The United Arab Emirates' first mission to the red planet, Mars Hope, is due to arrive on February 9. At this time, the spacecraft will make a challenging maneuver to slow down and enter orbit around Mars with an altitude above the planet as low as 1,000km. If all goes well, the spacecraft will spend a Martian year—687 Earth days—studying the planet's atmosphere and better understanding its weather.They go on to mention that many Starship tests will take place. Eileen, on the new test pad over in Boca Chica is up now, with the usual "every date changes" course of action we see. Today's updates are that residents have been given an over pressure warning for tomorrow. That implies a minimum of the Wet Dress Rehearsal, and probably static firing. The FAA granted an unlimited Temporary Flight Restriction for the area, Friday through Sunday, which could be Eileen's flight to 15 km - or higher.
China has not said when, exactly, that its ambitious Tianwen-1 mission will arrive at Mars, but it's expected in mid-February. After the spacecraft enters orbit, it will spend a couple of months preparing to descend to the surface, assessing the planned landing site in the Utopia Planitia region. Then, China will attempt to become only the second country to soft-land a spacecraft on Mars that survives for more than a handful of seconds. It will be a huge moment for the country's space program.
NASA's Mars Perseverance will likely be the last of three missions to arrive at Mars, reaching the red planet in mid-February and attempting a landing in Jezero Crater on February 18. This entry, descent, and landing phase—much like with the Curiosity lander in 2012—will be must-see TV.
History suggests at least one of these three missions will not make it, but we'll hope to defy those odds.
A test flight of the first Super Heavy booster in the first six months of the year is likely, making it almost a sure bet for the whole year. Berger predicts that's not the only totally unprecedented mission the year will see. He predicts we'll see one of the most anticipated and most-delayed missions:
Snarking about the delays in the launch schedule of the ultra-ambitious James Webb Space Telescope have become commonplace in the space community, and indeed this flagship astrophysics mission is far behind schedule and over budget.In addition to Super Heavy, we're likely to see the launch of United Launch Alliance's Vulcan rocket, carrying Astrobotic's Peregrine lander to the Moon. This one doesn't look good to me; the Vulcan is based on Blue Origin's BE-4 Methane-Oxygen engine, which technically doesn't exist. Delivery is expected in the summer and launch in the 4th quarter, which is tight considering the amount of newness there. Other big rockets are possible as well: Japan's H3 booster and Europe's Ariane 6 rocket. Finally, not a new rocket, but SpaceX has three Falcon Heavy flights on the manifest this year. Their main emphasis will be recovering all three boosters. Only one center rocket has landed, and that one later tipped over and fell due to rough seas combined with the lack of hardware to hold it on deck (the Octagrabber on both recovery drone ships now).
However, it seems like NASA's current science leadership has addressed a number of the technical and management issues that had been plaguing the telescope program and causing delay after delay. Now, there seems to be quiet confidence that NASA's space telescope will stick to its Oct. 31, 2021 launch date on a European Ariane V rocket.
This is just a look at a few things that caught my eye. If you like to follow space exploration, go read.
James Webb Space Telescope, rendering for NASA. The diameter across those 18 hexagonal mirror "tiles" is 6.5 meters or 256 inches. Intended for Infrared observation, it has nearly three times the aperture of the Hubble Space Telescope. Lots of details here.