The Best Laid Plans: Europe’s Ambitious Launch Year Goes Awry Due to International Tensions, Schedule Delays

The James Webb Space Telescope lifted off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, at 13:20 CET on 25 December 2021 on its exciting mission to unlock the secrets of the Universe. (Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On Christmas Day 2021, an European Ariane 5 rocket roared off its launch pad in French Guiana with the most expensive payload the booster had ever carried, the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope. The launcher performed perfectly, sending the most powerful space telescope on a journey to its final destination 1.5 million km (900 million miles) from Earth. The launch was so accurate that Webb should have sufficient propellant to perform science operations for much longer than its planned 10-year lifetime.

There was a collective sigh of relief among the European, American and Canadian scientists and engineers involved in the long-delayed program. It was a superb Christmas gift to a world suffering through the second year of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

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AI CubeSat Heads to Van Allen Belts on Vega-C

Trisat-R 3U CubeSat (Credit: SkyLabs)

PARIS (ESA PR) — An ESA-financed nanosatellite, which lifted off aboard the inaugural flight of Vega-C, will operate an AI system in the harsh, radiation-wracked environment of the Van Allen Belts. The shoebox-sized Trisat-R – one of six ‘CubeSats’ on the flight, headed up to a rarely-trafficked, close to 6000 km altitude orbit – is also carrying radiation-detection payloads from CERN, the European Council for Nuclear Research, Slovenian firm SkyLabs and ESA itself.

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Isar Aerospace and German Space Agency at DLR Announce Payloads for First Test Flight of Spectrum Launch Vehicle

Spectrum rocket (Credit Isar Aerospace)
  • Payloads selected for Spectrum’s maiden flight scheduled for end of 2022
  • Five institutions from Germany, Norway and Slovenia with a total of seven small satellites to launch on the first test flight of Isar Aerospace’s launch vehicle “Spectrum”
  • For the first time in Europe, the German government entrusts a privately financed European space company with the launch of institutional payloads

MUNICH, 13 December 2021 (Isar Aerospace PR) – Isar Aerospace, the leading and most well-funded private European launch service provider focusing on small and medium satellites, and the German Space Agency at DLR have announced the selection of the institutional payloads for the maiden flight of the “Spectrum” rocket planned for the end of 2022 as part of the microlauncher competition. Among the winners of the Announcement of Opportunity are five institutions from Germany, Norway, and Slovenia with a total of seven small satellites that will be used to demonstrate various technologies in space such as communication or weather data measurement.

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