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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Richard Branson Gets His Astronaut Wings, Aims to Eliminate Asterisk* Next Time

Unity 22 crew: Michael Masucci, Colin Bennett, Richard Branson, Sirisha Bandla, David Mackay and Beth Moses at the 37th Space Symposium. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
  • Billionaire aims to go higher and faster next time
  • Virgin Galactic still can’t get SpaceShipTwo all the way up (to Karman line)
  • FAA throws in the towel on deciding who is and who isn’t an astronaut

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Earlier this month, Richard Branson and two Virgin Galactic employees received commercial astronaut wings from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity flight test they took part in last July. The trio was the last group to receive the wings — FAA ended the program last year — and the honors came with a pretty big asterisk.

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Roscosmos Looks to Make Space Tourist Training Even Shorter

The three new residents aboard the station (front row, from left) are Russian actress Yulia Peresild, Roscosmos cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, and Russian Producer Klim Shipenko. In the back, are Expedition 65 crew members Shane Kimbrough, Oleg Novitskiy, Thomas Pesquet, Megan McArthur, Pyotr Dubrov, Mark Vande Hei, and Akihiko Hoshide. (Credit: NASA TV)

TASS reports that it is theoretically possible to reduce the time it takes to train a non-professional astronaut (aka, space tourists or spaceflight participants) to fly to orbit aboard the Soyuz spacecraft to under the current four months. Paying customers used to spend months in training prior to a flight.

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Soyuz MS-20 Crew Shares Highlights of ISS Flight

Soyuz MS-20 crew members Alexander Misurkin, Yusaku Maezawa and Yozo Hirano at a post-flight news conference. (Credit: CPK/Roscosmos)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — On Monday, December 20, 2021, the crew of the Soyuz MS-20 spacecraft returned to Earth from a space expedition. For the Hero of Russia, Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, she was the third in a row and the shortest – only twelve days. The crew commander was tasked with delivering to the ISS and then returning to Earth the Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa and his assistant Yozo Hirano, who made space travel as tourists.

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Japanese Billionaire Lands After 12 Days in Space

Soyuz MS-20 spacecraft descends under a parachute. (Credit: Roscosmos)

VIENNA, Va. (Space Adventures PR) — Space Adventures, Inc., the world’s leading space experiences company, announced the Russian Soyuz MS-20 carrying Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa (MZ) and his production assistant, Yozo Hirano, successfully landed in Kazakhstan following their spaceflight to the International Space Station (ISS). The duo’s journey lasted a total of 12 days under the command of Cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin.

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Russia Switches to Year-Long Space Station Missions, Doubles Up on Tourist Flights as NASA Gravy Train Ends

This image shows the planned configuration of six iROSA solar arrays intended to augment power on the International Space Station. The roll-up arrays arrive on the SpaceX-22 resupply mission. (Credits: NASA/Johnson Space Center/Boeing)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin has said that Russia will extend cosmonaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS) from six to 12 months in order to gather data needed for missions to the moon and Mars.

“We are talking about stable operations that will be carried out as part of yearly expeditions. Now this will be placed on a systemic basis with the corresponding system of biomedical researches. Year-long expeditions are what we need,” Rogozin said.

Well, that sounds good. Far sighted, even visionary. That’s what makes it so odd; these are not words normally associated with the Roscosmos boss. Something else seems to be going on here.

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Launch 2020: Russian Missions Improved in Quality, Declined in Numbers

Soyuz-2 rocket lifts off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome with 36 OneWeb satellites. (Credit: Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

For Russia, 2020 was a mixed year in terms of launch. Once the world’s leader in sending payloads into space, the nation finished a distant third behind the United States and China with only 17 orbital flights. That figure was eight below the 25 launches in 2019, and Russia’s lowest number of the 21st century. The U.S. and China finished with 44 and 39 launch attempts, respectively.

On the bright side, 2020 was the second year in a row in which Russia did not experience a launch failure. That streak came after more a decade during which the Russian launch industry was plagued with multiple fmishaps.

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Japanese Billionaut Maezawa Begins Training in Russia for Flight to ISS

Yusaku Maezawa (Credit: Roscosmos)

STAR CITY, Russia, June 15, 2021 (Roscosmos PR) — At the Yu.A. Gagarin, on June 15, 2021, the participants of the visiting expedition’s space flight were presented to the management and staff of the Center.

By the decision of the interdepartmental commission for the selection of cosmonauts for the VC-20 crews as space flight participants, the main crew were appointed:

  • Yusaku Maezawa, president of Start Today Corporation, businessman.
  • Yozo Hirano, producer, personal assistant to Maezawa Yusaku.
  • Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin became the commander of the prime crew.
  • Back-up crew commander – Alexander Skvortsov.
  • Shun Ogiso, Public Relations Manager of Start Today Corporation, will also take part in the training.
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Glavkosmos and NPP Zvezda Discussed Possible Cooperation on Commercial Human Spaceflights

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The top management of Glavkosmos (part of the Roscosmos State Corporation) visited the Zvezda Research and Production Enterprise in Tomilino, Moscow Region. Representatives of Glavkosmos and the leadership of NPP Zvezda held substantive negotiations, during which they discussed work on the implementation of contracts for the manufacture of spacesuits, cradles and chairs for the Indian manned program, as well as the manufacture of appropriate equipment for participants in the scientific and educational project “Challenge”.

All work under the contracts between Glavkosmos and NPP “Zvezda” is carried out by the enterprise in accordance with the schedule. In addition, the parties substantively discussed interaction in the field of new promising projects, including the use of many years of experience and production facilities of NPP “Zvezda” for the manufacture of individual flight equipment that will be used by commercial participants in space flights – tourists and researchers.

The possibility of commercial space flight participants using equipment manufactured by NPP Zvezda to provide spacewalks was discussed separately, in connection with the receipt of such requests by Glavkosmos.

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Glavkosmos  is a subsidiary of the Roscosmos State Corporation. The main task of the company is to promote the achievements of the Russian rocket and space industry to world markets and to manage complex international projects. For more than thirty years of the company’s history, more than 140 international contracts have been successfully implemented, including the launch of more than 150 spacecraft as an associated payload.

Zvezda Research and Production Enterprise is a leading enterprise in Russia in the field of creation and production of individual life support systems for pilots and cosmonauts, means of rescuing crews and passengers in case of aircraft accidents, systems for refueling aircraft in flight.

CSA, Virgin Galactic Sign MOU on Microgravity Flights, Spaceflight Participants

SpaceShipTwo cabin interior. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

LONGUEUIL, Que. (CSA PR) — The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Virgin Galactic today, heralding the beginning of a collaborative relationship between the two  organizations.

The purpose of this collaboration is to explore the possibilities of using the Virgin Galactic Spaceflight System (VSS), which offers suborbital microgravity flights, for future CSA payloads and spaceflight participants. It also aims to facilitate the exchange of information on collaboration opportunities between Virgin Galactic, the CSA, and the Canadian space industry and academia.

Virgin Galactic and the CSA will begin by discussing the capabilities of the VSS and related Virgin Galactic services. The two organizations will also look at creating opportunities to consult with Canadian industry and potential users of the VSS.

This agreement will support the CSA’s objective to be Canada’s leader in capability demonstration by providing the space industry, universities and other government departments with access to platforms, demonstration opportunities and unique expertise.

UTMB, NASTAR Team for Spaceflight Passenger Research

Centrifuge used for pilot and passenger training. (Credit: NASTAR)
Centrifuge used for pilot and passenger training. (Credit: NASTAR)

GALVESTON, Texas (UTMB PR) – People have dreamed of traveling to space and gazing back at earth since the dawn of time, but until recently space travel has been something reserved for a select few, mainly astronauts. Now with the advent of commercial suborbital space travel, that opportunity is closer than ever before for everyday citizens.

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