Welcome to Biz Briefs! In this edition, Viasat’s newest satellite is in trouble, United Launch Alliance (ULA) delays Vulcan’s first launch, China’s Space Pioneer has raised money to fund its new rocket, Garrett Reisman will advise Vast on space stations, China and Saudi Arabia discuss space cooperation, and lots of satellite news.
Arianespace and United Launch Alliance (ULA) continue to wrestle with final preparations for the long-delayed maiden flights of the Ariane 6 and Vulcan Centaur launch vehicles. Meanwhile, Arianespace, SpaceX, and other launch providers are recovering from the failure of various launchers on their most recent flights. Here’s a look at the status of various launch vehicles.
WASHINGTON — United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) CEO reaffirmed a May 2023 flight date for the maiden flight of the company’s new rocket; SpaceX and Rocket Lab officials laid out plans for record launch years; and a Blue Origin executive said Jeff Bezos’ company might never reveal what caused one of its rockets to explode last year.
This is turning out to be a particularly busy year for flights to the moon, with commercial companies and universities taking leading roles. Let’s look at the status of spacecraft that are at, headed for, or being prepared for launch to our nearest celestial neighbor.
PITTSBURGH (Astrobotic Technology PR) — Last month, the Deep Space Network (DSN) from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) successfully completed end-to-end test communications with Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander. These tests demonstrated compatibility with space-to-ground communications that will occur during Peregrine’s mission to the Moon.
During the first seven months of the year, five new satellite launch vehicles from Europe, China, Russia and South Korea flew successfully for the first time. As impressive as that is, it was a mere opening act to a busy period that could see at least 20 additional launchers debut around the world.
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.
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.