The European Space Agency is set to launch its first robotic mission to Jupiter in April. The Juice mission is scheduled to arrive at Jupiter in July 2031 after an amazing flight path across the Solar System. The mission will orbit Jupiter and make numerous flybys to its three large icy satellites, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.
Juice, after four years of flybys of the moon, will enter orbit around Ganymede – the largest moon in the Solar System. This is the first time a spacecraft has orbited a moon from another planet. It is interesting to note that the icy moons around Jupiter may all have oceans of liquid beneath their frosted surfaces. Europa is considered to be one of the most likely places in the Solar System where extra-terrestrials could live.
The ice-penetrating ice radar will be one of ten scientific instruments that Juice will carry to study the interior oceans. Radar is an important tool for mapping subsurface oceans. It will pave the way to more exotic missions that involve submersible vehicles. The launch window is from April 5 until April 25.
SpaceX has not yet announced a date for the first orbital test of the Starship spacecraft, but it is expected to take place in early 2023. Starship is the largest spacecraft that can transport humans from Earth to space destinations (the International Space Station, although larger, was assembled in orbit). The launch vehicle will be capable of carrying 100 tons of cargo into low-Earth orbit, making it the most powerful launch vehicle ever to fly.
Starship is a collective name that refers to a two-component system, which consists of the Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket. Starship will be lifted to 65km in altitude by the rocket component before it separates and returns to Earth via a controlled landing. The upper Starship component then uses its engines in order to propel itself to orbit.
A number of short test flights have been conducted with various degrees of success. The upcoming flight is the first time that the entire system will be used together to reach space. Originally scheduled for launch in September of 2022, this first orbital flight has been repeatedly delayed.
Starship will launch the dearMoon Project. Originally planned for 2023, the project takes members of the public around the Moon for six days. Starship’s successful test will determine the exact date, but it has been planned since 2018. This will be the very first deep space tourism launch.
Yusaku Maezawa fully funded the trip. A competition was held to select eight members from the public, as well as an unknown number of crew. The criteria and winners have not been revealed, but it is believed that the guests are established artists.
This mission will change the way that we view space. Previously, only astronauts selected using extremely stringent criteria were able to travel into deep space. (Note: We do not count brief 10-minute excursions of up to 100km). The risks of a trip lasting several days are extreme, both from a health and engineering perspective.
Success or failure in the dearMoon project could determine whether deep space travel becomes the new big thing or is left as a pipe dream.
The asteroid explorer returns home to Earth.
The Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource ID Security: Regolith Explore, more commonly known by its acronym OSIRIS REx, is a Nasa Mission to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu. This robotic mission had as its main goal to collect samples from Bennu and then return them to Earth to be analyzed.
OSIRIS REx is returning quickly to Earth, bringing up to one kilogram of valuable asteroid samples. If everything goes according to plan, the capsule should detach, enter Earth’s atmosphere, and then parachute down for a soft touchdown in Utah deserts on September 24. The Japanese Space Agency’s Hayabusa II mission in 2020 was the only one to achieve asteroid sample return.
Bennu, a diamond-shaped planet about half a km in diameter, has many fascinating characteristics. It’s believed that it broke off from a larger asteroid during the first 10,000,000 years of the Solar System. It is thought that some of the minerals found within Bennu have been changed by water. This suggests that Bennu’s ancient parent had liquid water.
Gold and platinum are abundant. Bennu has been classified as a potentially dangerous object, with a very small chance of Earth’s impact within the next century.
India’s private space flight
Many private companies are developing their launchers. While SpaceX may be the most well-known, many others have also developed launchers. Skyroot Aerospace will soon become the first Indian private company to launch a space satellite.
The rocket reached an altitude of 90km, which is not enough to put a constellation into orbit. Skyroot plans to launch its first satellite in 2023. The company hopes to undercut the costs of rival private space launch companies by manufacturing their 3D-printed launchers within days. This could lead to cheaper launches for scientific missions and a faster pace of research if successful.
The interest in space is still high. We are now entering a phase similar to the “Golden Age” of space launches from the 1960s and 1970s, with many bold advancements and launches scheduled for 2023.