Despite gains by U.S. launch industry juggernaut SpaceX, which is on track to complete a company record 21 flights in 2018, China surpassed the U.S. in the total number of orbital launches this year. With 36 flights, including the Chang’e 4 mission to the far side of the Moon, China slipped ahead of the U.S. in annual launch activity, which as of Dec. 18 stood at 33 orbital launches in 2018, all successful. Only once before, in 2012, has China launched more often than the ...

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