DR. SKY BLOG

Lots of space missions are slated to launch in 2021

Jan 6, 2021, 2:00 PM

James Webb Telescope. (NASA/AP Photo)...

James Webb Telescope. (NASA/AP Photo)

(NASA/AP Photo)

With 2020 now gone and for many a good thing, we turn to the future of space exploration with new and exciting missions in 2021.

Here is a brief summary of some of the more exciting missions!

Space X leads the way in low earth orbital missions to the ISS. In 2021, plans call for three Crew Dragon missions to the space station. One mission calls for the first private mission on the Crew Dragon from Axiom Space on the tested Resilience capsule in October.

Space X continues with additional launches with the Starlink satellites and hopes to have a cluster of these small internet-providing satellites launched every month this year.

The long-duration lunar and Mars spacecraft Starship will continue its development and testing too! This makes Space X the most successful start-up yet in launching new and exciting spacecraft.

The east coast of the United US, will see Rocket Lab launch the exciting Electron rocket with many commercial payloads from the NASA Wallops Island launch facility in Virginia. Launches could begin as early as March.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is in the running too, with his New Glenn rocket, which designer Blue Origin hopes to launch at the Kennedy Space Center as early as October.

Here is what some of these rocket platforms look like: Rocket Lab Electron; the New Glenn.

Boeing gets into the act with the hopeful launch of its Starliner capsule, which is headed to the ISS to bring crew and supplies as early as March 29.

Here is the Boeing Starliner.

There will be a number of moon missions in 2021, but the Russian Luna 25 stands out. The previous return to the moon, Luna 24 came back with samples of lunar rocks back in 1976.

Mars will be at the center of spacecraft exploration in 2021, with the arrival of three important missions. NASA’s Perseverance mission – and its tiny dronelike helicopter known as Ingenuity – arrives in February.

China has the Tianwen-1 mission to Mars, which hopes to make a soft landing in April. It’s made up of an orbiter, lander and rover.

Finally, the United Arab Emirates has its Hope mission headed to place it in orbit around Mars on Feb. 9.

In our short update on some of the many spacecraft missions of 2021, we come to one of the most amazing, in my opinion.

For the longest time, we have hoped for the next-generation space telescope to expand our view beyond that of the Hubble Space Telescope.

NASA has plans to launch the long awaited James Webb Telescope on or about Oct. 31. It will be launched atop an Ariane 5 rocket from the remote Kourou Space Center facility in French Guiana.

If all goes well, the spacecraft will be placed in a special orbital location known as the Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange position, far from Earth. This is different from the low Earth orbit position of the current Hubble Space Telescope.

Here is a detailed link to study up on the Webb Telescope.

2021 has some great space missions, so stay tuned!

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Lots of space missions are slated to launch in 2021