While 2020 has been a challenging year for the space industry (and everyone else) amid the coronavirus pandemic, a host of exciting missions that will launch or reach their destination in 2021 have continued to move forward.
From Mars to asteroids, robots, humans and much more, we’ll see space exploration continue to expand across the solar system. We’ll also see some new rockets launching from companies like Firefly Aerospace and Relativity Space.
Here’s what to look forward to:
1) Three countries reach Mars
The space industry is expanding rapidly, and the Red Planet appears to be the hottest mission destination. NASA will continue its long search for life using Rover perseverance, Which will store Mars samples for final analysis on Earth Test the first Mars helicopter called Ingenuity.
China’s ambition Tianwen -1 The mission, the country’s first mission to Mars, will see an orbiter, lander and mobile vehicle all exploring the Red Planet. The United Arab Emirates also sent its first mission, Hope vehicleTo Mars to inspire the „next generation.“
2) Starliner’s second unmanned test mission
Boeing ran into a number of issues when its commercial crew launched the Starliner Orbital Test Flight-1 (OFT-1) into space in 2019. It did not reach the International Space Station as planned Both NASA and the company investigated and implemented some lessons learned for another attempt in 2021.
Boeing hopes to A second attempt will be launched on March 29, 2021 After handling software issues that prevented Starliner from reaching its destination the first time. If Boeing succeeded, this would make the Starliner the second commercial crew spacecraft certified to bring astronauts into orbit, after SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.
3) A test flight of the Starliner crew
Assuming the Starliner has passed the unmanned flight test, Boeing plans to send three astronauts to the International Space Station no later than June 2021. NASA astronauts Mike Finky, Nicole Mann and Barry „Butch“ Wilmore will fly with Boeing’s first manned test flight. Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson was originally assigned to lead the mission, however He resigned from the frequently delayed flight for personal reasons in October 2020.
4) Japanese rover ride to mount ULA’s first Vulcan missile
Japan’s first spacecraft, called Yaoki, will take off on the rookie mission of the United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan Centaur rocket in 2021. Phasing out of Russian-made engines That supported the long-running ULA Atlas line, and replaced them with Blue Origin engines.
Yaoki will fly to the moon with Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic’s Al Shaheen landing craft On a mission sponsored by NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. If the mission goes as planned, then The burnt remains of the famous science fiction writer Arthur C. Clark You will be deposited on the moon.
5) The debut of Blue Origin’s New Glen rocket
Washington State’s Blue Origin Company It will send its first orbital missile aloft in 2021If all goes well. The New Glen rocket is named after NASA astronaut John Glenn, and it can send up to 14 tons (13 metric tons) into geostationary orbit and 50 tons (45 metric tons) into low Earth orbit.
NASA and Blue Origin recently announced The missile will be added to NASA’s fleet of commercial launch vehicles; NASA has already used Blue Origin’s New Shepard sub-orbital rocket (named after NASA astronaut Mercury Al Shepherd).
6) The James Webb Space Telescope launches on October 31
NASA’s ambitious James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which scientists hope will reveal more about the atmosphere of exoplanets and the early universe, is already many years behind its original launch date in 2007. But despite these delays, the telescope is nearly ready now. Final testing is in the pipeline on some of its more intricate parts, such as the sun visor.
July 2020, Pandemic forced JWST Delaying another seven months until 2021, from March to October … However, while the telescope may make this date possible, NASA wants to correct the telescope and it will take as long as it needs, the agency says.
7) NASA’s Lucy mission launches on eight asteroids
An ambitious new NASA mission called Lucy should begin in October or November to study eight space rocks over a period of nearly a decade.
The spacecraft will be the first from NASA to visit Trojan asteroids on Jupiter, Which orbit the sun in two groups; One group is behind Jupiter and one precedes it. Lucy will also pass an asteroid from the Main Belt on her way to the gigantic gas giant.
8) NASA’s SLS mega launch launches the first lunar mission
If NASA were ambitious The massive Space Launch System vehicle could remove its test hurdles this year With construction completed on time, the agency’s Artemis I mission will fly around the moon after launch in November 2021.
This will be the first SLS and second launch of NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which it had in the beginning An unmanned space mission in 2014. Artemis I is the key to NASA’s plans to land humans on the moon, as the agency plans to undertake a manned mission to the moon in 2023 and then land a crew in 2024. However, meeting the landing deadline may be contingent on NASA receiving more money in exchange for the human landing system. Official Jim Bridenstine warned Congress.
9) The Russian Moon landing mission in Antarctica
The Russian Luna-25 lander may be the first Russian lander to reach the surface of the Moon since it was part of the Soviet Union. Russia plans to launch the moon mission in 2021 With nine instruments on board.
The Luna-25 will land at the south pole of the moon to search for lunar regolith and the atmosphere. This area is under consideration for future manned lunar missions by NASA and other space agencies. The Soviet Union sent several unmanned missions to the Moon between the 1950s and 1970s, including the first spacecraft to hit the surface (Luna 2 in 1959), the first soft Earth spacecraft (Luna 9 in 1966) and the first robotic spacecraft on the surface. the moon. (Luna 17 / Lunokhod 1 1970), among others.
10) Astroscale space scrap cleaning test
The end-of-life services task was set by Astroscale-Demonstration (ELSA-d) on It will be launched in March 2021 On a Russian Soyuz missile from Kazakhstan to try to deal with The increasing problem of unwanted space in orbit.
The dual spacecraft mission includes 385 pounds. (175 kg) „service“ and 37 lbs. (17 kg) „Agent“ who will use confluence technology and magnetic capture mechanism in orbit. Orbital debris is expected to increase in the coming years as more companies send small spacecraft into low Earth orbit.
11) Special astronauts travel to the International Space Station
SpaceX It plans to send astronauts with Houston-based Axiom Space to space in 2021 On a mission to the International Space Station.
The journey will likely take eight days at the terminal and two days of travel time. While tourists have visited the space station before, Axiom notes that this will be the „first ever private flight“ to the station. NASA hopes to open the space station to more commercial opportunities in the future. Although Congress did not give the agency the required amount of money in fiscal year 2021 To these plans.
12) Moon landings with intuitive Houston machines
Houston-based Intuitive Machines is planning to Driving the Nova-C robotic landing craft on a NASA-sponsored flight in 2021On the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The lander will send five NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) payloads to the surface and send data to our planet for 13.5 Earth days.
Payloads of other customers will be flying aboard the Nova-C because the probe still has the capacity for the mission. “Our partnership with Intuitive Machines is a great example of two private companies working alongside NASA to advance space exploration,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell He said in a statement.
13) Launch of SpaceX’s first commercial spacecraft into space
After several ambitious tests in 2020, SpaceX may send its first commercial payload aboard a spacecraft in 2021. Jonathan Hoefeller, SpaceX’s vice president of commercial sales, said in June 2019 that The company has been talking to several telecom companies about this launch opportunity.
Even if SpaceX doesn’t specify that initial date, it is rapidly moving forward with the development of the Starship, including An ambitious maneuver test in December 2020. The company plans to eventually use the Starship on manned Mars missions.
14) New missiles flying
The United Launch Alliance, Blue Origin, and SpaceX aren’t the only companies planning to launch new missiles in 2021. Several small satellite launchers also hope to reach orbit in the next year, including Firefly Aerospace, Relativity Space and Virgin Orbit.
Texas-based Firefly Aerospace was initially hoping to launch its first Alpha missile, a two-stage small satellite launch booster, in 2020 but is now aiming to multi-mission in 2021. In addition to the first launch of the Alpha missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base. In California Firefly plans to launch at least two more missions in 2021 under a new launch agreement with Adaptive Launch Services.
Relativity Space is a Los Angeles, California startup building the Terran 1 missile, which is a fully 3D printed booster that will launch small satellites from platforms in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Vandenberg. The company is expected to launch its first flight in 2021, and it recently won a second launch contract from NASA as part of other commercial agreements.
Virgin Orbit is a small satellite launch company founded by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson that spun off from Virgin Galactic space tourism. Virgin Orbit is building the LauncherOne, an air-launched rocket to launch Smallsat, and it has already launched one test flight that has yet to reach space.
The company had hoped to launch a second test flight of LauncherOne in December 2020, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has delayed the flight.
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