Space flight 2022: missions to watch for in the coming year – Sky & Telescope



Artist’s impression of the Psyche 2022 mission.

2022 is shaping up to be a busy year for space flights. SpaceX will attempt its spacecraft’s first orbital test flight at the start of the calendar year, and NASA’s heavy rocket could finally fly in the middle of the year after numerous delays. Several lunar missions are in preparation, as is a mission to an iron asteroid. To top it off, Mars hits the opposition, and therefore the launch season, at the end of 2022.

(Keep in mind that the launch schedules are fluid and subject to change. The following reflects the state of the missions as of December 30, 2021.)

In Earth orbit

The year begins in an exciting way at the turn of the calendar page, as SpaceX has hinted that they may perform an orbital test launch. of his Vessel rocket from the company’s Boca Chica plant in Texas as early as February. The spacecraft is a workhorse that will not only carry 100 tons (220,000 pounds) into low earth orbit, but could one day land heavy payloads on the Moon and Mars as well.

Later this spring, The Boeing Starliner is about to resume test flights, after a semi-failure in December 2019, when the unmanned capsule made the round trip in orbit but did not reach the International Space Station (ISS).

And speaking of the ISS, SpaceX will also be making the first AX1 Crew Dragon sightseeing flight in February, the first of the company’s two sightseeing flights in 2022.

Space telescopes and more

The start of the new year will also bring the commissioning of the just launched James Webb Space Telescope and Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer. China could also launch its Advanced Space Solar Observatory in January, the country’s first dedicated solar mission.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is also planning to set up its own solar observation mission, Aditya-L1, end of 2022. Like the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), Aditya-L1 will head towards the Sun for the L1 Pointe de Lagrange.

Meanwhile, the European Space Agency (ESA) will launch the Laser Relativity Satellite 2 on a Vega rocket in April. The mission will test general relativity in the Earth’s gravitational field.

Back to the moon

The number of planned lunar missions makes 2022 a fascinating year for spaceflight.

The lunar launch list for 2022 kicks off Artemis 1, taking off no earlier than February 12. This is the maiden flight of Space Launch System (SLS), NASA’s heavy-lift rocket that is key to the Artemis initiative to return humans to the moon. Artemis 1 is unmanned and will put the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle in a six-day retrograde orbit around the Moon before returning it to Earth. Artemis 1 will also deploy several CubeSat payloads.

Orion module
Orion is attached to SLS in the vehicle assembly building.
NASA / Frank Michaux

Another mission of the Artemis program will be launched no earlier than March 19, under the name of Cis-lunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPITAL STONE) is heading towards the Moon. CAPSTONE is a crewed exploration mission for the Lunar Gateway platform, which will serve as a tracking station for teams heading to the lunar surface. Like the Gateway, CAPSTONE will enter and demonstrate the stability of an almost rectilinear halo orbit around the Moon. CAPSTONE will be launched on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from the company’s Mahia Launch Complex One in New Zealand.

You can also expect to see the first commercial lunar landings in 2022, as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. First of all, the intuitive machines Nova C Lander, which will deliver five payloads to the lunar surface in April during the MI 1 mission.

The company is also planning to get a second assignment, MI 2, near the lunar south pole in December. IM 2 will also carry five payloads, including the Micro-Nova Lunar Hopper and NASA’s Polar Resource Ice Mining Experiment, which includes the Regolith Drill and Ice Drill for Exploration of New Terrains (TRIDENT) for the basement sampling.

Nova-C lander
Artist’s impression of the Nova-C lander on the Moon.
Intuitive machines

Astrobotics will also perform its Peregrine Mission One under CLPS in mid-2022. The Peregrine lander will be launched on the inaugural flight of the United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan-Centaur rocket and will carry more than a dozen payloads for NASA and other business partners in the Lacus Mortis Plateau region on the Moon.

Pilgrim lander
The Astrobotics Peregrine Lander.
NASA / GSFC / Rebecca Roth

Other nations and space agencies are also planning to visit the Moon in 2022. The Japan Aerospace Agency (JAXA) will send the Smart lander to investigate the moon, a technology demonstrator for precision landing. On its way, this mission will also deploy the small JAXA / NASA joint. X-ray imaging and spectroscopy mission in low earth orbit.

ISRO will also attempt a moon landing in 2022 with the Chandrayan 3 mission. Although Chandrayaan 2 remains in lunar orbit, the Vikram lander failed in 2019. Like Chandrayaan 2, Chandrayaan 3 is an orbiter-lander-rover combination.

Russian Roscosmos also plans to send Moon 25 on the Moon in July. Luna 25 will land in the lunar south pole region in the Boguslavsky Crater and will be Russia’s first lunar mission since Luna 24 in 1976, launched during the Soviet era.

The United Arab Emirates also want to send the Emirates lunar mission, which will include a micro-rover accompanying the Hakuto-R mission built by the Japanese company ispace on the lunar surface.

South Korea plans to launch the Korean Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) in August 2022. KPLO will be the Korean Aerospace Research Institute’s first lunar / planetary mission.

Finally, there is a word that the Based in Ukraine Lunar Research Service (LRS) The company could launch a small mission from the Andøya space center in Norway at the end of the year. It would perform the maiden flight of the RFA-One three-stage rocket, built by Augsburg rocket factory in Germany.

Season of March and beyond

In preparation for planetary exploration, two exciting missions are expected to leave Earth in 2022.

The first is Psyche, launched on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in August. Psyche is heading towards the exploration of the eponymous metallic asteroid 16 Psyche, which is scheduled to arrive in early 2026. Psyche will also carry Janus as a secondary payload, which will fly to the 1996 FG3 and 1991 VH binary asteroids.

Finally, as the Red Planet reaches opposition in December 2022, a window opens for missions to be launched to Mars. One mission is expected to make the trip this year, as the joint Roscosmos / ESA ExoMars mission is due to take off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on September 20. The mission will deliver the Rosalind Franklin rover and Kazachok lander to Oxia Planum on June 10, 2023. A successful landing on Mars would be a first for ESA and Roscosmos. ExoMars 2022 has been delayed from the 2020 launch window, to allow additional testing and software and hardware integration, in line with recommendations from Russian and European inspectors general.

rover ExoMars
The twin of the Exomars rover, in the “rock lab” on Earth.

Deep space action

Meanwhile, deep space missions continue to head to their destinations in 2022.

ESA BepiColombo will make its second flight over Mercury on June 23. that of the agency Solar orbiter will also perform its third flyby after Venus on September 3, a maneuver that will change the tilt of the mission so that it has a more polar view of the Sun.

Meanwhile, NASA Juno spacecraft will make a pass near Jupiter Europa’s moon on September 29. And Lucy will make its first pass near Earth on October 16 as it is en route to the Trojan asteroids by the end of the decade.

Plus, all eyes will be on NASA’s all-new launch. Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), as it arrives on the binary asteroid Didymos next year, and crashes on the tiny moon Dimorphos on September 26, 2022.

2023 and beyond

And there’s more to come: 2023 will see the launch of ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE), the landing of Exomars 2022 on the red planet and the Osiris-Rex the sample returns (finally) to Earth on September 24.

It’s an exciting time for spaceflight for sure, in 2022 and beyond.




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