Space news to watch in 2022


Conceptual image of a spaceship launch involving both phases of the reusable system. Image: SpaceX

Humanity’s reach in space has never been greater, and 2022 promises to be one of the most exciting ever. These are the space stories we’ll be looking at in the coming months.

The inaugural flight of NASA’s Space Launch System

One of the most anticipated events of the year is happening next spring, or so we hope. NASA will try the inaugural launch of its 332-foot-tall (101 meters) SLS rocket, effectively starting the Artemis era. It will be an impressive sight, as the rocket will exert 8.8 million pounds of thrust on takeoff — 15% more than NASA’s Saturn V rocket. For this, the Artemis 1 mission, an unmanned Orion spacecraft will travel 280,000 miles (450,000 km) to orbit around the moon and immediately return to Earth.

Conceptual image showing an SLS launch. Image: NASA

Launch windows for Artemis one take place in mid-March and mid-April. A successful launch of SLS will set the stage for Artemis 2 (scheduled for 2023), in which a manned Orion capsule will travel around the moon and back (basically a repeat of Artemis 1, but with astronauts), and Artemis 3 (planned for no earlier than 2025), in which NASA astronauts will land on the moon for the first time since 1972.

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The Inaugural Orbital Flight of SpaceX’s Starship

SpaceX will also try the launch from an oversized rocket, probably in January or February. The reusable Starship mega rocket will consist of the Super Heavy Booster 4 and the Starship prototype SN20, which with a total height of 120 meters will be the tallest rocket ever. Launched from SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas, the rocket will go into orbit, but not completely orbit the planet. The booster will crash in the Gulf of Mexico, while the second stage will crash in the Pacific Ocean off Hawaii.

Stacking a Starship top stage on a Super Heavy. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said there’s “a lot of risk involved with this first launch,” and he candidly predicts failure. That said, he believes a Starship rocket will reach Earth orbit in 2022 and more than 12 Starship launches could take place over the course of the year. Progress will be important as SpaceX is developing the rocket to serve as a landing craft for NASA’s upcoming Artemis missions on the moon.

Other rockets expected to make their first flights in 2022 include those from Arianespace Ariana 6, Blue Origins New Glenn, United Launch Alliances Vulcan Centaur, and Mitsubishis H3.

The second unmanned test of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner

Artist’s concept of a Boeing CST-100 Starliner in orbit. Image: NASA/Boeing

Speaking of pressure, all eyes will be on Boeing to see if the beleaguered company will finally make headway with its CST-100 Starliner. Boeing is developing the capsule as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, but is now years behind schedule. A major setback occurred in October 2021, when Boeing had to be Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2) scrubbed after 13 of the 24 oxidation valves in the spacecraft’s propulsion system failed to open. Starliner’s inaugural 2019 test was a total mess, which makes this latest incident all the more painful. Boeing is now aiming to launch Starliner in May 2022, “pending spacecraft readiness and space station availability.” according to to NASA.

A helicopter will try to catch a falling rocket booster

Photo of the rocket retrieval test done in April 2020. Image: Rocket Lab

In 2022, aerospace manufacturer Rocket Lab . will attempt to catch a falling Electron rocket booster in mid-air and then return it to the mainland for reuse (Rocket Lab conducted a successful test of this idea in April 2020). A parachute system slows the booster on its descent, while a special lanyard on the helicopter allows it to catch and secure the booster. An additional fuel tank will be added to the helicopter, allowing for a longer journey. Rocket Lab expects to perform this daring catch in the first half of 2022.

To the moon!!

No humans will reach the moon by 2022, but the same can’t be said for landers and robots as the United States, Russia, India and Japan all gear up for lunar missions in the coming year.

Conceptual image of the Peregrine lander. Image: NASA

Pittsburgh-based Astrobiotic is: schedule to send it Peregrine Falcon Lunar Lander to the moon sometime in 2022. The mission is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, in which the space agency contracts with commercial partners. The lander, equipped with 14 different payloads, will be launched atop a United Launch Alliance Centaur rocket.

Houston-based Intuitive Machines, another CLPS partner, is currently: schedule to send his Nova-C lander to the moon, which he expects to do in the first half of the year with the elevator coming from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Nova-C will bring 220 pounds (100 kg) of goods to the lunar surface.

In July 2019, India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission failed to bring the Vikram lander safely to the lunar surface. The Indian Space Research Organization will try again during the third quarter of 2022 in what will hopefully be a successful sequel: the Chandrayaan-3 mission. Should India pull it off, it would become only the fourth country to successfully land a probe on the moon (the others being the United States, Russia and China).

In July 2022, Russia Sending his Luna 25 lander, also known as the Luna-Glob-Lander, to the moon’s southern polar region. The mission’s goal is to “analyze the composition of the polar regolith and study the plasma and dust components of the moon’s polar exosphere,” according to NASA.

The Smart lander for moon research (SLIM) will be Japan’s first mission to the moon. The goal of SLIM is to test accurate moon landing capabilities, such as avoiding craters and selecting optimal locations for landing. Developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the probe is expected to launch sometime in 2022 and land near the Marius Hills Hole – an entrance to a lava tube on the moon.

Another rover for the Red Planet

The European Space Agency Rosalind Franklin Robber, together with russian kazakh lander, is scheduled for September 29. Once on Mars, the Rosalind Franklin will collect surface samples and grind them into a fine powder. The onboard laboratory will then perform detailed chemical, spectral and physical analyses. The rover’s navigational capabilities should allow it to travel about 100 meters (328 feet) each Martian day, or sol.

Conceptual image of the Rosalind Franklin robber. Image: ESA

Meanwhile, we can expect new insights from NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance rovers (and perhaps more flights from the Ingenuity helicopter), as well as from China’s Zhurong rover. NASA’s InSight mission will continue to operate in 2022, but this will likely be last year, while the stationary lander struggles to collect solar energy.

Space probes scanning space

In August, a SpaceX Falcon Heavy will attempt to deliver NASA’s Psyche Probe into space. The destination is 16 Psyche – a metallic asteroid containing large amounts of nickel-iron. The asteroid “provides a unique insight into the violent history of collisions and accretion that created terrestrial planets,” according to to NASA. The mission could shed new light on the composition and age of Psyche’s surface, and the conditions under which it formed. Data from the probe will also be used to create a detailed map of the asteroid’s surface. The Psyche probe is expected to reach the asteroid in January 2026.

Conceptual image of NASA’s Psyche spacecraft. Illustration: NASA

The same Falcon Heavy launch gives NASA two small-sats, but they go elsewhere. The twin spacecraft, known as the Janus Project, will explore two binary asteroids, (175706) 1996 FG3 and (35107) 1991 VH. Daniel Scheeres, the project’s principal investigator and astronomer at the University of Colorado, say binary asteroids “are a class of objects for which we don’t have high-resolution scientific data,” as all existing observations come from ground-based telescopes, “which don’t give you as much detail as they do up close.” Janus can not only increase our understanding of the early solar system, but also inform planetary defense measures. It will take four years for the probes to reach their destination.

Conceptual images of the twin Janus spacecraft. Image: Lockheed Martin

Probes already launched into space will continue to do their job. NASA’s Juno spacecraft will perform a close-up fly past Jupiter’s moon Europa on September 29, after which the orbital period around the gas giant will be reduced from 43 to 38 days. The Parker Solar Probe, also operated by NASA, will perform four flybys of the sun in 2022 as it gets closer to our host star.

In addition, the $10 billion Webb Space Telescope, due to launch on Christmas Day 2021, will travel to its special place in space: Lagrange Point 2 (a region of space where the gravitational pull of the sun and Earth controls the orbital motion of a planet). object in balance). Once at L2, and after Webb’s instruments have been successfully deployed, we finally get to see Webb’s first look at the cosmos.

Astronomical Events

There will be no total eclipse in 2022, but there will be two partial eclipses. The first will take place on April 30, when the partial eclipse will be visible from the southern parts of South America, and the second will take place on October 25 and will visible for skywatchers in Europe and parts of North Africa (weather permitting, of course).

A partial lunar eclipse on May 15/16 will be visible in parts of North America and all of South America, while a partial lunar eclipse on November 7/8 will to appear mainly across the Pacific, with western parts of North America and East Asia also glimpsed.

So buckle up and grab some cabbage help — it looks like we’ve got another great year in space ahead of us.

Lake: 2021 was the strangest year in space ever.


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