what to expect in 2023?

From the launch of the James Webb Telescope to the first flight of the SLS as part of the Artemis 1 mission to the crash of the DART spacecraft on an asteroid, 2022 has been an exceptional year for space lovers. However, the adventure is not over yet and 2023 also promises to delight us. Here is a non-exhaustive list of the most anticipated events.

new rockets

The SLS flight to the Moon inevitably brings us back to SpaceX, which is tasked by NASA with taking the next humans to the Moon as part of the Artemis 3 and 4 missions with its Starship. No official date has been announced by SpaceX for the first orbital flight of this fully reusable spacecraft, but it should take place during the first quarter of 2023. For this flight, Starship will be launched into space by its Super Heavy booster and land in Hawaii.

Other rockets will also be able to take off for the first time in 2023. Among them is the Vulcan Centaur from the United Launch Alliance. The launch vehicle is intended to replace the company’s Atlas V, a rocket that has been at the heart of American spaceflight for two decades. To fly high, Vulcan will rely on the BE-4 engine built by Blue Origin. This same engine will also be used by the New Glenn Rocket from the company founded by Jeff Bezos, whose test flight could take place at the end of the year.

Other private US companies are also expected to test new rockets, including Relativity Space and its fully 3D-printed rocket, as well as the ABL Space System. On the European side, the new heavy launcher Ariane 6 should possibly make its maiden flight in the fourth quarter.

Artist’s rendering of the New Glenn, Blue Origin’s future heavy hitter. Credits: Azul Origin

new lunar landings

Landing on the moon is not easy, as some past failures prove. Some companies, however, will try their luck during this year of 2023. Think in particular of the Japanese company Ispace, which has just launched its M1 mission on a SpaceX rocket. The probe should arrive at the site in April.

NASA also asked two private companies to transport payloads to the lunar surface : Intuitive and Astrobotic Machines. The first will aim to deliver an ice extractor, called PRIME-1, thanks to its NOVA-C lander. The second will try to land his Peregrine lander. The vehicle, just over 1.8 meters tall, will have several slots capable of storing payloads for customers.

Three other missions are also expected. to the Moon this year: India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission, which was postponed last year, Japan’s SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) mission, which will aim to test the country’s lunar landing technologies, and Luna- 25, which will mark Russia’s return to the moon.

astrobotic moon 2023
Illustration of the Peregrine spacecraft. Credits: Astrobotic

New space observatories

On the observatory side, we know that China plans to launch its Xuntian telescope. The observatory will have a mirror measuring two meters in diameter, comparable to that of Hubble, but it should benefit from a field of view 300 times greater than that of its former American cousin, maintaining a similar resolution, which probe up to 40% of the sky over ten years in near-ultraviolet and visible light.

Xuntian will co-orbit Earth with the Chinese space station and may periodically dock at the future outpost for maintenance operations.

The European space mission Euclid will aim to map the universe in search of clues about the nature of dark energy. Initially, the observatory would be launched on a Russian rocket. The war in Ukraine obliges, the ESA has finally turned to SpaceX and its workhorse: the Falcon 9.

Euclid 2023
Euclid’s thermostructural model on one of the buildings at the Thales Alenia Space in Cannes. Credits: ESA

Planetary Missions

JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer) is ESA’s next major space mission. Its launch is scheduled for next April. by an Ariane 5 rocket. The probe is due to come close to Jupiter in 2031. Then it will move to perform several flybys of the moons. In 2034, JUICE will orbit Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system.

The New Zealand company Rocket Lab will target Venus with its Electron rocket. There, a satellite called Photon will try to deploy a small probe that will briefly study the planet’s atmosphere.

ganymede juice mission 2023
Ganymede photographed by the Juno spacecraft in 2022. Credits: NASA

two main eclipses

A total eclipse will be visible next April 20th, but only in the southern hemisphere. Furthermore, the Moon will only completely obliterate the Sun in some remote areas of Australia and Indonesia.

AN annular eclipse is also scheduled for October 14th. Eclipses of this type are sometimes called “ring of fire” eclipses. They occur when the Moon slips between the Earth and the Sun, but the Moon’s apparent diameter remains slightly smaller than the Sun’s apparent diameter. In this specific case, our satellite doesn’t completely mask our star. Result: a ring of light appears.

Unfortunately, again, France will not be able to observe this eclipse. In fact, it will start in the North Pacific Ocean, then cross the United States and Mexico before skirting Central America. It will then continue into Colombia and Brazil before ending up in the Atlantic Ocean.

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