Max Q - The James Webb telescope gets to space

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Monday, January 03, 2022 By Darrell Etherington

Welcome back! It’s now 2022, a brand new year with plenty of exciting space industry activity on the horizon. This could be Starship’s year, if things go even roughly to Elon Musk’s plan, and there are a few new launch providers looking to actually get to orbit in 2022.

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James Webb telescope finally on its way

NASA’s James Webb is in space, after many delays over the years. The in-space telescope was developed by NASA in partnership with the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, and its mission is to succeed the Hubble.

The satellite launched on Christmas Day by Arianespace, and so far the mission has gone very well. The launch was so accurate in terms of its intended target orbit that NASA already announced it should be able to extend the telescope’s planned operational life. After deployment, the satellite was confirmed to be receiving power, and it succeeded at unfurling its huge sunshield as well.

The telescope’s science mission should provide better views of the universe beyond Earth, including much older stars and galaxies than any prior space telescopes have been able to capture.

James Webb telescope finally on its way image

The FAA pushed SpaceX Starship environmental review to end of February

The FAA has changed the deadline for its final environmental assessment of the SpaceX Starship / Super Heavy launch site in Texas. The original target was December 31, just before the end of the year, but now it’s moved out to February 28, 2022. That gives an extra two months, which the FAA will use to draft responses to over 18,000 public comments received regarding the draft of the environmental assessment.

This review is a key requirement for SpaceX to get a license to launch its rockets as a commercial entity from its development site in Boca Chica, Texas. On top of the environmental concerns, it’ll also have to satisfy requirements related to safety, risk and financial issues before actually launching.

SpaceX already has a limited launch license at the site in order to fly the new, fully reusable Starship for limited, sub-space tests. But it’ll need to get a new license to make its first orbital tests early in 2022, which is what it wants to do now.

The FAA pushed SpaceX Starship environmental review to end of February image

Image Credits: SpaceX

What to watch in space in 2022

Normally we do a roundup of news around the industry here, but since we’re coming off a couple of quiet weeks, instead I think it’s better to look ahead at what might become key areas of focus in 2022.

The big ones are: satellite constellations; more, cheaper and better Earth observation technologies; and sustainability and climate, which is also tied to both of the previous areas. These are poised for growth because of launch and component costs and availability, as well as trends across business regarding ESG (environmental, social and governance) and a move toward more accountability and traceability of global assets and their impacts in all industries.

What to watch in space in 2022 image

Image Credits: IAU

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