While humans have been pushing satellites and other humans into space for over 50 years, space travel is no less exciting. Here are a few upcoming launches you should check out, and why they matter.
Artemis 1 is arguably the most important mission for NASA in at least the past decade. It is the first full test of the Space Launch System, a massive multi-stage rocket intended to serve the same purpose as the Saturn V from the sixties – sending people to the moon. Modified versions can be used to send heavy cargo into space (such as parts for new space stations) or to take humans to Mars and beyond.
This first mission is unmanned (there are no people in the ship), but the goal is to launch the empty Orion space capsule on a 280,000-mile journey to the moon and back. If all goes well, Artemis II can take people on the same journey. The current launch window will open on November 16, 2022 at 1:04 AM Eastern Time. Live coverage will be available on the NASA appthe the agency’s websiteand the NASA YouTube Channel.
The launch has been delayed several times due to technical issues and weather. The first launch window was set for August 29, 2022but it was cancelled due to identified problems with cooling an engine. NASA tried again on September 3, but stopped due to a liquid hydrogen leak in the nuclear stage, then the rocket rolled back in the Vehicle Assembly Building as Hurricane Ian Florida approached. It’s now back on the launch pad, but there’s still a chance Tropical Storm Nicole can change NASA’s plans again.
SpaceX has been flying cargo to the International Space Station for years, thanks to a contract with NASA, using the Dragon 1 and Dragon 2 spacecraft. The next “Cargo Dragon” mission is scheduled for November 18, 2022.
Although the Dragon capsule can taking people to the International Space Station – the first time was in 2020 – there will be no people on this mission. SpaceX CRS-26 Mission will be an unmanned mission to resupply the space station using a Cargo Dragon capsule and a Falcon 9 rocket. The payload includes a portable handheld microscope to improve health diagnosis in space, solar panels for the station, an experiment with tomatoes and more.
The current launch is scheduled for Nov. 18 and will take place at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX will likely show a livestream on his YouTube channeland the launch may also appear on the NASA appthe the agency’s websiteand the NASA YouTube Channel.
Another part of NASA’s lunar mission plan is Commercial Lunar Payload Services, or CLPS for short. The program aims to allow private companies (such as SpaceX) to launch cargo to the moon and/or conduct science missions on behalf of NASA.
Intuitive Machines of Houston, a space exploration company based in (you guessed it) Houston, Texas, conducts the next mission in the CLPS program. It is a moon landing with four NASA payloads, which will conduct experiments on the lunar surface. One of the payloads is a small data relay satellite. The experiments will collect data for use in future manned and unmanned lunar missions.
The launch is currently scheduled for December 22, 2022, using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. As SpaceX handles the launch, there will likely be a livestream SpaceX’s YouTube Channelor possibly a stream on the NASA YouTube Channel.
SpaceX isn’t the only US company trying to get people to space — Boeing has tried to make it happen, too. The companies CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is somewhat similar to the SpaceX Dragon and Apollo command module, but is slightly larger than both vehicles. Boeing and NASA have already completed two space flights without anyone on board, but the next attempt will have a crew.
The first Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT) is scheduled for sometime in April 2023, launched with an Atlas V rocket. NASA has selected Barry Eugene Wilmore and Sunita Williams as the crew, who have both previously flown on Space Shuttle missions, with Michael Fincke as a backup. If all goes well, Starliner will fly to the International Space Station and return to Earth after a week in the same ship.
nasa said: on its website, “The CFT astronauts will live and work on the space station for approximately two weeks. After a successful manned flight, NASA will work to complete the certification of the Starliner spacecraft and its systems for regular crew rotational missions to the space station.
Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, or CAPSTONE for short, is a small satellite the size of a microwave oven. The rocket launch was back on July 4, 2022, so there’s no exciting upcoming livestream for this one – this is more of an honorable mention, as the satellite hasn’t hit its target yet.
CAPSTONE takes an unusual path to the moon that NASA calls Ballistic Lunar Transfer or BLT for short – unrelated to the sandwich, probably. NASA said in a blog post“aided by the gravitational pull of the sun, the spacecraft will reach a distance of 958,000 miles from Earth — more than three times the distance between the Earth and the moon — before being pulled back to the Earth-moon system.”
CAPSTONE is unique in that it will be the first spacecraft to enter a special elongated orbit around the moon. That’s the same orbit NASA hopes to use for the proposed Gateway space station around the moon, making CAPSTONE an important learning opportunity. That special track requires less fuel to maintain the track, which is important when the nearest fuel stop is hundreds of thousands of miles away.
Once it reaches lunar orbit, CAPSTONE’s task will test a technology called Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System (CAPS), which is a bit like Google Maps for space travel. NASA said in another blog post“CAPS will demonstrate innovative spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation solutions that will allow future spacecraft to determine their location without relying solely on tracking from Earth.” The technology includes direct communication with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been orbiting the moon since 2009.
Source: NASA launch schedule