FLORIDA, USA - JANUARY 13: A Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Grizu-263A satellite for Turkiye as part of the SpaceX Transporter-3 rideshare mission launches from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on January 13, 2022 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Grizu-263A, which is designed to photograph the earth, is Turkiye's first mini satellite. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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FLORIDA, USA - JANUARY 13: A Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Grizu-263A satellite for Turkiye as part of the SpaceX Transporter-3 rideshare mission launches from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on January 13, 2022 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Grizu-263A, which is designed to photograph the earth, is Turkiye's first mini satellite. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Photo by: Anadolu Agency

Anadolu Agency

3 Awesome Launches to Look Forward to This Year

2021 was a pretty exciting year for spaceflight. We had a bunch of private rocket launches and the initiation of a new era in space tourism. We had the launch of DART, a mission where NASA will use a spacecraft to punch an asteroid in the face. And at the last moment, we had liftoff for the much-delayed and long-awaited James Webb Space Telescope.

January 27, 2022

Here are three launches to watch out for this year:

1) ExoMars 2022

Feel like we’re not exploring Mars enough? Well, then you’re in luck. Back in 2016 the European Space Agency, in collaboration with the Russian agency Roscosmos, launched ExoMars, a duo of orbiter and lander aimed at the red planet. Unfortunately, the lander really leaned into the landing bit and ended up crashing, but the orbiter is still there today.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA  MARCH 17, 2021: An employee of the S.A. Lavochkin Research and Production Association, a Russian aerospace company, is pictured at an ExoMars mockup. ExoMars (Exobiology on Mars) is an international programme by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian space agency Roscosmos, in which the Russian side is responsible for the development of a robotic Mars lander and the European side is responsible for the development of a flight module and a robotic Mars rover. The main goals of ExoMars are to explore the surface and the subsurface of Mars, to investigate Martian geochemical environment and to search for traces of life in the immediate vicinity of the landing site. Sergei Bobylev/TASS (Photo by Sergei Bobylev\TASS via Getty Images)

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An employee of a Russian aerospace company is pictured at an ExoMars mockup.

Photo by: Sergei Bobylev

Sergei Bobylev

An employee of a Russian aerospace company is pictured at an ExoMars mockup.

The second half of the mission was supposed to launch in 2020, but problems with the parachutes led to minor delays. But because orbits are orbits and our planets only line up every two years, mission planners had to cool their heels until 2022.

ExoMars 2022 should launch in September 2022, and arrive at Mars in June of the following year. The Russian-designed lander, named Kazachock, will deliver the Rosalind Franklin rover to the surface. There, the rover will hunt for signs of life (mostly past life, but you never know) on the formerly wet and wonderful world of Mars.

2) Artemis 1

It’s been a long time since NASA fielded its own launch system. When the Space Shuttle retired in 2011, the agency has had to rely on Russian launchers and private spacecraft companies. But all that will (hopefully) change this March when NASA plans to launch an uncrewed test flight of the Space Launch System.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 2:  In this handout image provided by the U.S. National Aeronatics and Space Administration (NASA), Administrator Bill Nelson talks to the agency's workforce during his first state of NASA event at NASA headquarters in the Mary W. Jackson Building June 2, 2021 in Washington, DC. Nelson remarked on his long history with NASA, and among other topics, discussed the agency's plans for future Earth-focused missions to address climate change; a robotic and human return to the Moon through the Artemis program; and two new planetary science missions to Venus for the late 2020s called VERITAS and DAVINCI+.  (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)

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Administrator Bill Nelson talks to the agency's workforce during his first state of NASA event. He discussed the agency's plans for future Earth-focused missions to address climate change; a robotic and human return to the Moon through the Artemis program; and two new planetary science missions to Venus for the late 2020s called VERITAS and DAVINCI+.

Photo by: Bill Ingalls/NASA

Bill Ingalls/NASA

Administrator Bill Nelson talks to the agency's workforce during his first state of NASA event. He discussed the agency's plans for future Earth-focused missions to address climate change; a robotic and human return to the Moon through the Artemis program; and two new planetary science missions to Venus for the late 2020s called VERITAS and DAVINCI+.

What is the Space Launch System? Well, imagine those old-school Saturn V rockets used for the Apollo missions. Now make them bigger. That’s basically it. The system has been much criticized since it doesn’t incorporate any of the advances in reusable rocketry developed over the past decade.

The rocket was supposed to launch last November, but problems with the Orion capsule on top of it caused delays. If successful, NASA will next move ahead to crewed tests, which would be nice.

3) Starship

It’s a reusable rocket being developed by the private company SpaceX. It’s an impressive bit of engineering – the largest reusable vehicle ever deployed. It will deliver heaps of cargo into orbit, to the Moon, and possibly even Mars.

January 12, 2019 - Cape Canaveral, Florida, United States - The SpaceX Launch and Landing Control center is seen on January 12, 2019 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. On January 11, 2019, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced that SpaceX was trimming its 6,000-person work force by ten percent to reduce costs as it develops interplanetary spacecraft and a global space-based internet. 
 (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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The SpaceX Launch and Landing Control center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Photo by: NurPhoto

NurPhoto

The SpaceX Launch and Landing Control center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

But not the stars. Starship isn’t much of a…starship.

Anyway, SpaceX has successfully made suborbital launches of the vehicle and hopes to send it into orbit in 2022.

After that, the sky’s the limit (but the stars definitely are).

Dive Deeper into the Universe

Journey Through the Cosmos in an All-New Season of How the Universe Works

The new season premieres on Science Channel and streams on discovery+.

Paul M. Sutter

Paul M. Sutter is an astrophysicist at Stony Brook University and the Flatiron Institute, host of Ask a Spaceman and Space Radio, and author of How to Die in Space.

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How Exoplanets Became the Next Big Thing in Astronomy

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South Korea Joins Space Race by Sending its First Spacecraft to the Moon

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Why Astronomers Care About Super-Old Galaxies?

A long time ago, our universe was dark.It was just 380,000 years after the big bang. Up until that age, our entire observable cosmos was less than a millionth of its present size. All the material in the universe was compressed into that tiny volume, forcing it to heat up and become a plasma. But as the universe expanded and cooled, eventually the plasma changed into a neutral gas as the first atoms formed.

What We’ve Already Learned From James Webb? (Hint: it’s a lot)

That was worth the wait. Just a quick handful of months since its historic launch on Christmas Day, the James Webb Space Telescope has flown to its observing position, unfolded its delicate instruments and ultra-sized mirror, and run through a suite of checks and alignments and calibrations. The team at NASA behind the telescopes released their first batch of images from the science runs, and besides being gorgeous, they're powerful.

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