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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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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SpaceKids Global Founder Takes Blue Origin Flight to Space to Inspire Millions of Kids

New Shepard NS-20 spaceflight participants. (Credit: Blue Origin)

WINTER PARK, Fla. (SpaceKids Global PR) — SpaceKids Global is proud to announce founder Sharon Hagle will take her first flight into space on March 23 as a member of the fourth crewed flight on Blue Origin’s New Shepard. The 11-minute flight will take the six-person crew 62 miles above earth, traveling over three times the speed of sound to float weightless for several minutes. Joining Hagle on the flight will be her husband, Marc Hagle, making them the first married couple to fly to space on a commercial vehicle. 

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Saturday Night Live Star Pete Davidson, Dr. George Nield to Fly on Blue Origin’s 20th Mission

New Shepard takes off with six passengers on Dec. 11, 2021. (Credit: Blue Origin website)

KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — Blue Origin today announced the crew flying on its upcoming NS-20 flight on March 23 will include Marty Allen, Pete Davidson, husband and wife duo Sharon and Marc Hagle, Jim Kitchen, and Dr. George Nield. 

This mission is the fourth human flight for the New Shepard program and the 20th in its history.  

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Making Space-Based Research More Affordable—With a Little Help From the Girl Scouts

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

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla,, August 25, 2021 (CASIS PR) – Using ants, plants, and even brine shrimp, a group of Girl Scouts will be among the first researchers to help test a new autonomous research platform on the International Space Station (ISS) that is helping to expand the affordability of microgravity research. 

The Faraday Research Facility, developed by ISS U.S. National Laboratory Commercial Service Provider ProXopS, LLC., will launch on SpaceX’s upcoming 23rd Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission. If validated, the platform—capable of housing up to 12 remotely operated “microlab” experiments—could provide a cost- and resource-effective way to transport, conduct, and return spaceflight investigations.  

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