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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Cygnus Completes Station Mission After Four Months

Northrop Grummans’s Cygnus space freighter, with its prominent cymbal-shaped UltraFlex solar arrays, is pictured Feb. 21, 2022, approaching the International Space Station carrying 8,300 pounds of new science experiments, crew supplies, and station hardware to replenish the Expedition 66 crew. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — At 7:07 a.m. EDT, flight controllers on the ground sent commands to release the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft from the Canadarm2 robotic arm after earlier detaching Cygnus from the nadir port of the International Space Station’s Unity module. At the time of release, the station was flying about 260 miles over the Pacific Ocean.

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AFRL/AFOSR Conducts Successful Rocket Launch at NASA Wallops for Hypersonic Research

AFRL/AFOSR BOLT II Rocket launching from NASA/Wallops Flight Facility on March 21, 2022. (Credit: NASA/Wallops/Brian Bonsteel)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL PR) – The BOLT II “In memory of Mike Holden” flight experiment, managed by the Air Force Research Laboratory/Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFRL/AFOSR), launched on the evening of March 21 from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Dr. Michael Holden, who, up until his passing in 2019, had been a leader in the hypersonics field since the 1960s. The flight experiment successfully flew the planned flight path and acquired tremendous scientific data to further our understanding of boundary layer transition, turbulent heating, and drag at hypersonic conditions.

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AFRL/AFOSR to Conduct Sound Rocket Launch at NASA Wallops for Hypersonics Research

Sounding rocket lifts off from Wallops Flight Facility. (Credit: NASA/Allison Stancil-Ervin)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) – A launch of a two-stage suborbital sounding rocket for the Air Force Research Laboratory/Air Force Office of Scientific Research’s BOLT II flight experiment is set to take place the evening of March 21 at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Live coverage of the launch will be provided on NASA Wallops YouTube channel. Officials at NASA Wallops project the launch to be visible anywhere from 10 to 120 seconds from parts of seven states: Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia as well as Washington, D.C.

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Rocket Lab Selects Virginia for Neutron Launch Site & Extensive Manufacturing Complex

Neutron production facility (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Construction to Begin on Neutron Manufacturing, Operations, and Launch Facilities in Accomack County, Bringing As Many As 250 New Jobs to Eastern Shore

Long Beach, Calif., February 28, 2022 (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab USA, Inc (Nasdaq: RKLB) (Rocket Lab), a leading launch and space systems company, today revealed it has selected Wallops Island, Virginia, as the location for its first launch site and extensive manufacturing and operations facilities, for its 8-ton payload class reusable Neutron rocket.

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Nanoracks Customer Payloads Launched on Northrop Grumman Resupply Mission to ISS

Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket liftoff from pad 0A at 12:40 p.m. EST from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, on Feb. 19, 2022. The Cygnus spacecraft, carrying 8,300 pounds of science investigations and cargo, is scheduled to arrive at the space station on Monday, Feb. 21. (Credits: NASA Wallops/Allison Stancil)

HOUSTON, February 22, 2022 (Nanoracks PR) — The past several months have been very busy here at Nanoracks, and we have continued our momentum into 2022 with another cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Northrop Grumman’s 17th (NG-17) commercial resupply mission carried five Nanoracks customer payloads on board the Cygnus spacecraft. These experiments will help improve environmental research on Earth and demonstrate technology necessary for future in-space economies. Additionally, this mission includes the first two “space trash bags” which will be used to collect waste from inside the ISS and deploy it into a reentry burn orbit on behalf of NASA.

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Cygnus Installed to Station for Cargo Transfers

ISS configuration after arrival of Northrop Grumman CRS-17 supply ship. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft installation on the International Space Station is now complete. Cygnus launched atop an Antares rocket at 12:40 p.m. EST Saturday, Feb. 19 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. At about 4:44 a.m., NASA astronaut Raja Chari, along with NASA astronaut Kayla Barron as backup, captured Cygnus, carrying 8,300 pounds of research, hardware, and science experiments to the International Space Station.

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Colgate-Palmolive to Launch First-Ever Private-Sector Skin Health Payload on Northrop Grumman CRS-17

Antares rocket on the launch pad. (Credit: NASA Wallops/Terry Zaperach)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., February 16, 2022 (CASISS PR) – When Northrop Grumman’s upcoming 17th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission launches to the International Space Station (ISS), it will carry the first-ever private-sector skin health experiment to be done on the orbiting laboratory. This investigation from PCA SKIN, a Colgate-Palmolive brand, will study the effects of microgravity on skin physiology.

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Northrop Grumman CRS-17 to Deliver Research on Skin Health, Cancer Treatment, and Nanoparticles to the Space Station

Antares rocket on the launch pad. (Credit: NASA Wallops/Terry Zaperach)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., February 15, 2022 (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman will launch a variety of critical research and supplies on its upcoming 17th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch, which take place at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, is scheduled for no earlier than February 19 at 12:40 p.m. ET.

The ISS National Laboratory is sponsoring more than 15 research and technology development payloads as part of this mission. These payloads, which represent diverse fields of study, intend to bring value to our nation through space-based research and enable a robust and sustainable market in low Earth orbit. Below highlights some of the ISS National Lab-sponsored investigations launching on Northrop Grumman CRS-17.

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NASA Sets Coverage, Opens Virtual Experience for Next Cargo Launch

A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket carrying a Cygnus resupply spacecraft launches from Pad-0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Northrop Grumman’s 16th contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA will deliver nearly 8,200 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the International Space Station and its crew. (Credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

WALLOPS, Va. (NASA PR) — NASA and commercial cargo provider Northrop Grumman are targeting 12:40 p.m. EST Saturday, Feb. 19, for the launch of the company’s 17th resupply mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.

Live launch coverage will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website, as well as YouTubeTwitterFacebook, and NASA’s App, beginning at 12:15 p.m.

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Virginia Governor Northam Announces Proposal for Rocket Lab USA to Expand U.S. Manufacturing and Launch Operations in Accomack County

Neutron booster (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Aerospace leader expected to make significant investment for construction of new Production, Assembly, Integration and Test facility, prepare for launch of new Neutron rocket

RICHMOND, Va. (Gov. Northam PR) — Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Accomack County is a finalist for a proposed expansion by Rocket Lab USA, Inc., a global leader in launch services and space systems, which expects to make a significant investment to expand its U.S. manufacturing and launch operations. If selected, the proposal would see Rocket Lab develop a new facility to support part production, assembly, integration and test operations to support the launch of its new Neutron rocket from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Announced by Rocket Lab in March 2021, the Neutron rocket is expected to be operational in late 2024 and is designed to deliver a 17,600 pound payload to low Earth orbit, and may ultimately support human spaceflight. 

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NASA Releases Autonomous Flight Termination Unit Software to Industry

The NASA Autonomous Flight Termination Unit. (Credits: NASA)

WALLOPS, Va. (NASA PR) — NASA has provided an advance release of its NASA Autonomous Flight Termination Unit (NAFTU) software code to the launch industry, a critical milestone toward the final certification of NAFTU, which is on-track for February 2022.

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Suborbital Testing Puts Moon-Bound Computing System Through its Paces

With a float duration of about four hours, a 2019 high-altitude balloon flight with World View Enterprises enabled the MSU team to evaluate RadPC’s tolerance to radiation over a longer period of time. (Credits: World View Enterprises)

By Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center

EDWARDS, Calif. — As you read this article, you don’t need to worry that cosmic radiation might destroy the computer displaying it. That’s because the Earth’s atmosphere provides protection against such radiation. However, for astronauts relying on computing systems in space, cosmic radiation is a real concern. This is why NASA is supporting tests of radiation-tolerant computing systems on suborbital vehicles – and eventually on the Moon.

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NASA Science, Cargo Launches on Northrop Grumman Resupply Mission

A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket carrying a Cygnus resupply spacecraft launches from Pad-0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Northrop Grumman’s 16th contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA will deliver nearly 8,200 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the International Space Station and its crew. (Credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

WALLOPS, Va. (NASA PR) — A Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station with more than 8,200 pounds of science investigations and cargo after launching at 6:01 p.m. EDT Tuesday from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. At 8:46 p.m., the spacecraft’s solar arrays successfully deployed to collect sunlight to power Cygnus on its journey to the station.

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ISS National Lab-Sponsored Investigations Ready for Northrop Grumman CRS-16 Flight to Space Station

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., August 6, 2021 (CASIS PR) – A variety of research investigations sponsored by the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory are launching onboard Northrop Grumman’s 16th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission to the orbiting outpost. The mission will launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia no earlier than August 10, 2021, and a five-minute window for launch begins at 5:56 p.m. EDT.

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