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.
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.
On July 5, 2022, the winners of this year’s INNOspace Masters competition were announced and awarded at a conference in Berlin.
337 companies, start-ups, universities and research institutions from 28 countries took part in the competition.
The next round of the competition will start in early 2023.
Focus: space travel, innovation, technology transfer
BERLIN (DLR PR) — On July 5, 2022, the winners of this year’s INNOspace Masters competition were announced by Dr. Peter Gräf, Director of Applications and Science at the German Space Agency at DLR, and Dr. Anna Christmann, Federal Government Coordinator for German Aerospace. Under the motto “Sustainable and Efficient Innovations for Space and Earth”, new ideas and concepts were sought that take up current challenges in space travel and other sectors and offer innovative solutions. The participants could choose from five competition categories – the “Challenges” – which cover different development and innovation phases along the entire innovation chain. Accordingly, there was an overall winner and five other winners – one per competition category.
DLR flies three-stage sounding rocket for the first time.
Component structures, measurement methods and evaluation algorithms tested for the re-entry phase.
A modular and distributed data acquisition system allowed the efficient recording of data from the different experiments.
Focus: space travel, aerodynamics, sounding rockets.
ANDOYA, Norway (DLR PR) — Reusable carrier systems are exposed to high loads and temperatures when returning to the surface. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) has now successfully tested component structures, measurement methods and evaluation algorithms for the re-entry phase with the flight experiment STORT (key technologies for high-energy return flights from carrier stages).
In the early morning of June 26, 2022, the three-stage rocket experiment was launched from the Andøya Space launch site in northern Norway. At the apex of the trajectory at an altitude of 38 kilometers, the upper stage reached a flight speed of around 9,000 kilometers per hour, which corresponds to a Mach number of over eight. It then fell into the Atlantic Ocean more than 350 kilometers from the starting point.
ArianeGroup has been selected by the European Commission to run two major projects in its Horizon Europe research framework program.
The SALTO project will facilitate the first flight tests of the Themis reusable stage demonstrator in Kiruna, Sweden.
The ENLIGHTEN project will speed up the development and introduction of reusable engine technologies.
Each project is built on the joint expertise of ArianeGroup, industry, research institutes and start-ups, to accelerate Europe’s transition to increasingly innovative, competitive and eco-friendly access to space.
ISSY-LES-MOULINEAUX, France (ArianeGroup PR) — Following the call for projects issued by the European Commission as part of its Horizon Europe program designed to encourage and accelerate innovation, ArianeGroup has been given responsibility for two particularly ambitious projects to speed up the development of reusable, ecofriendly European launchers. ArianeGroup will be heading the SALTO and ENLIGHTEN projects, bringing together numerous academic and industrial partners, including innovative start-ups.
On June 20, 2022, the German Space Agency at DLR started the second round of the competition for small satellites to fly on micro-launchers developed and built in Germany.
The competition is aimed not only at European institutions, but also at start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises.
A total of three more flights will be offered by the space companies Isar Aerospace Technologies GmbH and Rocket Factory Augsburg AG in 2023 and 2024.
Focus: space travel, commercialization, start-up funding
COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — On June 20, 2022, the German Space Agency started the second round of the competition at DLR for a free flight of small satellites on micro-launchers developed and built in Germany. This marks the beginning of the application phase for a total of three further flights, which will be offered by the space companies Isar Aerospace Technologies GmbH and Rocket Factory Augsburg AG in 2023 and 2024. This time, the competition is aimed not only at European institutions, but also at start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises.
The DLR Institute of Technical Physics has developed a new generation of laser reflectors for satellites.
Satellites equipped with the reflectors should be able to be located with centimeter precision using lasers and at the same time be clearly identified.
The reflectors have additional optics for polarizing the laser light for the satellite laser ranging process.
Focus: space travel, security
COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is testing a new generation of laser reflectors for satellites. Satellites equipped with it should be able to be located from Earth with lasers and identified at the same time. The special thing about the new reflectors is the adjustable polarization optics for each satellite. These individually change the properties of a reflected laser beam, which allows the satellites to be distinguished.
In 2021, Isar Aerospace won the first ever microlauncher competition under ESA’s Commercial Space Transportation Services Program “Boost!” and the payloads for Spectrum’s first flight were selected
Today, the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft-und Raumfahrt e.V. published the second Announcement of Opportunity, which will open a new application process for payloads to come on board Spectrum’s second flight
This time, the call is open not only to European institutional customers but also start-ups and small to medium sized companies
Munich, 20 June 2022 (Isar Aerospace PR) – The German Space Agency DLR is launching the second round of competition for a free flight of small satellites on microlaunchers developed and built in Germany. This marks the start of the application phase for the second flight of Isar Aerospace’s Spectrum rocket. This time, the competition is not only aimed at European institutions, but also at start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises.
DLR is developing distributed and heterogeneous on-board computers for future space missions.
Combination of radiation-resistant and commercially available processors that monitor each other and redistribute tasks in the event of an error.
Successful experiment with Earth observation data on an ESA test satellite.
Focus: space travel, earth observation, technology
COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — Reliable and powerful computers play a central role in space travel: computer systems in satellites, for example, enable demanding earth observation missions. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is developing a new computer architecture that is intended to give the so-called on-board computers (OBC) more power and also enable them to repair themselves. Distributed heterogeneous OBCs are being developed in the ScOSA (Scalable On-Board Computing for Space Avionics) flight experiment project. You have different computing nodes connected as a network.