2021 in spaceflight

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2021 in spaceflight
Mars 2020 selfie containing both perseverance rover and ingenuity.gif
Self-portrait of Mars 2020 containing the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter located near the Van Zyl Overlook (7 April 2021)
Orbital launches
First8 January
Last6 May
National firsts
Maiden flights
Crewed flights
Total travellers7

This article documents notable spaceflight events during 2021.


Exploration of the Solar System[edit]

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.[1] 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.[2][3]

Lunar exploration[edit]

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.

Human spaceflight[edit]

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.[4]

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.[5] The first crewed flight of Blue Origin's New Shepard spacecraft is planned for July 20.[6]

Space telescopes[edit]

The long-delayed James Webb Space Telescope, the largest optical space telescope ever built, is planned to be launched to the Sun–Earth L2 point by a European Ariane 5 rocket in October.[7]

Rocket innovation[edit]

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.[8] Mitsubishi Heavy Industries's H3 launch vehicle, scheduled to enter service this year, will cost less than half that of H-IIA, its predecessor.[9] After suborbital tests in 2020, SpaceX plans to conduct the first orbital flight of the fully reusable Starship launch vehicle.[10] Multiple other companies plan to introduce smaller rockets.

Orbital and suborbital launches[edit]

List of orbital launches
Month Num. of successes Num. of failures
January 7 0
February 9 1
March 10 0
April 11 0
May 2 0
August TBD TBD
September TBD TBD
October TBD TBD
November TBD TBD
December TBD TBD
Total 39 1

Deep-space rendezvous[edit]

Date (UTC) Spacecraft Event Remarks
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.[11]
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 18°26′41″N 77°27′03″E / 18.4447°N 77.4508°E / 18.4447; 77.4508.
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[12]
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[12]
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.[2][3]
20 July Juno 35th perijove Beginning of Juno's second mission extension[2][3]
8 August Solar Orbiter Second gravity assist at Venus[13]
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[13] Gravity assist will set up future fly-bys of Venus that will increase its inclination relative to the Sun.

Extravehicular activities (EVAs)[edit]

Start Date/Time Duration End Time Spacecraft Crew Remarks
27 January 11:28 6 hours 56 minutes 18:24 SpaceX Crew 1

ISS Quest

United States Michael S. Hopkins

United States Victor J. Glover

Installation of the exposed platform Airbus Bartolomeo

1 February 12:57 5 hours 20 minutes 18:17 SpaceX Crew 1

ISS Quest

United States Michael S. Hopkins

United States Victor J. Glover

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.

28 February


7 hours 04 minutes 18:16 SpaceX Crew 1 Expedition 64

ISS Quest

United States Kathleen Rubins

United States Victor J. Glover

Install modification kit to prepare Station for new solar array installation.

5 March


6 hours 56 minutes 18:33 SpaceX Crew 1 Expedition 64

ISS Quest

United States Kathleen Rubins

Japan Soichi Noguchi

Additional upgrades and Kibo module platform work

13 March


6 hours 47 minutes 20:01 SpaceX Crew 1

ISS Quest

United States Michael Hopkins

United States Victor Glover

P6 fixes and instalations

Orbital launch statistics[edit]

By country[edit]

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.

China: 13Europe: 1India: 1Iran: 0Israel: 0Japan: 0North Korea: 0Russia: 7South Korea: 0USA: 18Circle frame.svg
Country Launches Successes Failures Partial
 China 13 12 1 0
 Europe 1 1 0 0
 India 1 1 0 0
 Russia 7 7 0 0 Includes Soyuz launches from Kourou
 United States 18 18 0 0 Includes Electron launches from Mahia
World 40 39 1 0

By rocket[edit]

By family[edit]

By type[edit]

By configuration[edit]

By spaceport[edit]

New Zealand
United States
Site Country Launches Successes Failures Partial failures Remarks
Baikonur  Kazakhstan 4 4 0 0
Cape Canaveral  United States 8 8 0 0
Jiuquan  China 7 6 1 0
Kennedy  United States 5 5 0 0
Kourou  France 1 1 0 0
Mahia  New Zealand 2 2 0 0
MARS  United States 1 1 0 0
Mojave  United States 1 1 0 0
Plesetsk  Russia 1 1 0 0
Satish Dhawan  India 1 1 0 0
Taiyuan  China 2 2 0 0
Vandenberg  United States 1 1 0 0
Vostochny  Russia 2 2 0 0
Wenchang  China 2 2 0 0
Xichang  China 2 2 0 0
Total 40 39 1 0

By orbit[edit]

  •   Transatmospheric
  •   Low Earth
  •   Low Earth (ISS)
  •   Low Earth (SSO)
  •   Low Earth (retrograde)
  •   Medium Earth
  •   Molniya
  •   Geosynchronous
  •   Inclined GSO
  •   High Earth
  •   Lunar transfer
  •   Heliocentric
Orbital regime Launches Achieved Not achieved Accidentally
Transatmospheric 0 0 0 0
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
Total 40 39 1 0

Suborbital launch statistics[edit]

By Country[edit]

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.

China: 3Canada: 1France: 1India: 1Iran: 20Israel: 0Japan: 0The Netherlands: 0Pakistan: 3Russia: 0Taiwan: 1Turkey: 0USA: 5Yemen: 3Circle frame.svg
Country Launches Successes Failures Partial
 Canada 1 1 0 0
 China 3 3 0 0
 France 1 1 0 0
 India 1 1 0 0
 Iran 20 20 0 0
 Pakistan 3 3 0 0
 Taiwan 1 1 0 0
 United States 5 5 0 0
 Yemen 3 3 0 0
World 38 38 0 0

Expected maiden flights[edit]

Heavy/super heavy-lift vehicles[edit]

Medium-lift vehicles[edit]

Small-lift vehicles[edit]

Suborbital vehicles[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hille, Karl (21 October 2019). "NASA's Lucy Mission Clears Critical Milestone". NASA. Retrieved 5 December 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Talbert, Tricia (8 January 2021). "NASA Extends Exploration for Two Planetary Science Missions". NASA. Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  3. ^ a b c "NASA's Juno Mission Expands Into the Future". NASA.gov. 13 January 2021. Retrieved 14 January 2021.
  4. ^ Jones, Andrew (13 April 2021). "China preparing Tianzhou-2 cargo mission to follow upcoming space station launch". SpaceNews. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  5. ^ @BoeingSpace (6 May 2021). "Launch update" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  6. ^ Foust, Jeff (5 May 2021). "Blue Origin to fly first people on New Shepard in July". SpaceNews. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  7. ^ "NASA Announces New James Webb Space Telescope Target Launch Date". NASA (Press release). 16 July 2020. Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  8. ^ Foust, Jeff (25 October 2018). "ULA now planning first launch of Vulcan in 2021". SpaceNews. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  9. ^ Tomii, Tetsuo (28 June 2016). "JAXA、新型ロケット「H3」の基本設計−打ち上げコスト半減の50億円". Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (in Japanese). Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  10. ^ Clark, Stephen (1 September 2020). "Elon Musk offers update on SpaceX's Starship mega-rocket". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  11. ^ Gebhardt, Chris (9 February 2021). "UAE makes history as Al-Amal arrives at Mars for two-year mission". NASASpaceflight.com.
  12. ^ a b "NASA's OSIRIS-REx to Fly a Farewell Tour of Bennu". 8 February 2021. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  13. ^ a b "Solar Orbiter: Mission Operations". 26 January 2020.
  14. ^ "Cocoa-based Rocket Crafters working through issues ahead of possible 2021 debut". Florida Today.
  15. ^ "Florida rocket company rebrands, plans bigger rocket". United Press International.

External links[edit]

Generic references:
RocketSunIcon.svg Spaceflight portal