5 Space Missions to Watch in April 2024: SpaceX, China, Russia and More

April's space watch list includes a Chinese space station mission and the test flight of a new Russian rocket.

China Launches Astronauts To Space Station
China’s Shenzhou-16 mission to the Tiangong Space Station launched in Jiuquan, China on May 30, 2023. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

April continues to be a busy month in space. SpaceX and Rocket Lab are busy preparing for more commercial missions. The United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, is gearing up for its second mission of the year, following a successful launch in January. Meanwhile, China is preparing to send a crewed mission to its Tiangong space station. And Russia may finally be moving forward with replacing one of its most important spacecraft.

Some of the highly-anticipated missions have been pushed back. Boeing’s first crewed ISS mission with its Starliner spacecraft, a competing project against SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, was initially scheduled for mid-April, but has now been postponed to early May. NASA cited “space station scheduling” as the reason for the delay.

Until it happens, here are the top missions to keep an eye on in April: 

  • April 3: SpaceX’s rideshare mission. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to blast off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, sending a Bandwagon-1 mission to low Earth orbit as part of SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program.
  • April 6: Russia’s test flight of the Angara A5 rocket. Roscosmos, Russia’s national space agency, is scheduled to test launch an Angara A5 rocket from the Vostochny Cosmodrome spaceport. The mission will not be carrying any payload, but the rocket will carry an upper stage called Orion. This will be the fourth test flight for the Angara A5, which is intended to replace Russia’s Proton rocket, a workhorse launch vehicle used to launch missions to Venus, Mars and multiple space stations but is now raising reliability concerns. 
  • April 25: China’s Shenzhou 18 crewed mission to Tiangong Space Station. A Shenzhou 18 rocket, built by the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), will launch eight astronauts to China’s Tiangong space station, completed in 2011 after China was cut off from the ISS program. The mission will lift off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China’s Inner Mongolia. It will be the seventh mission to the Tiangong space station. 
  • TBD: Rocket Lab’s Capella Acadia 3 mission. Rocket Lab is preparing to launch an Earth-imaging satellite for Capella Space, a space tech company providing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery for commercial clients, using a reusable Electron rocket. The mission will lift off from Rocket Labs’ launch complex in Wallops Island, Va. It will be Rocket Lab’s 47th mission with Electron.
  • TBD: United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur Mission: The ULA is preparing for its second mission with the Vulcan Centaur rocket of 2024. The company successfully launched the rocket first on Jan. 8 with two payloads. The upcoming mission will carry a cargo vessel called Dream Chaser to the ISS.
5 Space Missions to Watch in April 2024: SpaceX, China, Russia and More