SpaceX Rockets U.S. Launches to New Heights in 2022

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites on June 17, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Powered by 33 flights of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster, the United States leads all nations with 48 launch attempts through the first seven months of the year. The total is three short of the number of U.S. launches attempted last year, and far ahead of the 27 launches conducted by second place China through the end of July. The U.S. has conducted more launches than the 43 flights conducted by the rest of the world combined.

A number of notable flights were conducted. SpaceX launched two Crew Dragons to the International Space Station (ISS), including the first fully privately funded mission to the orbiting laboratory. United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched Boeing’s CST-100 Starship crew vehicle on an automated flight test to ISS, a crucial step before astronauts to fly on the spacecraft. Small satellite launch provider Rocket Lab conducted its first deep-space mission by sending a spacecraft the size of a microwave to the moon.

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Commercial Space Travelers Outnumbered Professional Astronauts in First Half of 2022

Axiom Mission 1 astronauts, left to right, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy, Michael López-Alegría, and Eytan Stibbe. The astronauts are approved by NASA and its international partners for Axiom Space’s first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station. (Credits: Chris Gunn – Axiom Space)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The first half of 2022 saw more commercial travelers — 16 — launch into space than the 10 professional astronauts who work for government-run space agencies. However, those numbers come with an asterisk or two.

Four of the 14 astronauts who launched into orbit flew on Axiom Space’s privately funded and operated crew flight to the International Space Station (ISS). Blue Origin launched 12 individuals into space on two flights of the company’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle.

The other 10 astronauts who launched to ISS and the Tiangong space station worked fulltime for NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), China Manned Space Agency, or Russia’s Roscosmos State Space Corporation. SpaceX flew American and European astronauts to ISS on the company-owned Crew Dragon spacecraft under a NASA contract. The Russians and Chinese flew aboard government-owned and operated spacecraft.

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77 Launches Conducted During First Half of 2022 as Access to Orbit Expanded

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites while the Dragon that will carry Crew-4 to the International space Station awaits its turn. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a busy first half of 2022 that saw 77 orbital launches with 74 successes and three failures through the 182nd day of the year on July 1. At a rate of one launch every 2 days 8 hours 44 minutes, the world is on track to exceed the 146 launches conducted in 2021.

A number of significant missions were launched during a period that saw more than 1,000 satellite launched. SpaceX flew the first fully commercial crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Boeing conducted an orbital flight test of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, China prepared to complete assembly of its space station, South Korea launched its first domestically manufactured rocket, and Rocket Lab sent a NASA mission to the moon.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

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ESA Astronaut Selection in the Final Stages

The ESA astronaut selection has been progressing as planned, with phase two of the selection process ending in March this year, and phase three ending in June.

Credit: ESA

COLOGNE, Germany (ESA PR) — During phase three, just over 400 applicants attended ESA’s European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, for thorough psychological assessment by an international team of experts. Though the precise tasks and tests are confidential, this phase was designed to ensure that selected candidates met the psychological profile required to work as an astronaut.

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JAXA Narrows Down Astronaut Candidates

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has conducted the 0th selection test on 2,266 people who have passed the document selection of astronaut candidates, and as a result, the successful candidates have been determined as follows.

Number of successful applicants for the 0th selection: 205

(reference)

  • 188 males (91.7%), 17 females (8.3%)
  • Number of people who passed the English test in the 0th selection 1,407
    Male 1,113 (79.1%), Female 292 (20.8%), 2 selected others (0.1%)

○ Future plans

  • First selection: July 18th (Monday / holiday) – August 9th (Tuesday), 2022
     * Scheduled to be distributed in Japan (including online implementation)
  • Second selection: Late October to early November 2022
     * Scheduled to be held in Japan (JAXA Tsukuba Space Center, JAXA Tokyo Office, etc.)

Please see the application guidelines for the details of the selection process.

Breakdown of astronaut candidates by age group who passed the 0th selection

Successful applicants for the 0th selection(Reference) Successful applicants for document selection(Reference) Applicants
Total number2052,2664,127
20s or younger61 (29.8%)483 (21.3%)811 (19.7%)
30s107 (52.2%)1,084 (47.8%)1,850 (44.8%)
Forties31 (15.1%)513 (22.6%)973 (23.6%)
50s6 (2.9%)163 (7.2%)424 (10.3%)
60s and over0 (0.0%)23 (1.0%)69 (1.7%)

* Since the composition ratio is rounded to the first decimal place, the total is not necessarily 100.

NASA’s The Color of Space Documentary Celebrates Black Space Explorers

Black astronauts speak to the public at Space Center Houston, Building 9NW, Rocket Park. (Image Credit: Bill Stafford/NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA HQ PR) — Members of the public are invited to watch the free online premiere of The Color of Space, an inspirational documentary by NASA that tells the stories of Black Americans determined to reach the stars.  

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Rogozin Lays Out Options for Roscosmos Post ISS; Russia Agrees to Seat Swap with NASA

Video Caption: Russia will look to wind down its cooperation on the International Space Station (ISS) while stepping up cooperation with China on the creation of a lunar station in the coming years, the head of Russia’s space agency said in an interview with the China Global Television Network (CGTN) on Friday.

Editor’s Note: In brief, Russia will honor commitments to ISS through the current end date of 2024. Rogozin thinks negotiations to extend station operations — NASA wants a 2030 end date — would be difficult with current tensions over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He said Russia plans to launch its own space station in 2027-28, on which it might work with China.

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Sierra Space to Open Human Spaceflight Center, Train the Future Astronaut Corps for the New Commercial Space Economy

A crewed variant of the Dream Chaser® spaceplane is currently in development and will be operational in 2026, having successfully completed its System Requirements Review (SRR) earlier this month. (Credit: Sierra Space)

Sierra Space’s Human Spaceflight Center and Astronaut Training Academy at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Will be Led by Dr. Janet Kavandi, Sierra Space President and Veteran of Three Space Shuttle Missions

LOUISVILLE, Colo. (Sierra Space PR) Sierra Space, a leading commercial space company at the forefront of creating and building the future of space transportation and infrastructure for low-Earth orbit (LEO) commercialization, announced today that it is creating the world’s first fully integrated commercial human spaceflight center and astronaut training academy. Dr. Janet Kavandi, a space industry leader and veteran NASA astronaut, will lead Sierra Space’s Human Spaceflight Center and Astronaut Training Academy from the company’s offices at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

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Video: Vice President Kamala Harris Congratulates Mark Vande Hei on Record-setting Spaceflight

Video Caption: Vice President Kamala Harris recently spoke to astronaut Mark Vande Hei after he returned home from spending 355 days in space — the longest single spaceflight for a NASA astronaut.

Mark’s mission and research in space helps us better understand the effects of long-duration human spaceflight as we prepare for the Artemis missions to the Moon. As head of the National Space Council, VP Harris is working on our priorities in space, including building up America’s STEM workforce, addressing the climate crisis, and promoting rules and norms that govern space.

Learn more about Celestial Immunity, space station research that may help us treat diseases: https://go.nasa.gov/3END1kY

JAXA Winnows Down Astronaut Candidates to Fewer Than 2,300

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has examined the application documents submitted by 4,127 applicants for astronaut candidate recruitment, and as a result, the following document selection passers have been determined.

Number of successful applicants for document selection: 2,266

Breakdown

  • 1,778 male (78.5%)
  • 485 female (21.4%),
  • 3 other (0.1%)

Breakdown of Astronaut Candidates by Age Group Who Passed Document Selection

Age GroupSuccessful Applicants (Document Selection)Total Applicants
20s or younger483 (21.3%)811 (19.7%)
30s1,084 (47.8%)1,850 (44.8%)
40s513 (22.6%)973 (23.6%)
50s163 (7.2%)424 (10.3%)
60s and over23 (1.0%)69 (1.7%)
Total2,2664,127
* Since the composition ratio is rounded to the first decimal place, the total is not necessarily 100.

Future Plans

The 0th selection English test will be held on May 8th (Sunday), and only those who have passed the English test will be held a general liberal arts test on May 29th (Sunday). Both will be carried out online.

Richard Branson Gets His Astronaut Wings, Aims to Eliminate Asterisk* Next Time

Unity 22 crew: Michael Masucci, Colin Bennett, Richard Branson, Sirisha Bandla, David Mackay and Beth Moses at the 37th Space Symposium. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
  • Billionaire aims to go higher and faster next time
  • Virgin Galactic still can’t get SpaceShipTwo all the way up (to Karman line)
  • FAA throws in the towel on deciding who is and who isn’t an astronaut

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Earlier this month, Richard Branson and two Virgin Galactic employees received commercial astronaut wings from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity flight test they took part in last July. The trio was the last group to receive the wings — FAA ended the program last year — and the honors came with a pretty big asterisk.

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JAXA Astronaut Selection Attracts More Than 4,000 Applicants

JAXA astronaut Sochi Noguchi is pictured inside the newly arrived upgraded SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle on December 7, 2020. Safety goggles and masks are required when a crew member opens the hatch and enters a new spacecraft for the first time due to dust and debris that may have been dislodged during the ascent to space. (Credits: NASA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is a new candidate for Japanese astronauts assuming activities on the International Space Station (ISS), the Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo”, the lunar manned base “Gateway”, and the lunar surface. The deadline for recruitment is noon on Monday, April 4, 2022. We are pleased to inform you that we have received the final application as shown below.

Total number of applications: 4,127

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Record Breaking NASA Astronaut to Return to Earth on Wednesday Aboard Russian Soyuz as Private Mission to ISS Looms

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei studies cotton genetics for the Plant Habitat-5 space agriculture experiment. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Three Expedition 66 Flight Engineers are returning to Earth in less than two days as four private astronauts prepare for their mission to the International Space Station. The crew activities haven’t stopped the ongoing space research as the orbital residents studied biology, botany, and physics on Monday.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is nearing the end of his mission as he prepares to return to Earth on Wednesday after a NASA-record breaking 355 days in space. Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov will lead Vande Hei and Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov inside the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship when they undock from the Rassvet module at 3:21 a.m. EDT on Wednesday. The trio will parachute to a landing just over four hours later.

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NASA to Provide Live Coverage of Record-Setting US Astronaut Return

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei studies cotton genetics for the Plant Habitat-5 space agriculture experiment. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and two Roscosmos cosmonauts are scheduled to end their mission aboard the International Space Station and return to Earth on Wednesday, March 30.

Vande Hei, along with Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, will close the hatch to the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft to begin the journey back to Earth. The Soyuz will undock from the Rassvet module, heading for a parachute-assisted landing Wednesday, March 30, on the steppe of Kazakhstan, southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan.

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1,563 Apply to Become Japanese Astronauts

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency ( JAXA ) started accepting applications for new astronaut candidates from noon on December 20, 2021 ( Monday), and ended at noon on March 4, 2022 ( Friday ). The number of applicants *1 who have applied from many people and completed the application procedure as of noon on March 4 ( Friday) is as follows.

Number of applicants (as of 3/4 noon): 1,563 (female ratio: 20%)

The final number of applicants*2 will be confirmed after the deadline for submitting the health certificate results (including the health certificate) (noon on April 4 (Monday)), and will be announced on April 5 (Tuesday). We are here.

* 1 Those who have completed all application procedures such as entry sheet and submission of health examination results.

* 2 The number of applicants announced this time (as of 3/4 noon) will be in good health by noon on April 4 (Monday). Addition of the number of people to submit the diagnosis result.

The number of applicants in 2008 was 963 (female ratio: 13%).