2021 in spaceflight
Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter
Starship prototype SN20
James Webb Space Telescope
Inspiration4 crew training
Highlights from spaceflight in 2021[a]
Orbital launches
First8 January
Last28 October
Total107
Successes99
Failures8
Catalogued89
National firsts
Satellite
Space traveller
Rockets
Maiden flights
Retirements
Crewed flights
Orbital6
Suborbital4
Total travellers35
EVAs10

This article documents notable spaceflight events during 2021.

Overview

Planetary science

Spacecraft from three Mars exploration programs from the United Arab Emirates, China, and the United States (Hope, Tianwen-1, and Mars 2020) arrived at Mars in February.

The Perseverance rover landed on 18 February. As part of the Mars 2020 mission, the Ingenuity solar-powered drone performed the first powered aircraft flight on another planet in human history. It has a communications-link with the Perseverance rover and used autonomous control during its short scripted flights.

The Tianwen-1 lander and Zhurong rover landed on 14 May, after conducting a geological survey of the landing site from orbit. Zhurong was deployed on the Martian surface on 22 May, making China the second country in history to successfully deploy a rover on Mars. The rover then dropped a remotely controlled camera on the ground, which took a group photo of the lander and rover on 1 June.

Lucy, a NASA space probe, launched October 16, 2021[1] and began a 12-year journey to seven different asteroids, visiting six Jupiter trojans, and one Main Belt asteroid.[2] Trojans are asteroids which share Jupiter's orbit around the Sun, orbiting either ahead of or behind the planet.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is planned to launch in November on a Falcon 9. It is a space probe that will visit the double asteroid Didymos and demonstrate the kinetic effects of crashing an impactor spacecraft into an asteroid moon for planetary defense purposes. The mission is intended to test whether a spacecraft impact could successfully deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth.

The Juno probe continues its exploration of Jupiter. Originally, its mission was intended to conclude on 31 July by burning up in Jupiter's atmosphere following its 35th perijove. However, on 8 January 2021, NASA announced that the probe was granted a second mission extension through September 2025, which could include future flybys of Europa and Io.[3][4]

Lunar exploration

China's Chang'e-4 lander and Yutu-2 rover reached 1000-days milestone on the far side of the Moon while still being operational.[5]

Human spaceflight

China began construction of the Tiangong space station (phase 3 of the Tiangong program) with the launch of the Tianhe core module on 29 April 2021. A Tianzhou cargo delivery mission was launched on 29 May 2021, and the Shenzhou 12 crewed mission on 17 June 2021.[6] Shenzhou 13 has launched a second crew on October 15.[7]

In the United States, Virgin Galactic conducted the first suborbital human spaceflight from New Mexico on 22 May 2021 with SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity.[8] Two astronauts were onboard, Frederick Sturckow and David Mackay. The flight was also the first suborbital human spaceflight from Spaceport America. A second flight, carrying company founder Richard Branson and three other passengers, was conducted on 11 July 2021.[9]

The first manned flight of Blue Origin's New Shepard suborbital spacecraft successfully sent four civilians, including company founder Jeff Bezos, into space just above the Kármán line on 20 July 2021.[10]

Space telescopes

The long-delayed James Webb Space Telescope, the largest optical space telescope ever built, is planned to be launched to the Sun–Earth L2 point by a European Ariane 5 rocket in November.[11] Also the IXPE telescope is expected to launch in 2021.

Rocket innovation

The trend towards cost reduction in access to orbit is expected to continue. After suborbital tests in 2020 and 2021, SpaceX plans to conduct the first orbital flight of the fully reusable Starship launch vehicle.[12][13] Multiple other companies plan to introduce smaller rockets. The maiden flight of Vulcan Centaur, designed to gradually replace Atlas V and Delta IV Heavy at lower costs, was planned for 2021 but shifted to 2022.[14]

Orbital and suborbital launches

Main articles: List of spaceflight launches in January–June 2021 and List of spaceflight launches in July–December 2021

List of orbital launches
Month Num. of successes Num. of failures
January 7 0
February 9 1
March 10 0
April 11 0
May 9 1
June 13 1
July 10 0
August 10 3
September 10 1
October 10 1
November TBD TBD
December TBD TBD
Total 99 8

Deep-space rendezvous

Date (UTC) Spacecraft Event Remarks
17 January Parker Solar Probe 7th perihelion
9 February Emirates Mars Mission Mars orbit insertion Probe achieved an initial orbit around Mars of 1,000 x 49,380 km. It will spend several months modifying its orbit to 20,000 x 43,000 km.[15]
10 February Tianwen-1 Mars orbit insertion Probe achieved an initial orbit around Mars of 400 x 180,000 km. Its initial reconnaissance orbit will be 265 x 60,000 km.
18 February Perseverance Mars landing Rover successfully landed at target destination, with confirmation on Earth at 20:55 UTC. Landing was at Jezero crater, coordinates 18°26′41″N 77°27′03″E / 18.4447°N 77.4508°E / 18.4447; 77.4508.
20 February Parker Solar Probe Fourth gravity assist at Venus
21 February Juno 32nd perijove of Jupiter
7 April OSIRIS-REx Begin flyby of Bennu[16]
15 April Juno 33rd perijove
29 April Parker Solar Probe 8th perihelion
10 May OSIRIS-REx Completes Bennu flyby and begins journey back to Earth[16]
14 May Zhurong Mars landing Rover successfully landed at Utopia Planitia, coordinates 25°06′N 109°54′E / 25.1°N 109.9°E / 25.1; 109.9.
8 June Juno 34th perijove On the day of perijove, Juno flew by Ganymede, reducing its orbital period around Jupiter to 43 days.[3][4]
21 July Juno 35th perijove Beginning of Juno's second mission extension.[3][4]
8 August Solar Orbiter Second gravity assist at Venus[17]
9 August Parker Solar Probe 9th perihelion
11 August BepiColombo Second gravity assist at Venus
2 September Juno 36th perijove
2 October BepiColombo First gravity assist at Mercury
16 October Juno 37th perijove
16 October Parker Solar Probe Fifth gravity assist at Venus
21 November Parker Solar Probe 10th perihelion
26 November Solar Orbiter Gravity assist at Earth[17] Gravity assist will set up future fly-bys of Venus that will increase its inclination relative to the Sun.

Extravehicular activities (EVAs)

Start Date/Time Duration End Time Spacecraft Crew Remarks
27 January 11:28 6 hours 56 minutes 18:24 SpaceX Crew 1

ISS Quest

United States Michael S. Hopkins

United States Victor J. Glover

Installation of the exposed platform Airbus Bartolomeo

1 February 12:57 5 hours 20 minutes 18:17 SpaceX Crew 1

ISS Quest

United States Michael S. Hopkins

United States Victor J. Glover

Install a new lithium-ion battery on the P-4 truss, where an earlier lithium replacement blew a fuse in April 2019. Upgrade high definition video and camera gear on ISS exterior.

28 February

11:12

7 hours 04 minutes 18:16 SpaceX Crew 1 Expedition 64

ISS Quest

United States Kathleen Rubins

United States Victor J. Glover

Install modification kit to prepare Station for new solar array installation.

5 March

11:37

6 hours 56 minutes 18:33 SpaceX Crew 1 Expedition 64

ISS Quest

United States Kathleen Rubins

Japan Soichi Noguchi

Additional upgrades and Kibo module platform work

13 March

13:14

6 hours 47 minutes 20:01 SpaceX Crew 1

ISS Quest

United States Michael Hopkins

United States Victor Glover

P6 fixes and installations

2 June

05:53

7 hours 19 minutes 13:12 Expedition 65

Poisk Airlock

Russia Oleg Novitsky

Russia Pyotr Dubrov

Second in a series of spacewalks to decommission the Pirs Airlock which is scheduled to be replaced by Nauka in the summer of 2021. Task involve installing a flow control valve on Zarya, removing docking antennas and their cables on Pirs, removing EVA gap spanners from Pirs, transferring experiments over to Poisk, installing Test containers on the hatches, and relocating a Strela crane over to Poisk. Getahead task involve cleaning the windows on the Russian segment, and doing an inspection of Zvezda and plugging any leaks they find.[18][19]

16 June

12:11

7 hours 15 minutes 19:26 SpaceX Crew-2

ISS Quest

United States Shane Kimbrough

France Thomas Pesquet

First in a series of spacewalks to install the iROSA solar arrays on the P6 Truss. While working on releasing the arrays from their launch carrier, Kimbrough's spacesuit experienced issues with its Display and Control Module (DCM), so he was sent back to the airlock to connect to station umbilicals to restart it. The restart was successful, although it delayed the EVA. Additionally, an issue was discovered with his suit's sublimator, which threatened to end the EVA prematurely; this was determined to be a false reading, allowing work to resume. Following this, the astronauts successfully released the solar arrays and installed them on the P6 mounting bracket. A subsequent attempt to unfold the two rolled arrays, which were folded side-by-side during launch, failed due to interference (blockage) from a structure near the mounting area. As the EVA was then past the six-hour mark, ground controllers instructed the astronauts to finish securing the array structure to the station, photograph the work site, and return to the airlock. The next steps of unfolding the array pair, making electrical connections, and unfurling the rolled arrays were postponed to a future EVA pending ground analysis of the interference issue

20 June

11:42

6 hours 28 minutes 18:10 SpaceX Crew-2

ISS Quest

United States Shane Kimbrough

France Thomas Pesquet

Second in a series of spacewalks that will install the iROSA solar arrays on the P6 Truss. The spacewalkers managed to connect iROSA with a little elbow grease and at 16:40 hours deployed it and it is receiving power.

25 June

11:52

6 hours 45 minutes 18:37 SpaceX Crew-2

ISS Quest

United States Shane Kimbrough

France Thomas Pesquet

Third in a series of spacewalks that will install the ROSA solar arrays on the P6 Truss. If time allows the astronauts will also route cables to the Russian segment and install a WiFi router on the truss.

4 July

00:11

6 hours 46 minutes 06:57 Shenzhou 12

TSS Tianhe

China Liu Boming

China Tang Hongbo

First Chinese spacewalk since Shenzhou 7 in 2008. Installation work was done on the exterior of the Tiangong space station.[20]

20 August

00:38

5 hours 55 minutes 06:33 Shenzhou 12

TSS Tianhe

China Nie Haisheng

China Liu Boming

Second EVA of Shenzhou 12 crew to install foot stops and a workbench on the station’s large robotic arm, a pump set for its thermal control system, and additional work on the panoramic camera.[21]

3 September

14:35

7 hours 54 minutes TBD Expedition 65

Poisk Airlock

Russia Oleg Novitsky

Russia Pyotr Dubrov

First in a series of spacewalks to outfit Nauka. The cosmonauts will route cables which were recently temp stowed on PMA 1 along Zarya to the Zvezda transfer compartment where they will be mated to Nauka. The spacewalk will conclude with the installation of handrails and the first experiments on the new module. If time allows the cosmonauts will change Biorisk containers and will retrieve and replace two exposure experiments from Poisk and bring them inside.

9 September

15:00

7 hours 20 minutes TBD Expedition 65

Poisk Airlock

Russia Oleg Novitsky

Russia Pyotr Dubrov

Second in a series of spacewalks to outfit Nauka. The cosmonauts will connect Kurs and TORU telemetry cables and deploy and stow docking targets and antennas. They will also remove and dispose of covers on the Rassvet module and swap grapple fixtures and docking targets to relocate the Nauka science airlock, the primary radiator, and the boom of the European Robotic Arm (ERA) over to Nauka for installation. They will also remove launch locks and covers from Nauka so the European arm can be deployed and the items transferred from Rassvet can be installed.

12 September

12:30

6 hours 30 minutes TBD SpaceX Crew-2

ISS Quest

Japan Akihiko Hoshide

France Thomas Pesquet

Install the 3B modification kit on the P4 Truss for the arrival of SpaceX CRS-24 with the final portside IROSA solar arrays. Install a wifi router on the truss, and route and mate cables on the US side of PMA 1 to power up the Nauka module. Replace a Floating Point Measuring Unit and a Static Charge Micrometer external component on the S1 Truss to prepare the port side for it long term configuration.

17 November (planned)

12:05

TBD TBD SpaceX Crew-3

ISS Quest

United States Tom Marshburn

United States Kayla Barron

Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron will conduct an EVA mainly to replace the Port 1 Truss S-Band Communications Antenna

Orbital launch statistics

By country

For the purposes of this section, the yearly tally of orbital launches by country assigns each flight to the country of origin of the rocket, not to the launch services provider or the spaceport. For example, Soyuz launches by Arianespace in Kourou are counted under Russia because Soyuz-2 is a Russian rocket.

China: 41Europe: 4India: 2Iran: 1Israel: 0Japan: 1North Korea: 0Russia: 18South Korea: 1USA: 39
Country Launches Successes Failures Partial
failures
Remarks
 China 41 39 2 0
 Europe 4 4 0 0
 India 2 1 1 0
 Iran 1 0 1 0
 Japan 1 1 0 0
 Russia 18 18 0 0 Includes European Soyuz launches from Kourou, French Guiana by Arianespace
 South Korea 1 0 1 0 [22]
 United States 39 36 3 0 Includes Electron launches from Mahia
World 107 99 8 0

By rocket

10
20
30
40
Antares
Ariane
Atlas
Electron
Falcon
Kuaizhou
Launcher
One
Long March
R-7
SLV
Vega
Others

By family

By type

By configuration

By spaceport

10
20
30
40
50
China
France
India
Iran
Japan
Kazakhstan
New Zealand
Russia
South Korea
United States
Site Country Launches Successes Failures Partial failures Remarks
Baikonur  Kazakhstan 10 10 0 0
Cape Canaveral  United States 15 15 0 0
Jiuquan  China 17 15 2 0
Kennedy  United States 9 9 0 0
Kourou  France 4 4 0 0
Mahia  New Zealand 4 3 1 0
MARS  United States 3 3 0 0
Mojave  United States 2 2 0 0
Naro  South Korea 1 0 1 0
PSCA  United States 1 0 1 0
Plesetsk  Russia 3 3 0 0
Satish Dhawan  India 2 1 1 0
Semnan  Iran 1 0 1 0
Taiyuan  China 9 9 0 0
Tanegashima  Japan 1 1 0 0
Vandenberg  United States 5 4 1 0
Vostochny  Russia 5 5 0 0
Wenchang  China 4 4 0 0
Xichang  China 11 11 0 0
Total 107 99 8 0

By orbit

10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
Transatmospheric
Low Earth
Medium Earth / Molniya
Geosynchronous / transfer
High Earth / Lunar transfer
Heliocentric
  •   Transatmospheric
  •   Low Earth
  •   Low Earth (ISS)
  •   Low Earth (CSS)
  •   Low Earth (SSO)
  •   Low Earth (retrograde)
  •   Low Earth (polar)
  •   Medium Earth
  •   Molniya
  •   Geosynchronous
  •   Inclined GSO
  •   High Earth
  •   Lunar transfer
  •   Heliocentric
  •  
Orbital regime Launches Achieved Not achieved Accidentally
achieved
Remarks
Transatmospheric 1 1 0 0
Low Earth / Sun-synchronous 86 79 7 0 Including flights to ISS and Tiangong
Geosynchronous / GTO 17 16 0 1
Medium Earth / Molniya 2 2 0 0
High Earth / Lunar transfer 0 0 0 0
Heliocentric orbit / Planetary transfer 1 1 0 0
Total 107 99 7 1

Suborbital launch statistics

By country

For the purposes of this section, the yearly tally of suborbital launches by country assigns each flight to the country of origin of the rocket, not to the launch services provider or the spaceport. Flights intended to fly below 80 km (50 mi) are omitted.

Brazil: 1Canada: 8China: 10France: 1India: 3Iran: 20Israel: 0Japan: 3The Netherlands: 9Pakistan: 4Russia: 4South Korea: 1Taiwan: 2Turkey: 1USA: 43Ukraine: 2Yemen: 4
Country Launches Successes Failures Partial
failures
Remarks
 Brazil 1 1 0 0
 Canada 8 8 0 0
 China 10 10 0 0
 France 1 1 0 0
 India 3 3 0 0
 Iran 20 20 0 0
 Japan 3 3 0 0
 Netherlands 9 9 0 0
 Pakistan 4 4 0 0
 Russia 4 4 0 0
 South Korea 1 1 0 0
 Taiwan 2 1 0 1 Includes Hapith I VS01 which was precluded prior to launch.
 Turkey 1 1 0 0
 United States 43 41 2 0
 Ukraine 2 2 0 0
 Yemen 4 4 0 0
World 116 113 2 1

Expected maiden flights

Heavy/super heavy-lift vehicles

Medium-lift vehicles

Small-lift vehicles

Suborbital vehicles

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Clockwise from top:

References

  1. ^ Warren, Haygen (16 October 2021). "NASA, ULA launch historic Lucy mission". NASASpaceFlight.com.
  2. ^ Hille, Karl (21 October 2019). "NASA's Lucy Mission Clears Critical Milestone". NASA. Retrieved 5 December 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Talbert, Tricia (8 January 2021). "NASA Extends Exploration for Two Planetary Science Missions". NASA. Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  4. ^ a b c "NASA's Juno Mission Expands Into the Future". NASA.gov. 13 January 2021. Retrieved 14 January 2021.
  5. ^ Jones, Andrew (5 October 2021). "1,000 days on the moon! China's Chang'e 4 lunar far side mission hits big milestone". space.com. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  6. ^ Garcia, Carlos; Wang, Shubing (18 June 2021). "Chinese astronauts board space station module in historic mission". Reuters. Retrieved 1 July 2021.
  7. ^ Jones, Andrew (13 April 2021). "China preparing Tianzhou-2 cargo mission to follow upcoming space station launch". SpaceNews. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  8. ^ "Virgin Galactic Completes First Human Spaceflight from Spaceport America, New Mexico". Virgin Galactic. 22 May 2021. Retrieved 22 May 2021.
  9. ^ Foust, Jeff (11 July 2021). "Branson flies to edge of space on SpaceShipTwo". SpaceNews. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  10. ^ Wall, Mike (20 July 2021). "Jeff Bezos launches into space on Blue Origin's 1st astronaut flight". Space.com. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  11. ^ "NASA Announces New James Webb Space Telescope Target Launch Date". NASA (Press release). 16 July 2020. Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  12. ^ Clark, Stephen (1 September 2020). "Elon Musk offers update on SpaceX's Starship mega-rocket". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  13. ^ "Starship". nextspaceflight.com. Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  14. ^ "ULA's maiden Vulcan flight delayed to 2022 due to payload readiness". 18 June 2021. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  15. ^ Gebhardt, Chris (9 February 2021). "UAE makes history as Al-Amal arrives at Mars for two-year mission". NASASpaceflight.com.
  16. ^ a b "NASA's OSIRIS-REx to Fly a Farewell Tour of Bennu". 8 February 2021. Retrieved 1 April 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ a b "Solar Orbiter: Mission Operations". 26 January 2020.
  18. ^ "События. Выход в открытый космос 2 июня" [Spacewalk June 2]. www.roscosmos.ru. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  19. ^ john.l.stoll@nasa.gov (1 June 2021), jsc2021m000163_Russian_Spacewalk_48_Animation, retrieved 1 June 2021
  20. ^ Corbett, Tobias (4 July 2021). "Taikonauts complete second Chinese spacewalk, first in support of Space Station construction". NASASpaceFlight. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  21. ^ Jones, Andrew (20 August 2021). "Astronauts conduct second Chinese space station spacewalk". SpaceNews. Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  22. ^ "South Korea fails to put dummy satellite into orbit". CNN. 21 October 2021.
  23. ^ Largest private rocket to be launched in 2021, says developer | Nation | China Daily
Generic references:
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