Here are the 8 most important space missions to follow in 2023

In 2023, space news aficionados will have several important events. Rocket maiden flights, science mission returns and probe departures. Here are the most notable events, currently.

Mark Your Calendar: The space conquest calendar for the year 2023 contains some landmark events to remember. In addition to the inaugural flight of several new rockets (Ariane 6, New Glenn, Vulcan Centaur), the next twelve months will be punctuated by the departure of scientific missions. Also for the return of one of them, after seven years of space odyssey.

Initially, some missions were supposed to take place in 2022. But it is common to see space agencies review their schedules. Private companies are not immune to delays either: SpaceX must also revise its plans from time to time. Under these conditions, please note that this calendar may change over the months.

March 2023: Polaris Dawn

In early 2022, SpaceX announced the Polaris space program. The first mission, called Polaris Dawn (the dawn of Polaris) should take place in March 2023 – it was initially scheduled for the end of 2022. The objective? Organize the first spacewalk by a private company — SpaceX — with only civilians aboard the Crew Dragon capsule.

A skin for Polaris Dawn. // Source: SpaceX

April 2023: Juice is heading to Jupiter and its moons

JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) is an exploration mission flown by the European Space Agency. Your objective? Send a probe to Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system. More specifically, it is its icy moons that Esa is interested in, namely Ganymede, Callisto. It’s a long journey ahead of JUICE. Expected arrival around 2030.

September 2023: Return of Osiris-Rex Samples

The OSIRIS-REx mission returns home. Seven years after its departure from Earth, the probe is due to arrive at the blue planet in September 2023 to drop its container containing samples from the asteroid Bennu. The US space agency is planning an in-depth study of rocks collected at Bennu, down to the molecular level.

OSIRIS-REx representation in September 2017. // Source: Flickr/CC/Kevin Gill (cropped photo)
OSIRIS-REx representation in September 2017. // Source: Flickr/CC/Kevin Gill (cropped photo)

October 2023: Departure of the Psyché mission to a metallic asteroid

The Psyche mission is a space probe to join a metallic asteroid – the American space agency speaks of it as a “metallic world”, because its structure contains an alloy that mixes iron and nickel. The mission was initially scheduled for 2022, but was postponed to 2023. On this occasion, SpaceX, which provides liftoff, will use the Falcon Heavy rocket.

In 2023: First flight of the European heavy rocket Ariane 6

We expected it in 2020, 2021 and 2022. Finally, the baptism of fire of Ariane 6 is scheduled for 2023. This new generation heavy launcher will operate from the European space port of Kourou, in Guyana. The rocket incorporates notable improvements, mainly in its motorization and in the upper stage, capable of maneuvering in orbit, thanks to its re-ignition capability.

In 2023: Manned flyby of the Moon with SpaceX

In theory, SpaceX should proceed in 2023 with a manned mission around the Moon. On board the Starship, a spacecraft that has not yet made its orbital flight on Earth, we will meet in particular the Japanese businessman Yusaku Maezawa. We will also meet a dozen other personalities, artists, as part of the Dearmoon project.

starship moon
The flyby of the Moon by a Starship spacecraft (artist’s view). // Source: SpaceX

In 2023: Inaugural flight of the New Glenn heavy rocket

Scheduled for 2022, the inaugural flight of the New Glenn is now scheduled for 2023. It is a new generation launcher assembled by the American company Blue Origin. Launched in 2016, it has exceptional characteristics, reaching super-heavy rockets such as the Saturn V or the Space Launch System (SLS). Your first floor will be reusable.

Current 2023: Inaugural flight of the Vulcan Centaur rocket

To replace its two current launchers, the Atlas V and the Delta IV, the joint venture United Launch Alliance (ULA), which brings together Lockheed Martin and Boeing, is building a new machine: the Vulcan Centaur. The machine must serve the needs of the private sector, such as satellite operators, but also fulfill NASA and Pentagon shipments.

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