SpaceX Rockets U.S. Launches to New Heights in 2022

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites on June 17, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Powered by 33 flights of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster, the United States leads all nations with 48 launch attempts through the first seven months of the year. The total is three short of the number of U.S. launches attempted last year, and far ahead of the 27 launches conducted by second place China through the end of July. The U.S. has conducted more launches than the 43 flights conducted by the rest of the world combined.

A number of notable flights were conducted. SpaceX launched two Crew Dragons to the International Space Station (ISS), including the first fully privately funded mission to the orbiting laboratory. United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched Boeing’s CST-100 Starship crew vehicle on an automated flight test to ISS, a crucial step before astronauts to fly on the spacecraft. Small satellite launch provider Rocket Lab conducted its first deep-space mission by sending a spacecraft the size of a microwave to the moon.

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Commercial Space Travelers Outnumbered Professional Astronauts in First Half of 2022

Axiom Mission 1 astronauts, left to right, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy, Michael López-Alegría, and Eytan Stibbe. The astronauts are approved by NASA and its international partners for Axiom Space’s first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station. (Credits: Chris Gunn – Axiom Space)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The first half of 2022 saw more commercial travelers — 16 — launch into space than the 10 professional astronauts who work for government-run space agencies. However, those numbers come with an asterisk or two.

Four of the 14 astronauts who launched into orbit flew on Axiom Space’s privately funded and operated crew flight to the International Space Station (ISS). Blue Origin launched 12 individuals into space on two flights of the company’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle.

The other 10 astronauts who launched to ISS and the Tiangong space station worked fulltime for NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), China Manned Space Agency, or Russia’s Roscosmos State Space Corporation. SpaceX flew American and European astronauts to ISS on the company-owned Crew Dragon spacecraft under a NASA contract. The Russians and Chinese flew aboard government-owned and operated spacecraft.

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77 Launches Conducted During First Half of 2022 as Access to Orbit Expanded

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites while the Dragon that will carry Crew-4 to the International space Station awaits its turn. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a busy first half of 2022 that saw 77 orbital launches with 74 successes and three failures through the 182nd day of the year on July 1. At a rate of one launch every 2 days 8 hours 44 minutes, the world is on track to exceed the 146 launches conducted in 2021.

A number of significant missions were launched during a period that saw more than 1,000 satellite launched. SpaceX flew the first fully commercial crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Boeing conducted an orbital flight test of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, China prepared to complete assembly of its space station, South Korea launched its first domestically manufactured rocket, and Rocket Lab sent a NASA mission to the moon.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

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Virgin Galactic Selects Boeing Subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences to Build 2 New WhiteKnightTwo Aircraft

WhiteKnightTwo (Credit: Kenneth Brown)
  • Agreement with Aurora Flight Sciences to Deliver Two Vehicles, Each Designed to Fly Up To 200 Launches Per Year
  • First New Mothership Expected to Enter Service in 2025
  • Outsourced Manufacturing Approach Will Improve Speed to Market, Provide Access to Labor Pools, Minimize Supply Chain Disruption, and Realize Efficiencies

TUSTIN, Calif. (Virgin Galactic PR) — Virgin Galactic (NYSE: SPCE) (the “Company” or “Virgin Galactic”), an aerospace and space travel company, today announced an agreement with Aurora Flight Sciences (“Aurora”), a Boeing company, to partner in the design and manufacturing of the Company’s next generation motherships. The mothership is the air launch carrier aircraft in Virgin Galactic’s space flight system, that carries the spaceship to its release altitude of approximately 50,000 feet.

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U.S. Space Force SSC’s GEO Wide Field of View Scheduled for Takeoff

Designed, built and integrated by Millennium Space Systems, Wide Field of View will demonstrate missile warning technologies and techniques. (Image Credit: Millennium Space Systems)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (Millennium Space Systems PR) — The United States Space Force (USSF) Space Systems Command’s (SSC) Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) Wide Field of View (WFOV) Testbed is scheduled to launch June 30, 2022. SSC’s GEO WFOV space vehicle was designed built and integrated by Millennium Space Systems, a Boeing Company, and will inform the future Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) architecture.

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Intuitive Machines-led Team Awarded $5 Million for Fission Surface Power Solution

A Fission Surface Power (FSP) reactor landed on the Moon by an Intuitive Machines Nova-M spacecraft. (Credit: Intuitive Machines)

HOUSTON (Intuitive Machines PR) – The Department of Energy and NASA awarded IX, a joint venture between Intuitive Machines and X-energy, a contract to conduct a one-year study to mature the design of a Fission Surface Power (FSP) solution that will deliver at least 40 kWe power flight system to the Moon by 2028.

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NASA Announces Artemis Concept Awards for Nuclear Power on Moon

Artist’s concept of a fission power system on the lunar surface. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) are working together to advance space nuclear technologies. The agencies have selected three design concept proposals for a fission surface power system design that could be ready to launch by the end of the decade for a demonstration on the Moon. This technology would benefit future exploration under the Artemis umbrella.

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NASA Updates Astronaut Assignments for Boeing Starliner Test Flight

Boeing’s Starliner crew ship is seen moments after docking to the International Space Station’s forward port on the Harmony module. (Credit: NASA TV)

NASA Mission Update

NASA will fly two astronaut test pilots aboard the agency’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission to the International Space Station, where they will live and work off the Earth for about two weeks.

CFT commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore, whom NASA assigned to the prime crew in October 2020, will join NASA astronaut Suni Williams, who will serve as pilot. Williams previously served as the backup test pilot for CFT while assigned as commander of NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission, Starliner’s first post-certification mission. As CFT pilot, Williams takes the place of NASA astronaut Nicole Mann, originally assigned to the mission in 2018. NASA reassigned Mann to the agency’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission in 2021.

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NASA to Purchase Additional Commercial Crew Missions

From left to right, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthais Maurer, NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn, Raja Chari, and Kayla Barron, are seen inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft onboard the SpaceX Shannon recovery ship shortly after having landed in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Tampa, Florida, Friday, May 6, 2022. Maurer, Marshburn, Chari, and Barron are returning after 177 days in space as part of Expeditions 66 and 67 aboard the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA intends to issue a sole source modification to SpaceX to acquire five additional crewed flights to the International Space Station as part of its Commercial Crew Transportation Capabilities (CCtCap) contract. The additional crew flights will allow NASA to maintain an uninterrupted U.S. capability for human access to the space station with two unique commercial crew industry partners.

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Boeing, NASA Complete First Starliner Space Station Flight Test

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft lands at White Sands Missile Range’s Space Harbor, Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in New Mexico. Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) is Starliner’s second uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. OFT-2 serves as an end-to-end test of the system’s capabilities. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

WHITE SANDS, NEW MEXICO, May 25, 2022 (Boeing PR) — Boeing’s [NYSE: BA] CST-100 Starliner spacecraft landed at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico at 5:49 p.m. Central Time. The safe return to Earth brings a close to the successful end-to-end uncrewed orbital flight test that was flown to demonstrate the quality and performance of the transportation system prior to crewed flights.

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Coverage Set for NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 Return to Earth

Boeing’s Starliner crew ship is seen moments after docking to the International Space Station’s forward port on the Harmony module. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA will provide live coverage of the upcoming return activities for the agency’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2). As part of the uncrewed flight test, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft will depart from the International Space Station for a landing in the western United States.

The spacecraft is scheduled to autonomously undock from the space station to begin the journey home at 2:36 p.m. EDT Wednesday, May 25. NASA and Boeing are targeting 6:49 p.m. for the landing and conclusion of OFT-2, wrapping up a six-day mission testing the end-to-end capabilities of the Starliner system.

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Station Crew Opens Boeing Starliner Hatch, Enters Spacecraft

NASA astronauts Bob Hines and Kjell Lindgren greet “Rosie the Rocketeer” inside the Boeing Starliner spacecraft shortly after opening its hatch. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Astronauts living aboard the International Space Station opened the hatch for the first time to Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft at 12:04 p.m. EDT Saturday, May 21, on its uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2.

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Boeing’s Starliner Docks to Station for Cargo and Test Ops

Boeing’s Starliner crew ship is seen moments after docking to the International Space Station’s forward port on the Harmony module. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft successfully docked to the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 8:28 p.m. EDT. Starliner launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on a flight test to the International Space Station at 6:54 p.m. on Thursday, May 19 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

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Starliner Proceeding Toward Space Station

Atlas V lifts off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station with Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft. (Credit: ULA)

Boeing Mission Update

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner is proceeding toward the International Space Station on the NASA-Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2).

Boeing and NASA met as an ISS Mission Management Team (IMMT) this afternoon to review the status of the flight test and approved a plan to proceed toward the final phase of rendezvous and docking, which remains scheduled at 7:10 p.m. EDT.

Docking broadcast coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. ET on www.nasa.gov/live.

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Starliner Reaches Orbit Despite Thruster Problems, ISS Docking Set for Friday

Atlas V lifts off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station with Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft. (Credit: ULA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner uncrewed spacecraft reached orbit after launch from Florida on Thursday on its way to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) despite problems with two of its 12 thrusters, officials said. The flight test is a crucial step to certifying Starliner to carry crew to the station.

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