2019 Mankind Spaceflight Calendar, Challenging the Unknown And the Limit

5 Jan, 2019 09:57
source: 香港奇點財經Singularity Financial

In the past year, NASA landed a probe on Mars, China launched a spacecraft to the far side of the moon, and commercial spaceflight firms like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic made important strides in their quest to take their first paying passengers into space. But if 2018 was a busy one for spaceflight, the coming year promises to be even busier.

Here are the most noteworthy space events scheduled for 2019 (all launch dates are subject to change):

JANUARY 2019

NASA‘s New Horizons spacecraft conducts flyby of Ultima Thule 

The New Horizons probe was designed to study Pluto. But after its successful rendezvous with the dwarf planet in 2015, the craft continued speeding along into the Kuiper Belt, a debris-filled region of the solar system beyond the orbit of Neptune. Here, at a distance of about 4 billion miles from Earth, New Horizons will zoom past the icy object 2014 MU69, which is nicknamed Ultima Thule, on Jan. 1. The New Year』s rendezvous will make Ultima the most distant object ever visited by a spacecraft.

(Note from Hong Kong Media Singularity Financial Ltd: According to the US magazine “Wired” report, this is not only a flying mission but also space archaeological exploration. Ultima Thule is considered to be one of the remnants of the formation of the solar system. It is a cosmic waste formed about 4.6 billion years ago. Astronomers believe that these celestial bodies are not only ancient, but they are also preserved when they are close to absolute zero. In other words, it may have not changed since the formation of the solar system. This is why astronomers are so excited to observe the “Ultima Thule” at close range. )

— NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is set to zip by 2014 MU69, nicknamed “Ultima Thule,” a Kuiper Belt object that orbits 1 billion miles beyond Pluto.NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

China makes first landing on the far side of the moon

On Dec. 7, China launched its robotic Chang’e 4 spacecraft on the world』s first mission to the far side of the moon. The robotic lander and the rover being carried on the craft touched down on Jan. 3 Beijing local time within the South Pole-Aitken basin, one of the moon’s largest and oldest impact craters. The Chang’e 4 mission is a prelude to a successor robotic mission, Chang’e 5, which is designed to return lunar samples to Earth.

Although a latecomer by decades to space exploration, China is quickly catching up, experts say, and could challenge the United States for supremacy in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and other fields.

“This space mission shows that China has reached the advanced world-class level in deep space exploration,” said Zhu Menghua, a professor at the Macau University of Science and Technology who has worked closely with China’s space administration. “We Chinese people have done something that the Americans have not dared try.”

 

— A Long March-3B rocket carrying the Chang’e 4 lunar probe takes off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in China’s Sichuan province on Dec. 8, 2018.Reuters

SpaceX performs first test flight of new crew capsule

SpaceX has been developing its Crew Dragon capsule as a replacement for NASA』s space shuttles, which were retired in 2011. Prior to New Year, Hong Kong Media Singularity Financial Ltd introduced an article, heavily emphasizing on Elon Musk and his Starship ambition in 2019. The new craft is designed to ferry up to seven astronauts to and from the International Space Station, ending NASA’s reliance on Russia’s Soyuz capsules.

During its first uncrewed test flight, which is scheduled no earlier than Jan. 17, the capsule will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, dock with the space station and then return to Earth, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean. If it’s successful, the Crew Dragon’s first test flight with astronauts aboard will follow later in the year.

— SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule is designed to carry up to seven passengers. Jae C. Hong / AP

Israel launches its first spacecraft to the moon

Sometime in the first quarter of 2019, a Tel Aviv-based nonprofit called SpaceIL will launch a 1,322-pound lunar lander on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The lander, recently named Beresheet, the Hebrew word for “Genesis”. With the mission, Israel hopes to become the fourth nation to land a craft on the moon, after the U.S., Russia, and China. That launch is currently scheduled for mid-February.  The spacecraft will land about two months after launch. If successful, it will be the first non-governmental spacecraft to land on the moon.

— The SpaceIL lunar spacecraft.

India launches its second mission to the moon

On Jan. 31, India』s space agency will launch its second lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2, sending a robotic orbiter, lander, and rover to the moon. Chandrayaan-2, which will touch down at the lunar south pole, will study the moon’s mineral content and its topography. India』s first lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1, launched in October 2008. That mission found evidence of water ice on the moon’s surface.

— A model of the Chandrayaan-2 rover being tested for operations under lunar gravity.ISRO

 

FEBRUARY 2019

London-based Startup launches the first set of satellites for all-Earth internet

Sometime in February, a London-based startup called OneWeb will launch the first 10 satellites of what ultimately will be a fleet of 600 telecommunications satellites designed to provide high-speed internet service to every part of the world. The satellites will launch aboard an Arianespace Soyuz rocket from the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana.

Backed by SoftBank, Intelsat, Coca-Cola, and other investors, OneWeb is creating a constellation of small telecom satellites with the goal of making the internet accessible to everyone on Earth by 2027. How many satellites exactly is still to be determined — OneWeb in March asked the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to expand its authorization from 720 to 1,980 Ku-band satellites. The company still expects to begin service in 2019, starting with the first few hundred spacecraft.

— One of OneWeb’s first satellites, built in Toulouse, France by its Airbus joint venture OneWeb Satellites. Credit: OneWeb

Soyuz rocket takes the crew to the International Space Station

On Feb. 28, a Russian Soyuz rocket will lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin to the ISS. The crew will join three spaceflyers who are already aboard the station.

 

MARCH 2019

Boeing conducts a first test flight of its CST-100 Starliner capsule

Like SpaceX, Boeing is developing a space capsule to replace NASA』s retired space shuttle fleet. Sometime in March, Its CST-100 Starliner will take its maiden flight aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with the uncrewed capsule docking with the space station before parachuting back to Earth. If the test is successful, Boeing could conduct crewed test flights of the Starliner in August.

— Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule is designed to ferry up to seven astronauts to the International Space Station. Boeing

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket returns to space

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy booster completed its maiden launch on Feb. 6, 2018, lifting off from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and launching a Tesla Roadster into space. On its second flight, which is planned for early in 2019, the huge rocket will carry 25 individual payloads for the U.S. military and NASA, including weather satellites and a space radiation experiment. The Falcon Heavy can lift a heavier payload than any American rocket since NASA’s Saturn V booster, which carried Apollo astronauts to the moon in the 1960s and 70s.

— The SpaceX Falcon Heavy launches from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Feb. 6, 2018.Jim Watson / AFP – Getty Images

 

JUNE 2019

SpaceX launches first crewed test flight of its Crew Dragon capsule

If the uncrewed test flight of SpaceX』s Crew Dragon is successful, the craft will return to space with two spaceflyers aboard. NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will fly Crew Dragon to the space station.

Three space station crew members return to Earth

NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko will return to Earth in their Soyuz capsule, landing in Kazakhstan sometime in June.

 

JULY 2019

China conducts the first test of next-generation crewed spacecraft

China is expected to test the successor to its crewed Shenzhou spacecraft sometime in mid-2019, but a detailed timeline of the mission hasn』t yet been revealed. For its first test flight, the reusable 20-ton spacecraft will launch aboard a Chinese Long March 5B rocket without a crew. China currently uses its Shenzhou spacecraft for trips to and from low-Earth orbit.

50th anniversary of Apollo 11 moon landing

On July 20, it will be 50 years since astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human to step foot on the moon. As he climbed down the ladder of his lunar module and stepped onto the surface of the moon in 1969, Armstrong uttered the line that became famous: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Armstrong and his crewmate Buzz Aldrin explored the moon’s surface for almost three hours before climbing back into their lunar module and heading home.

 

DECEMBER 2019

China launches a sample-return mission to the moon

After its Chang』e 4 mission to the lunar far side, China will attempt an even more ambitious lunar mission sometime toward the end of the year. Chang』e 5 will include a lander designed to collect samples of lunar rocks and soil and return them to Earth.

If successful, it would be the first time materials from the moon will have been brought back to Earth since 1976.