Humanity is slowly but surely creeping into the space age even though those words are long overdue. But the reality is that there are going to be some amazing space missions this year alone.
These missions includes various space agencies but it’s being championed by NASA while other agencies such as the European Space Agency or ESA and Russian space agency or ROSCOSMOS are all planning on making important visits to other celestial bodies.
Some honorable mentions includes SpaceX’s Starship making its first orbital launch, Blue Origin testing its own New Glenn rocket.
NASA’s James Webb Space Telrscope will also commence its full duty later on this year while a number of important missions to the lunar surface will start all of which will commence the futuristic Artemis mission – a plan to return humans back to the moon by 2025.
Without any further ado, below are some of the most important space missions in 2022
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Starship will make its first orbital flight
This will be the most interesting part for Elon Musk’s lovers across the globe as his company SpaceX is targeting early March for its first Starship orbital launch.
Apart from the major orbital launch, the company is expected to also carry out multiple test flights this year.
Starship which is SpaceX’s proposed space vehicle for a crewed mission to the lunar surface and even Mars in years to come is said to have been completed along with the company’s flagship Super Heavy booster rockets.
The launchpad and tower at the company’s South Texas launch site were expected to have been completed by the end of the year 2021.
And if everything goes well with the company’s plans, then we should be able to see an orbital launch of the big Starship space vehicle.
The re-entry maneuver will end with a splashdown into the Pacific Ocean.
The uniqueness of the Starship is the fact that it’s designed to be fully and rapidly reusable.
The plan is to commence an operational usage of the Starship vehicle by the year 2023 if SpaceX is able to recover and reuse the spaceship.
Axiom Space to fly private astronauts to the ISS
The year 2022 will certainly be a big year for SpaceX as it’s expected to send private astronauts on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in collaboration with Axiom Space.
Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) is expected to launch as soon as Feb. 28th, 2022, and members of the crew consist of four astronauts including former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy, and Eytan Stibbe.
Their visitation to the ISS is expected to last for about 8 days and two days of travel time.
Although this isn’t the first time that private citizens will be making a trip to the ISS, Axiom, however, made it clear that this will in fact be the “first-ever fully private” trip to the space station.
The crew is planning a total of 25 microgravity experiments, which will focus on science, education, and outreach.
There will also be a second Axiom crewed mission which has already been approved by NASA. The flight which is dubbed Ax-2 is expected to blast off at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida by early fall of the year 2022.
SpaceX was contracted to launch four crewed missions to the ISS using its Crew Dragon capsules and its iconic Falcon 9 rockets.
A Moon landing mission by Houston’s Intuitive Machines
This is another interesting news as far as space mission is concerned this year 2022. Houston-based Intuitive Machines which built Nova-C lunar lander is expected to send the robot aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket on a NASA-sponsored flight earlier this year.
Even though the mission was supposed to have taken place much earlier, it was however delayed by SpaceX.
The mission is expected to carry five NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) and other commercial payloads among which is a small rover from the British company Spacebit, which will be representing the first UK mission to the lunar surface.
“Our partnership with Intuitive Machines is a great example of two private companies working together with NASA to advance space exploration,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement.
The Nova-C spacecraft is expected to attempt a landing at the Mare Serenitatis on the Moon while also delivering the payloads to the surface in order to send data back to Earth.
The solar-powered lander is capable of operating for about 14 Earth days.
SLS Megarocket to launch first moon mission
The next one is about NASA’s 332-foot-tall (or 101 meter) rocket which is expected to be used for the agency’s upcoming lunar mission.
The agency has announced that there will be another inaugural launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) – the aforementioned humongous rocket.
SLS is expected to be used for it’s next Lunar mission with the Orion spacecraft mounted to the top of it.
However, it’s currently undergoing testing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in order to ensure that the spacecraft and rocket components are properly communicating with ground systems.
Furthermore, the first SLS mission will be an uncrewed lunar flyby called Artemis 1 which is expected to launch around March, 2022.
NASA is targeting possible launch windows between March 12-27 and April 8-23.
At the end of the testing, the rocket is expected to undergo a wet dress rehearsal, during which propellant will be added to the rocket’s fuel tanks.
Hopefully everything goes well, NASA should be able to provide an exact launch date for the mission – while a crewed lunar mission is slated to happen by the year 2025.
Starliner’s second uncrewed test mission
Away from SpaceX, another company partnering with NASA is Boeing and both are targeting a period around May for a rescheduled second uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) of the company’s CST-100 starliner spacecraft.
If you remember, the first Starliner Orbital Test Flight-1 (OFT-1) was launched back in the year 2019 but it experienced a number of issues and couldn’t reach the ISS as planned.
However, Boeing and NASA later announced that the Starliner spacecraft software had been recertified for the OFT-2 mission for January 2021.
Even thought the initial plan was to get OFT-2 to the space station by March 2021, the mission was delayed several times throughout the year due to issues found during pre-launch checks.
However, during the last launch window back in August of the year 2021, a valve issue was also identified on the Starliner spacecraft.
Now, the space company is planning to launch the Starliner spacecraft atop a ULA Atlas V rocket by May 2022 but this is still going to be dependent on the rediness of the spacecraft and the schedule of other vehicles that are visiting the space station as at that period.
The service module originally planned for its Crew Flight Test (CFT) — the first test flight with astronauts on board — will now be used for the OFT-2 mission.
Starliner’s first crew test flight
With the rescheduled OFT-2 expected to take place in May 2022, a Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission is therefore furthered into the year 2022 as well.
Hopefully, if everything go according to plan with he Starliner’s uncrewed test flight, Boeing is expected to send three astronauts to the ISS for an extended test flight.
The astronauts includes NASA’s Mike Fincke, Nicole Mann, and Barry Wilmore.
Since the CFT module will be used for OFT-2, the service module planned for the first operational mission (called Starliner 1) will be used for the CFT mission.
Europe’s JUICE mission will commence
Aart from NASA, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer or JUICE mission is scheduled to commence in May 2022.
The arrival is expected to be by the year 2029 where it will spend about three years studying the system including Jupiter’s largest moons such as Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto.
James Webb will commence operation
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was launched into space back in Dec. 25th to further astronomical studies of the cosmos, it’s expected that it will take about six months before JWST’s systems and instruments can fully speed-up with 50 major deployments and 178 release mechanisms scheduled for the telescope to start working.
Currently, JWST is the biggest and the most expensive NASA’s space telescope still date. It’s also expected to go into full operation mode in late the summer of 2022.
One of its primary mission is to study the universe’s first stars and galaxies, atmospheres of nearby far planets, and it’s expected to last in space for about 10 years
ULA’s 1st Vulcan rocket launch
Away from the JWST, ULA is expected to launch its brand new Vulcan Centaur rocket on its inaugural flight this year 2022.
The Vulcan Centaur is the successor to ULA’s Atlas V and Delta IV rockets. Blue Origin-made rocket engines are expected to take over from Russian-made engines that powered the olden Atlas rockets.
This is certainly a win for Jeff Bezos’ space company.
The original mission was slated to commence back in 2021, but the rocket’s debut was delayed as a result of supply chain issues for the Peregrine lander `built by Astrobotic Technology.
However, the Peregrine lander is expected to carry Japan’s first moon rover, Yaoki, which was made by a Japanese company called Dymon.
The mission is sponsored by NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. If the mission goes to plan, the cremated remains of noted science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke will be deposited on the moon.
Russia’s first lunar landing after 45 years
Russia is planning to launch a mission to the moon in July 2022. The mission dubbed Luna 25 will be the country’s first mission to the moon’s surface in 45 years and will be the first mission to land on the moon’s south pole.
The Luna 25 mission was originally scheduled to commence back in Oct. 2021 on a Soyuz-2-1b Fregat rocket from Russian Vostochny Cosmodrome.
The mission was delayed due to issues identified with the spacecraft’s landing system during critical tests.
In turn, more time is needed to complete successful trials of Luna 25’s soft landing system. When the mission launches, the spacecraft will carry nine instruments on board.
Luna 25 is expected to touchdown at the moon’s south pole where it will commence research about the lunar regolity and exosphere.
The region is also under consideration for crewed moon missions by NASA as well as other space agencies in the near future.
Back in the Soviet Union days, the government sent numerous uncrewed missions to the moon between the year 1950s and 1970s, Lunar 2 made its first touchdown on the Lunar surface while Luna 9 in 1966 was the first spacecraft to make a soft-land on the moon before the first robotic lunar rover called Luna 17/Lunokhod 1 in 1970.
Psyche mission aboard Falcon Heavy
Back to SpaceX, the company is expected to launch NASA’s Psyche mission to a unique metal asteroid by July, 2022.
The mission will use the iconic Falcon Heavy rockets and it’s slated to launch from Launch Complex 39A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
The main point of the mission is to study a metallic asteroid called Psyche which orbits the sun between planet Mars and the gas giant Jupiter.
According to researchers, the asteroid is thought to be an exposed nickel-iron core of an early planet.
So far, the Falcon Heavy rocket has about three U.S. Space Forc missions and commercial payloads including a Viasat-3 broadband satellite and an Astranis communications satellite on the docket all slated to launch this year alone.
India’s Gaganyaan uncrewed test flights
India is scheduled to launch its first test vehicle flight for the Gaganyaan space mission in the second half of the year.
This will be followed by an uncrewed mission at the end of the year. The second mission will carry a spacefaring human-robot called Vyommitra, developed by Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
If all goes well, ISRO is planning to launch the first crewed Gaganyaan mission in 2023.
Debut of Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket
Another big win for Jeff Bezos’ private spaceflight company, Blue Origin is the fact that it will send its first orbital rocket later on in the year.
The rocket is named after NASA Mercury astronaut, John Glenn. The powerful space launch vehicle is able to transport a payload of about 14 tons (13 metric tons) to geostationary orbit and 50 tons (45 mettic tons) to low Earth orbit.
The New Glenn rocket is going to be partially reusable and it’s designed to delivery a variety of payloads.
Even though launch was expected to have originally happened back in 2021, a delay was caused by Blue Origin’s loss on a Space Force contract.
The rocket will be added to NASA’s fleet of commercial launch vehicles. NASA has already used Blue Origin’s suborbital rocket New Shepard (named after NASA Mercury astronaut Al Shepard).
Juno flying by Europa
Another big space mission is NASA’s Juno space probe which has been exploring Jupiter since its arrival at its orbit back in July 4th, 2016.
The space probe has made a number of important flybys of the gas giant and its Galilean moons. The next stop is expected to be Europa later this year.
In February 2022, Juno will travel near Europa at a distance of about 29,000 miles (47,000 km).
By September, Juno will make a flyby at just 221 miles (355 km) above Europa’s surface where it will give a close-up view of the moon, according to a statement from NASA.
DART impacts Didymos in September
Another important event to look out for this year is NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission (DART) which is expected to arrive at its target in late September, 2022.
The target is an asteroid named Didymos and its moonlet Dimorphos.
The mission is to test a new method known as Kinetic Impactor in order to deflect near-Earth asteroids for the purpose of planetary defense.
If you remember, the DART mission was launched back in Nov. 23rd, 2022 atop SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
By the time DART reaches its target later this year, it will intentionally impact the moonlet Dimorphos at speeds 4.1 miles per second (6.6kms/s) with an intension of changing the orbital speed of the moonlet which will in turn alter its orbit around Didymos.
The mission will be the first planetary defense mission to test asteroid deflection methods.
Rosalind Franklin will launch in September
By September, another important joint mission that is led by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian space agency, ROSCOSMOS, plan to explore planet Mars.
The mission is expected to commence between the months of Augst and October according to a statement from ESA. Multiple unsuccessful parachute drop tests in 2019 and 2020 caused delays in launching the mission, which was originally slated to lift off in July 2020.
The ExoMars is a multi-part initiative to study Martian surface from above. The program has two phases in the works.
Rosalind Franklin, the probe, is in its second phase. The first is the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and Schiaparelli both of which arrived at Mars back in Oct. 2016.
Schiaparelli crash-landed on Mars during its landing attempt, but TGO remains in excellent health. The orbiter is performing science work and will serve as a communications relay for the rover.
Hopefully everything go well enough, the ExoMars rover is expected to touchdown on Mars’ surface by June 2023.
Onboard are special equipment designed to search for organic molecules and digging devices that can reach farther below the surface.
NASA’s PRIME-1 will launch in December
Another important mission is a partnership with Intuitive Machines to land an ice-mining drill on the south pole of the moon in Dec. 2022.
The mission is dubbed Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment-1 (PRIME-1) and it’s the first-ever mission designed to harvest water ice from inside the moon.
All of these will be parts of resources to be used by NASA for its Artemis program that is aimed at returning humans back to the lunar surface by the year 2025.
The PRIME-1 Mission has two primary components: The Regolith and Ice Drill for Exploring New Terrain (TRIDENT) and the Mass Spectrometer observing lunar operations (MSolo). Intuitive Machines will fly the 88-lb. (40 kilograms) PRIME-1 payload on its NOVA-C lander as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program (CLPS).
Dream Chaser mission to the ISS
Sierra Nevada Corp’s Dream Chaser will commence its cargo missions to the ISS this year.
The space plane will touch down at NASA’s Launch and Landing Facility (LLF). This is the same runway used for space shuttle missions, including Atlantis’ STS-135 flight back in the year 2011.
That’s all the important space missions expected to happen this year 2022.
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