The new year promises to give rise to one of the most productive deep space exploration in the history of mankind: three spacecraft will reach Mars at once – from the USA, China and the UAE, two more missions from the United States will go to asteroids. In 2021, Russia and India will try to make a soft landing on the moon for the first time. In case of success OUR may receive a second manned spacecraft intended for flights to the International Space Station (ISS). And, finally, this year they promise to launch five new missiles at once for the first time. Read more about the prospects for 2021 Lenta.ru.
In January, the American spacecraft Boeing Starliner is due to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) for the first time after the failure of December 2019. With a crew, this spacecraft will fly to the ISS, in case of a successful completion of the winter mission, in the summer. NASA currently has the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, which successfully flew to the ISS with a crew in 2020. NASA’s presence of two such operational spacecraft will provide the American space agency guaranteed access for astronauts to near-earth orbit and minimizes the need for Russian (Soviet) Soyuz spacecraft.
Between 2006 and 2020, the cost of space for NASA on Soyuz rose from $ 21.3 million to over $ 90 million. From the loss of the monopoly in the delivery of people to the ISS, Roskosmos will annually lose about $ 400 million. The advantage of the Russian state corporation over the American space agency in the delivery of people to the ISS remained from July 2011 to May 2020 (at about the same time, the acting CEO of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin directly supervised the Russian rocket and space industry – first as deputy prime minister, and then as head of the state corporation), during which Russia did not create a modern replacement for Soyuz (the Orel spacecraft is still not ready) … Possible answers to the questions arising from this: “What was the Russian cosmonautics doing at that time?” and “Where did the NASA money go?” against the backdrop of numerous corruption scandals in Roscosmos, they suggest themselves.
In addition to the United States, China should distinguish itself in 2021 in manned space exploration, which, using a Long March 5B heavy rocket from the Wenchang cosmodrome (northeastern coast of Hainan Island), planned the launch of the base module (Tianhe) of the national space station in the second quarter. If this mission is successful, the second module of the station (Wentian) could go into low-earth orbit later in the same year. After further development, this Chinese laboratory, which should consist of at least three modules, will become the third in the world (after the sunken Soviet-Russian “Mir” and the operating ISS) manned multi-module orbital near-earth station.
In February 2021, Mars will reach three scientific missions at once. The American Mars-2020 includes a one-ton Perseverance rover and a two-kilogram Ingenuity helicopter-type drone. The mission will land at Jezero Impact Crater, which was probably filled with water in ancient times. The main goal of the Mars-2020 program is astrobiological research. The main tasks of the aircraft are to find the optimal and most promising routes for future rovers.
Other Martian missions are the UAE’s Hope Orbiter and China’s Tianwen-1. Hope will, in particular, be engaged in climate research of the Red Planet and the study of the reasons for the leakage of hydrogen and oxygen from its atmosphere. The Hope Arab mission can be considered conditionally – the corresponding orbital probe is mainly built by the USA.
The Tianwen-1 mission, which involves geophysical and astrobiological studies of Mars, includes, in particular, an orbiter and a rover. The latter should land on the Utopia Plain – the largest impact basin on Mars and in the solar system known to science. With some reservations, Tianwen-1 can be considered the second Chinese mission to Mars: along with the Russian Phobos-Grunt, which burned down and sank in January 2012, the Chinese microsatellite Yinghuo-1 was supposed to go to the Red Planet.
In October 2021, the first Russian lunar mission is to fly to the moon from the Vostochny cosmodrome using a medium rocket Soyuz-2. “Luna-25” assumes the landing of the descent vehicle in the area of the Boguslavsky crater near the south pole of the Moon, which is probably rich in deposits of water ice. After landing, the device will also conduct research on the properties and composition of the polar soil, measure its mechanical characteristics. The name of the first Russian lunar mission emphasizes the continuity with the lunar program of the USSR – during the last Soviet mission “Luna-24”, which took place in August 1976, soil samples were delivered to Earth from a satellite.
At the end of 2021, the Indian mission Chandrayaan-3 may fly to the moon. The new program almost completely repeats the previous Chandrayaan-2, which ended in failure (hard landing). Unlike the latter, Chandrayaan-3 includes a lander and rover, but loses its orbiter. It is highly likely that this mission will be postponed to early 2022. If Chandrayaan-3 succeeds, India will become the fourth (after the USSR, the USA and China) or the fifth (after the USSR, the USA, China and Russia, if the planned “Luna-25” is carried out) country in the world that has made a soft landing on a natural satellite of the Earth.
In 2021, several American private companies are planning to send their missions to the Moon, in addition to Russia and India. One of them, Peregrine Mission One from Astrobotic Technology, is due to launch in July with the heavy Vulcan Centaur rocket. The corresponding probe should land on the northeastern, visible side of the moon. As part of the mission commissioned by NASA, it is planned to test navigation and landing technology. In October, the Nova-C lander, created by Intuitive Machines for NASA, will fly to a natural satellite of the Earth using a heavy Falcon 9 rocket to test the delivery of small loads to the Moon.
In July, NASA planned for the Jupiter Polar Orbiter (Juno) station to drown in the atmosphere of Jupiter. Thus, scientists are going to prevent the ingress of biomaterial from Earth to the satellites of the gas giant, in the subglacial oceans of which life is allowed. Initially, the completion of the mission was planned for February 2018, but the excellent condition of the spacecraft, in particular its microelectronics, capable of operating in the harsh conditions of the radiation field of the largest planet in the solar system, made it possible to continue its work.
During the mission, NASA conducted research on Jupiter’s clouds and auroras, refined modern theories of the planet’s origin, structure and physical properties of its atmosphere and magnetosphere. The station, launched in August 2011 from the Cape Canaveral cosmodrome using the Atlas V launch vehicle, arrived at Jupiter in July 2016. The device is manufactured by the largest military-industrial company in the world, the American corporation Lockheed Martin, and is operated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, located in Pasadena.
Nevertheless, the American space agency admits the continuation of Juno’s work until 2025. By the specified time, the station, in particular as part of an extended mission, can have time to explore the three largest satellites of Jupiter – Ganymede, Europa and Io.
In July, the Falcon 9 with the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission to the double near-Earth asteroid from the Apollo group (65803) Didyme starts from Vandenberg base (California). The scientific program assumes a collision of the spacecraft with the moon of the main asteroid, which will change the trajectory of the binary system. NASA plans to use the data obtained from the mission to develop one of the possible scenarios for countering the asteroid hazard, which consists in redirecting the latter from the Earth.
The start of another asteroid mission in 2020 is scheduled for October or November, when the Atlas V heavy rocket with the Lucy station is launched from the cosmodrome at Cape Canaveral (Florida), during which it is planned to study the Trojan asteroids of Jupiter. As part of the mission, in the period from April 2025 to March 2033, it is planned to fly past at least six asteroids.
In October, one of NASA’s flagship projects, the James Webb Space Telescope, will be launched from Kourou, French Guiana, using the European heavy rocket Ariane 5. Produced for more than $ 10 billion by the American military-industrial company Northrop Grumman, the infrared observatory will be installed at the second Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system at a distance of about 1.6 million kilometers from the planet. The main tasks of James Webb are the study of the early Universe, galaxies and supermassive black holes, as well as a detailed study of exoplanets.
In 2021, the following missiles can be launched – New Glenn (American company Blue Origin), Vulcan (American United Launch Alliance) and H3 (Japanese corporation Mitsubishi Heavy Industries). In particular, the Vulcan, which uses American engines, will replace the Atlas V, which receives the Russian RD-180 powertrain. In addition, the first launch of the European rocket Ariane 6 is to take place this year, which in its minimal configuration (A62) will replace the Russian medium launch vehicle Soyuz, launched from the Kourou cosmodrome (French Guiana).
In the coming year SpaceX will continue testing a prototype spacecraft Starship, which can make its first flight into space, and another American startup, Astra, will try to launch a payload into low-earth orbit using the ultra-light Rocket launch vehicle. In 2021, China will try to land the first two first stages of the Long March 8 medium rocket for the first time. Experiments with reusable technologies involving the use of an aerodynamic brake and a parachute will be continued by the American company Rocket Lab, which successfully launches the ultralight carrier Electron.
In November, the American super-heavy rocket Space Launch System (SLS) may make its maiden flight. The launch vehicle, starting from the John F. Kennedy Space Center (Florida), will launch the Orion reusable spacecraft into circumlunar orbit, as well as several small experimental spacecraft. The SLS mission with Orion will be the first in the Artemis program, which claims to return the United States to the moon. Orion will stay in space for more than 25 days, including six – in a circumlunar orbit, after which the spacecraft must return to Earth.