This article documents notable spaceflight events during 2021.
Spacecraft from three Mars exploration programs (Mars 2020, Tianwen-1, and Hope) are expected to arrive at Mars for orbit insertion in February. The Perseverance rover will attempt landing on 18 February while the Chinese lander will do so on 23 April.
Lucy, a NASA space probe will launch and begin a 12-year journey to seven different asteroids, visiting six Jupiter trojans, and one Main Belt asteroid. Trojans are asteroids which share Jupiter's orbit around the Sun, orbiting either ahead of or behind the planet.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is planned to launch in July on a Falcon 9. It is a space probe that will visit the double asteroid Didymos and demonstrate the kinetic effects of crashing an impactor spacecraft into an asteroid moon for planetary defense purposes. The mission is intended to test whether a spacecraft impact could successfully deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth.
The Juno probe will continue its exploration of Jupiter. Originally, its mission was intended to conclude on 31 July by burning up in Jupiter's atmosphere following its 35th perijove. However, on January 8, 2021, NASA announced that the probe was granted a second mission extension through September 2025, which could include future fly-bys of Europa and Io.
Multiple spaceflights to the Moon are planned to take place in 2021. As part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, the launches of commercial landers developed by Astrobotic Technology and Intuitive Machines are scheduled. Russia plans to resume its Luna-Glob exploration programme with the Luna 25 lander, and India will attempt once more to deliver a robotic lander to the lunar surface with Chandrayaan-3. Artemis 1 is planned to fly in November, the maiden flight of the Space Launch System and the first lunar mission for Orion. NASA is planning a crewed return to the Moon in 2024, and following that a human mission to Mars in the mid 2030s.
China plans to start the construction of the Chinese Space Station (CSS), phase 3 of its Tiangong program, with the planned launches of the Tianhe core module and Wentian lab module. It will follow the launches with crewed visits of Shenzhou 12 and Shenzhou 13, interspersed with Tianzhou cargo deliveries.
The trend towards cost reduction in access to orbit is expected to continue. United Launch Alliance plans to debut their Vulcan rocket, which was designed to gradually replace Atlas V and Delta IV Heavy at lower costs. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries's H3 launch vehicle, scheduled to enter service this year, will cost less than half that of H-IIA, its predecessor. Blue Origin plans to launch its first orbital-class New Glenn rocket with a reusable first stage. After suborbital tests in 2020, SpaceX plans the first orbital flight of the fully reusable Starship. Multiple other companies plan to introduce smaller rockets.
|17 January||Parker Solar Probe||7th perihelion|
|11 February||Tianwen-1||Mars orbit insertion|
|18 February||Perseverance||Mars landing|
|20 February||Parker Solar Probe||Fourth gravity assist at Venus|
|21 February||Juno||32nd perijove of Jupiter|
|February||Emirates Mars Mission||Mars orbit insertion|
|March||OSIRIS-REx||Begins journey back to Earth|
|15 April||Juno||33rd perijove|
|23 April||Tianwen-1||Mars landing|
|29 April||Parker Solar Probe||8th perihelion|
|7 June||Juno||34th perijove||On the day of this perijove, Juno will fly by Ganymede, reducing its orbital period around Jupiter to 43 days.|
|20 July||Juno||35th perijove||Beginning of Juno's second mission extension|
|8 August||Solar Orbiter||Second gravity assist at Venus|
|9 August||Parker Solar Probe||9th perihelion|
|11 August||BepiColombo||Second gravity assist at Venus|
|2 October||BepiColombo||First gravity assist at Mercury|
|16 October||Parker Solar Probe||Fifth gravity assist at Venus|
|21 November||Parker Solar Probe||10th perihelion|
|26 November||Solar Orbiter||Gravity assist at Earth||Gravity assist will set up future fly-bys of Venus that will increase its inclination relative to the Sun.|
|Start Date/Time||Duration||End Time||Spacecraft||Crew||Remarks|
|19 January 12:05 (planned)||7-6 hours (planned) 0 minutes||18:00-19:00 (planned)||SpaceX Crew 1||Michael S. Hopkins|
|25 January 12:05 (planned)||7-6 hours (planned) 0 minutes||18:00-19:00 (planned)||SpaceX Crew 1||Michael S. Hopkins||
Install a new lithium-ion battery on the P-4 truss, where an earlier lithium replacement blew a fuse in April 2019. Upgrade high definition video and camera gear on ISS exterior.
|1 February 12:05 (planned)||7-6 hours (planned) 0 minutes||18:00-19:00 (planned)||SpaceX Crew 1 Expedition 64||Kathleen Rubins||
Install modification kit to prepare Station for new solar array installation.
|8 February 12:05 (planned)||7-6 hours (planned) 0 minutes||18:00-19:00 (planned)||SpaceX Crew 1 Expedition 64||Kathleen Rubins||
Additional upgrades and Kibo module platform work
For the purposes of this section, the yearly tally of orbital launches by country assigns each flight to the country of origin of the rocket, not to the launch services provider or the spaceport. For example, Soyuz launches by Arianespace in Kourou are counted under Russia because Soyuz-2 is a Russian rocket.
|United States||1||1||0||0||Includes Electron launches from Mahia|
|Falcon 9||United States||Falcon||1||1||0||0|
|Falcon 9 Block 5||United States||Falcon 9||1||1||0||0|
|Cape Canaveral||United States||1||1||0||0|
|Orbital regime||Launches||Achieved||Not achieved||Accidentally
|Low Earth / Sun-synchronous||0||0||0||0||Including flights to ISS|
|Geosynchronous / GTO||1||1||0||0|
|Medium Earth / Molniya||0||0||0||0|
|High Earth / Lunar transfer||0||0||0||0|
|Heliocentric orbit / Planetary transfer||0||0||0||0|
For the purposes of this section, the yearly tally of suborbital launches by country assigns each flight to the country of origin of the rocket, not to the launch services provider or the spaceport. Flights intended to fly below 80km (50 mi) are omitted.