We’re about to enter one of the most exciting eras in the history of space exploration. From private spaceflight to journeys into the outer Solar System, find out what missions will be of most interest in the next ten years in our extensive (but not exhaustive) timeline below. Bear in mind that space is an unpredictable business, so all of these dates are subject to change.
– November/December – NASA’s next Mars orbiter, MAVEN, will launch towards the Red Planet.
– December – China’s Chang’e 3 probe is expected to land on the Moon, the first to do so since Russia’s Luna 24 in 1976.
– The Lynx spaceplane will complete its first flight to sub-orbit.
– April – In-flight abort test of SpaceX’s crewed spacecraft DragonRider, with a manned flight to follow at an unspecified date.
– July – JAXA’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft, the successor to Hayabusa, will begin its journey to an asteroid on a mission to land and return samples.
– July – Curiosity’s primary mission on Mars is expected to come to an end, but it is almost certain that the mission will be extended.
– September – First test of NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which will launch unmanned on a Delta IV Heavy rocket.
– Planetary Resources will launch its Arkyd-3 mini satellites to test technologies for later telescopes to look for asteroids to mine.
– Virgin Galactic will begin scheduled flights of SpaceShipTwo to sub-orbit.
– February – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will enter orbit around Ceres, the first spacecraft to visit a dwarf planet.
– May – The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch an orbiter towards Venus.
– July – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will arrive at Pluto, becoming the first spacecraft to flyby the dwarf planet and also returning the first close-up images of this distant world and its moons.
– October – The Google Lunar X Prize may be won by Astrobotic Technology, who have a contract with SpaceX to use one of their rockets to take a lunar rover to the Moon.
– The ESA’s Don Quijote spacecraft will launch, a mission to impact an asteroid and study the change in its trajectory to see if such a method could be used to deflect an asteroid away from Earth.
– China will land its unmanned Chang’e 4 spacecraft on the Moon.
– Russia is expect to land two unmanned probes on the Moon, Luna-Glob 1 and 2.
– The ISRO will land its Chandrayaan-2 rover on the Moon, in tandem with a lunar orbiter.
– NASA’s next Mars lander, InSight, will launch to the Red Planet to study beneath the surface using a drill.
– The first part of the ESA’s ExoMars mission, the Trace Gas Orbiter (to study the atmosphere) and the EDM lander (to test landing technologies), will launch to Mars.
– NASA will launch its own asteroid sample return mission, called OSIRIS-REx.
– Bearing the same name as its successful probes in the 60s, 70s and 80s, Russia will launch a new orbiter called Venera-D to Venus.
– Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser spacecraft will complete its first flight, launching on an Atlas V rocket.
– NASA’s solar powered Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter.
– January – The ESA’s new solar orbiter, SOLO, will launch to the Sun.
– December – First flight of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, taking the Orion spacecraft on an unmanned flight around the Moon.
– China will launch another mission to the Moon, Chang’e 5, this time with the goal of returning lunar samples to Earth.
– January – Inspiration Mars will launch two people to Mars on a 501-day mission to flyby the Red Planet and return to Earth.
– NASA’s Solar Probe Plus will launch and will approach the Sun to within 8.5 solar radii (0.034 AU, 5.9 million kilometres), the closest any spacecraft has been to the Sun.
– The ESA’s ExoMars rover will launch to the Red Planet, using the previously launched Trace Gas Orbiter as its means to communicate with Earth.
– NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, will launch.
– A proposed NASA telescope called EXCEDE (Exoplanetary Circumstellar Environments and Disk Explorer) will launch to observe planet formation around nearby stars.
– The ISS will be decommissioned and de-orbited at some point after 2020.
– Russia will launch an orbiter, lander and rover to the Moon on the Luna-Grunt 1 mission.
– ESA and NASA may attempt a Mars sample return mission.
– Russia’s next lunar lander, Luna-Grunt 2, will return samples to Earth.
– NASA’s Orion spacecraft will fly with a crew for the first time, possibly taking astronauts to visit an asteroid.
– ESA will launch its new deep-space probe JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer) to study the Jovian system, specifically Ganymede, Callisto and Europa.
– Mars One expects to land the first human settlers on the Red Planet.