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.
It was a busy first half of 2022 that saw 77 orbital launches with 74 successes and three failures through the 182nd day of the year on July 1. At a rate of one launch every 2 days 8 hours 44 minutes, the world is on track to exceed the 146 launches conducted in 2021.
A number of significant missions were launched during a period that saw more than 1,000 satellite launched. SpaceX flew the first fully commercial crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Boeing conducted an orbital flight test of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, China prepared to complete assembly of its space station, South Korea launched its first domestically manufactured rocket, and Rocket Lab sent a NASA mission to the moon.
This report from the Kremlin-backed RT news channel has extensive comments from Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin, including a threat to end the International Space Station project. He said he didn’t expect it would happen because he beliefs the U.S. will cool down over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Rogozin has also been busy on Twitter. He tweeted a short video showing workers taping over national flags painted on a Soyuz 2-1.b rocket with 36 OneWeb satellites aboard that was erected on a launch pad at Baikonur Cosmodrome. The launch had been scheduled for Friday. On Thursday, London-based OneWeb announced it was suspending all launches of its spacecraft from Baikonur.
Translation via Twitter: The launchers at Baikonur decided that without the flags of some countries, our rocket would look more beautiful.
Other Recent Tweets (Translated from Russian)
Roskosmos will not service the remaining 24 RD-180 engines in the US, and the RD-181 will stop deliveries.
Editor’s note: The RD-180 rocket engines power United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket. Rogozin was referring to Russian personnel who support the launches. Two RD-181 engines power the first stage of Northrop Grumman’s Antares booster that launches Cygnus resupply ships to the space station.
In the context of the announced sanctions, Roscosmos will reconsider its priorities and focus on achieving full import independence in matters of space instrumentation. The main design, technological and financial resources released from joint ventures with the US and the EU international research projects, will now be directed to the creation of space systems exclusively for defense and dual purposes.
The State Corporation will not cooperate with Germany on joint experiments on the Russian segment of the ISS. Roskosmos will conduct them independently.
Russian space program will be adjusted against the backdrop of sanctions, the priority will be the creation of satellites in the interests of defense.
The Friday launch of 36 OneWeb broadband satellites aboard a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome is officially canceled as the London-based company refused demands from the Russian government amid growing international tensions over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“The Board of OneWeb has voted to suspend all launches from Baikonur,” the company said in a one-sentence statement.
In what is likely the first hostage drama involving communication satellites, the head of the Russian space program has demanded that the British government divest its shares in OneWeb and that the broadband satellite operator not provide services to foreign militaries in order to launch a new batch of spacecraft. The move comes amid growing tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and sanctions imposed on the country by western nations.
Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin tweeted that unless these demands are met, Russia will refuse to launch 36 OneWeb satellites that sit atop a Soyuz-2.1b rocket currently on the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The launch is scheduled for Saturday morning Moscow time.
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.
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.
MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — General Director of the Research and Production Association Energomash named after Academician V.P. Glushko (part of the Roscosmos State Corporation) Igor Arbuzov, in an interview with the Roscosmos program Big Space, spoke about the results of the enterprise’s work in 2021.
HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Northrop Grumman’s uncrewed Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled to depart the International Space Station on Saturday, Nov. 20, more than three months after delivering nearly 8,000 pounds of supplies, scientific investigations, commercial products, hardware, and other cargo to the orbiting laboratory.
Live coverage of the spacecraft’s departure will begin at 10:45 a.m. EST on NASA Television, the agency’s website, and the NASA app.
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.
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.
WALLOPS, Va. (NASA PR) — NASA is inviting the public to take part in virtual activities and events ahead of the launch of Northrop Grumman’s 16th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station for NASA.
Members of the public can register to attend the launch virtually. NASA’s virtual guest program for NG CRS-16 includes curated launch resources, notifications about interaction opportunities, and a virtual guest passport stamp following a successful launch.
Northrop Grumman is targeting liftoff of its Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft for no earlier than 5:55 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 10, from Pad-0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island.
The United States reclaimed the top spot in launches from China last year as NASA astronauts flew into orbit from American soil for the first time in nearly nine years, SpaceX deployed the world’s first satellite mega-constellation with reused rockets, and two new launchers debuted with less than stellar results.
American companies conducted 44 launches in 2020, with 40 successes and four failures. Bryce Tech reports that U.S. companies accounted for 32 of the 41 commercial launches conducted last year. The majority of those flights were conducted by SpaceX, which launched 25 orbital missions.
China came in second with a record of 35 successful launches and four failures. The 39 launch attempts tied that nation’s previous record for flights during a calendar year.
Let’s take a closer look at what U.S. companies achieved last year.
SpaceX dominated, China surged and Russia had another clean sheet as American astronauts flew from U.S. soil again in a year of firsts.
First in a series
by Douglas Messier Managing Editor
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a very busy launch year with a number of firsts in both human and robotic exploration. A total of 114 orbital launches were attempted, with 104 successes and 10 failures. It was the same number of launches that were conducted in 2018, with that year seeing 111 successes, two failures and one partial failure.