!

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