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Updated December 30th, 2023 at 16:35 IST

With 2024 upon us, a look at 10 biggest space missions awaiting us

Several commercial and government owned missions by ISRO, SpaceX and NASA are lined up for their launch right from January 1, 2024.

Harsh Vardhan
spacex
ISRO's PSLV (left), SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft (middle), the Starship rocket (right). | Image:ISRO/SpaceX
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The year 2024 is guaranteed to be a banger in terms of missions to the low-Earth orbit, the Moon and beyond. Several commercial and government owned missions are lined up for their launch right from January 1. Let us take a look at some of the biggest missions awaiting us.

1. ISRO's XPoSat

ISRO is targeting the launch of the XPoSat (X-ray polarimeter Satellite) mission on January 1. The lift off is scheduled at 9:10 am from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota aboard the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). Designated PSLV-C58, the mission will launch what is India's "first dedicated polarimetry mission to study various dynamics of bright astronomical X-ray sources in extreme conditions." These sources are extreme emission objects like black holes, neutron stars and active galactic nuclei.

2. Peregrine lander's Moon mission

Astrobotic's Peregrine lander is set to launch to the Moon on January 8 as the world's first private lunar mission. The lander has been mated with the United Launch Alliance's (ULA) Vulcan rocket and is set for lift of from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. This lander is designed to operate for about 8 Earth days after touching down at Sinus Viscositatis region on the near side of the Moon.

3. Axiom Mission 3

The Axiom Mission 3 or Ax-3 of Axiom Space is targeted for launch on January 9. A crew of four astronauts will launch to the International Space Station (ISS) on SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft from Florida. The astronauts, including the first from Türkiye, will spend 14 days aboard the laboratory conducting several science experiments

4. SLIM's Moon landing

Japan's Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) entered lunar orbit on December 24 and is preparing for its landing on January 19. According to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the lander will touch down near the rim of the Shioli crater on the near side of the Moon. Its objective is to demonstrate new technologies for precise lunar landings and accelerating the study of the Moon.

5. NASA-ISRO's NISAR satellite

The NASA-ISRO satellite NISAR is also targeted for launch in January from Sriharikota. According to NASA, NISAR will be the first satellite mission to use two different radar frequencies (L-band and S-band) to measure changes in Earth's surface less than a centimeter across. This satellite, which has a baseline mission duration of 3 years, will measure Earth’s changing ecosystems, dynamic surfaces, and ice masses and provide information about biomass, natural hazards, sea level rise, and groundwater.

6. Starship flight 3

SpaceX is likely to launch its mega rocket Starship for the third time in the first quarter of 2024. On December 29, SpaceX completed static test fire of the Super Heavy Booster and the second stage Ship hinting at a possibility of soon-to-be-launched Starship. The next mission would be Starship's third attempt to reach orbit. The previous two were carried out on April 20 and November 18 but both failed after the explosion of the rocket.

7. Intuitive Machines' Moon mission

After Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines will also launch its Nova lander to the Moon. The mission will be launched by SpaceX no earlier than mid-February. Notably, both IM and Astrobotic missions are part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative to aid the Artemis Program.

8. Gaganyaan test mission

ISRO might schedule another test mission for the Gaganyaan program in 2024. It conducted the Test Vehicle Development Flight 1 (TV-D1) mission in October earlier this year when the Crew Escape System to be used for crewed flights was successfully tested.

Prior to the crewed mission, ISRO will launch the Crew capsule with a dummy strapped to it for collection of flight data.

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9. Artemis 2

The much awaited Artemis 2 will also lift off in late 2024. Four astronauts - Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Koch and Jeremy Hansen - will launch to the Moon and return after 8-day without landing. The objective of the mission will be to assess the performance of the life support systems and collect other flight data of the Orion spacecraft.

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The Orion has been previously tested during Artemis 1 launched on November 16, 2022, but several improvements were required for a flawless lunar mission. This will be the first time since 1972 when astronauts will be launched to the Moon.

10. NASA's Europa Clipper

NASA is targeting  the launch of its Europa Clipper mission in October 2024. The spacecraft will explore Jupiter's Moon Europa which shows a strong evidence of an ocean beneath its icy crust. Since water is considered a crucial element for origin of life, scientists will find out if life could or ever existed in those waters. 

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Published December 30th, 2023 at 16:35 IST

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