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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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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Blue Origin Successfully Completes 21st New Shepard Mission

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

VAN HORN, Texas (Blue Origin PR) — Today, Blue Origin successfully completed its fifth human spaceflight and the 21st flight for the New Shepard program. The astronaut crew included: Evan Dick, Katya Echazarreta, Hamish Harding, Victor Correa Hespanha, Jaison Robinson, and Victor Vescovo. 

“It was an honor to fly this special crew of explorers and true pioneers today,” said Phil Joyce, Senior Vice President, New Shepard. “Thank you to the entire New Shepard team for your tireless work and dedication to this program. Each mission is an opportunity to provide another six people the life-changing experience of witnessing the beauty and fragility of our planet from space. It’s one step in realizing our vision of millions of people living and working in space for the benefit of Earth.”  

If you are interested in flying on New Shepard as an astronaut or to fly a payload on a future mission, visit BlueOrigin.com.  

You can also purchase commemorative merchandise from today’s mission at the Blue Origin Shop

Blue Origin Reschedules Next Crewed Suborbital Flight to June 4

NS-21 spaceflight participants. (Credit: Blue Origin)

KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — Blue Origin today announced NS-21 will lift off from Launch Site One on Saturday, June 4. The launch window opens at 8:00 a.m. CDT / 13:00 UTC. The webcast will start at T-60 minutes. The press kit can be found here.

The crew includes: investor and NS-19 Astronaut Evan Dick; electrical engineer and former NASA test lead Katya Echazarreta; business jet pilot and Action Aviation Chairman Hamish Harding; civil production engineer Victor Correa Hespanha; adventurer and Dream Variation Ventures co-founder Jaison Robinson; and explorer and co-founder of private equity firm Insight Equity Victor Vescovo, Commander, USN (Ret.). 

Blue Origin Delays New Shepard Launch Scheduled for Friday

NS-21 spaceflight participants. (Credit: Blue Origin)

KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — During our final vehicle check-outs, we observed one of New Shepard’s back-up systems was not meeting our expectations for performance. In an abundance of caution, we will be delaying the NS-21 launch originally scheduled for Friday. Stay tuned for further updates.

Blue Origin previously announced the NS-21 mission spaceflight participants will include: investor and NS-19 Astronaut Evan Dick; electrical engineer and former NASA test lead Katya Echazarreta; business jet pilot and Action Aviation Chairman Hamish Harding; civil production engineer Victor Correa Hespanha; adventurer and Dream Variation Ventures co-founder Jaison Robinson; and explorer and co-founder of private equity firm Insight Equity Victor Vescovo, Commander, USN (Ret.). Katya will become the first Mexican-born woman and youngest American woman to fly to space, and she will be flying as part of Space for Humanity’s sponsored Citizen Astronaut Program. Victor Correa Hespanha will be the second Brazilian to fly to space.

New Shepard Mission NS-21 to Fly Six Customer Astronauts, Including First Mexican-Born Woman to Visit Space

NS-21 spaceflight participants. (Credit: Blue Origin)

KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — Blue Origin today announced the crew flying on its NS-21 mission will include: investor and NS-19 Astronaut Evan Dick; electrical engineer and former NASA test lead Katya Echazarreta; business jet pilot and Action Aviation Chairman Hamish Harding; civil production engineer Victor Correa Hespanha; adventurer and Dream Variation Ventures co-founder Jaison Robinson; and explorer and co-founder of private equity firm Insight Equity Victor Vescovo, Commander, USN (Ret.). Katya will become the first Mexican-born woman and youngest American woman to fly to space, and she will be flying as part of Space for Humanity’s sponsored Citizen Astronaut Program. Victor Correa Hespanha will be the second Brazilian to fly to space.

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Space For Humanity to Send its First Ever Citizen Astronaut to Experience the Overview Effect Aboard Blue Origin’s Next New Shepard Flight

Katya Echazarreta Will Join Five Other Crew Members in Life-Changing Journey As Space For Humanity’s First Citizen Astronaut Ambassador and First Mexican-Born Woman to Visit Space

Katya Echazarreta will join five other crew members in life-changing journey as Space For Humanity’s first Citizen Astronaut Ambassador and first Mexican-Born woman to visit space.

DENVER (Space For Humanity PR) — Today, Space For Humanity (S4H), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, announced its selection committee has chosen Katya Echazarreta to become the organization’s first ever citizen astronaut ambassador. Katya will become the first Mexican-born female to fly to space when she flies aboard Blue Origin’s NS-21 flight.

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Blue Origin Safely Completes Third Human Spaceflight

New Shepard takes off with six passengers on Dec. 11, 2021. (Credit: Blue Origin website)

The NS-19 mission marks the sixth flight of the year for the program

VAN HORN, Texas (Blue Origin PR) — Blue Origin today successfully completed the third human spaceflight – the first with six astronauts on board. The astronaut manifest included, Laura Shepard Churchley, Michael Strahan, Evan Dick, Dylan Taylor, Cameron Bess, and Lane Bess.

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This Week in Launches: Japanese Tourist, New Shepard, NASA Laser Experiment, X-ray Satellite & More

Soyuz MS-20 crew members Yozo Hirano, Alexander Misurkin and Yusaku Maezawa. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Schedule subject to change without notice.

December 7

Launch Vehicle: Atlas 5 (United Launch Alliance)
Payloads: STP-6 and several rideshares
Launch Window: 4:04-6:04 a.m. EST (0904-1104 UTC)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.nasa.gov

The U.S. Space Force mission will launch the STPSat-6 satellite and several secondary payloads. STPSat 6 hosts NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration payload and the Space and Atmospheric Burst Reporting System-3 for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

OUTCOME: Success

December 8

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz-2.1a (Roscosmos)
Payload: Soyuz MS-20
Launch Time: 2:38 a.m. EST (0738 UTC)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Webcast: www.nasa.gov

Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin will fly Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and his assistant, Yozo Hirano, to the International Space Station on a 12-day mission.

OUTCOME: Success

Launch Vehicle: Electron (Rocket Lab)
Payloads: BlackSky 14 & 15 Earth observation satellites
Launch Time: 6:45 p.m. EST (2345 UTC)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Webcast: www.rocketlab.com

December 9

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9 (SpaceX)
Payload: Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer
Launch Window: 1:00-2:30 a.m. EST (0600-0730 UTC)
Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Webcast: www.nasa.gov

Launch Vehicle: New Shepard (Blue Origin)
Payload: New Shepard
Launch Time: TBA
Launch Site: Corn Ranch, Texas
Webcast: www.blueorigin.com

Laura Shepard Churchley will fly aboard a suborbital craft named in honor of her late father, NASA astronaut Alan Shepard, who became the first American in space 60 years ago and walked on the moon a decade later. She will be joined by: Good Morning America co-host Michael Strahan; Voyager Space chairman and CEO Dylan Taylor; Lance Bess, principal and founder of Bess Ventures and Advisory; Lance’s son Cameron Bess; and Evan Dick, managing member of Dick Holdings. This will be the 19th launch of the New Shepard system.

UPDATE: Postponed to Saturday, Dec. 11.

December 12

Launch Vehicle: Proton (Roscosmos)
Payloads: Express AMU3 & Express AMU7 communications satellites
Launch Time: 7:09 a.m. EST (1209 UTC)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Webcast: www.roscosmos.com

GMA Co-anchor Michael Strahan, Alan Shepard’s Daughter to Fly to Space with 4 Others on Blue Origin’s New Shepard Vehicle

Upper left to right: Lane Bess, Cameron Bess, Evan Dick; Lower left to right: Dylan Taylor, Laura Shepard Churchley, Michael Strahan. (Credit: Blue Origin)

New Shepard’s 19th mission will be the first to carry a full manifest of six astronauts to space.

KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — Blue Origin today announced the crew of its upcoming NS-19 flight on December 9 will include two honorary guests and four paying customers. Guests include Good Morning America co-anchor Michael Strahan and Laura Shepard Churchley, the eldest daughter of Alan Shepard, who was the first American to fly to space. The four customers include space industry executive and philanthropist Dylan Taylor, investor Evan Dick, Bess Ventures founder Lane Bess, and Cameron Bess. Lane and Cameron Bess will become the first parent-child pair to fly in space. 

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