Launchapalooza: 26 New Boosters Debuting Worldwide

Vega-C lifts off on its maiden flight on July 13, 2022. (Credit: Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

During the first seven months of the year, five new satellite launch vehicles from Europe, China, Russia and South Korea flew successfully for the first time. As impressive as that is, it was a mere opening act to a busy period that could see at least 20 additional launchers debut around the world.

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The Best Laid Plans: Europe’s Ambitious Launch Year Goes Awry Due to International Tensions, Schedule Delays

The James Webb Space Telescope lifted off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, at 13:20 CET on 25 December 2021 on its exciting mission to unlock the secrets of the Universe. (Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On Christmas Day 2021, an European Ariane 5 rocket roared off its launch pad in French Guiana with the most expensive payload the booster had ever carried, the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope. The launcher performed perfectly, sending the most powerful space telescope on a journey to its final destination 1.5 million km (900 million miles) from Earth. The launch was so accurate that Webb should have sufficient propellant to perform science operations for much longer than its planned 10-year lifetime.

There was a collective sigh of relief among the European, American and Canadian scientists and engineers involved in the long-delayed program. It was a superb Christmas gift to a world suffering through the second year of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

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NASA Adds Helicopters to Mars Sample Return Mission

This illustration shows a concept for multiple robots that would team up to ferry to Earth samples collected from the Mars surface by NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA Mission Update

NASA has finished the system requirements review for its Mars Sample Return Program, which is nearing completion of the conceptual design phase. During this phase, the program team evaluated and refined the architecture to return the scientifically selected samples, which are currently in the collection process by NASA’s Perseverance rover in the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater.

The architecture for the campaign, which includes contributions from the European Space Agency (ESA), is expected to reduce the complexity of future missions and increase probability of success.

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Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Reaches Space Station

ROME (ASI PR) — The samples of Italian extra virgin olive oil have reached the International Space Station, thanks to a project included in the framework of the agreement between the Italian Space Agency and CREA, in collaboration with Coldiretti and Unaprol-Consorzio Olivicolo Italiano.

As part of its role as National Agency, ASI promoted the project and, in the context of its institutional relations with other Space Agencies and as a country participating in the ISS program, made available the opportunity to fly and coordination with ESA necessary for the implementation of the experiment.

The collaboration with Coldiretti and Unaprol-Consorzio Olivicolo Italiano aims to underline the importance of the Italian agri-food heritage and to enhance and sensitize an asset for the country’s exports, as well as to promote the principles of proper nutrition.

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New Roscosmos GD Says Russia to Leave ISS Program After 2024

Russian Orbital Service Station (Credit: Roscosmos)

The new head of Roscosmos says that Russia will leave the International Space Station program after 2024. The Associated Press reports:

Yuri Borisov, appointed this month to lead the state space agency, Roscosmos, said during a meeting with President Vladimir Putin that Russia will fulfill its obligations to its partners before it leaves.

“The decision to leave the station after 2024 has been made,” Borisov said, adding: “I think that by that time we will start forming a Russian orbiting station.”

Borisov’s statement reaffirmed previous declarations by Russian space officials about Moscow’s intention to leave the space station after 2024 when the current international arrangements for its operation end.

Roscosmos previously announced that it would build the Russian Orbital Service Station (ROSS) after it leaves ISS.

Russia keeps the station supplied with crews and cargo via Soyuz and Progress spacecraft, respectively. Progress resupply ships raise the station’s orbit and maneuvers the facility to avoid space debris. The Russian section of ISS is about one quarter of the orbiting laboratory.

The United States wants to keep the station operating until 2030. It wants U.S. industry to develop private space stations later in the 2020’s on which the space agency could become a tenant.

ISS is a partnership of NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The four space agencies are partners in the NASA-led Artemis program that plans to return astronauts to the surface of the moon later in this decade.

NASA ISS Program Director Robyn Gatens said the space agency has received no formal notice about Russia withdrawing from the program during an appearance at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

Viasat Selected by European Space Agency to Conduct Multi-Layered SATCOM Study

Study Aims to Answer Fundamental Questions for Future Networks

CARLSBAD, Calif. and FARNBOROUGH, United Kingdom (Viasat, Inc. PR) — Viasat UK Ltd., a subsidiary of global communications company Viasat Inc. (NASDAQ: VSAT), today announced it was selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) to conduct a multi-layered Satellite Communication (SATCOM) study focused on evaluating the use cases, market segments and technical aspects of these future systems, which will be comprised of networks that span multiple orbital types including Geostationary Equatorial Orbit (GEO), Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), Low Earth Orbit (LEO), High Altitude Platform Systems (HAPS) and others, as well as include various frequency bands, satellite operators and network designs.

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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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Innovative Data Satellite Enters Commercial Service

On 23 October 2021, Ariane 5 flight VA255 lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana to deliver two telecom satellites, SES-17 and Syracuse-4A to their planned orbits. (Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)

PARIS (ESA PR) — A large data-driven telecommunications satellite that uses innovative technology to keep cool as well as other innovations – developed under an ESA Partnership Project – has started its commercial service.

The satellite will provide broadband connectivity for commercial shipping, aviation, governments and enterprises through its operator, SES, as well connecting underserved areas and accelerating digital inclusion.

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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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Satellite Built by Open Cosmos and RHEA Group to Fly on LauncherOne as Part of First UK Mission

Global navigation pathfinder mission, built in the UK, has been added to the flight manifest from Spaceport Cornwall later this year

LONG BEACH, Calif. & FARNBOROUGH, England (Virgin Orbit PR) — In what will be a mission of firsts, Virgin Orbit (Nasdaq: VORB), a leading launch provider, announced today that it has been selected to launch RHEA Group’s first satellite into space. The international engineering and solutions firm is working with Open Cosmos to design, build and operate its mission. Open Cosmos and RHEA have selected Virgin Orbit from its UK business to carry the satellite, DOVER Pathfinder (DOVER), to Low Earth Orbit aboard its historic flight from Spaceport Cornwall later this year. The mission will mark the first time in history that a satellite launch has been conducted from British soil, helping fulfill the goals of the UK government to enable full end-to-end space capability.

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Thales Alenia Space and QinetiQ to pave the way for small multimission satellites in Very Low Earth Orbit

A study contract for Skimsat, a breakthough concept for reducing the cost of Earth
observing satellites and a step further for new space initiatives

Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), and QinetiQ have signed a study contract with the European Space Agency to pave the way for small multi-mission satellites to operate in Very Low Earth Orbit (VLEO). (Image Credit: Thales Alenia Space)

BRISTOL, UK (Thales Alenia Space PR)  – Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), and QinetiQ have signed a study contract with the European Space Agency to pave the way for small multi- mission satellites to operate in Very Low Earth Orbit (VLEO).

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AI CubeSat Heads to Van Allen Belts on Vega-C

Trisat-R 3U CubeSat (Credit: SkyLabs)

PARIS (ESA PR) — An ESA-financed nanosatellite, which lifted off aboard the inaugural flight of Vega-C, will operate an AI system in the harsh, radiation-wracked environment of the Van Allen Belts. The shoebox-sized Trisat-R – one of six ‘CubeSats’ on the flight, headed up to a rarely-trafficked, close to 6000 km altitude orbit – is also carrying radiation-detection payloads from CERN, the European Council for Nuclear Research, Slovenian firm SkyLabs and ESA itself.

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Swarm Dodges Collision During Climb to Escape Sun’s Wrath

Artist’s view of Swarm. (Credit: ESA–P. Carril, 2013)

ESA Mission Update

In brief

The pressure is on at ESA’s mission control. An ESA satellite dodges out of the way of a mystery piece of space junk spotted just hours before a potential collision.

Now a crucial step in the spacecraft’s ongoing journey to safer skies has to be quickly rescheduled, as violent solar activity related to the ramping up of the solar cycle warps Earth’s atmosphere and threatens to drag it down out of orbit…

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Following the Success of the Inaugural flight, Arianespace to Start Operations of Vega C with Seven Launchers Already Sold

Vega-C lifts off on its maiden flight on July 13, 2022. (Credit: Arianespace)
  • Following the success of its inaugural flight, Vega C will now begin its operational phase, under the responsibility of Arianespace, with a target of at least four launches per year and a fast-growing backlog that already includes 7 launches and 10 auxiliary payloads.
  • Vega C is an upgrade to the Vega launcher and can better answer institutional and commercial customers’ needs. Thanks to its increased capabilities, Vega C will serve the burgeoning Earth observation market as well as long-term institutional and commercial needs.
  • The first commercial launch of Vega C is scheduled in November 2022. The flight, designated VV22, will deliver Pléiades Neo 5 and 6, a pair of satellites wholly funded, manufactured and operated by Airbus.

KOUROU, French Guiana (Arianespace PR) — On Wednesday, July 13 at 10:13 am local time in Kourou, French Guiana, the first Vega C, the new European launcher designed and manufactured by AVIO, was successfully launched under the supervision of ESA from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana (South America).

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NASA’s Webb Sheds Light on Galaxy Evolution, Black Holes

Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

NASA Mission Update

  • In an enormous new image, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals never-before-seen details of galaxy group “Stephan’s Quintet”
  • The close proximity of Stephan’s Quintet gives astronomers a ringside seat to galactic mergers, interactions
  • Webb’s new image shows in rare detail how interacting galaxies trigger star formation in each other and how gas in galaxies is being disturbed
  • The image also shows outflows driven by a black hole in Stephan’s Quintet in a level of detail never seen before
  • Tight galaxy groups like this may have been more common in the early universe when superheated, infalling material may have fueled very energetic black holes

Stephan’s Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, is best known for being prominently featured in the holiday classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Today, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals Stephan’s Quintet in a new light. This enormous mosaic is Webb’s largest image to date, covering about one-fifth of the Moon’s diameter. It contains over 150 million pixels and is constructed from almost 1,000 separate image files. The information from Webb provides new insights into how galactic interactions may have driven galaxy evolution in the early universe.

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