An Ambitious Resolution
As 2021 approaches quickly in less than 24 hours’ time, everybody comes up with several New Year’s resolutions. Most of them are achieved with no problem, but others go to bust very soon. For the space industry, however, they got some very cool resolutions that I think will come true.
First off, SpaceX plans to launch at most 48 Falcon rockets in the year 2021; both the regular Falcon 9 and the large Falcon Heavy. Why that much? Because they have a big backlog of commercial and military missions on deck, and there are lots of Starlink internet satellites waiting on the ground too. In fact, my assumption is that most 2021 launches will be Starlink missions, which Elon Musk refers to as “internal missions”. Makes total sense to me; it’s SpaceX’s internal payloads. No pressure if anything goes wrong.
Next, United Launch Alliance has their next-generation Vulcan rocket in development. It is said that the first launch in late 2021 will actually carry a real payload rather than a payload simulator. And it’s an unmanned Moon lander! Like, what? Nonetheless, once that leaves the ground, we also got Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spaceplane that’ll be Vulcan’s second mission, delivering cargo to the International Space Station. Should that be successful, hopefully, there will be a routine of Dream Chaser missions to the station. Good luck to Vulcan.
Finally, there’s NASA’s Space Launch System, whose core stage will undergo what’s called a Green Run test. It’s essentially a complete test of prelaunch procedures with the core stage from propellant loading to ignition of the main engines. And that’ll help pave the way for what may be a late 2021 inaugural launch. NASA has made numerous goals to launch SLS earlier in the 2010s. 2017, then 2018, then 2019. But this year might be the year. Let’s hope NASA does everything needed for that first launch. After all, we need to land astronauts on the Moon very soon.
In all, these New Year’s resolutions that were plotted out earlier may go through or not. But I have all the confidence in the world that NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance will do the next big things in their respective programs.