2023 is a year like no other in the global aerospace industry. Less so for Spain, which in a few days, in the first or second week of February, will officially create its national air agency.
Its creation will be followed by the selection of the first “Mr. Espacio” or “Madam Espacio”. By giving a face to the person who will lead the national space strategy, Spain will no longer be absent from international platforms other than ESA, as has been the case until now. This person will be able to sit down with senior officials from various organizations to share plans and experiences on the current and future of the global space competition area.
And what will 2023 bring more for Spain? Currently, Hispasat, the leading commercial satellite communications operator in Spain, is starting the year with the launch of Amazonas Nexus. The Cape Canaveral (Florida) launch window for the Falcon 9 rocket will open on February 5. If there are no delays, Hispasat expects to start providing services “sometime in August”.
Amazonas Nexus benefits from a “high level of contracted services” and ushers in a “new era” for the company, says Miguel Ángel Panduro, CEO of Hispasat.. It includes a digital processor called “transparent” (DTP), which allows it to redirect the traffic of its communication packages according to changing market needs. As a result, the company’s commercial director, Ignacio Sanchis, obtained major contracts to supply the network to the growing demand from shipping lines and airlines on their routes in the Atlantic, the Caribbean, the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean.
But there is more. Satlantis, the company led by Juan Tomas Hernani, plans to put two satellites into orbit: in June, it will be Geisat, to detect methane. In December, Urdaneta 2, to replicate the exploration that its older brother started in May 2022. There is also news of the future Atlantic Constellation, which is promoted in equal parts by the governments of Madrid and Lisbon. Spanish companies Alén Space, DHV Technology, Elecnor Deimos and Satlantis have joined forces to present a joint bid for eight spacecraft that Spain is in charge of developing and manufacturing.
Miura 1 from PLD Space will finally start
The national community is eagerly awaiting the first mission of the small recoverable Miura 1 launcher from PLD Space, a company from Elche (Alicante) that since 2018, year after year, announces that the launch will take place the following year. During the presentation of the Miura 1 full-size model in Madrid in November 2021, its managers, Raúl Verdú and Raúl Torres, planned to leave “at the end of 2022”. Trials and testing are nearing completion, hopefully this will finally happen in the first half of 2023.
In the field of international space travel, the year 2023 began with the failure of the launch, on January 10, of the small American launchers RS1 from ABL Space Systems and LauncherOne from Virgin Orbit. But in the first 20 days of the month, five more Chinese and five more American launchers were successfully launched. 186 orbiters for 2022 are expected to be launched later this year. SpaceX founder Elon Musk wants to reach 100 launches – 61 in 2022 – including the first of his Starship vector to reach the Moon. China has planned more than 70, which if achieved will exceed last year’s 64.
High priority are three new heavy launchers expected to launch this year.. They have several common characteristics, one of which is that none of them can save. They are disposable and are designed to retire four old missiles in Europe, the United States and Japan.
The first to debut is the Japanese H3, developed since 2013 by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).. It is called to replace H-IIA and B, whose first mission began in August 2001. The launch of H3 “is scheduled for February 12 from the Tanegashima station”, announced the Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida, during a meeting with the central space authority. of the country on December 23.
H3, which is 63 meters long, weighs 574 tons and has two stages of propulsion, is to orbit the Japanese stereoscopic observation satellite ALOS-3, which weighs 3 tons and has a resolution of 80 centimeters.. A few days later, on February 25, the United States planned the first flight of Vulcan Centaur, created by United Launch Alliance (ULA), a company created in December 2006 and owned 50/50 by the aerospace branches of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. .
From Europe’s Ariane 6 to Boeing’s capsule
With a length of 61.6 meters, a weight of 547 tons and equipment with two stages of acceleration, it will be able to transport up to 27 tons in low orbit.. But because it’s an eligible flight, it carries only two models of Amazon’s massive Kuiper constellation, which has promised to put more than 3,200 satellites into space. Next to them is the lunar surface module Peregrine 1 from the American company Astrobotic.
The Vulcan Centaur will take over from Lockheed Martin’s Atlas V and Boeing’s Delta IV, which have been in service since the early 2000s.. Both rockets enjoyed a monopoly on launching into orbit large and heavy platforms for the Department of Defense, NASA and other federal agencies, as well as intelligence satellites. But the arrival of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, their low costs and proven reliability, broke this monopoly.
What about Europe’s Ariane 6? 60 meters long, with a maximum weight of 860 tons and the ability to put up to 26.6 tons in low orbit, its first flight will be a reality “probably at the end of 2023”, confirmed the president in mid-January. air agent, Philippe Baptiste. But this prediction is conditional, Mr. Baptiste, “provided that no technical problem will be discovered during the joint tests”, which continues. It would not be unreasonable to think that it could enter the first quarter of 2024.
The European Space Agency (ESA) also has an important commitment in 2023. In April, the initial training phase will begin for 17 astronaut candidates selected at the end of November, including two Spaniards, Pablo Álvarez and Sara García. Also in April, the last Ariane 5 will fly with the European probe JUICE. Its mission, which weighs 6 tons, is to discover the secrets of Jupiter and its three icy moons.
In the second half of the year, the Euclid infrared space telescope will take off. Weighing more than 2 tons, it will take off in a Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral in search of the dark world. And in June, Arianespace will carry out the 117th and final launch of Ariane 5, thus closing the story of the rocket that started poorly in June 1996 but has achieved 112 successes.
At least half a dozen human missions are planned. Some will be crew support missions to China’s Tiangong orbital station and others to the International Space Station (ISS), where private flights will also arrive for very short stays. And finally, after several years of delay, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner capsule will carry out its first mission with astronauts. It’s a modified version of spaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, so NASA will have two capsule designs to send and return humans to the ISS.