As summer draws to a close, several government space agencies are planning to launch ambitious missions in September, and commercial space companies continue to fill up their calendar with civilian spaceflights. India, after successfully landing on the Moon earlier this month, is in the final countdown of launching a probe to the sun, while Japan seeks to follow India’s steps on the Moon. In more near-Earth space, Russia is sending three astronauts to the International Space Station; Virgin Galactic (SPCE) is flying more suborbital tourists; and there is still a chance to see Starship blast off again.
Here are the most exciting space missions to watch in September:
- September 2: India’s first space probe to study the sun. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), India’s national space agency, announced yesterday (Aug. 28) that it is scheduled to launch a solar probe called Aditya-L1 (“Aditya” translates to “sun” in Sanskrit) on September 2 to study the sun’s outer atmosphere, known as the corona. The mission will lift off from India’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre on the island of Sriharikota off India’s east coast. The solar mission will launch at the heels of India’s historic landing on the moon on Aug. 23.
- September 8: Virgin Galactic’s third commercial spaceflight. Virgin Galactic announced yesterday it’s targeting Sept. 8 to launch its third commercial spaceflight called Galactic 03. It will be the company’s second all-tourist spaceflight, flying two pilots and three paying customers to and from suborbital space. Virgin Galactic hasn’t disclosed the names of the crew yet. Its last such flight took off on Aug. 10, carrying a former Olympic canoeist and a mother-daughter duo.
- September 15: Russia’s crewed mission to the ISS. The Roscosmos is scheduled to launch a crewed Soyuz MS-24 spacecraft to the International Space Station on Sept. 15. The mission will send three astronauts, including Russian commander Oleg Kononenko, Russian flight engineer Nikolai Chub and NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara, to the ISS for a months-long research assignment. The Soyuz rocket will lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome spaceport in Kazakhstan.
- Mid-September: Japan’s first Moon mission. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is targeting as late as Sept. 15 to launch a probe to the Moon using an H2-A rocket. The mission consists of a lander called SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) and an X-ray device called the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM). The mission was originally scheduled for Aug. 26 but was postponed due to adverse weather conditions. If successful, Japan will be the fifth country to achieve a successful soft landing on the moon, following Russia, the U.S., China, and India.
- September TBD: SpaceX’s second Starship orbital test. The world is still waiting for an exact date for Starship’s second attempt to reach orbit. Since Starship’s half-successful maiden test flight in April, SpaceX has been modifying and testing the spacecraft’s giant booster, Super Heavy, in preparation for a second attempt. On Aug. 25, SpaceX conducted a successful static fire test of the Super Heavy that saw all of its 33 engines ignite for the first time. CEO Elon Musk tweeted a photo of the test yesterday with the caption, “Getting ready for next Starship flight.” SpaceX has yet to receive a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration, which has been investigating the mishap of the April test flight.
Getting ready for next Starship flight pic.twitter.com/06tdRRRkBa
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 28, 2023