Here are the 10 major space missions in 2024 –

First flight of Ariane 6, manned mission around the moon, recovery of extraterrestrial samples… The year 2024 will be marked by some major space events. Here are the top 10 that we think deserve your full attention.

The year 2024 promises to be a busy year for space exploration enthusiasts. We have several important meetings over the next 12 months. New vehicles are being put into service, such as Ariane 6, New Glenn and the Dream Chaser. We also expect some manned missions and distant scientific adventures in the solar system.

For those who follow space news closely, there is some repetition in this list. It is inevitable: schedules in this area are not always adhered to. Ariane 6, for example, was originally scheduled to launch in 2020. But the Covid-19 pandemic and endogenous and exogenous difficulties hindered the schedule. Others had the same problem.

Please note that this calendar is for informational purposes only. That is likely to change in the coming months.

April 2024: First flight of the space shuttle Dream Chaser to the ISS

A reusable shuttle, similar to the American Space Shuttle: This is Dream Chaser. Objective? Transport passengers into low orbit and return them to Earth as easily as in an airplane. Built by the American company Sierra Space, it is scheduled to make its first flight to the International Space Station in spring 2024.

May 2024: Departure of Chang’e 6 on the far side of the moon

The Chang’e 5 mission was to return lunar soil samples from a site on the visible side of the satellite. Chang’e 6 has the same target, but this time on the far side of the moon. This will be a first if Beijing succeeds. Not even the USA and USSR tried. Note: Some European holdings, including that of France.

The moon.  // Source: CanvaThis is the visible side of the moon. China will go the other way. // Source: Canva

1st quarter of 2024: Launch of SpaceX’s Polaris Dawn mission

SpaceX’s Polaris space program, announced in early 2022, is behind schedule. The first part, Polaris Dawn, was scheduled to take place in late 2022, then March 2023. We are waiting for it now in the 1st quarter of 2024. The goal? Organize the first-ever spacewalk by a private company – SpaceX – with exclusively civilians aboard the Crew Dragon capsule.

1st quarter of 2024: a new test for the Starship

The Starship’s second test flight went better than the first. This allowed several additional phases to be validated. According to Elon Musk, a new copy of the launcher should be ready by Christmas. If the green light from the American authorities is not long in coming, a third test can be expected in the first quarter of 2024. But will the spacecraft be ready for the moon? Not sure.

spaceshipspaceshipThe spaceship during its second flight. // Source : SpaceX

Mid-June/end of July: First flight of the Ariane 6 rocket

The long-term launch test of the first stage of the Ariane 6 rocket went well. The launch vehicle still needs to undergo some testing in December, but we can now get an idea of ​​the date of its maiden flight. It will be between mid-June and the end of July 2024. It’s about time! We’ve been waiting for this since 2020. Europe must regain the ability to autonomously access space.

September 2024: Return of a sample from a Martian moon with MMX

Martian Moons Exploration (MMX) is a Japanese mission to send a spacecraft to Mars’ moon Phobos to collect a soil sample. This sample must then be returned to Earth. France is a partner in the project. In addition, a small German-French rover will be sent to the site. Your name? Dogmatix.

Phobos, one of Mars' moons.  // Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona (photo cropped and modified)Phobos, one of Mars' moons.  // Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona (photo cropped and modified)Phobos, one of Mars’ moons. // Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona (photo cropped and modified)

October 2024: Exploration of a moon of Jupiter with Europa Clipper

The Europa Clipper mission is to leave the United States for Europe. Not the continent, but the satellite of Jupiter. Jupiter’s moon is examined with a probe, in particular whether there are favorable conditions for the emergence of life. The journey to Europe will take six years. The probe will be launched by a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.

October 2024: Departure of the Hera mission for planetary defense

The European Space Agency is also working on a planetary defense mission: the Hera mission. The main aim is to confirm the results of NASA’s DART mission on site. The American orbiter was sent at high speed to the asteroid Didymos to distract it. Hera will therefore provide information on this test that will be used for future diversion missions.

Orbit of Dimorphos around Didymos, excerpt from an animation.  // Source: YouTube NASA screenshotOrbit of Dimorphos around Didymos, excerpt from an animation.  // Source: YouTube NASA screenshotOrbit of Dimorphos around Didymos, excerpt from an animation. // Source: YouTube NASA screenshot

End of 2024: Start of the manned Artémis 2 mission around the moon

The next stage of the Artemis program is scheduled for the end of 2024. Using the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, NASA will send a crew to fly over the moon. This manned mission – called Artemis II – will last ten days. There will be four astronauts on board. NASA carried out a first test at the end of 2022 without anyone on board.

In 2024: First flight of the New Glenn heavy rocket

The first flight of the New Glenn rocket is scheduled for 2022 and then 2023 and is scheduled for 2024. Their first mission will be to send two probes to Mars. New Glenn is a new generation launch vehicle built by the American company Blue Origin. Introduced in 2016, it has an exceptional profile that places it in the super-heavy rocket category.

New GlennNew GlennArtist’s impression of New Glenn. // Source: Blue Origin Discover +

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