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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ispace Lunar Lander Selected to Deliver NASA CLPS Payloads to the Far Side of the Moon

ispace U.S.’s SERIES-2 Lander Will Deploy Two Communications Relay Satellitesto Support Far Side Landing

TOKYO (space, inc. PR) — ispace, inc.(ispace) today announced that its subsidiary, ispace technologies U.S., inc. (ispace U.S.) joins a team, led by Draper, that has been awarded $73 million to deliver payloads including two communication relay satellites to lunar orbit as well as a suite of scientific experiments to the lunar surface.

Team Draper, which includes ispace U.S., as well as General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, and Systima Technologies, a division of Karman Space & Defense, expects to launch and begin operations on the lunar surface in 2025 in fulfillment of the NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) task order CP-12.

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SpaceX Launches 53 Starlink Satellites in Second Flight in Two Days

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites on July 24, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX launches a fresh batch of 53 Starlink broadband satellites into orbit from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was the company’s second launch of Starlink satellites in two days after a Falcon 9 placed 46 satellites into orbit from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

It was SpaceX’s sixth launch of July and 20th dedicated Starlink flight of 2022. Elon Musk’s company has launched a record 33 times since Jan. 1 with more than five months left in the year. The company has orbited just under 1,250 payloads.

SpaceX Launches
January – July 24, 2022

SpacecraftSatellite Type(s)Customer(s)Number of LaunchesSatellites/ Payloads/Crew
StarlinkBroadbandSpaceX201,013
Transporter-3, -4, -5Multiple RideshareMultiple3204
Crew-4, Axiom-1Human SpaceflightNASA, Axiom Space22
Crew-4, Axiom-1Human SpaceflightNASA, Axiom Space–*8
Cargo Dragon 2ISS ResupplyNASA11
BeaverCube, CapSat-1, CLICK A, D3, JAGSAT, TUMnanoSatTechnology Demonstration, EducationERAU Daytona Beach, MIT, The Weiss School, University of South Alabama, Technical University of Moldova–^6
Globalstar FM15, Nilesat-301, SES-22Commercial CommunicationsGlobalstar, Nilesat, SES33
USA-328, 329, 330, 331UnknownU.S. Department of Defense+4
NROL-87, Intruder 13A, Intruder 13BReconnaissance, Electronic IntelligenceNational Reconnaissance Office23
SARah-1ReconnaissanceBundeswehr (German Military)11
COSMO-SkyMed 2nd-generationEarth Observation (civilian/military)Italian Space Agency11
331,246
* 8 astronauts launched on Crew-4 and Ax-1 missions
^ 6 CubeSats flown on Cargo Dragon 2 to be deployed from ISS
+ Secondary payloads on Globalstar FM15 launch

SpaceX has launched 1,013 Starlink satellites this year and 2,911 spacecraft overall, with 2,620 satellites still working.

SpaceX Sets New Record with 32nd Launch of the Year

Falcon 9 launches Starlink satellites. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX launched for the 32nd time on Friday, setting a new record for a calendar year with more than five months left in 2022.

On Friday, July 22 at 10:39 a.m. PDT, Falcon 9 launched 46 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California.

This was the fourth flight for the Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting this mission, which previously launched NROL-87, NROL-87 and SARah-1.

77 Launches Conducted During First Half of 2022 as Access to Orbit Expanded

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites while the Dragon that will carry Crew-4 to the International space Station awaits its turn. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

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.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

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ispace Releases Key Updates for HAKUTO-R Mission 1

Launch Window Announced, Lander in Final Testing

ispace engineers assembling the M1 flight model at the IABG GmbH Space Centre in Germany. (Image Credit: ispace)

TOKYO (ispace, inc. PR) — Today ispace, inc.(ispace), a global lunar exploration company with its headquarters in Japan and regional offices in the United States and Europe, released key updates for its Mission 1 (M1) launch window and updated progress on its lander Assembly, Integration & Testing (AIT), the company announced.

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SpaceX Orbits 53 Starlink Satellites, Ties Annual Launch Record

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

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla., July 17, 2022 — On Sunday, July 17 at 10:20 a.m. ET, SpaceX launched 53 Starlink satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

It was SpaceX’s 31st successful launch of 2022, which ties a company record set last year. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said the company is aiming to launch 60 times this year.

Jonathan’s Space Pages reports that 2,858 Starlink satellites have been launched, with 2,604 spacecraft still in orbit and 2,074 in the licensed operational shells.

This was the 13th flight for the Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting this mission, which previously launched Dragon’s first crew demonstration mission, the RADARSAT Constellation Mission, SXM-7, and now 10 Starlink missions.

Dragon Docks Delivering Science Benefitting Humans

The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship approaches the space station during an orbital sunrise above the Pacific Ocean. (Credit: NASA TV)

NASA Mission Update

While the International Space Station was traveling more than 267 miles over the South Atlantic Ocean, the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft autonomously docked to the forward-facing port of the station’s Harmony module at 11:21 a.m. EDT today, with NASA astronauts Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins monitoring operations from the station.

The Dragon launched on SpaceX’s 25th contracted commercial resupply mission for NASA at 8:44 p.m., Thursday, July 14, from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After Dragon spends about one month attached to the space station, the spacecraft will return to Earth with cargo and research.

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NASA, SpaceX Launch Climate Science Research, More to Space Station

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 14, 2022, with a Cargo Dragon spacecraft aboard for SpaceX’s 25th resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA TV)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — A SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft carrying more than 5,800 pounds of science experiments, crew supplies, and other cargo is on its way to the International Space Station after launching at 8:44 p.m. EDT Thursday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The spacecraft launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy for the company’s 25th commercial resupply services mission for NASA. It is scheduled to autonomously dock at the space station about 11:20 a.m. Saturday, July 16, and remain there for about a month. Coverage of arrival will begin at 10 a.m. on NASA Television, the agency’s website, and the NASA app.

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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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International Space Station National Lab Sponsoring Diverse Set of Experiments Launching on SpaceX CRS-25

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (CASIS PR) – A wide variety of research and technology development payloads sponsored by the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory will soon launch to the orbiting laboratory. These payloads are among the more than 4,700 pounds of cargo onboard SpaceX’s 25th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission (contracted by NASA), launching no earlier than 8:44 p.m. EDT on Thursday, July 14, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

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SpaceX Launches 46 Starlink Satellites from Vandenberg

Falcon 9 rises above the marine layer with 46 Starlink satellites after launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base on July 10, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

On Sunday, July 10 at 6:39 p.m. PT, Falcon 9 launched 46 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California.

SpaceX has now launched 2,805 Starlink satellites, with 2,518 still operating, according to Jonathan’s Space Report.

This Falcon 9 first stage booster previously launched Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, DART, and three Starlink missions.

SpaceX to Launch 46 Starlink Satellites on Sunday From California

Falcon 9 payload shroud. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX Mission Update

SpaceX is targeting Sunday, July 10 for a Falcon 9 launch of 46 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The instantaneous launch window is at 6:39 p.m. PT (01:39 UTC on Monday, July 11), and a backup opportunity is available on Monday, July 11 at 6:39 p.m. PT (01:39 UTC on Tuesday, July 12).

The first stage booster supporting this mission previously launched Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, DART, and three Starlink missions. Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage will return to Earth and land on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship stationed in the Pacific Ocean.

You can watch the live launch webcast starting about 5 minutes before liftoff. 

NASA Highlights Climate Research on Cargo Launch, Sets Coverage

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

NASA Mission Update

NASA and SpaceX are targeting 8:44 p.m. EDT Thursday, July 14, to launch the agency’s next investigation to monitor climate change to the International Space Station. The mission, NASA’s Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT), will fly aboard SpaceX’s 25th commercial resupply services mission to the orbital laboratory.

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will lift off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to deliver new science investigations, supplies, and equipment for the international crew, including a new climate research investigation.

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SpaceX Orbits 53 Satellites on 50th Starlink Launch

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites on July 7, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. — On Thursday, July 7 at 9:11 a.m. ET, SpaceX launched 53 Starlink satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

This was the 13th flight for the Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting this mission, which previously launched Crew Demo-2, ANASIS-II, CRS-21, Transporter-1, Transporter-3, and now eight Starlink missions.