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Return to the Moon, SpaceX competitors and the Chinese station:how 2022 changed cosmonautics
Material posted: Publication date: 27-12-2022
The outgoing year 2022 could be brighter for the world cosmonautics. Nevertheless, there are those who have most consistently implemented their previously outlined plans. These include, for example, the United States, which launched the Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS), commissioned the James Webb orbital Observatory and completed the first stage of the Artemis lunar program, as well as China and South Korea. "The tape.<url>" tells about the main results of the year in world cosmonautics.

American Lunar Program

After a number of postponements, on November 16, a superheavy Space Launch System (SLS) rocket of the Block 1 version was launched from the launch pad 39B of the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida (USA), in the head of which the Orion spacecraft was installed. The launch of the Artemis I mission was the first stage of the international lunar program, in which the United States plays a decisive role.

This time Washington has demonstrated, not in words, but in deeds, that it is the only one in the world that has not only two operating superheavy rockets (the first carrier is the Falcon Heavy of SpaceX), but also a ready—made manned spacecraft for flights into deep space, primarily to the Moon and Mars.

Orion was in space for more than 25 days, of which about six were in a lunar retrograde orbit. There were three mannequins on board Orion. They were used, in particular, to track flight conditions, radiation levels and test spacesuits for future manned deep space flights. The spacecraft's descent capsule landed on December 11 in the Pacific Ocean near Guadalupe Island in the Mexican state of Baja California. Initially, the flooding was planned to take place near the coast of the American city of San Diego, but weather conditions prevented this.

Overall, NASA rates the Artemis I mission as a success. The SLS rocket worked almost without comments. The only more or less serious difficulty that Orion encountered during the flight was the insufficiently strong attachment of current limiter blocks in the ship's power system, located in a service module manufactured in the European Union and discharged when the spacecraft enters the planet's atmosphere. Nevertheless, according to the assurances of Artemis I engineers, this problem cannot be called critical, and finding out the causes of its occurrence, as well as their elimination, should not cause any difficulties.

Currently, NASA experts are analyzing the results of measurements made by numerous sensors that were installed inside the reusable spacecraft. This will allow us to prepare for the second stage of the Artemis program, scheduled for 2024, in which four astronauts on Orion will fly around the Moon. During the third stage of the mission, scheduled for 2025, four astronauts will be delivered to the lunar orbit, they will make a soft landing on the surface of the Earth's natural satellite, where no human has set foot since 1972.

China National Tiangong Space Station

The second most important event in the world of cosmonautics in 2022 can be called the completion of the deployment of the Chinese national near-Earth station Tiangong ("Heavenly Palace"). Now it consists of three modules connected together in a T-shaped structure. The base unit of the orbital laboratory, dubbed Tianhe ("Harmony of Heaven"), was launched into space on April 29, 2021 by a Long March 5B heavy rocket. The 22.6-ton module, consisting of three sections — residential, service and docking, reaches 16.6 meters in length, 4.2 meters in diameter. The other two units of the station, which have mainly laboratory purposes, were launched in 2022, and are almost identical in weight and dimensions to Tianhe.

The second module — Wentian ("In search of Heaven") — went into space on July 24. Its tasks include redundancy of Tianhe functions, in particular the main control systems of the station. In addition, this module is equipped with a five-meter robot arm that allows manipulations on the outer surface of the Tiangong. With the launch on October 31 of the third block of the station — Mengtian ("Dreams of Heaven") — and its subsequent docking with the first two, the deployment of the Chinese multimodule orbital station was completed. At the end of 2023, the module of the Xuntian space telescope ("Journey through the Heavens") should dock to the Chinese near-Earth laboratory. Subsequently, Xuntian will be disconnected from Tiangong, and the telescope will be docked with the station as necessary for its maintenance and repair.

In terms of its dimensions, Tiangong resembles the world's first multi—module orbital station, the Soviet-Russian Mir, being about 20 percent lighter than it. Despite the fact that the International Space Station (ISS) is five times heavier than Tiangong, it is important to understand that ultimately the development, production and launch of the national station was carried out Beijing exclusively on its own, which automatically brings the Chinese space industry closer to the American one in terms of real capabilities, taking it very far from the European and even more so the Russian one.

Starliner docked to the ISS for the first time

Despite the numerous delays, looking for such a respectable company as Boeing, a sign of a serious crisis, with the second attempt, the Starliner still managed to dock to the ISS for the first time: launched on May 19 on an Atlas V rocket, the ship arrived at the near-Earth laboratory on May 21. There were about 250 kilograms of cargo on board the ship, including food for American astronauts on the International Space Station, and equipment with which NASA and Boeing specialists collected the necessary data for the next, already crewed, Starliner flight. The ship stayed at the ISS for about four days, successfully landing at the White Sands missile range in New Mexico (USA) on May 25.

The next Starliner flight is scheduled to take place in April 2023. NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore and Sunita Williams will be on board this time. The Starliner will stay in space for six days. If this mission is successful, the spacecraft will be certified by NASA for manned flights to near-Earth orbit. After that, already in 2024, the first regular flight of the ship to the ISS should take place.

It is expected that the Starliner, which will send three American astronauts to the International Space Station — Scott Tingle, Michael Finke and, possibly, Jeanette Epps, will stay in space for six months. The presence of NASA's second operational manned spacecraft (the first is SpaceX Crew Dragon) will mean that Washington and its partners will no longer need the Russian Soyuz MS, which they currently consider as a safety net (as a backup manned spacecraft).

The seventh space Power

On June 21, a light three-stage rocket Korea Space Launch Vehicle 2 (KSLV-2) with a payload of 1.5 tons was launched from the Naro cosmodrome in South Korea. The carrier has successfully placed several spacecraft, including the Performance Verification Satellite (PVSAT) and four CubeSat satellites, into a 700-kilometer-high sun-synchronous orbit.

Thus, South Korea has become the seventh space power in the world, if such a country is considered capable of independently launching a satellite weighing from one ton into space. Before her , the United States was already on this list, Russia, France, China, Japan and India. If such requirements are not imposed on the payload by weight, then space powers, in addition to the countries listed above, could be called, for example, the DPRK, Iran and Israel.
The road from the Republic of Korea to space has opened today. This is the result of 30 years of trials and challenges. Now the dreams and hopes of our people and youth will rush into space

Yoon Seok-yeol, President of South Korea
It is worth noting that the development of the KSLV-2 rocket was carried out by South Korean engineers using the experience gained during the creation of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle 1 (KSLV-1) carrier, the design of which was carried out with the participation of Russian specialists. Structurally, the first stage of the KSLV-1, including the engine, completely repeats the Russian carrier "Angara-1.2" Meanwhile, the Korean KSLV-1 rocket was launched three times, and only the last launch, which took place on January 30, 2013, was successful.

Getting Started with the James Webb Telescope

The James Webb orbital infrared Observatory, launched on an Ariane 5 rocket from the Kourou cosmodrome (French Guiana) on December 25, 2021, into a halo orbit at the L2 point of the Sun-Earth system, at a distance of 1.5 million kilometers from the planet, came out in January. The space observatory began full-fledged work in May, when the calibration of all James Webb systems was completed. The first full—color image obtained by the space telescope — the image of the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 - was presented to the general public by US President Joe Biden on July 12. At the time of publication, the image was the most detailed image of the region of the Universe, the light from which to the observatory went about 4.3 billion years.
We see opportunities that no one has seen before. We can go to places where no one has been before

Joe Biden, President of the United States
Nevertheless, a full-fledged launch of James Webb's work could not take place: in the second half of May, one of the telescope segments was damaged as a result of a micrometeorite impact, which caused the geometry of the corresponding section of the mirror to be disrupted. Then NASA and Northrop Grumman Corporation — the lead contractor responsible for the creation of the observatory — said that it was impossible to eliminate the violation, but in general it should not have a serious impact on the work of the observatory and its research, and now the most expensive and high-tech space telescope in the history of mankind, the design, production and preparation for launch of which required for more than 20 years and 10 billion dollars, it has been working successfully.

Andrey Borisov

Tags: Russia , China , space

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