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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Magellan Aerospace to Provide Satellite Avionics Subsystems for CHORUS, MDA’s Next-generation Commercial Earth Observation Mission

TORONTO, February 9, 2022 – Magellan Aerospace Corporation (“Magellan”) announced today a contract award from MDA Ltd. (“MDA”) to provide spacecraft avionics for their next Earth observation mission named CHORUS. The new spacecraft builds on MDA’s RADARSAT heritage and will continue the work of RADARSAT-2, which remains operational serving its worldwide customer base. The avionics subsystems for CHORUS will be developed at Magellan’s Winnipeg facility, home of western Canada’s Advanced Satellite Integration Facility.

Magellan has expertise in the development of satellites buses and spacecraft avionics. In 2019, Magellan delivered three satellite buses for the Canadian Space Agency’s RADARSAT Constellation Mission under subcontract from MDA. These satellites, launched into orbit in June 2019, combine the Magellan satellite buses and the MDA C-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) payload.

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CSA Invests in Canadian Lunar Science and Technology

Moon (Credit: NASA)

LONGUEUIL, Quebec, February 25, 2020 – Canada has joined humanity’s return to the Moon – an investment in science, innovation and research to unlock new opportunities for economic growth and to help us answer important questions about our planet, universe and ourselves.

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is presenting Canada’s space community, including small and medium-sized businesses, with the opportunity to contribute technologies to national and international efforts of exploring the Moon. This is a crucial step in humanity’s quest to travel further in space, onwards to Mars.

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Kepler Communications, Magellan Aerospace Sign Letter of Intention to Fly Innovative Smart Radiator Device

TORONTO, Ontario, April 16, 2019 (Kepler Communications PR) – Kepler Communications (“Kepler”), a Canadian satellite telecommunications provider, and Magellan Aerospace Corporation (“Magellan”) have signed a Letter of Intention to fly an innovative Smart Radiator Device (SRD) on Kepler’s third satellite, scheduled for launch later this year. The unique SRD, designed to significantly improve temperature management on-board future satellites, is being developed by MPB Communications (“MPB”) in partnership with Magellan Aerospace.

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New Coalition Formed to Revive Canadian Space Program


A new coalition of industry, academic and interest groups has launched  a campaign called Don’t Let Go Canada in an effort to bolster the Canadian space program.

“While other countries have been increasing their investments in space, Canada has fallen from 8th place in 1992 to 18th place (% of GDP), and hasn’t had a long-term plan to guide Canada’s investments for decades,” the group said on its website.

“The economic stakes of space participation are higher than ever. The global space market is worth over USD $380B today; analysts forecast it will grow to be a multi-trillion-dollar market in coming decades,” the website states. “Ambitious governments are staking their claims. Luxembourg plans to be the leading country in space mining; the UK aims to capture 10 percent of the global space market by 2030.”

Among the members of the coalition are MDA, Honeywell, Magellan Aerospace, ABB, AIAC, Neptec, Canadian Space Society, Canadian Astronautics and Space Institute, and The Planetary Society. A full list of members is on the organization’s website.

The group is calling for a properly funded, long-term Canadian Space Strategy to guide the nation’s efforts. One pressing concern is a decision on whether Canada will participate in the U.S.-led Lunar Gateway program, which will place a human-tended station in orbit around the moon.