10 Major Essential Space Missions in 2022

2022 will be a prosperous year for major space missions. Ten of them in particular deserve the most attention.

The year 2022 promises to be a great one for anyone interested in the news of space conquests: several rockets (Ariane 6, Vega-C, Vulcan Centaur, New Glenn) are about to make their first flight. The Chinese space station must be completed. Boeing’s capsule, the Starliner, should succeed in reaching the International Space Station (ISS).

But above all, 2022 should be an opportunity to launch or continue some more distant missions: the James Webb Space Telescope should deliver its first scientific data; ExoMars 2022 mission is about to leave for Mars; Psyche probe for a metallic asteroid; And above all, NASA must give early indications for the return of astronauts to the Moon!

A word of caution: space is a complicated matter, it may happen that the initially planned dates have been changed for some reason or the other. In other words, the schedule below is given as an indication and is likely to develop. If it does, we’ll do our best to update it as much as possible.

February 2022: Departure of the Artemis 1 mission around the Moon

Artemis 1 is the first mission of the Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the Moon. This first mission will be an uninhabited mission: it involves making a loop around the satellite with the Orion capsule. It will also be the occasion to carry out the first flight of NASA’s new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS).

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A glimpse of the first stage of the SLS rocket. // Source: NASA

Second quarter 2022: European light rocket Vega-C. inaugural flight of

The new version of the European light launcher Vega is scheduled to make its first flight in 2022. The machine, whose structure was designed to be used as a booster for the Ariane 6, thus complements the range of European rockets along with the Soyuz (medium launcher) and Ariane 5 then 6 (heavy launcher). Vega-C, as it is named, will be operated from the Guyana Space Center.

vega-c
Artist’s impression of Vega-C. // Source: ESA – Jackie Huart, 2017

First Quarter 2022: CST-100 Starliner test for ISS

The Boeing-built transport capsule is due to perform a second unmanned test flight in Q1 2022, after failing during the first attempt in late 2019. The CST-100 Starliner capsule will have to undergo another test later in 2022, but this time with a training crew. And later there will be real missions.

Boeing Starliner
Source: Joel Kowski

June/July 2022: Recovery of the first data from the James Webb Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope left Earth on December 25, 2021, but it will not reach its destination until late January 2022. Then, the observatory will enter a long phase of calibration and alignment. It will take 6 months to complete these initial steps. It was not until the middle of the year that its first scientific data would be collected and published.

James Webb
Here in 2010 the James Webb Observatory building. // Source: David Higginbotham/Emmett Given

September 2022: Departure of the ExoMars 2022 mission

The European Space Agency, Roscosmos, along with its Russian counterpart, is about to launch the second part of the ExoMars mission. It is a robotic mission to Mars. Its purpose is to drop a rover named Rosalind Flanklin on the surface of the Red Planet. The first part of the mission took place in 2016.

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Mars planet
Mars is the destination for the ExoMars mission in 2022. // Source: ISRO / ISSDC / John Purvis

Third quarter 2022: European heavy rocket Ariane 6 . inaugural flight of

The new generation of European heavy launchers will also make its maiden flight in 2022 from the European Spaceport Kourou in Guyana. Everything is ready on site for the big day: the engine, the launch pad and the contract. The rocket was propelled, among other things, from an upper stage capable of maneuvering in orbit, thanks to its governance capability.

Ariane 6
Artist’s impression of Ariane 6. // Source: ArianeGroup

2022: Completion of the Chinese Space Station Tiangong

China will have to complete the construction of its space station called Tiangong. The structure has already made good progress in 2021: it is now able to accommodate employees for a longer period of time. A central module, Tianhe, already exists. Two complementary laboratories, Ventian and Mengtian, are to be added to Tianhe in the coming months.

tiangong
A launch provided by China for the benefit of the Chinese space station Tiangong. // Source:

2022: Departure of Psyche mission to a metallic asteroid

NASA plans to launch the Psyche mission, which involves a space probe traveling near a metallic asteroid – which the space agency describes as a “metal world.” It is a body whose composition is an alloy of iron and nickel. This would be an opportunity for SpaceX to mobilize its heavy rocket, the Falcon Heavy, which is rarely used.

USAF STP-2 Falcon Heavy
A close-up photo of the takeoff of the Falcon Heavy rocket. // source: SpaceX

2022: Inaugural flight of the New Glenn Heavy rocket

2022 should be the year of the inaugural flight of the American company Blue Origin’s next rocket, the New Glenn. Unveiled in 2016, it has huge dimensions, which should allow it to carry heavy loads into orbit. This is not its only feature: it should also be equipped with a reusable first stage.

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blue origin new glen
New Glen Artist View. // Source: Blue Origin

2022: Inaugural flight of the Vulcan Centaur rocket

In anticipation of a replacement for its two existing launchers, the Atlas V and Delta IV, the joint venture United Launch Alliance (ULA), which brings together Lockheed Martin and Boeing, is betting on a new machine: the Vulcan Centaur. The craft says it responds not only to commercial orders, but also to some of the needs of NASA and the defense of the United States.

10 Major Essential Space Missions in 2022
Modeling of the future Vulcan Centaur rocket from ULA. // Source: ULA / YouTube Capture

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About the Author: Tad Fisher

Prone to fits of apathy. Music specialist. Extreme food enthusiast. Amateur problem solver.

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