Even though humans have been pushing satellites and other people into space for over 50 years now, space travel is no less exciting. Here are some upcoming launches you should watch out for and why they’re important.
Artemis 1: November 16, 2022
Artemis 1 could be the most important mission for NASA in less the last decade. It’s the first full test of the Space Launch System, a massive multi-stage rocket intended to serve the same purpose as the 1960s Saturn V – sending humans to the moon. Modified versions could be used to send heavy cargo into space (like parts for new space stations) or to take humans to Mars and beyond.
This initial mission is uncrewed (there is no one on 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 could take humans on the same journey. The current launch window opens on November 16, 2022 at 1:04 a.m. EST. Live coverage will be available on the NASA app, the agency’s website, and the NASA YouTube channel.
The launch has already been postponed several times, due to technical problems and the weather. The first launch window was set for August 29, 2022, but was canceled due to detected engine cooling issues. NASA tried again on September 3, but stopped due to a leak of liquid hydrogen in the core stage, then the rocket was taken back to the vehicle assembly building as Hurricane Ian s was approaching Florida. It’s now back on the launch pad, but there’s still a chance that Tropical Storm Nicole could alter NASA’s plans again.
Launch of the Cargo Dragon: November 18, 2022
SpaceX has been transporting 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.
Even though the Dragon capsule box transport people to the International Space Station – the first time was in 2020 – there will be no one for this mission. The SpaceX CRS-26 mission will be an uncrewed mission to resupply the space station, using a Cargo Dragon capsule and a Falcon 9 rocket. The payload includes a portable microscope to improve health diagnostics in space, solar panels for the station, an experiment with tomatoes, etc.
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 broadcast a live stream on its YouTube channel, and the launch may also appear on the NASA app, the agency’s website, and NASA’s YouTube channel.
Intuitive Machines Moon Payload: December 22, 2022
Another part of NASA’s plan for lunar missions is Commercial Lunar Payload Services, or CLPS for short. The program is for private companies (like 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, is leading the next mission in the CLPS program. This 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. Since SpaceX is managing the launch, there will likely be a live stream on SpaceX’s YouTube channel, or possibly a stream on NASA’s YouTube channel.
Boeing Crew Flight Test: April 2023
SpaceX isn’t the only American company trying to get people into space – Boeing has been trying to make it happen, too. The company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft looks a bit like the SpaceX Dragon and Apollo command module, but is slightly larger than both vehicles. Boeing and NASA have already completed two spaceflights without anyone on board, but the next attempt will have a crew.
The first Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT) is scheduled for April 2023, launched with an Atlas V rocket. NASA has selected Barry Eugene Wilmore and Sunita Williams as its crew, both of whom have previously participated in Space Shuttle missions, with Michael Fincke as substitute. If all goes well, Starliner will fly to the International Space Station, then return to Earth in the same ship after a week.
NASA said on its website: “CFT astronauts will live and work on the space station for approximately two weeks. After a successful crewed flight, NASA will work to complete certification of the Starliner spacecraft and systems for regular crew rotation missions to the space station.
April 2023 is a long way off, but the launch will be Most likely be streamed on the NASA app, the agency’s website, and NASA’s YouTube channel.
CAPSTONE: Entry into orbit November 13, 2022
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 live stream coming up for this one – it’s more of an honorable mention, as the satellite hasn’t yet hit its target.
CAPSTONE takes an unusual path to the Moon that NASA calls Ballistic Lunar Transfer, or BLT for short – unrelated to the sandwich, presumably. NASA said in a blog post, “Assisted by the Sun’s gravity, the spacecraft will reach a distance of 958,000 miles from Earth – more than three times the distance between Earth and the Moon – before being brought back to the Earth-Moon system.
CAPSTONE is unique because it will be the first spacecraft to enter a special elongated orbit around the Moon. This is the same orbit that NASA hopes to use for the proposed Gateway space station around the Moon, making CAPSTONE an important learning opportunity. In this special orbit, less fuel is needed to maintain orbit, which is important when the nearest fuel stop is hundreds of thousands of miles away.
Once it reaches lunar orbit, CAPSTONE’s job will be to 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 inter-spacecraft navigation solutions that will allow future spacecraft to determine their location without having to rely exclusively on tracking from Earth.” The technology involves communicating directly with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has orbited the Moon since 2009.
Source: NASA Launch Schedule
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