Suborbital Spaceflight by the Numbers

New Shepard launches on its 21st flight of the program on June 4, 2022. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Part II of II

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The first half of 2022 was a busy period in suborbital space with 23 launches conducted that did not involve tests of ballistic missiles or defensive systems. Twelve people flew above the Karman line, new boosters and space technologies were tested, and the first commercial suborbital launch was conducted from Australia. And some science was done.

We covered the above mentioned flights in depth in a story published on Tuesday. In this piece we’ll look a broader look at who launched what, when, where, why and on what.

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SSC Introduces SSC CONNECT®

SOLNA, Sweden (SSC PR) — In the past few years, Swedish Space Corporation has made some quick developments within its ground segment activities. To celebrate SSC’s recent upgrades, the company now gather its capabilities and related services under one branded roof: SSC CONNECT®. The name reflects, among other things, the company’s strengthened capabilities such as the launch of the market’s first global Ka-band network for EO missions, multiple investments and upgrades of its ground stations and antenna capabilities, as well as the company’s leading position in Lunar connectivity.

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SSC Resumes Rocket Launches From Esrange Space Center

Mapheus-10 sounding rocket launches from Esrange Space Center in Sweden. (Credit: Swedish Space Corporation)

KIRUNA, Sweden (Swedish Space Corporation PR) — Esrange Space Center in northern Sweden has resumed its rocket activities after the fire that damaged the launch site in late August. Today, only three months after the incident, a sounding rocket was once again launched from the base.

Sounding rocket Mapheus-10, owned by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), was successfully launched from the restored launch infrastructure at approximately 09.30 am on Monday, December 6. The onboard payload contained metals for various experiments including studies on solidification of alloy metals. The 1600 kg rocket reached an altitude of 250 kilometers and a speed of 2 kilometers per second. It stayed in microgravity for about six minutes.

“Our staff have worked tirelessly to get temporary launch solutions in place. Buildings used for balloons have been adapted to handle sounding rockets and we have also repaired damaged cabling and installed new safety systems. Resuming launches of these rockets is very important for research in a number of different areas. It feels fantastic that we are now back on track so soon after the accident,“ says Lennart Poromaa, site manager at Esrange.

“After the fire we were concerned that we would not be able to launch rockets from Esrange for a long time, but they have made a very quick restoration of the infrastructure. This is a unique space base and it feels great to be back,” says Alexander Kallenbach, team leader at DLR.

Test Tanks Fueled for ESA’s Themis Reusable First Stage

ESA is taking the first steps towards the in-flight demonstration of a prototype reusable rocket first stage called Themis from 2023 onwards. (Credit: ArianeGroup)

VERNON, France (ESA PR) — Recently completed tests of two propellant tanks set a first technological milestone in the ESA reusability roadmap towards the demonstration of a reusable first stage vehicle called Themis.

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Sweden Aims to Overhaul Space Law as Orbital Launches from Esrange Loom

MAXUS 9 launched at Esrange Space Center. (Credit: SSC)

STOCKHOLM, November 23, 2021 (Swedish Government PR) — Today, the Space Act Inquiry has submitted its report A new space law to Matilda Ernkrans, Minister with responsibility for space issues. The inquiry proposes a new space law that takes into account international regulations, promotes Swedish space operations and ensures national security needs.

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Esrange Moves Closer to Satellite Launch Capability

(Swedish Space Corporation PR) — The construction of the new spaceport at Esrange Space Center in northern Sweden is reaching new milestones – heading towards satellite launch capability by 2022. The orbital launch complex is currently being finalized with integration halls for rockets and satellites, expansion of planned fuel plants, launch pads and surrounding technical ground systems, and more.

“With more than 50 years of experience from launching rockets and balloons, Esrange Space Center is already one of the most active and versatile launch sites in the world. And with the new spaceport capability the base will be able provide a platform for space companies to develop their next generation rocket technologies and launch their satellites”, says Philip Påhlsson, Project Manager of New Esrange.

Esrange Space Center – the future of European spaceflight.

SSC and Bradford ECAPS Sign MoU Regarding Commercial Orbital Debris Removal Services

DUBAI, UAE (SSC PR) — Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) and Bradford Space / ECAPS, a leading manufacturer of non-toxic propulsion systems, have signed an MoU for the collaborative offering of orbital debris removal services. Starting in 2024, SSC and Bradford Space will offer orbital debris removal as a commercial service from Esrange Space Center in northern Sweden, mainland Europe. The agreement was signed today at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) 2021 in Dubai.

The new services will address the issue of common orbits becoming increasingly congested as more actors are accessing space, creating a hazard to other spacecraft using these orbits. A Bradford Space satellite bus, named ‘Square Rocket’, with significant delta-V capability will be inserted into orbit via launch from the Esrange Space Center to then rendezvous with and deorbit the debris. The target orbits are high-inclination polar, including the common Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO).

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SSC Invests to Finalize Spaceport Esrange – First Satellite to be Launched in 2022

MAXUS 9 launched at Esrange Space Center. (Credit: SSC)

SOLNA, Sweden (SSC PR) — Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) and the Nordic Investment Bank (NIB) have signed a EUR 12 million [US $13.9 million] loan agreement for the finalization of a new spaceport at Esrange Space Center in Kiruna, northern Sweden. The 12-year maturity loan will finance the investments to unlock the use of reusable rockets and the ability to launch small satellites into orbit as early as 2022, making Esrange the first major orbital launch site in the EU.

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Esrange Space Center Damaged by Fire

MAXUS 9 launched at Esrange Space Center. (Credit: SSC)

Jukkasjärvi, Sweden (Swedish Space Corp. PR) — The fire that broke out yesterday morning at Esrange during a scheduled static firing test of a solid rocket motor, partially damaged the infrastructure used for launching sounding rockets. The remaining operations at Esrange, which is one of the world’s most versatile space bases, are not affected by the incident.

Esrange Space Center is one of the world’s most versatile space bases, including a number of functions that are important to our society. The base is currently being expanded with new capability for further utilization of space.

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Rocket Factory Augsburg Signs Further Launch Contracts

RFA One launcher in flight (Credit: Rocket Factory)

AUGSBURG, Germany (RFA PR) – OHB Cosmos International Launch Services GmbH, a company of OHB SE’s newly established business segment OHB DIGITAL, as well as LuxSpace, the group’s Luxembourg-based satellite manufacturer, both signed a contract for a dedicated launch with German-based launch service provider, Rocket Factory Augsburg AG (RFA), for upcoming missions scheduled for mid-2024 and 2025.

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2020 a Busy Year for Suborbital Launches

New Shepard landing on the pad in West Texas on October 13, 2020, with the NASA Lunar Landing Sensor Demo onboard. (Credit: Blue Origin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Suborbital launch used to be a sleepy field that rarely attracted much public attention. Let’s face it, atmospheric research and student experiments are not front-page news. Sounding rockets don’t have the majesty and power of a Falcon 9 or Atlas V.

In recent years, exciting new entrants in the field and widespread streaming of launches have made suborbital flights exciting. Last year saw important suborbital flight tests by SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and Skyrora that garnered worldwide interest.

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SSC to Launch Satellites From Esrange Space Center

MAXUS 9 launched at Esrange Space Center. (Credit: SSC)

SOLNA, Sweden (Swedish Space Corporation PR) — Today, the Swedish government announced a decision to establish capability to launch small satellites from Esrange Space Center in northern Sweden.

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