SPACE FLIGHT 2001 - The Year in Review

Space flight in 2001 continued its momentum of unique accomplishments of preceding years, again drawing attention around the world with extraordinary activity in the exploration, utilization, and commercialization of space. But whereas space endeavors continued to move forward with important new developments, they did so at a considerably reduced rate: Launch activity in 2001 reached its lowest point since 1963, with only 57 flights successfully placing their payloads into orbit, compared to 81 in the preceding year. There were two launch failures (down from four in 2000).

The United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) continued to stand out among world space organizations with spectacular accomplishments in the advancing build-up and operation of the International Space Station (ISS), the successful launches of the Mars orbiter Odyssey, solar probe Genesis and astronomy mission Microwave Anisotropy Probe (MAP), the landing of the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) mission on Eros 433, the successful arrival of Mars Odyssey at the Red Planet, and continuing exploration of the Jupiter system with the deep-space probes Galileo and Cassini, the latter while en route to Saturn.

In 2001, the commercial space market, while making headlines with the first paying space tourist flying on a Russian spaceship to the ISS for a week's stay, showed a dramatic decline from the strong growth trends of earlier years. Out of the 57 successful launches worldwide, only 22 (38%) were commercial launches (carrying 49 commercial payloads), compared to 40 (49%) in 2000 (Table 2). In the civil science satellite area, worldwide launches totaled 10, as compared to some 15 in the preceding year.

Russia's space program was marked by the end of an era: the carefully controlled reentry and atmospheric destruction of the earth-orbiting space station Mir, the last remaining symbol of once-mighty Soviet cosmonautics. But Russia also showed continued dependable participation in the build-up of the ISS. Europe's space activities in 2001 did not reach expected results in the transportation area, due to the unavailability of some scheduled commercial satellites and the failure of the tenth Ariane 5 launch vehicle.

During 2001 a total of eight crewed flights from the two major space-faring nations (up from seven in 2000) carried 44 humans into space (2000: 37), including five women (same as 2000), bringing the total number of people launched into space since 1958 (counting repeaters) to 915, incl. 94 women, respectively 415 individuals (35 female). Some significant space events in 2001 are listed in Table 1, and the launches and attempts are enumerated by country in Table 2.

Bibliography. Aviation Week & Space Technology (AW&ST, various '01 issues); Aerospace Daily (various '01 issues), SPACE NEWS (various '01 issues); AIAA AEROSPACE AMERICA (various '01 issues); European Space Directory 2002 (17th edition); NASA Public Affairs Office News Releases '01; ESA Press Releases '01; various World Wide Web sites.