Suborbital Spaceflight by the Numbers

New Shepard launches on its 21st flight of the program on June 4, 2022. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Part II of II

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The first half of 2022 was a busy period in suborbital space with 23 launches conducted that did not involve tests of ballistic missiles or defensive systems. Twelve people flew above the Karman line, new boosters and space technologies were tested, and the first commercial suborbital launch was conducted from Australia. And some science was done.

We covered the above mentioned flights in depth in a story published on Tuesday. In this piece we’ll look a broader look at who launched what, when, where, why and on what.

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A Busy Six Months as Suborbital Spaceflight Comes Into its Own

New Shepard lands after the NS-21 flight. (Credit: Blue Origin webcast)

Part I of II

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

For decades, the suborbital launch sector was largely a backwater. Militaries tested ballistic missiles, scientists conducted experiments, and engineers tested new technologies. A sounding rocket is small potatoes compared with orbital rocket launches and the glamor of human spaceflight. Few people paid much attention.

All that has changed in recent years as Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin and their billionaire owners — Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos — started launching themselves and others on suborbital joyrides. Startups have been conducting suborbital flight tests of new orbital launch vehicles designed to serve the booming smalls satellite market. Suborbital has become a much more interesting sector.

This year has been no exception. The first half of 2022 saw Blue Origin send 12 people into space on two New Shepard flights, a Chinese company conduct six launches in a program to develop aa suborbital spaceplane and hypersonic transport, South Korea and Iran perform flight tests of three different smallsat launchers, Germany test technologies for reusable rockets, and first-ever commercial launch from Australia. And, a great deal of science was done.

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NASA Selects 19 Small Business Tech Transfer Projects for Further Funding

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 19 proposals from 17 U.S. small businesses for a total of more than $14 million in follow-on funding through the agency’s Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. The awards will help advance NASA priorities such as the Artemis program and other initiatives in aeronautics, human exploration and operations, science, and space technology. 

NASA’s STTR program is open to small businesses partnering with U.S. research institutions to develop an innovation or technology. The partnering component distinguishes STTR from its sister program, NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR). 

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Multiple Research Investigations From Northrop Grumman CRS-14 Mission Being Performed on Space Station

International Space Station (Credit: NASA/Roscosmos)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., October 26, 2020 (CASIS PR) – When Northrop Grumman launched its Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) on October 2, 2020, it was loaded with a multitude of research and technology development investigations to be carried out onboard the orbiting laboratory.

Once Cygnus berthed with the space station three days later and its contents were unloaded by the astronauts onboard, it was time to start performing some of the science that flew on Northrop Grumman’s 14th commercial resupply services (CRS) mission. 

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Multiple Flight Projects Selected from ISS Cotton Sustainability Challenge

Projects selected from the challenge, sponsored by Target Corporation, seek to improve cotton sustainability by leveraging the International Space Station

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., April 23, 2018 (CASIS PR) — The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announced the selection of three projects from its Cotton Sustainability Challenge.

The challenge, sponsored by Target Corporation, provided researchers and innovators the ability to propose solutions to improve crop production on Earth by sending their concepts to the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory.

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