Space year 2023 has a lot of launches in store: new rockets are making their debut, a probe is heading for an asteroid between Mars and Jupiter, and as icing on the cake, we are also sending a spacecraft to Jupiter’s moons. Commercial space travel also has a busy year ahead.

    It was a special year for space travel. Not only did NASA launch the rocket that will prepare our return to the moon, the DART mission also managed to change the orbit of an asteroid orbiting another asteroid. In addition, the very first fully commercial space flight became a fact. Does 2023 promise new milestones?

    Unfortunately, NASA’s SLS rocket, which made world news in November with the launch of the Orion spacecraft to the moon, will not be in action this year. We will have to wait until 2024 for that.

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    The Americans will launch the space probe Psyche, which will set off in October to investigate the asteroid of the same name, between Mars and Jupiter. This isn’t just any space rock: Psyche appears to be mostly made of metal, and could be the remnant core of an earlier planet. We know little about the cores of planets, including our own core, because they are so difficult to investigate so deep underground. Psyche reaches Psyche in 2029.

    Extraterrestrial life

    Europe also has big plans. The European Space Agency ESA launches the space probe JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer), which will map Jupiter’s largest moons: Europa, Callisto and Ganymede. The oceans below the surface of these celestial bodies are particularly interesting. Life could be (or once was) hidden in the deep waters. JUICE is scheduled to launch in April 2023, after which it will be about eight years on the road.

    In April, ESA will also start training the new batch of astronauts that the organization presented last November. Seventeen aspiring astronauts were selected from more than 22,000 candidates, including an astronaut with a physical disability for the first time.

    Commercial success

    In addition to these government missions, there are also numerous commercial projects. Three new missiles are ready to enter the scene.

    The Vulcan Centaur from ULA, a collaboration between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, is a nearly 62-meter-tall rocket that will launch a lunar lander in early 2023. It is designed for launching US military and spy satellites to orbit, but ULA is also looking into the possibility of manned flights.

    Multibillionaire Jeff Bezos also plans to launch a new rocket, the New Glenn, built by his company Blue Origin. At 98 meters, this rocket is slightly larger than the Vulcan Centaur. The first stage must land after use to be used again. Reuse of the second stage is being investigated. The intention is that this rocket will carry astronauts, but first there are planned satellite launches.

    But the real showpiece of commercial space travel is starship of Elon Musk’s company SpaceX. This whopper of 120 meters high has already been tested several times on suborbital flights (which do not reach orbit around the Earth). Starship should make its first orbital test flight this year.

    The fully reusable two-stage rocket has an unprecedented capacity of 100 tons, and a variant after 2024 should take people to the moon for the first time since 1972. But first, SpaceX astronauts are hoping for another one this year circle around the earth to make, and then one circle around the moon.