SpaceX Rockets U.S. Launches to New Heights in 2022

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites on June 17, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Powered by 33 flights of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster, the United States leads all nations with 48 launch attempts through the first seven months of the year. The total is three short of the number of U.S. launches attempted last year, and far ahead of the 27 launches conducted by second place China through the end of July. The U.S. has conducted more launches than the 43 flights conducted by the rest of the world combined.

A number of notable flights were conducted. SpaceX launched two Crew Dragons to the International Space Station (ISS), including the first fully privately funded mission to the orbiting laboratory. United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched Boeing’s CST-100 Starship crew vehicle on an automated flight test to ISS, a crucial step before astronauts to fly on the spacecraft. Small satellite launch provider Rocket Lab conducted its first deep-space mission by sending a spacecraft the size of a microwave to the moon.

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The Best Laid Plans: Europe’s Ambitious Launch Year Goes Awry Due to International Tensions, Schedule Delays

The James Webb Space Telescope lifted off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, at 13:20 CET on 25 December 2021 on its exciting mission to unlock the secrets of the Universe. (Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On Christmas Day 2021, an European Ariane 5 rocket roared off its launch pad in French Guiana with the most expensive payload the booster had ever carried, the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope. The launcher performed perfectly, sending the most powerful space telescope on a journey to its final destination 1.5 million km (900 million miles) from Earth. The launch was so accurate that Webb should have sufficient propellant to perform science operations for much longer than its planned 10-year lifetime.

There was a collective sigh of relief among the European, American and Canadian scientists and engineers involved in the long-delayed program. It was a superb Christmas gift to a world suffering through the second year of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

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NASA Awards Contracts to Lockheed Martin and Maxar for NOAA GeoXO Spacecraft Phase A Study

Credit: NOAA

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — On behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA has selected two firms for the Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO) Spacecraft Phase A Study. These contracted firms will help meet the objectives of NOAA’s GeoXO Program.

The firms selected are Lockheed Martin Space of Littleton, Colorado, and Maxar Space LLC of Palo Alto, California. The total value of each of these ten-month firm-fixed-price contracts is approximately $5 million. The work will be performed at the contractors’ facilities.

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NOAA’s JPSS-2 Satellite Completes Critical Testing Milestone

JPSS-2 satellite enters thermal vacuum chamber for testing. (Credit: NOAA)

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — NOAA’s JPSS-2 satellite has cleared a critical testing milestone, bringing it a step closer to launch. Last week, the polar-orbiting satellite emerged from the chamber after completing its thermal vacuum testing. This test is meant to show that the spacecraft and all of its instruments will perform successfully when exposed to the harsh environments of space. 

“I can absolutely say with 100% certainty that the observatory is working great,” said JPSS Flight Project Manager Andre Dress. “All the instruments are performing great, and we’re going to meet all our requirements – and then some.”  

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NASA Statement on Launch Failure, Loss of TROPICS Spacecraft

TROPICS mission CubeSat (Credit: Blue Canyon Technologies)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — While we are disappointed in the loss of the two TROPICS CubeSats, the mission is part of NASA’s Earth venture program, which provides opportunities for lower-cost, higher risk missions. Despite a loss of the first two of six satellites, the TROPICS constellation will still meet its science objectives with the four remaining CubeSats distributed in two orbits.  With four satellites, TROPICS will still provide improved time-resolved observations of tropical cyclones compared to traditional observing methods.

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Astra Space Rocket Launch Fails Again, Two NASA TROPICS Satellites Lost

Rocket 3.3’s second stage Aether engine flashes as it fails during a launch on June 12, 2022. (Credit: Astra Space/Nasaspaceflight webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The second stage of an Astra Space Rocket 3.3 rocket failed less than a minute before planned shutdown on Sunday, sending two NASA TROPICS mission satellites plunging into the atmosphere instead of entering orbit.

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NASA to Launch 6 Small Satellites to Monitor, Study Tropical Cyclones

An image of Tropical Cyclone Batsirai over Madagascar captured by the TROPICS Pathfinder satellite in February of 2022. (Credit: NASA)

Update: The launch aboard an Astra Space Rocket 3.3 booster failed after the vehicle’s second stage shut down prematurely on Sunday. NASA said in an update that the TROPICS constellation can still improve the monitoring of tropical cyclones with four satellites. Astra Space has the contract to launch the four additional TROPICS spacecraft on two launches.

By Sofie Bates
NASA’s Earth Science News Team

NASA is launching the first two of six small satellites no earlier than June 12 that will study the formation and development of tropical cyclones almost every hour – about four to six times more often than is possible with current satellites. This is the first of three CubeSat launches for NASA’s Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) mission. The remaining satellites will be placed into their orbits during two subsequent launches this year. If successful, the TROPICS satellites will be spread across three orbital planes to cover more of the globe more frequently.

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Astra Space Scheduled to Launch NASA TROPICS Mission on Sunday

Astra Space is scheduled to launch NASA’s TROPICS-1 mission on Sunday, June 12 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The launch window opens at 12 p.m. EDT. A livestream of the launch will begin at T-30 minutes: http://astra.com/livestream#AdAstra

Astra’s Rocket 3.3 will launch the first two of six small Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) spacecraft that will study the formation and development of tropical cyclones almost every hour – about four to six times more often than is possible with current satellites.

NOAA’s JPSS-2 Mission Has New Launch Date

An illustration of the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). JPSS is a collaborative program between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA. JPSS-2 is NOAA’s next-generation operational Earth observation program that acquires and distributes global environmental data primarily from multiple polar-orbiting satellites. (Credits: Orbital ATK/Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems)

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — NOAA and NASA are now targeting November 1, 2022 as the new launch date for NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2) mission. The launch was originally scheduled for September 30, 2022, however, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite instrument, or VIIRS, experienced a test equipment anomaly during thermal vacuum (TVAC) testing.  

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NASA Awards Contracts to Ball Aerospace & Raytheon for NOAA Ocean Color Instrument Phase A Study

Credit: NOAA

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — On behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA has selected two firms for the Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO) Ocean Color (OCX) instrument Phase A Study. These contracted firms will help meet the objectives of NOAA’s GeoXO Program. 

The firms selected are Ball Aerospace of Boulder, Colorado and Raytheon Intelligence & Space, El Segundo, California. The total value of each of these twenty-month firm-fixed-price contracts is approximately $5.2 million. The work will be performed at the contractors’ facilities.

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SpaceFounders, the Factory of Future Space Champions, Announces Recruitment of 2nd Class of 10 Startups

PARIS (CNES PR) — SpaceFounders, the accelerator for European space startups, whose goal is to identify and support future champions to enable them to become industrial leaders and amplify their impact on the structuring of the space sector, announces the winners of its 2nd promotion.

Services using earth observation data for sustainable development are in the spotlight this year. Space is an essential tool to support the agricultural and urban sectors in their necessary transition and to observe and prevent the impact of climate change. Space propulsion is another key theme of this second promotion, demonstrating the interest of the market for systems allowing maneuvers in orbit with an ever higher performance/cost ratio. The other topics covered are those of on-board artificial intelligence for autonomous systems in orbit, telecommunications and the Internet of Things by satellite.

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NASA Selects Ball Aerospace, Raytheon for NOAA Atmospheric Composition Instrument Study

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — On behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA has selected two firms for the Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO) Atmospheric Composition (ACX) instrument Phase A Study. These firms will provide services to help meet the objectives of NOAA’s GeoXO program.

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colorado, and Raytheon Intelligence & Space of El Segundo, California will both receive twenty-month firm-fixed-price contracts for approximately $5 million. The work will be performed at the contractors’ facilities.

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NOAA FY 2023 Budget Advances a Climate-Ready Nation, New Blue Economy and Equity

A collage of typical climate and weather-related events: floods, heatwaves, drought, hurricanes, wildfires and loss of glacial ice. (Credit: NOAA)

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — “The Biden-Harris Administration recently released its proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2023, which includes strong support for NOAA‘s mission and goals. This level of funding signals the Administration’s support of NOAA as the authority on climate data and information. The FY 2023 budget will allow NOAA to scale our efforts to deliver accurate climate products and services to all Americans by building on our research, forecasts, and observations,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D.

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