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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A Busy Six Months as Suborbital Spaceflight Comes Into its Own

New Shepard lands after the NS-21 flight. (Credit: Blue Origin webcast)

Part I of II

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

For decades, the suborbital launch sector was largely a backwater. Militaries tested ballistic missiles, scientists conducted experiments, and engineers tested new technologies. A sounding rocket is small potatoes compared with orbital rocket launches and the glamor of human spaceflight. Few people paid much attention.

All that has changed in recent years as Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin and their billionaire owners — Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos — started launching themselves and others on suborbital joyrides. Startups have been conducting suborbital flight tests of new orbital launch vehicles designed to serve the booming smalls satellite market. Suborbital has become a much more interesting sector.

This year has been no exception. The first half of 2022 saw Blue Origin send 12 people into space on two New Shepard flights, a Chinese company conduct six launches in a program to develop aa suborbital spaceplane and hypersonic transport, South Korea and Iran perform flight tests of three different smallsat launchers, Germany test technologies for reusable rockets, and first-ever commercial launch from Australia. And, a great deal of science was done.

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DLR Launches Sounding Rocket to Test Reusable Booster Technology

Launch of the STORT flight experiment. [Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)]
  • DLR flies three-stage sounding rocket for the first time.
  • Component structures, measurement methods and evaluation algorithms tested for the re-entry phase.
  • A modular and distributed data acquisition system allowed the efficient recording of data from the different experiments.
  • Focus: space travel, aerodynamics, sounding rockets.

ANDOYA, Norway (DLR PR) — Reusable carrier systems are exposed to high loads and temperatures when returning to the surface. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) has now successfully tested component structures, measurement methods and evaluation algorithms for the re-entry phase with the flight experiment STORT (key technologies for high-energy return flights from carrier stages). 

In the early morning of June 26, 2022, the three-stage rocket experiment was launched from the Andøya Space launch site in northern Norway. At the apex of the trajectory at an altitude of 38 kilometers, the upper stage reached a flight speed of around 9,000 kilometers per hour, which corresponds to a Mach number of over eight. It then fell into the Atlantic Ocean more than 350 kilometers from the starting point.

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Locate and Identify Satellites with Laser Reflectors

The innovative laser reflectors for satellites have additional optics to polarize laser beams. (Credit: DLR/Eppler)
  • The DLR Institute of Technical Physics has developed a new generation of laser reflectors for satellites.
  • Satellites equipped with the reflectors should be able to be located with centimeter precision using lasers and at the same time be clearly identified.
  • The reflectors have additional optics for polarizing the laser light for the satellite laser ranging process.
  • Focus: space travel, security

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is testing a new generation of laser reflectors for satellites. Satellites equipped with it should be able to be located from Earth with lasers and identified at the same time. The special thing about the new reflectors is the adjustable polarization optics for each satellite. These individually change the properties of a reflected laser beam, which allows the satellites to be distinguished.

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Smartphone Technology Brings Satellites More Computing Power

OPS-SAT research satellite (Credit: ESA)
  • DLR is developing distributed and heterogeneous on-board computers for future space missions.
  • Combination of radiation-resistant and commercially available processors that monitor each other and redistribute tasks in the event of an error.
  • Successful experiment with Earth observation data on an ESA test satellite.
  • Focus: space travel, earth observation, technology

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — Reliable and powerful computers play a central role in space travel: computer systems in satellites, for example, enable demanding earth observation missions. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is developing a new computer architecture that is intended to give the so-called on-board computers (OBC) more power and also enable them to repair themselves. Distributed heterogeneous OBCs are being developed in the ScOSA (Scalable On-Board Computing for Space Avionics) flight experiment project. You have different computing nodes connected as a network.

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NASA, DLR to End SOFIA Operations

SOFIA flying observatory (Credit: NASA-Jim Ross)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and its partners at the German Space Agency at the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) will conclude the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) mission, after a successful eight years of science. SOFIA will end operations no later than Sept. 30, 2022, at the conclusion of its current mission extension.

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RFA Wins 11 Million Euros in the DLR Microlauncher Competition

RFA One launcher in flight (Credit: Rocket Factory)

BERLIN, Germany, April 25, 2022 (RFA PR) – Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA) wins the 2022 round of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) microlauncher competition. The prize values 11 million Euros [USD $11.7 million]. As a result, the German government will be an anchor customer of RFA ONE. On each of the first two flights of RFA ONE, a payload of up to 150 kg will be placed by DLR.

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Ground-based Rover’s Touch Shared with Astronaut in Space

Analog-1 rover (Credit: ESA–A. Koehler)

PARIS (ESA PR) — If man’s best friend is a dog, then in the future astronauts’ closest companions might well be rovers. A technique allowing astronauts in orbit to control rovers exploring planetary surfaces has been developed by a research team from ESA, the German Aerospace Center DLR and European academia and industry, culminating in an Earth-based rover session commanded from the International Space Station. A paper published in the prestigious Science Robotics journal this week details their results.

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Ger­man En­MAP Hyperspectral Imaging Satellite Launch­es Suc­cess­ful­ly on SpaceX Falcon 9 Transporter-4 Mission

Launch of Fal­con 9 with Ger­man en­vi­ron­men­tal satel­lite En­MAP. (Credit: SpaceX)
  • At 18:24 CEST on 1 April (12:24 local time), the first German-developed hyperspectral satellite (EnMAP) successfully launched on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
  • The mission is being managed by the German Space Agency at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Bonn on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection (BMWK).
  • OHB-System AG was commissioned to develop and build the satellite and the hyperspectral instrument. Meanwhile, the ground segment has been developed and will be operated by DLR in Oberpfaffenhofen. The German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) in Potsdam is the scientific coordinator for the mission.
  • Focus: Space, Earth observation, climate change, environmental protection and nature conservation

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — It all began in 2003 with a competition announced by the German Space Agency at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) as part of the National Space Programme. The task was to design and build a new type of hyperspectral instrument and a satellite to carry it, and to test both the instrument and its satellite for several years in the harsh conditions of space. At the same time, an (inter)national community of scientists was formed to define the user requirements and objectives for the first German hyperspectral mission, which was also to be the first of its kind in Europe. What data about Earth should be collected with EnMAP, and for what purpose? This is how the special environmental satellite – the abbreviation stands for Environmental Mapping and Analysis Program – was created.

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SpaceX Launches 40 Satellites into Space

Falcon9 Transporter-4 launch. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

by David Bullock
Staff Writer

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla., April 1, 2022 — A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched 40 payloads as part of the company’s Transporter-4 dedicated smallsat rideshare mission.

The rocket launched into a sun-synchronous orbit at 12:24 p.m. EDT. The mission manifest included the first satellite orbited by Pixxel of India, Kleos Space’s Patrol Mission, and 12 Spacebee communications satellites. A list of payloads is below.

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SpaceFounders, the Factory of Future Space Champions

Emmanuelle Méric (Credits: CNES)

PARIS (CNES PR) — Created by CNES in 2021, SpaceFounders offers ultra-intensive and very high-level support to help startups think big. The explanations of the president of SpaceFounders France, Emmanuelle Méric.

What is SpaceFounders?

Emmanuelle Méric: SpaceFounders is an accelerator for European space startups. This is a public program, created at the initiative of CNES, which brings together a large community of public and private players, foremost among which are ESA and DLR, the German space agency , to bring out new world-class European champions in the space sector. Concretely, SpaceFounders is an entrepreneurship support program intended for managers of Space Tech startups. The ultra-intensive program lasts 3 months, virtually and face-to-face in the heart of European space capitals, and includes meetings, master classes, targeted networking and workshops.

“The great strength of SpaceFounders is the mentoring and connection with leading personalities from the space and digital world and investors.

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DLR and NASA Jointly De­vel­op­ing Soft­ware Pack­age for Quan­tum Com­put­ers

  • The software will be open source.
  • A module from the DLR research group can be used to explore quantum computing for applications such as flight route optimisation or satellite missions planning.
  • Focus: Quantum technology, quantum computing, digitalisation, aerospace

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are collaborating on a software library that will make it possible to use today’s quantum computers to explore the potential of quantum computing to solve real-world aerospace application problems.

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DLR Ceases Bilateral Cooperation with Russia

DLR Press Release

As one of the largest research organisations in Europe, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is committed to engaging in international cooperation for the benefit of society and industry. DLR employs staff from 96 countries. They stand for the peaceful coexistence of all nations and peoples. Violence should never be a means to achieve objectives of any kind. We therefore view the developments in Ukraine with grave concern and condemn Russia’s hostile actions.

DLR and the German Space Agency at DLR have been cooperating with Russian institutions on a number of research projects, in some cases with the participation of other German research organisations and universities, and international partners.

Against the backdrop of the aggressive attack on Ukraine, the DLR Executive Board is taking the following measures:

  • All collaboration activities with Russian institutions on current projects or projects in the planning stage will be terminated.
  • There will be no new projects or initiatives with institutions in Russia.

Where necessary, DLR will enter into coordination with other national and international partners.

Matthias Maurer Tests Concrete on the International Space Station

Matthias Maurer conducting the MASON concrete experiment. (Credit: ESA/NASA)
  • Matthias Maurer researches the hardening of concrete in zero gravity.
  • Climate protection through more efficient use of raw materials.
  • Experiments in space provide data for technical developments on earth.
  • Cooperation DLR with the universities of Cologne and Duisburg-Essen.
  • The experiment is part of the Cosmic Kiss mission.

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — How does freshly poured concrete behave in zero gravity? And how can this contribute to environmental protection on Earth? In early February 2022, the German ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer searched for answers to these questions on the  International Space Station experiment “MASON/Concrete Hardening” is a joint project of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the University of Cologne and the University Duisburg-Essenand takes place as part of the Cosmic Kiss mission.

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Glaciers are Melting Faster With Far Greater Consequences Than Expected

Pope Glacier in Antarctica taken by Operation Ice Bridge in 2016. (Credit: NASA)

https://www.dlr.de/content/de/artikel/news/2022/01/20220128_gletscher-schmelzen-schneller-als-erwartet.html

  • West Antarctica: Smith, Pope and Kohler glaciers are melting faster than expected.
  • Critical area: Free-floating undersides of glaciers melt the most.
  • Ice masses in West Antarctica could raise sea levels by up to 1.3 meters.
  • Focus: space travel, earth observation, global change, TanDEM-X

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — The South Pole has new problem children. A group of smaller glaciers are melting faster than expected: Pope, Smith and Kohler. So far, the neighboring ice giants Thwaites and Pine Island have been the focus of research because they are very fragile and could cause global sea levels to rise by up to 1.2 meters. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) has uncovered and analyzed the changes in West Antarctica together with international research partners. Using special radar data from the TanDEM-X and COSMO-SkyMed satellite missions, they tracked down the causes of the rapid melting of the smaller glaciers.

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