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A spacecraft may launch with multiple payload, as is evidenced by How does a single rocket place multiple satellites into orbit?

This question however is not about multiple payload carried in a single launch vehicle.

This question is whether there have ever been multiple launches (E.g. Canaveral, Baikonur, Xichang) on the same date. Obviously the contracting client would be different in each case.

So ...

  • Historically, Have multiple spacecraft launched on the same date from geographically distinct locations?
  • Is there a global body to coordinate such multiple spacelaunch events?
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To answer the first part of your question, have historically multiple spacecraft launched on the same date from geographically distinct locations, yes. In fact, it just happened last Wednesday, September 18, 2013 when two rockets were launched on the same date, and both from different facilities in the United States:

Since space launches are becoming rather frequent events in recent history, I'm pretty sure there were many other instances of two or more launches on the same day, so I'm just going to additionally mention the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project for its historical significance, during which both launch vehicles (Apollo CSM-111 and Soyuz 7K-TM) also launched on the same day, July 15, 1975, from Kennedy Space Center and Baikonur Cosmodrome, respectively.

As for the other part of your question, if there is a global body to coordinate such multiple space launch events, I would have to say no. Not a global body and not really coordinating it, but there would of course be local or nationwide bodies regulating airspace activities, and when rocket launches cover international airspace, coordination between all involved jurisdictions would have to take place and give clearance for the launch to proceed at any pre-designated time frame (launch window).

Additionally, there is The United Nations Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space, set in motion under the Resolution 3235 of the UN General Assembly, and possibly other international / global registers that all launch systems under their jurisdiction would have to report to, but I'm not aware of any that would also coordinate various launch site activities on a global scale.


For what it's worth, we covered both of these two events mentioned in The Pod Bay, our main chat room, where we posted links to live broadcasts for the events and had a chat observing them unfold. Our main chat room's schedule is also the place to look at for future chat room events, on top of featured events also being displayed in the Community Bulletin box on the right side to every Space Exploration SE main site page with a convenient countdown displayed next to each scheduled event. The chat room's schedule also includes your local times for any currently scheduled events and an option to register for events with an email notification sent to your address a few hours beforehand as a reminder.

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There are many examples of multiple launches on the same date - NASA has even done multiple launches on the same date. One of these was to practice docking with an Agena target vehicle.

On Gemini XI, the Agena target vehicle was launched Sepetember 12, 1966 at 8:05:01 a.m. EST. The Gemini vehicle itself was launched 10:42:26 am EST the same day.

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Major space launching facilities have multiple launch pads and thus the capacity to launch multiple vehicles at the same time. As already answered, this is not usually done these days for logistic reasons, but multiple consecutive launches were fairly common during the heyday of the space (and ICBM) race. People had already mentioned the american exercise, however, USSR did something similar as well.

Consider, for example, Baikonur Cosmodrome, September 28, 1971. Two launches of heavy vehicles from the same facility only 2 hours apart - and one of those going to the Moon:

  • September 28, 1971, 07:40 GMT, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Launch Complex LC1:
    Russian Voskhod 11A57 orbital launch vehicle launches a 6,300 kg military surveillance type high resolution photo reconnaissance satellite named Zenit-4M on a Cosmos 441 mission into Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
  • September 28, 1971, 10:00 GMT, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Launch Complex LC81/24:
    Russian Voskhod 11A57 orbital launch vehicle carries 5,820 kg Luna Ye-8-LS lunar orbiter on a Luna 19 mission to investigate the Moon and near-lunar space into an intermediate earth parking orbit and was then put on a translunar trajectory by the Proton Block D stage.
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Having multiple launches on the same day from the same location is difficult, as there are quite a few people needed to support each launch, and that becomes very difficult when there are two launches. It could be done in theory, but it isn't done in practice, there's just too much to coordinate. In general, two such objects from the same location would have to be related to each other somehow, or else it would simply add a huge amount of complexity. As @Undo mentioned, this has happened at least once, as a test for Gemini, but they usually depend on being related to the same mission.

From geographically different locations, there really isn't much that needs to be coordinated. Space is really really big, the odds of any kind of collision between the two are almost negligible. Most launches are done from an altitude where they are favorable, and makes it even less likely that they will have any issues. As a result, this has happened fairly frequently, as others have mentioned.

There no doubt is coordination if, say, both are intended for the ISS, but I don't think they actually would launch two vehicles at the same time for the ISS.

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    $\begingroup$ The odds of collision are certainly very low, but I suspect there's some coordination anyway. If there's a launch from Baikonur the same day as a launch from Canaveral, I'd expect NASA to know about it and to have calculated the closest approach to several decimals. $\endgroup$ – Keith Thompson Sep 23 '13 at 6:47
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On March 7, 1970 a total solar eclipse passed directly over Wallops Island, VA. In conjunction with quite a few university groups NASA launched about 36 sounding rockets within a 4 hour period. I was there, sitting on the beach about one mile from the pads. Preparations and rehearsals for this extravaganza of launches started a couple of years before the event, and NASA Wallops borrowed practically every portable radar and theodolite they could find in the country.

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