Space Missions to Watch in 2022
From commercial space races to more than 130 launches, 2021 was a year of exciting space programs. But with a new year comes new possibilities — and there’s a lot to look forward to in 2022. With nearly 200 launches already scheduled, 2022 is looking to be one of the busiest years in space yet. Here are some of the missions to keep on your radar this year.
Shoot for the Moon
The last time a person stood on the moon was more than 50 years ago, but that’s set to change this year. With hopes to send human astronauts back to the moon in 2024, NASA’s Artemis program plans to get underway in 2022 with the debut of their Space Launch System (SLS) and the launch of the Artemis 1 mission. This launch will be a three-week-long, uncrewed test flight of the Orion spacecraft, set to fly 100 km above the surface of the moon. Eventually, SLS will transport astronauts to the Lunar Gateway, for which NASA is currently developing the infrastructure. The Lunar Gateway will serve as an international space station around the moon and act as a pit stop for lunar missions.
In addition to these efforts, NASA is continuing its partnerships with private companies to further their lunar findings and explorations. As NASA works toward putting humans back on the moon, technology like Motiv’s Cold Operable Lunar Deployable Arm (COLDArm) will prove especially helpful. Capable of operating in cryogenic environments — down to -180°C (-292°F) — the super-adaptable COLDArm is designed with a scoop at the end for evaluating regolith soil, as well as an array of instruments and tools, all of which will be helpful in analyzing the lunar surface for future missions — and humans.
But the moon isn’t the only planet getting visitors in 2022. In September, NASA’s Juno spacecraft — which has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016 — plans to fly within 220 miles of Europa, one of Jupiter’s many moons. As Jupiter is a largely unexplored planet, this mission will offer the closest look at Europa, with Juno’s instruments set to measure the thickness of the ice covering the moon.
Joining Juno in Jupiter explorations is the European Space Agency’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, which is scheduled to launch midyear. Once in Jupiter’s orbit, the spacecraft will spend three years studying three of Jupiter’s moons — Ganymede, Europa and Callisto — as they are thought to have subsurface liquid water, making them potentially habitable.
Facing the frigid temperatures of Jupiter and its moons, Motiv Space Systems has developed the dual-axis motor controller for (use in) extreme environments (DACEE). At its core, the DACEE is a robotic controller that’s capable of functioning at temperatures as cold as -180°C (-292°F) and as warm as 100°C (212°F), engineered with hardware for more efficient robotic missions. With a wide range of applications in space robotics, DACEE can adjust lenses and antennas, open covers, deploy hinges and drive a robotic arm, making it a likely component in future missions in Jupiter and beyond.
Back to Mars
While Mars saw a lot of action in 2021 with the launch of NASA’s Perseverance rover and the Chinese Zhurong rover, 2022 plans to be even more promising for the Red Planet. In September 2022, the European Space Agency will launch the next part of its ExoMars mission, which will send a Mars rover to the Martian surface to look for signs of past life.
With some of Motiv’s most innovative tech already aboard the Perseverance Rover, including critical imaging and data collection tools, current and future Mars missions are being set up for success. Designed for the forensic inspection of a past life and time on Mars, Motiv’s robotic arm is working to retrieve and cache dozens of core samples that will be critical for learning more about the planet while helping to prepare humans for eventual landing and possible settlement.
As these 2022 missions ramp up, it’s already proving to be a fruitful time for space exploration. And with Motiv developing critical robotic infrastructure for missions, this new year of space is looking brighter — and more informative — than ever.