A brief qualitative and quantitative analysis of how the year 2022 was for the race between the great powers for the dominance of outer space. the United States as a winner and renews its position as the undisputed leader.
In the frantic competition between government agencies of the world’s most powerful nations to take the lead in exploring the cosmos, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States, NASA, has confirmed its absolute hegemony over those who seek to overshadow it.
As the facts and figures of last year show, President Xi Jinping it is still a long way from China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) being able to emulate the steps recently taken by NASA, President Vladimir Poutine it cannot keep pace with the White House, and old Europe, along with India and Japan, are an insurmountable distance away.
NASA took its first effective step on November 16 – the Artemis I mission – to send astronauts back to the moon, an ambition still a long way off from Beijing.. But Xi Jinping knows this, he is patient and has chosen another approach. In just a year and a half, he managed to build his first manned orbital complex, Tiangong – the Celestial Palace in Mandarin – on his own – where two crews of three astronauts, one after the other, have already been housed for three months.
In the growing sphere of large private commercial enterprises, Entrepreneur Elon Musk can be considered the champion of the global space industry. The billionaire with three nationalities – South African, Canadian and American – is by his own merit and that of his company SpaceX the undisputed protagonist of global space transport in 2022.
Elon Musk is once again the champion of the space industry
Throughout 2022, SpaceX launched 34 Falcon 9 rockets, which deployed no fewer than 1,722 small platforms in the Starlink constellation – a project also led by Musk – which provides internet and broadband connectivity.. But in total, it has launched no less than 60 Falcon 9s in response to various contracts with NASA, the Space Force, federal institutions and private companies.
Owner of Twitter since the end of October, Musk had the satisfaction of ushering in last year’s releases on Jan.. It was with its flagship recoverable vector, the Falcon 9, which, with a flight from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, orbited the first batch of Starlink satellites of 2022 at an altitude of 540 kilometers.
The tycoon also wanted to be the architect of the last takeoff of the year. He did so on December 30, this time from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Another Falcon 9 rocket lifted Eros C3, Israel’s ultra-high resolution electro-optical spy satellite, to an altitude of 500 kilometers. Weighing in at around 400 kilograms, its manufacturer, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), says it will also provide images “for commercial purposes”.
The number of space launches increases every year. In 2022, there were 186 launches, that is, 28.3% more than in 2021 (145), which represents a very high rate: one launch every two days. The vast majority of them were aimed at positioning satellites and only seven missions – three American, two Russian and seven Chinese – to transport astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) or the new Chinese orbital complex. And of the unmanned vectors, 9 failed.
The contribution of Elon Musk and his Falcon 9 rocket was decisive for the United States. The place of honor in 2022 in global space transport is no longer occupied by Xi Jinping, who performed 64 takeoffs, but by Joe Biden, who, with 87 takeoffs – including nine in New Zealand – took the lead he had lost to China in 2021. The combined power of Washington and Beijing is overwhelming. Between them, the two countries performed 151 orbital launches, which represents 81.2% of the annual total.
Facts and figures for 2022
The vast majority of US launches (57) were conducted from civilian NASA or Space Force military facilities in Florida.. Only 16 came from California’s Vandenberg base on the west coast. At the Chinaalmost half of the flights (25) took off from Jiuquan, one of its six space centers.
Moscow remains in third place, far behind Washington and Beijing.. The negative impact of the war in Ukraine on its production lines resulted in a decline in its ultraterrestrial missions. Russia divided its launches between its three cosmodromes: Plesetsk (13), Baikonur (7) and Vostochny (2), the latter in Siberia.
Happily, tensions between Washington and Moscow have not affected joint missions to and from the ISS. Western astronauts and Russian cosmonauts continue to travel in their respective capsules. Where the warlike confrontation was transcended is in the cooperation of the Russian Space Agency – Roscosmos – with the European Space Agency (ESA).
The break in good relations between the two agencies led the new director general of Roscosmos, Yuri Borisov, to make the Euro-Russian ExoMars 2022 mission unfeasible.. Its main payload, the rover Rosalind Franklin, is waiting for a new partner to travel to the red planet. Europe ranks fourth, but with just five take-offs from French Guiana, one less than in 2021: three with Ariane 5 and two with the smaller Vega-C, the second of which was a fiasco, leaving ESA without space transportation and forcing to subcontract future launches to third parties.
India occupies, tied with Europe, the fifth place among space nations. Its three delivery vehicle models completed five launches, one of which failed. Japan with its Epsilon vector and South Korea with its new KSLV-II Nuri have had success in their only launches. Iran also tried with its Qased rocket, but it failed.
The year just ended saw NASA become the only space agency to have a new super-heavy launch vehicle – SLS – and a space capsule – Orion – operational, capable of carrying out manned lunar missions and carrying up to one hundred tons of payload. in low orbit. But both the SLS and Orion have yet to prove their reliability in safely transporting and returning humans to Earth. which will not be done before 2024.