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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UAE Pilot Assigned to Crew-6 Space Station Mission

Sultan AlNeyadi (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The final crew member for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission, currently targeted to launch to the International Space Station in spring 2023, has been announced. The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) named Sultan AlNeyadi to spend approximately six months aboard the space station as part of Expeditions 68/69. Mission Specialist AlNeyadi joins NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, who will serve as spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively, for the mission, and cosmonaut Andrei Fedyaev of Roscosmos.

To ensure continuous U.S. presence aboard the International Space Station, NASA signed a contract in 2021 with Axiom Space to fly a NASA astronaut on a Soyuz rotation in exchange for a seat on a future U.S. commercial spacecraft. Axiom announced an agreement on April 29, 2022, with the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center of the UAE to fly its crew member in the seat.

The UAE astronaut corps has been in training with NASA at the Johnson Space Center since 2019, including spacewalk training, onboard systems and T-38 training. AlNeyadi will continue crewmember training for the Dragon spacecraft and international partner segments.

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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NASA, Roscosmos Complete Seat Swap on Flights to ISS

The space station is viewed from the SpaceX Cargo Dragon during its automated approach before docking. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — To ensure continued safe operations of the International Space Station (station), protect the lives of astronauts, and ensure continuous U.S. presence in space, NASA will resume integrated crews on U.S. crew spacecraft and the Russian Soyuz with the Russian State Space Corporation Roscosmos.

Flying integrated crews ensures there are appropriately trained crew members on board the station for essential maintenance and spacewalks. It also protects against contingencies such as a problem with any crew spacecraft, serious crew medical issues, or an emergency aboard the station that requires a crew and the vehicle they are assigned to return to Earth sooner than planned.

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NASA Highlights Climate Research on Cargo Launch, Sets Coverage

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle is pictured docked to the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter. (Credit: NASA TV)

NASA Mission Update

NASA and SpaceX are targeting 8:44 p.m. EDT Thursday, July 14, to launch the agency’s next investigation to monitor climate change to the International Space Station. The mission, NASA’s Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT), will fly aboard SpaceX’s 25th commercial resupply services mission to the orbital laboratory.

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will lift off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to deliver new science investigations, supplies, and equipment for the international crew, including a new climate research investigation.

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Rogozin Lays Out Options for Roscosmos Post ISS; Russia Agrees to Seat Swap with NASA

Video Caption: Russia will look to wind down its cooperation on the International Space Station (ISS) while stepping up cooperation with China on the creation of a lunar station in the coming years, the head of Russia’s space agency said in an interview with the China Global Television Network (CGTN) on Friday.

Editor’s Note: In brief, Russia will honor commitments to ISS through the current end date of 2024. Rogozin thinks negotiations to extend station operations — NASA wants a 2030 end date — would be difficult with current tensions over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He said Russia plans to launch its own space station in 2027-28, on which it might work with China.

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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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Record-Setting Aviator, Astronaut, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist Receives 2022 UP.Summit Inspiration Award

Isaacman receives humanitarian award. (Image Credit: UP.Partners)

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (UP.Partners PR) — UP.Partners is proud to announce Jared Isaacman as the recipient of the 2022 UP.Summit Inspiration Award. The award is presented by UP.Partners to an individual who has inspired others to think bigger and has created a positive impact on mankind.

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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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SpaceX Orbits 53 Starlink Satellites in 21st Falcon 9 Launch of 2022

Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX launched 53 Starlink broadband satellites to low-Earth orbit aboard a Falcon 9 booster on Wednesday, May 18, from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The first stage booster supporting the mission on Wednesday previously launched Arabsat-6A, STP-2, COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation FM2, and one Starlink mission. Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage returned to Earth and landed on the A Shortfall of Gravitas droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

It was SpaceX’s 14th launch of Starlink satellites this year, and the company’s 21st launch overall of 2022. SpaceX has launched 709 of the broadband satellites this year, and 2,653 Starlink spacecraft in all. Wikipedia reports that 2,354 satellites are currently functioning in orbit.

SpaceX has launched 860 payloads into orbit in its 21 launches. The total includes two rideshare missions with 145 small payloads, two Crew Dragon flights carrying eight astronauts to the International Space Station, two missions for the National Reconnaissance Office, and the launch of Italy’s military/civilian COSMO-SkyMed second generation Earth observation satellite.

SpaceX has said it is planning to launch more than 50 times this year. The company’s next flight is the May 25 launch of the Transporter-5 rideshare mission from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

NASA, ESA Astronauts Safely Return to Earth

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)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts aboard the Dragon Endurance spacecraft safely splashed down Friday in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida, completing the agency’s third long-duration commercial crew mission to the International Space Station. The international crew of four spent 177 days in orbit.

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Crew-3 Heads for Home After Undocking From Space Station

The SpaceX Dragon Endurance spacecraft is seen just after undocking from the forward port of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 1:20 a.m. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The SpaceX Dragon Endurance spacecraft with NASA astronauts Kayla BarronRaja Chari, and Tom Marshburn, as well as ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer inside undocked from the forward port of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 1:20 a.m. EDT to complete a nearly six-month science mission.

The return timeline with approximate times (all times Eastern):

Thursday, May 5

11:48 p.m.    Trunk jettison
11:53 p.m.    Deorbit burn

FRIDAY, MAY 6

12:04 p.m.    Nosecone closed
12:43 a.m.    Dragon splashdown

NASA will continue to provide live coverage until Endurance splashes down off the coast of Florida and the Crew-3 astronauts are recovered off the coast of Florida.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission launched Nov. 10 on a Falcon 9 rocket from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and docked to the space station Nov. 11.

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found by following the commercial crew blog@commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.


Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Get weekly video highlights at: http://jscfeatures.jsc.nasa.gov/videoupdate/

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Axiom Space and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center Sign Agreement for Astronaut to Fly on the International Space Station in 2023

Axiom Space and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) signed an agreement for a United Arab Emirates (UAE) astronaut to fly on the International Space Station in 2023. The agreement was signed at the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Washington, D.C. on April 27 by Salem Humaid AlMarri, Director-General of MBRSC and Michael Suffredini, President and CEO of Axiom Space. (Image Credit: Axiom Space)

HOUSTON (Axiom Space PR) — The exciting new era of commercial human spaceflight ushered in over the past three weeks by the successful Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1), the first  private mission to the International Space Station (ISS), entered a new phase with the signing of an agreement between Axiom Space and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to fly a UAE professional crew member to the ISS on NASA’s SpaceX Crew 6, expected to occur in 2023.

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Minerva Mission Begins as Samantha Cristoforetti Arrives at Space Station

ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti shows off her yellow and white striped socks aboard the space station. The PGTIDE experiment tests a fully degradable detergent specifically for cleaning clothes (including socks) in space. (Credits: NASA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Crew Dragon spacecraft Freedom, carrying ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and her NASA colleagues Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines and Jessica Watkins, docked to the International Space Station at 01:37 CEST Thursday 28 April.

The docking marks the start of Samantha’s second space mission, known as Minerva.

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