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Space Events In 2021: All Records of Year

What ? Did you miss a space event in 2021? Do not panic: with this great recap ‘you will be unbeatable and up to date to end the year! Astronauts , companies, exploration: the space industry is booming.

This first part of the 2021 retrospective focuses on astronautics.

It is one of the fastest growing areas of the space industry. A few years ago, it was not uncommon for only two to three astronauts to remain in orbit, depending on the rotations of trips on the ISS. The first half of this December, they were 13!

2021 is a record year which should give many ideas to the richest… because it is also the return (some would say the explosion) of tourism missions. However, the agencies are not left out: new American selection, new Emirati and Indian astronauts, current selections in China and especially in Europe… The bar of 600 humans having crossed the space border (exceeded in 2021) will soon appear far in the rearview mirror.

Much of the action took place at the larger of the two active space stations ... Credits NASA
Much of the action took place at the larger of the two active space stations … Credits NASA

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Crew Dragon

After the demonstration, it’s the year of confirmation! The capsule has proven that it can indeed be successfully reused and spend more than six months in orbit without failing in its mission. End Crew-1 , the whole mission Crew-2 , takeoff Crew-3 in November, the capsule SpaceX became the flagship vehicle of NASA, each with four astronauts on board. This does not prevent small concerns (a toilet problem…), but Crew Dragon has become totally essential for Americans. All the more so since it began private missions in 2021, with the “ Inspiration4 ” adventure in an unprecedented orbit and with an impressive dome. . Over-publicized, over-photographed, over-commissioned, this is the capsule of superlatives!

alpha thomas Pesquet takeoff Crew-2 © NASA / Aubrey Gemignani NASA / Aubrey Gemignani
alpha thomas Pesquet takeoff Crew-2 © NASA / Aubrey Gemignani
NASA / Aubrey Gemignani

Tianhe

It is the first brick of the Chinese Space Station (or SSC), in orbit since April 29 … and it has already hosted six Chinese astronauts for two long-term missions! A first for the country, which begins its adventure with a station almost permanently occupied and a whole collection of records. Not as publicized as the ISS in the West, the Chinese station received two visits from freighters , two manned missions Shenzhou and its occupants carried out three spacewalks . Next year, the pace is expected to increase further.

6 occupants this year for the Chinese station CSS, brand new!
6 occupants this year for the Chinese station CSS, brand new!

Soyuz

Those who believed that the Russian capsule would be reduced to minimal activity are at their expense … In 2021, Russia has stepped up efforts to restore interest in its historic vehicle. It therefore transported astronauts, but also two original missions, including the first team dedicated to the filming of the film ”  The Challenge  ” within the ISS itself. As reliable as ever, as small as ever, as fast as ever, adapted to tourists , Soyuz remains the queen of trips to orbit.

They also marked the year

Thomas Pesquet

The Thomas-mania was in full swing. From take-off on April 23 to return on November 9 , the French followed more than ever the adventures of their “compatriot in space”. The European astronaut posted hundreds of photos, answered questions, installed solar panels on the ISS, interacted with classes (and even with President Macron ), grew blobs, ordered the ISS , beat the European record for the longest time spent in space… For some it was too much, but it must be recognized that “Saint Thomas” gives back a taste for space to those who were not or no longer interested in it.

Blue Origin: New Shepard

It is the great offensive of space tourism. After years of promises, the New Shepard capsule is finally meeting expectations. With three manned flights in the second half of the year and 14 passengers delighted by their experience, it is the start of a new activity… But for prices still kept secret. Between the auctions at the start of the year and the places offered to VIPs and billionaires , we get a little lost. Above all, it remains difficult to see how this experience for the super-rich can trickle down to improve the space for all. Until then, the reuse and the capsule have hit the mark.

The ISS is growing!

Two new modules, Nauka and Pritchal have finally arrived on the ISS. After years of waiting (and a much criticized arrival at the station) Russia finally has its orbital laboratory, and a large “node” to moor future modules. But what exactly is this future? Russia has not shown its grand vision of the post-ISS world.… Yet it will have to be clarified quickly if it is to be ready by the end of the decade. There are still little worries about cracks on the Zvezda mod, and the mystery of the hole on Soyuz has made headlines this year as well.

The arrival of the Russian module Pritchal. The latter has a still debatable utility … Credits ESA / M.Maurer

The flops

Starliner

Boeing’s living space capsule never ends with problems. Two years after the failed test to the International Space Station , the American giant reached the launch site … before a new problem with a blocked fuel valve prevented takeoff from taking place in August. Everything takes time again, and the Starliner capsule returns to its hangar . New investigation, new reports, change of the service module to be expected … we will have to wait to see the end of the tunnel.

Billionaire Richard Branson floats in the cabin of his rocket plane, VSS Unity. Virgin Galactic Credits.

Virgin galactic

Even though billionaire Richard Branson managed to fly his rocket plane to the frontier of space ten days before his competitor Blue Origin, the start of commercial flights with the VSS Unity has been postponed until the end of next year. The carrier plane must undergo major repairs, there have been new controversies following an exit from protected airspace, and above all, seat prices have doubled when there is no possibility of flying. . Virgin Galactic is maintained on the stock market, but will not be able to garner income before…. 2023? The competitor rubs his hands …

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