A flurry of military and intelligence satellite launches by rival powers this month came as the United States and two dozen partner nations wrapped up the largest global space defense wargame in history.
Russia launched what some leaders have described as a spy satellite for Iran and its own on-orbit snooping satellite Cosmos-2558, which is circling Earth in an orbit conspicuously close to a recently launched U.S. National Reconnaissance Office satellite, a Netherlands researcher confirmed.
A grand prize could be in the offing for inventors who come up with new methods to prevent orbiting debris or design tools that can clean up space junk, according to recommendations from the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.
The beginning of August saw a flurry of launch activity as Aug. 4 set a record for most orbital launches on a single day (based on UTC launch times). The final launch count for the day reached five – three American and two Chinese.
The Wild West regulatory environment in low Earth orbit was ranked as a top threat to space sustainability by a panel of experts convened for Space Symposium 365’s Space Matters webcast Thursday.
Clockwise from top left, panelists former Rep. Robert Walker, Carissa Christensen, former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, and Patricia Cooper.
Civil government spending in the U.S. increased 3%. The Department of the Interior’s space budget was held flat in 2021, while the Department of Commerce and the National Science Foundation only increased spending by 1% and 0.3%, respectively. The Department of Transportation, which has the smallest share of U.S. civil space spending, had its budget slashed by 21% in 2021.
American firms led the world for launches in the first half of 2022 with 39, including 27 launches from SpaceX.
In terms of payloads, the impact of commercial firms is far more striking. Of 1,022 spacecraft sent to orbit in the first half of the year, 958 were backed by commercial firms, accounting for nearly 94 percent of all spacecraft sent to orbit so far in 2022, up four percentage points from records set in 2021, Space Foundation research shows.
Including five launches that carried mixed payloads, commercial firms backed 36 missions to space in the first half of 2022, civil governments backed 26 and militaries footed the bill for 15, Space Foundation research shows. In all of 2021, itself a record year, commercial firms backed 56 launches.
From Jan. 1 to June 30, the first six months of 2022 saw 75 orbital launch attempts worldwide with 72 successful launches. The launch number was matched only in 1967 and the number of successes broke records.