Skip to content

Walter Sierra

Sierra’s Space Update - May 2022 - Newsletter

Sierra’s Space Update - May 2022 - Newsletter

May 2022


  • Russia Invades Ukraine
Ukraine’s proud space industry will require massive rebuilding
  • James Web Space Telescope Close to Final Commissioning
Sharp images reveal unprecedented details
  • James Web Space Telescope Close to Final Commissioning
  • SpaceX Starlink Mega – constellation Continues to Grow
  • China launches Tianzhou 4
    cargo craft to new Tiangong
    space station
  • China launches Tianzhou 4 cargo craft to new Tiangong space station
Three wet dress rehearsals reveal problems with SLS
  • Historic All-Private Axiom-1
    ISS Mission Completed as
    Crew-4 Prepares for Launch


Russia Occupies Parts of Eastern Ukraine

On February 24, 2022, Russia launched a large-scale military invasion of Ukraine, one of its neighbors to the southwest, marking a major escalation to a conflict that began in 2014. Several officials and analysts called the invasion the largest conventional military attack in Europe since World War II. As of early May 2022, there were at least 46,000 deaths and over 12,000 non-fatal injuries. At least 13 million people were displaced, 2100 buildings were destroyed, and property damage totaled $600 billion. President Putin is continuing his relentless attacks on the civilian populace of Ukraine. It seems this conflict will continue for many months, as Ukraine’s courageous freedom fighters push back on Russian forces. Meanwhile European countries are divesting themselves of dependence on Russian oil and gas

James Webb Space Telescope Update

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a space telescope designed primarily to conduct infrared astronomy. The most powerful telescope ever launched into space, its greatly improved infrared resolution and sensitivity will allow it to view objects too old, distant, and faint for the Hubble Space Telescope. JWST will be able to peer inside the atmospheres of exoplanets and observe some of the first galaxies created after the universe began by observing them through infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye. Test images were recently taken after the successful alignment of the telescope’s massive golden mirror segments. The images show the clear, well-focused images that the observatory’s four instruments are capable of capturing. The most striking result came from a comparison of images taken of the same target by JWST’s Mid-Infrared Instrument with the now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope’s Infrared Array Camera. Spitzer, once one of the space telescopes belonging to NASA’s Great Observatories program, was the first to capture high-resolution of images of the universe in near and mid-infrared light. But JWST’s giant mirror and sensitive detectors can pick up even more detail — and allow more discoveries — than Spitzer could. Scientists studying the two images of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small neighboring galaxy of the larger Milky Way, noted that JWST’s image reveals unprecedented details of interstellar gas between the stars.

Webb is now in the final phase of preparation before it will be ready to begin conducting science observations. There are only about 200 activities left to complete for commissioning, of the 1,000 activities planned. Compare the sharpness and level of detail captured by the Spitzer Space Telescope (left) and the James Webb Space Telescope (right).

Starlink Satellite Megaconstellation Update

Previous newsletters have described SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet constellation. Starlink provides satellite Internet access coverage to 32 countries where its use has been licensed, and aims for global coverage. At last count in early May, SpaceX had launched 2494 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit (LEO), of which 2216 are working and communicating with designated ground transceivers. SpaceX hopes to eventually have as many as 42,000 Starlink satellites in LEO. To put that into perspective, as of January 2022, 12,480 satellites have been launched in all of history, with only 4,900 still active according to the European Space Agency.


Sierra’s Space Update



Sierra’s Space Update

May 2022

Starlink ascent configuration

Starlink operational configuration

Credit SpaceX

Other Space News

Tianzhou 4 Cargo Spacecraft

China has launched a new cargo mission to its space station module in preparation for the arrival of a new crew in June. On May 9 a Long March 7
rocket carrying the robotic Tianzhou 4 spacecraft lifted off from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in southern China’s Hainan Province. The freighter
docked with Tianhe (“Harmony of the Heavens”), the core module of China’s new Tiangong space station 6.5 hours after launch.

Space Launch System

On March 18 NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft atop was rolled out and arrived at Launch Pad 39B at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida Friday in preparation for a final test of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft before its Artemis I Moon mission. The final test, known as a wet dress rehearsal, is intended tol run the Artemis I launch team through operations to load propellant into the rocket’s tanks, conduct a full launch countdown, demonstrate the ability to recycle the countdown clock, and also drain the tanks to give them an opportunity to practice the timelines and procedures they will use for launch. However, not one, but three wet dress rehearsals to date have revealed critical faults on SLS systems, delaying the initially planned June launch of the Artemis 1 unmanned mission

NASA’s Space Launch System on pad 39B on March 18, 2022

Historic All-Private Axiom-1 ISS Mission Completed as Crew-4 Prepares for Launch

Following a launch to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 8 atop a Falcon 9, Crew Dragon Endeavour docked to Node 2 on the ISS Harmony module on April 9 and a four-person crew entered the orbiting laboratory shortly afterward — signifying the start of the historic all-private Axiom-1 (Ax-1) mission aboard the station. Over the course of two weeks on the ISS, the Ax-1 crew completed various science experiments while also participating in public engagement activities, such as speaking with students at Mission Control in Houston, Texas. Unlike other missions to the ISS, each crew member was largely able to select which experiments they wanted to perform while on the ISS. The four crew members performed experiments researching stem cells, chronic pain and sleep disturbances during space travel, and many other subjects. Additionally, crew members partnered with many institutions and agencies on Earth who assisted with the completion of each experiment

The all-private Axiom-1 crew returned to Earth on April 25 as NASA’s Crew-4 astronauts and SpaceX prepared for the launch of Crew Dragon Freedom to the ISS on April 27. The Crew-4 international crew of astronauts is serving as the fourth commercial crew rotation mission aboard the space station.

The Axiom-1 crew (left to right)
Mark Pathy, Larry Connor, Michel López-Alegría, Eytan Stibbe

%d bloggers like this: