These Are The Most Exciting Space Missions To Look Forward To In 2018

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy could finally launch in a few weeks. SpaceX

Hooray! We made it into 2018. And with another year comes another host of exciting space missions to look forward to, from long-awaited launches to deep space rendezvous.

Last year saw a number of fascinating developments in space. India launched a record-breaking 104 satellites on a single rocket, for example, while the Cassini mission came to an end and SpaceX wowed us all with repeated rocket landings.

This year should be even more thrilling though, and things get started almost immediately. So let’s take a look at what we can look forward to in 2018.

January

This month should see the inaugural launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. Although a date hasn’t been set, late January or early February looks like a good bet. It will be the most powerful rocket in operation today, and this first launch will be taking Elon Musk’s own Tesla car to the orbital path of Mars. Yes, really.

We should also be seeing the next launch of the Electron rocket in New Zealand from the company Rocket Lab, which is positioning itself as a low-cost way to reach space.

February

On February 11 Russia plans to send a Progress cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) in just three hours. That’s shorter than a flight from New York to Los Angeles, and half the quickest time we've ever sent anything to the ISS.

March

NASA’s newest planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), is planned to launch no earlier than March 20. It’s expected to find more than 3,000 planets outside the Solar System, including Earth-sized worlds.

India plans to launch its second mission to the Moon, called Chandrayaan-2. It will consist of an orbiter, lander, and rover.

TESS will build on the work of the hugely successful Kepler mission. NASA/JPL-Caltech

April

SpaceX will perform an uncrewed test flight of its Crew Dragon spacecraft for the first time, with a crewed flight planned later in the year. Many, however, think Crew Dragon might face delays. (Update: NASA's latest update has pushed this flight back to August 2018).

China’s Tiangong-1 space station is expected to re-enter our atmosphere at some point in the first quarter of the year. The latest prediction looks like the re-entry might be on April 4 somewhere near South America.

May

The InSight lander, delayed from 2016, will be launched on a mission to Mars. After landing in November 2018, it will attempt to study the Martian interior using seismology.

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