2021 in spaceflight
This article documents notable spaceflight events during 2021.
Exploration of the Solar System
Spacecraft from three Mars exploration programs (Mars 2020, Tianwen-1, and Hope) arrived at Mars in February. The Perseverance rover landed on 18 February while the Chinese lander and rover will do so in mid May, after conducting geological survey of Martial surface for its landing site from orbit.
Lucy, a NASA space probe will launch and begin a 12-year journey to seven different asteroids, visiting six Jupiter trojans, and one Main Belt asteroid. Trojans are asteroids which share Jupiter's orbit around the Sun, orbiting either ahead of or behind the planet.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is planned to launch in November on a Falcon 9. It is a space probe that will visit the double asteroid Didymos and demonstrate the kinetic effects of crashing an impactor spacecraft into an asteroid moon for planetary defense purposes. The mission is intended to test whether a spacecraft impact could successfully deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth.
The Juno probe will continue its exploration of Jupiter. Originally, its mission was intended to conclude on 31 July by burning up in Jupiter's atmosphere following its 35th perijove. However, on 8 January 2021, NASA announced that the probe was granted a second mission extension through September 2025, which could include future fly-bys of Europa and Io.
Multiple spaceflights to the Moon are planned to take place in 2021. As part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, the launch of a commercial lander developed by Astrobotic Technology is scheduled. Russia plans to resume its Luna-Glob exploration programme with the Luna 25 lander. Artemis 1, the first flight of the Space Launch System and the first lunar mission for Orion, is planned to fly in November.
China began construction of the Chinese Space Station (CSS), phase 3 of the Tiangong program, with the launch of the Tianhe core module on 29 April 2021. Crewed visits to the station will commence with Shenzhou 12 and Shenzhou 13 starting in early June, preceded with Tianzhou cargo deliveries.
In the United States, Boeing's CST-100 Starliner will conduct a second uncrewed test flight in July in advance of a first crewed test flight in late 2021. The first crewed flight of Blue Origin's New Shepard spacecraft is planned for July 20.
The trend towards cost reduction in access to orbit is expected to continue. United Launch Alliance plans to debut their Vulcan rocket, which was designed to gradually replace Atlas V and Delta IV Heavy at lower costs. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries's H3 launch vehicle, scheduled to enter service this year, will cost less than half that of H-IIA, its predecessor. After suborbital tests in 2020, SpaceX plans to conduct the first orbital flight of the fully reusable Starship launch vehicle. Multiple other companies plan to introduce smaller rockets.
Orbital and suborbital launches
|Month||Num. of successes||Num. of failures|
|17 January||Parker Solar Probe||7th perihelion|
|9 February||Emirates Mars Mission||Mars orbit insertion||Probe achieved an initial orbit around Mars of 1,000 x 49,380 km. It will spend several months modifying its orbit to 20,000 x 43,000 km.|
|10 February||Tianwen-1||Mars orbit insertion||Probe achieved an initial orbit around Mars of 400 x 180,000 km. Its initial reconnaissance orbit will be 265 x 60,000 km.|
|18 February||Perseverance||Mars landing||Rover successfully landed at target destination, with confirmation on Earth at 20:55 UTC. Landing was at Jezero crater, coordinates .|
|20 February||Parker Solar Probe||Fourth gravity assist at Venus|
|21 February||Juno||32nd perijove of Jupiter|
|7 April||OSIRIS-REx||Begin flyby of Bennu|
|15 April||Juno||33rd perijove|
|29 April||Parker Solar Probe||8th perihelion|
|10 May||OSIRIS-REx||Completes Bennu flyby and begins journey back to Earth|
|Mid May||Tianwen-1||Mars landing|
|7 June||Juno||34th perijove||On the day of this perijove, Juno will fly by Ganymede, reducing its orbital period around Jupiter to 43 days.|
|20 July||Juno||35th perijove||Beginning of Juno's second mission extension|
|8 August||Solar Orbiter||Second gravity assist at Venus|
|9 August||Parker Solar Probe||9th perihelion|
|11 August||BepiColombo||Second gravity assist at Venus|
|2 October||BepiColombo||First gravity assist at Mercury|
|16 October||Parker Solar Probe||Fifth gravity assist at Venus|
|21 November||Parker Solar Probe||10th perihelion|
|26 November||Solar Orbiter||Gravity assist at Earth||Gravity assist will set up future fly-bys of Venus that will increase its inclination relative to the Sun.|
Extravehicular activities (EVAs)
|Start Date/Time||Duration||End Time||Spacecraft||Crew||Remarks|
|27 January 11:28||6 hours 56 minutes||18:24||SpaceX Crew 1||Michael S. Hopkins|
|1 February 12:57||5 hours 20 minutes||18:17||SpaceX Crew 1||Michael S. Hopkins||
Install a new lithium-ion battery on the P-4 truss, where an earlier lithium replacement blew a fuse in April 2019. Upgrade high definition video and camera gear on ISS exterior.
|7 hours 04 minutes||18:16||SpaceX Crew 1 Expedition 64||Kathleen Rubins||
Install modification kit to prepare Station for new solar array installation.
|6 hours 56 minutes||18:33||SpaceX Crew 1 Expedition 64||Kathleen Rubins||
Additional upgrades and Kibo module platform work
|6 hours 47 minutes||20:01||SpaceX Crew 1||Michael Hopkins||
P6 fixes and instalations
Orbital launch statistics
For the purposes of this section, the yearly tally of orbital launches by country assigns each flight to the country of origin of the rocket, not to the launch services provider or the spaceport. For example, Soyuz launches by Arianespace in Kourou are counted under Russia because Soyuz-2 is a Russian rocket.
|Russia||7||7||0||0||Includes Soyuz launches from Kourou|
|United States||18||18||0||0||Includes Electron launches from Mahia|
- Antares 230+
- Ariane 5
- Atlas V
- Falcon 9 new
- Falcon 9 reused
- Falcon Heavy
- Kuaizhou 1A
- Kuaizhou 11
- Long March 2
- Long March 3
- Long March 4
- Long March 5
- Long March 6
- Long March 7
- Long March 8
- Long March 11
- Minotaur I
- Minotaur IV
- Soyuz-2 (Russia)
- Soyuz-ST (Europe)
- GSLV Mk II
- GSLV Mk III
|Antares 200||United States||Antares||1||1||0||0|
|Delta IV||United States||Delta||1||1||0||0|
|Falcon 9||United States||Falcon||13||13||0||0|
|Long March 2||China||Long March||1||1||0||0|
|Long March 3||China||Long March||2||2||0||0|
|Long March 4||China||Long March||6||6||0||0|
|Long March 5||China||Long March||1||1||0||0|
|Long March 6||China||Long March||1||1||0||0|
|Long March 7||China||Long March||1||1||0||0|
|Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle||India||SLV||1||1||0||0|
|Antares 230+||United States||Antares 200||1||1||0||0|
|Delta IV Heavy||United States||Delta IV||1||1||0||0|
|Falcon 9 Block 5||United States||Falcon 9||13||13||0||0|
|Long March 2C||China||Long March 2||1||1||0||0|
|Long March 3B/E||China||Long March 3||2||2||0||0|
|Long March 4B||China||Long March 4||1||1||0||0|
|Long March 4C||China||Long March 4||5||5||0||0|
|Long March 5B||China||Long March 5||1||1||0||0|
|Long March 6||China||Long March 6||1||1||0||0|
|Long March 7A||China||Long March 7||1||1||0||0|
|Soyuz-2.1a / Fregat-M or ST-A||Russia||Soyuz-2||1||1||0||0|
|Soyuz-2.1b / Fregat-M or ST-B||Russia||Soyuz-2||3||3||0||0|
|Cape Canaveral||United States||8||8||0||0|
- Low Earth
- Low Earth (ISS)
- Low Earth (SSO)
- Low Earth (retrograde)
- Medium Earth
- Inclined GSO
- High Earth
- Lunar transfer
|Orbital regime||Launches||Achieved||Not achieved||Accidentally
|Low Earth / Sun-synchronous||35||34||1||0||Including flights to ISS|
|Geosynchronous / GTO||4||4||0||0|
|Medium Earth / Molniya||1||1||0||0|
|High Earth / Lunar transfer||0||0||0||0|
|Heliocentric orbit / Planetary transfer||0||0||0||0|
Suborbital launch statistics
For the purposes of this section, the yearly tally of suborbital launches by country assigns each flight to the country of origin of the rocket, not to the launch services provider or the spaceport. Flights intended to fly below 80km (50 mi) are omitted.
Expected maiden flights
Heavy/super heavy-lift vehicles
- Starship - SpaceX - USA (maiden orbital flight)
- Vulcan Centaur - ULA - USA
- Space Launch System - NASA - USA
- Firefly Alpha - Firefly Aerospace - USA
- SSLV - India
- Vikram I - Skyroot Aerospace - India 
- Hyperbola-2 - i-Space - China 
- New Line 1 - LinkSpace - China 
- Tianlong - Space Pioneer - China 
- Sky Dragon 1 - Space Pioneer - China 
- Xingtu-1 - Space Trek - China 
- Nebula-1 - Deep Blue Aerospace - China
- ZK-1A - CAS Space - China 
- HAPITH I - TiSPACE - Taiwan 
- Reaction Dynamics - Canada - 
- SpaceRyde - Canada 
- Firehawk-1 - Firehawk Aerospace - USA 
- Neptune - Interorbital Systems - USA 
- Ravn - Aevum - USA 
- Dauntless - Vaya Space - USA 
- RS-1 - ABL Space Systems - USA 
- Sleek Eagle - Earth to Sky - USA - 
- RocketStar - USA 
- Spyder - UP Aerospace - USA 
- Terran 1 - Relativity Space - USA 
- EcoRocket - ARCAspace - USA 
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- "NASA's Juno Mission Expands Into the Future". NASA.gov. 13 January 2021. Retrieved 14 January 2021.
- Jones, Andrew (13 April 2021). "China preparing Tianzhou-2 cargo mission to follow upcoming space station launch". SpaceNews. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
- @BoeingSpace (6 May 2021). "Launch update" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Foust, Jeff (5 May 2021). "Blue Origin to fly first people on New Shepard in July". SpaceNews. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
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- "NASA's OSIRIS-REx to Fly a Farewell Tour of Bennu". 8 February 2021. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
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