June 16 marks the 60th anniversary of Valentina Tereshkova’s historic launch to orbit, where she became the first woman to reach space. She orbited Earth 48 times during the three-day Vostok 6 mission.
Orbital launch attempts have more than tripled since a lull in activity in the early 2000s bottomed out at 55 attempts in 2004. Part of the rapid growth in the past few years is due to a sharp increase in launch vehicle operators after a long period with an average just shy of 10 distinct operators per year.
Orbital launch attempts have more than tripled since a lull in activity in the early 2000s bottomed out at 55 attempts in 2004. Part of the rapid growth in the past few years is due to a sharp increase in launch vehicle operators . . .
As the International Space Station (ISS) nears the end of its life and the U.S. celebrates the 50th anniversary of Skylab, its first space station, the commercial sector is hard at work designing the next generation of space stations in low Earth orbit (LEO).
Two of the top three launch operators — CNSA and SpaceX — have contributed to overall launch activity growth by exponentially increasing their pace, while the third — Roscosmos — decreased its annual launches by 42% from 2000 to 2022.
In recent years, space has reestablished itself as an important component of defense strategy alongside the establishment of the Space Force and large budget increases for space programs. The Space Force received $1.7 billion more than originally requested for fiscal year 2023, resulting in $7.1 billion (39%) more than the enacted 2022 budget.
Operators deployed ~421 spacecraft with a mass of 200 kg or less, 18% of all deployed spacecraft in 2022. SpaceX’s Starlink satellites comprised over half the spacecraft mass deployed in 2022. The company’s Starlink deployments added up to 518,523 kg, nearly double the 257,140 kg it deployed in 2021. The largest spacecraft deployed during 2022 was Lockheed Martin’s Orion space capsule (25,848 kg), deployed during NASA’s first Artemis/Space Launch System launch.
U.S. company SpaceX Starlink deployed 1,689 satellites, a 71% increase from the 989 satellites it deployed in 2021. On the other hand, OneWeb, a U.K. company, deployed 110 satellites, less than half the number it deployed the previous year (284). Also falling under the communications category were satellites with Internet of Things (IoT) payloads. Operators deployed 84 IoT satellites in 2022. Also under the communications category were the 27 satellites hosting ship-tracking payloads deployed in 2022.
The 2,354 spacecraft deployed during 2022 each contained at least one payload to fulfill mission requirements. The Space Report separates those payloads into four categories: communications; EO/RS; position, navigation, and timing (PNT); and space transportation.
Compared with 2021’s 90% commercial spacecraft deployment share, 2022’s increased to 91%, even as spacecraft deployed in 2022 grew by 36% over the previous year. Spacecraft with civil government mission payloads accounted for 107 (4.5%) of all spacecraft deployed in 2022, slightly higher than 2021’s 99 civil government spacecraft deployments. Military missions comprised the remaining 3.5% (80) of the world’s deployed spacecraft in 2022, higher than the 69 military spacecraft deployments in 2021.