The upcoming year 2021 has cemented SpaceX's global supremacy, with capabilities in rocket and space technology similar to those of whole countries. Almost all advancement in space exploration is currently connected with this American corporation in some form.

Space Industry
[Space Industry]

China will be the world leader in terms of the number of space launches in 2021, having executed 54 rocket launches as of December 26. (32 percent of the total number of all launches in the world). The United States comes in second with 45 launches (26 percent). Russia comes in third with 22 launches (13 percent).

Surprisingly, SpaceX's massive Falcon 9 rocket was launched 31 times in 2021, far more than Russia's total number of launches during the designated timeframe. SpaceX successfully landed the first stage of the Falcon 9 for the hundredth time in the last year. This rocket's first stage has already been utilized more than 10 times. Today, the firm emphasizes the maintenance of existing Falcon 9 stages above the production of new ones.

SpaceX continued testing pieces of the Starship reusable transportation system in 2021. In instance, the business was able to raise a prototype of the device, named Starship SN9, to a height of 10 kilometers in February. During the test, the product moved to a horizontal position before landing forcefully on the ground platform. Unfortunately, one of the two Raptor engines utilized in the descent failed, resulting in the product exploding.

In May, SpaceX almost replicated the February experiment: the Starship SN15 product successfully took off the Earth, soared 10 kilometers, and navigated to a horizontal position before making a partially successful soft landing with the assistance of two power units.

Starship should be able to launch up to 150 tons of payload into low-Earth orbit in a reusable configuration, and up to 250 tons in a one-time mode. Because the system is fueled by dozens of Raptor rocket engines that operate on methane and oxygen, SpaceX is actively boosting their output. SpaceX announced the completion of the 100th Raptor unit in July. She completed fire tests of its modification, which was partially converted to function in a space vacuum, in October.

When evaluating possible space rockets launched in 2021, it is worth noting the American business Astra's ultra-light disposable launch vehicle Rocket, which is positioned as perhaps the cheapest rocket in the world for delivering a modest cargo into space. The firm executed the fourth and first successful launch of Rocket in November of the previous year, during which the upper stage of the rocket with an inseparable payload mock-up was in low-Earth orbit at a height of 500 kilometers.

Astra intends to launch spacecraft for NASA, the US Space Force, Planet Labs, and Spire Global in the future, providing clients with an incredibly simple rocket at a low price.

Space Internet 

SpaceX will continue to install the Starlink global satellite high-speed broadband Internet infrastructure in 2021. Currently, around 1.9 thousand spacecraft have been launched out of a total of 12 thousand planned. These satellites enable over 150 thousand individuals from 10 countries to connect to the Internet. Starlink downloads and uploads quicker than fiber-optic carriers in most areas.

SpaceX's Internet also functions well in relatively harsh environments. According to an experiment conducted in Australia, a Starlink satellite dish mounted on a Tesla Model X automobile traveling at 100 kilometers per hour on a highway produced data download speeds of up to 200 megabits per second. Another record was set in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, when a user reported a download speed of 370 megabits per second at an altitude of more than 2.8 kilometers. The closer you get to space, though, the better Starlink functions.

SpaceX, on the other hand, has no plans to stop there. Since September, all Starlink spacecraft deployed have begun to receive laser terminals, reducing the global Internet system's reliance on ground stations and signal delay (ping). The business launched the first 10 experimental satellites of the system, which received lasers, into polar orbit in January.

Starlink's primary competitors, British-Indian OneWeb and Amazon's American Kuiper, have had significantly less success. Although more than 350 of the projected 600 OneWeb spacecraft have been launched with the aid of Russian medium-sized missiles of the Soyuz-2 family, testing of the British-Indian system is still in its early stages. The first Kuiper satellite prototypes should be launched in general only in 2022 using the never-before-flown RS1 rocket.

Orbital Stations

In July, a heavy rocket "Proton-M" carrying a multipurpose laboratory module (MLM) "Nauka" was launched from Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome, adding to the Russian part of the ISS. The European Robotic Arm was sent to the ISS together with MLM (ERA). Nauka, which was scheduled to launch in 2007, ended up being the heaviest payload sent into orbit by Proton-M. Prior to that, Russia launched an ISS module in May 2010. (small research "Rassvet").

The Soyuz-2.1b medium launch vehicle was launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in November, together with the Progress M-UM transport cargo vehicle and the Prichal nodal module, which was later docked to the MLM. During the launch, Soyuz-2.1b, the most powerful of the Soyuz-2 series, also shattered its own record for the amount of cargo transported to the International Space Station. If Nauka has directly increased the working area of the Russian portion of the ISS, the nodal module, if fitted with an International Docking Adapter (IDA), may dock the American spacecraft Crew Dragon and Starliner.

In addition to Russia, China was active in low-Earth orbit in 2021, beginning the deployment of its own orbital station. The Tianhe Base Module of the Tiangong Space Station was launched from the Wenchang Cosmodrome in April aboard a Long March 5 heavy rocket, with two Taikonaut expeditions on board.

Space Tourism 

The current year has become very fascinating in terms of space tourism. And, once again, SpaceX was present. Richard Branson, a British billionaire, soared to an altitude of more than 80 kilometers in July aboard the suborbital ship Unity, built by his own firm Virgin Galactic. The crew for the trip comprised pilots Dave McKay and Michael Masucci, Virgin Galactic Chief Astronaut Instructor Beth Moses, Lead Operations Engineer Colin Bennett, and Sirish Bundle, the company's vice president of government affairs.

Later that month, American entrepreneur Jeffrey Bezos flew the Blue Origin reusable New Shepard spacecraft for the first time. Within a few minutes, the millionaire, his brother Mark, 82-year-old NASA veteran Wally Funk, and 18-year-old school graduate Oliver Damen reached an altitude of more than 100 kilometers.

However, in September, SpaceX owner Elon Musk surpassed both Branson and Bezos by sending four tourists on the Crew Dragon spacecraft on a three-day space flight around Earth during the Inspiration4 mission - businessman Jared Isaacman, nurse Hailey Arseno, engineer Christopher Sembroski, and geologist Shan Proctor.

Finally, in October, Russian spacecraft Soyuz MS-19 carried commander and flight engineer Anton Shkaplerov, director Klim Shipenko, and actress Yulia Peresild to the ISS. The final two were involved in the filming of "Challenge." The filmmaker and actress spent 12 days in space before returning to Earth alongside cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky. In December, the Russian Soyuz MS-20 spacecraft sent two additional visitors to the International Space Station: Japanese businessman Yusaku Maezawa and producer Yezo Hirano.

Real Science 

China became the third country in the world (according to the Western press - the second) in May 2021, when the Tianwen-1 mission successfully achieved a soft landing on the surface of Mars for the first time. The first Chinese rover, Zhurong, which is now working effectively on Mars, is structurally similar to the American Spirit and Opportunity, which were deployed to Mars in 2003.

The rover, which landed on the Utopia Plain, is tasked with studying the morphology and geology of the surrounding area, namely the search for water, ice, and minerals, as well as obtaining atmospheric samples. In August, Zhurong's intended service life was surpassed. In addition to the Chinese Zhurong, two American rovers, Curiosity and Perseverance, are now operating on Mars. In February, the latter made a gentle landing on Mars, becoming the heaviest payload ever transported from Earth to the Red Planet's surface.

The James Webb observatory, launched into orbit from the Kuru cosmodrome on a large Ariane 5 rocket, stands out among the several scientific missions conducted in 2021. Northrop Grumman, an American military-industrial business, was the principal contractor in the production of James Webb, and was in charge of the integration of its key systems.

James Webb's primary responsibilities include the study of the early Universe, galaxies, and supermassive black holes, as well as thorough examinations of exoplanets. James Webb will eventually replace the American orbiting telescope Hubble, which was launched in April 1990. The diameter of the primary mirror of the second is 2.4 meters, whereas the diameter of the main mirror of the first is 6.5 meters, allowing for more accurate infrared observations.
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