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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.).
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.
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.