Outdated: KSLV-II is a homegrown South Korean orbital launch vehicle. While KARI's launched the Russian-derived KSLV-I before, KSLV-II (or Nuri) uses only new, domestic, hitherto un-flight-tested motors & stages. It hit its target orbit on its very first launch.

Further domestic reporting indicates that the dummy payload did not stay in orbit, probably an overly low perigee. That makes the list even shorter.

My understanding is that new flight hardware rarely succeeds on the first try. How many new orbital launch vehicles have succeeded (achieved the target orbit) on their first launch?

Of those, how many completely new (does not reuse any previously-flown major components: tankage, main engines, avionics (depending on era, much less relevant now than the 60s)) orbital launch vehicles have succeeded on the first launch?

Please note the entire mission needs to succeed: Energia sadly is disqualified through no fault of its own.

A short list of what I can think of right off the bat:

  • Saturn V (although it's not completely new; S-IVB had flown before)
  • Shuttle (completely new; AJ-10s used for OMS aside)
  • Atlas V (your mileage may vary; RD-180 & the exact Centaur used I believe are arguably new, but closely derived from flown hardware)
  • CZ-5 (I'm not sure about its 'completely unflown major hardware' status)
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You can add the Buran to your list. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Oct 21 '21 at 11:19
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, excellent. Although, with Buran, I think it's more accurate to call it a payload for Energia than an integral component of the launch stack itself. $\endgroup$ Oct 21 '21 at 13:03
  • $\begingroup$ There are a lot of missions with some degree of newness to succeed on their first time. It seems like you really just want those that are almost completely new, so Falcon 9 and Heavy don't count, because they relied on Falcon 1 hardware. You asked both questions, just want to see which you want answered. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Oct 21 '21 at 14:40
  • $\begingroup$ No problem, I'd count both as first-try successes. Falcon Heavy I totally forgot about--that was a success in dramatic fashion. $\endgroup$ Oct 21 '21 at 15:20

I'm going to define launches that weren't a new configuration (Atlas 551 vs other Atlas 5), but were substantially different from previous rockets. This can be tricky to do, so I've done the best I can. As a separate category, I will include those that are virtually brand new. Much, but not all, of this is based on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_orbital_launch_systems . Trying to add links to the more obscure ones to me. This list is probably not complete, it's really hard to get all of them...

Mostly new: Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, Kaituozhe-2, Long March 8, Minotaur V, Long March 5, Long March 7, SS-520, Epsilon, Minotaur IV, Antares, Long March 6, Shavit 2, Long March 11, Minotaur I, Vega, Long March 2, Long March 4, Saturn V, Buran, CZ-5,

Completely new: Ceres-1, Hyperbola-1, Jielong 1, Kuaizhou, OS-M1, Qased, Angara 1.2, H-IIA, Kuaizhou 1, Pegasus, Space Shuttle, Atlas V, Proton,

  • $\begingroup$ Excellent! Thank you! I'll let this marinate for a few days, but this looks quite right. Surprising to me that Proton was a first-launch success, given its more recent track record. Can't believe I forgot about Qased, too. $\endgroup$ Oct 21 '21 at 21:04
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    $\begingroup$ Really surprising how many of those are Chinese smallsat launchers developed in the last decade. $\endgroup$ Oct 21 '21 at 21:06
  • $\begingroup$ I was as well actually. Lots of Chinese rockets on the list... $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Oct 22 '21 at 13:42

If you consider the KSLV-II launch a success, then there are a great many first-time rockets that succeeded equally well, including Astra and Firefly.

probably an overly low perigee.

Yes, managing to orbit only 1/12th of the globe is a bit of "an overly low perigee."


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