The decade ended with the announcement of a new mission back to the moon, which is just one of the many missions that are planned to make history this next decade. Here is what humanity has to look forward to.
Three lunar missions, commercial spaceflight milestones, the first all-woman spacewalk -- 2019 was a busy year in space for public and private entities alike. NASA looked forward to new moon landings while celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. SpaceX launched its first commercial crew spacecraft and lofted a miniature prototype of its massive Starship vehicle. Planetary missions began and ended, sometimes much sooner than planned.
Boeing's Starliner spacecraft made a soft touch down in the desert of New Mexico early Sunday. It marked the end of a tense two-day effort to return the vehicle to Earth after unexpected issues plagued its inaugural flight to orbit, forcing it to make an early return. The spacecraft launched an uncrewed test flight on Friday but had to abort its mission to dock with the International Space Station when it failed to put itself on the right trajectory.
The United States has test-launched a second missile banned by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, which the Trump administration withdrew from earlier this year. Launched at 8:30 a.m. local time from a pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, the “prototype conventionally-configured ground-launched ballistic missile” flew more than 500 kilometers, and landed in the ocean, Lt. Col. Robert Carver, a Pentagon spokesman, said in an emailed statement.
Boeing's first uncrewed test flight of its Starliner spacecraft for astronauts is now set for no earlier than Dec. 20, one day later than planned, due to a SpaceX launch delay earlier this week. The United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced the 24-hour slip for Starliner today (Dec. 6) after successfully completing a critical "wet-dress" rehearsal for Boeing's upcoming test flight on an Atlas V rocket.
The Air Force has hired a Michigan company to see if thrusters based on plasma could help satellites evade incoming fire, the company announced Tuesday. Conventional satellites maneuver with the help of liquid propellants, basically fuel. That can increase the weight and complexity of putting something into orbit and isn’t practical for small, cheap cube satellites.
The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft that will launch to the International Space Station on the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) has taken a significant step toward launch. Starliner rolled out of Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 21, making the trek on a transport vehicle to Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
NASA is heading back to the moon, and it’s planning to use the long-delayed Space Launch System (SLS) to get there. The agency is working to assemble the first SLS rocket, which will be the most powerful in the world upon completion. Some of that power will come from four RS-25 engines on the core stage. If they look familiar, that’s because the RS-25 has a storied history in NASA’s Space Shuttle program, having first debuted in the 1970s. Now, NASA has just finished installing them on the SLS.
In October 2020 (just before the anniversary on Nov. 2), NASA's two-time space veteran Chris Cassidy will leave the orbiting complex in a Russian Soyuz with rookie Russian cosmonauts Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babkin. The trio, who make up the Expedition 62/63 crew, is expected to fly up in April and remain about five months, although dates are always subject to complex scheduling. Their journey will be one of the last in the current pattern of space station operations.