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Musk says ‘Mars is looking real’
SpaceX launches Starship prototype on short flight
SpaceX launched its Starship prototype for a short hop flight from its Boca Chica, Texas facility on Tuesday. (SpaceX )
By Richard Tribou in the Sentinel
A giant steel can with Mars aspirations made a successful liftoff and landing as SpaceX performed a short hop flight test of its latest Starship prototype on Tuesday.
SpaceX posted video of the test rocket dubbed SN5, as in serial number 5, as it performed a 150 meter hop flight from its Boca Chica, Texas, test site. The 40-second flight shows the stubby metal cylinder take off from a test pad using one of the company’s Raptor engines, fly up and then stick the landing.
“Mars is looking real,” reads one of several posts on Elon Musk’s Twitter account after the flight.
Starship is the model SpaceX plans for both suborbital point-to-point flights around Earth as well as deep space missions to the moon and Mars. The full version will feature six Raptor engines, stand about 165 feet tall and have a 100-passenger capacity.
The large version of Starship would be coupled with a Super Heavy booster with 37 Raptor engines combined for Mars colonization plans. Musk recently said company plans are to still have an uncrewed mission to Mars by 2022 and the first humans to Mars by 2024.
The short hop, though, is something SpaceX had already achieved on a previous test version of Starship in 2019, but SpaceX has changed up designs since then, and have been moving quickly through new iterations of the stainless steel behemoths, some resulting in explosions on the launch pad, like prototype SN4 in June.
The next step with this prototype is more test flights at higher and higher altitudes.
“We’ll do several short hops to smooth out launch process, then go high altitude with body flaps,” Musk tweeted.
He also said other future launches will feature a Starship with longer legs, and then a version that will be “wider & taller — like Falcon, but capable of landing on unimproved surfaces & auto-leveling.”
NASA recently awarded SpaceX among other companies to develop Starship as an option for lunar landings as part of its Artemis program.
Starship is the company’s eventual replacement for its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.
At one point, SpaceX was developing a prototype of Starship at its Cape Canaveral facility as well, but shut that program down to focus all efforts in Texas. SpaceX will continue to consider Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39A for deep-space launches in addition to pursuing the potential of using the offshore option or a launch facility at Boca Chica, Musk recently stated.
For suborbital point-to-point flights, Musk said he expects the first test flights in 2022 or 2023.
Musk has hinted at a major Starship plan update coming in September. Last September, Musk spoke to a crowd of SpaceX employees from Texas with aspirations to have already achieved an orbital test flight and be gearing up for the first humans on board, but that version of Starship gave way to this current model.
Back then, he said the next big step would have been a 20 km or 65,000-foot test flight.
“That’s going to be pretty epic seeing that thing take off and come back,” he said in 2019.
On the heels of historic astronaut splashdown, SpaceX targeting satellite launch for early Friday
Crew Dragon mission to wait until late October
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 crew members are seated in the Crew Dragon spacecraft during training. (SpaceX/Contributed )
By Richard Tribou
NASA has pushed its target launch for the next SpaceX Crew Dragon mission to the International Space Station to late October.
Crew-1, the first of six regular contracted missions for the commercial company to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS was originally thought to occur as soon as the end of August.
But NASA on Friday announced the mission won’t launch until at least Oct. 23. It will be first operational flight for SpaceX after the completion of Demo-2. Its crew will be three NASA astronauts, commander Michael Hopkins, pilot Victor Glover and mission specialist Shannon Walker; and Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency mission specialist Soichi Noguchi.
The Demo-2 mission that launched on May 30 from Kennedy Space Center with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken was the first crewed mission to the ISS from U.S. soil since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011.
The Crew Dragon departed the ISS and splashed down with the two men in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida’s coast on Aug. 2. That capsule, dubbed Endeavour by Hurley and Behnken, will be refurbished and used on the Crew-2 mission in 2021.
SpaceX and Boeing with its CST-100 Starliner are the two companies contracted to take over missions to the ISS so NASA does not have to rely on flights on Russian Soyuz spacecraft that launch from Kazakhstan.
Crew-1 is slated to be a six-month mission. NASA said the delay in launch was to not cause a traffic jam as the Soyuz crew rotation is coming up. The next Soyuz launch will bring NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Roscomos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov aboard a Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft to the ISS.
That same spacecraft will bring NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner from the space station back to Earth, with a landing in Kazakhstan.
Crew-1 won’t get the green light until all the Demo-2 test flight data has been reviewed. Crew-2 would be slated for a spring launch to the ISS as SpaceX gets into a regular rotational mission schedule.
SpaceX launches more Starlink satellites
By Caroline Glenn
SpaceX launched Tuesday its next batch of Starlink satellites, after people who have been testing the still-growing constellation recently posted online results of preliminary internet speed tests.
Fifty-eight Starlinks and three other satellites from Seattle-based Planet lifted off at 10:31 a.m. from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s launch complex 41 atop a Falcon 9 rocket.
The booster for the launch has flown on five other missions and will likely be reused again because it successfully landed on SpaceX’s Of Course I Still Love You drone ship about eight minutes after liftoff.
The Earth-orbiting satellites on board will join others that SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said he hopes can start delivering fast and affordable internet to all of North America by the end of the year, and eventually to the entire planet.
With Tuesday’s mission, 653 of the 12,000 satellites the Federal Communications Commission has approved will circle the Earth.
Results from early speed tests of the system recently posted on Reddit showed that the time it takes to upload and download on the Starlink network is still far off the lighting speeds Musk has promised and considerably slower than traditional internet providers.
Participants of the Starlink testing are required to sign non-disclosure agreements, and the Reddit posts were based off anonymously reported results.
Download speeds ranged from 11 to 60 Megabits per second, compared to average download speeds in the U.S. of about 96.25 Mbps. The ultimate goal of the system is to get download speeds as high as 1Gbps, or 1000 Mbps. Internet that fast would allow users to download, for example, one episode of a television show in just 3 seconds.
However, the beta tests were conducted with another 600 satellites still needed to be deployed to provide blanket coverage for North America. And the speeds from initial testing could still be a game-changer for rural and remote areas of the country, where Starlink is expected to be a big seller.
SpaceX in an FCC filing last month said there has already been an “extraordinary demand” from potential Starlink customers, prompting the company to up the number of terminals it’s allowed to sell — the devices customers would purchase to connect to the satellite internet network — from 1 million to 5 million.
In the filing, SpaceX said although it has not yet formally advertised the Starlink system for sale, almost 700,000 people have registered to indicate that they would be interested in purchasing.
Staff writer Mark Skoneki contributed to this report. Want more space news? Follow Go For Launch on Facebook. Email the reporter at email@example.com and follow on Twitter @bycarolineglenn .
• Rocket: Delta IV Heavy
• Mission: NROL-44
• Launch Date: Aug. 26, with a launch time of 2:16 a.m. EDT
• Launch Period: The launch period on Aug. 26 is from 1:50 to 6:25 a.m. EDT
• Launch Location: Space Launch Complex-37, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
This one will be really bright.
SpaceX plans to add a new trick to their bag o’ tricks this Thursday by landing the booster back on land at Cape Canaveral. This article, SpaceX to attempt rare on-shore Falcon 9 rocket landing this week, gives the details and background.
NROL-44 has been scrubbed a few nights, now scheduled for about 2am Sat the 29th. SpaceX scrubbed one launch but their other is still scheduled for Sunday evening about 7.
SpaceX plans to launch 2 rockets 9 hours apart
By Caroline Glenn
SpaceX has a weekend launch doubleheader planned for Cape Canaveral on Sunday that, pending weather, could send up two rockets mere hours apart.
Up first is a morning Starlink launch scheduled for 10:12 a.m., followed by a satellite launch for Argentina about nine hours later at 7:19 p.m. It would be one of the quickest turnaround times of back-to-back launches for the private spaceflight company.
Both satellite loads will ride atop a Falcon 9 rocket but will take off from different pads. The first will take off from Kennedy Space Center’s launch complex 39A and the second farther south from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s launch complex 40.
It’s a toss-up whether either rocket will get off the ground, though. The 45th Weather Squadron has the forecast for Starlink at only 40% “go,” citing thick clouds that could pose a problem. Weather for the evening launch, which will carry a SAOCOM 1B satellite for Argentina’s space agency, doesn’t look good either and is only 50% “go.”
The satellite has been billed as a way to help Argentinian emergency responders and monitor the country’s environment.
The Starlink launch, if successful, will deliver the 12th batch of satellites into low Earth orbit as part of SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s vision to create a constellation of satellites that can provide affordable internet to even remote parts of the planet. Since the program started last May, SpaceX has been sending up satellites in rapid succession and hopes to have enough in place to provide coverage to all of North America by the end of 2020.
On board the Falcon 9 rocket there will be about 60 small satellites, bringing the total in orbit to almost 700.
SpaceX has gotten approval from the Federal Communications Commission to operate as many as 12,000 and Musk has said he wants “near global coverage” by 2021.
Already, SpaceX said there has been huge demand for the system and it plans to sell devices to 5 million Americans alone.
The double-attempt follows an unusual early Saturday morning launch abort for the United Launch Alliance that came after the engines fired but before the rocket left the ground.
ULA had planned to send up its Delta IV Heavy with a national defense satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, an agency of the Department of Defense. ULA was targeting to lift off with the satellite, codenamed NROL-44, at 3:28 a.m., but aborted at T-minus three seconds. The company could try again in about a week.
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and follow on Twitter @bycarolineglenn
SpaceX plans to launch 2 rockets 9 hours apart
SpaceX launches Starlink satellites
Mission aims to provide internet for planet
By Caroline Glenn in the Sentinel
After multiple delays, SpaceX on Thursday morning launched its next batch of Starlink satellites, setting up a constellation of satellites to provide affordable internet to the entire planet.
Riding atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center’s launch complex 39A, about 60 of the 570-pound satellites lifted off on time at 8:46 a.m.
Then, about 8 minutes after takeoff, the rocket’s first-stage booster, which has flown once before, landed on SpaceX’s “Of Course I Still Love You” recovery drone ship to be used for future launches.
Later, about 15 minutes after launch, the load of satellites that had been packed into the rocket’s fairing were deployed and started to fan out, the view of the Earth behind them.
It’s the latest Starlink mission to take off from Cape Canaveral as part of SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s vision to set up blanket internet coverage for all of North America by the end of the year and “near global coverage” by 2021.
After Thursday’s successful launch, the number of Starlink satellites now orbiting the Earth is almost 700.
SpaceX has gotten approval from the Federal Communications Commission to operate as many as 12,000, and in a filing with the FCC said it plans to sell devices for the system to 5 million Americans.
Want more space news? Follow Go For Launch on Facebook. Email the reporter at email@example.com and follow on Twitter @bycarolineglenn.
Booster test lights up desert
SLS progress ongoing for NASA missions
By Richard Tribou from the Orlando Sentinel
While the first Artemis mission has yet to launch, NASA and partner Northrop Grumman are already testing new boosters for future launches capable of sending humans to deep space including Mars.
The test of the Flight Support Booster 1 at Northrop Grumman’s facility at Promontory, Utah on Wednesday lasted for two minutes, burning through propellant to create 3.6 million pounds of thrust. While booster tests have been performed since 2010 at the site, this new test’s main purpose was to try out propellant materials from new sources.
The company is one of many working with NASA on the Space Launch System with Boeing acting as primary contractor on the SLS core stage, Lockheed-Martin on the Orion capsule that will actually carry astronauts and Northrop Grumman on the external boosters that will provide the majority of thrust needed for the massive SLS rocket to break away from Earth’s atmosphere.
“The SLS flight support booster firing is a crucial part of sustaining missions to the moon,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “NASA’s goal is to take what we learn living and working on the moon and use it to send humans on the first missions to Mars.”
For the first eight Artemis missions, NASA will use two of the side boosters along with the Boeing-built core stage to combine for 8.8 million pounds of thrust. That would make SLS the biggest rocket ever launched from Earth.
Artemis I, an uncrewed flight to the moon, is targeting November 2021 with a crewed mission around the moon on Artemis II in 2023 followed by Artemis III that aims to land the first woman on the moon by 2024.
More SLS Updates
Boeing: The core stage to be used on Artemis I remains at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi going through a series of eight tests leading up to a planned October full hot-fire launch simulation that will see all four of its RS-25 engines, converted from former space shuttle engines, light up to test its 2 million pounds of thrust in an eight-minute burn. NASA and Boeing began the fifth of its Green Run test campaigns this week. Once complete, the core stage will make its way by the Pegasus barge to Kennedy Space Center where it will be assembled with the boosters and Orion capsule as well as the Interim Cryogenic Upper Stage.
While the initial core stage took many more years to develop than planned, the core stages for the Artemis II and III missions are already in the works with expected completions well ahead of the 2023 and 2024 target launch dates. Production welding is finished on the second mission core stage and manufacturing has begun for the third at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
Boeing has also begun production on the planned Exploration Upper Stage, currently nearing final design review, which will be needed for Artemis II and III to give the power needed to send both crew and cargo in one launch to its lunar destination.
Lockheed Martin: The Orion capsule for Artemis I is flight ready after completing NASA’s System Acceptance and Design Certification Review. The review certified the vehicle’s technical integrity and it’s ready to be integrated with the fully stacked SLS once the core stage arrives to Kennedy.
In August, the company working with manufacturer AMRO Fabricating Corp. knocked out the first part of the Artemis III Orion capsule, a cone panel that features the openings for the windows that will provide the view for astronauts on their way to the moon. It was sent to the Michoud Assembly Facility where it will eventually form into the Orion pressure vessel, which will then make its way to KSC for further assembly. The Artemis II Orion capsule is already at Kennedy.
“It’s truly exciting to have the first piece of the Artemis III Orion spacecraft completed at AMRO that will enable American astronauts to build a sustainable presence on the lunar surface,” said acting Orion Program Manager Howard Hu.
But will they have free wifi?
NASA wants companies to dig up the moon and hand it over
NASA wants companies to collect dirt from the moon for its lunar base plans. ( Michael Probst/AP )
By Richard Tribou From the Sentinel
NASA wants samples of moon dirt for its lunar base plans and wants companies to compete on getting them and handing them over.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced Thursday the agency was opening up a solicitation to commercial companies to propose how they would collect such lunar regolith, provide images and locations of it to NASA and eventually deliver it to the agency.
“NASA’s goal is that the retrieval and transfer of ownership will be completed before 2024,” Bridenstine stated in a blog post . That’s the year NASA is aiming to land the next humans, including the first woman, on the moon as part of the Artemis program.
The competition is not limited to U.S. companies and NASA may award more than one contract. The goal is to get surface samples, between 50 and 500 grams of moon soil, from a variety of locations on the moon to analyze where the best place would be to build up a lunar base infrastructure for a continued presence on the moon, Bridenstine said.
“Leveraging commercial involvement as part of Artemis will enhance our ability to safely return to the moon in a sustainable, innovative, and affordable fashion,” he said.
NASA is requesting firms to quote a price in their response to the solicitation and the percentage payouts would be based on their proposed price.
NASA is asking the companies to come up with their own payout price in the solicitation , and NASA said the contract will pay out 10% when it’s awarded, another 10% when the company launches its mission and the final 80% when the goods are delivered, using a method of transfer to be determined at a later date. Bids are due Oct. 9.
When the transfer is complete, the lunar soil will be the sole property of NASA, according to the contract.
In a video released by NASA, it outlines the enticement and benefit of commercial harvesting of lunar resources.
“The collection and transfer will be a proof of concept for conducting space commerce on the moon,” reads a statement in the video. “Then commercial space innovators and entrepreneurs can identify new ways to invest in human exploration and development on the moon.”
Bridenstine said the call on commercial companies should not be met with any legal hurdles because of an executive order by President Trump in April that looked to clarify the U.S. stance on whether or not people could mine the moon.
That order titled “Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources” states the U.S. is signed onto an agreement from 1967, the “Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies,” that had no issue with the removal of resources.
Other countries, but not the U.S., have since signed the so-called “Moon Agreement,” that calls for nonscientific resource allocation of the moon to be governed by an international body.
“We are putting our policies into practice to fuel a new era of exploration and discovery that will benefit all of humanity,” Bridenstine said.
Bridenstine said the ability to use the resources on the moon are essential to establishing NASA’s lunar presence and of achieving its goal of getting to Mars, where it will also need to use on-site resources.
“We must proceed with alacrity to develop techniques and gain experience with (in-situ resources utilization) on the surface of the moon,” Bridenstine said. “The scientific discoveries gained through robust, sustainable, and safe lunar exploration will benefit all of humanity.”
See details of the solicitation at beta.SAM.gov
Netflix is airing a series on the Challenger. Its extremely in depth. My soninlaw was watching last night when I sat down. I told him my experience of watching it happen as I rode on A1A in Daytona. Then I had a real blast from the past when I saw a friend on screen for a few seconds. He was working on the hatch where the astronauts boarded the shuttle. He passed away a few years ago. It was nice to see him again.
ULA launching spy satellite Sunday
SpaceX attempting another Starlink launch Monday
By Caroline Glenn in the Sentinel
Upcoming missions for United Launch Alliance and SpaceX will mean another busy launch schedule at Cape Canaveral.
First up, United Launch Alliance on Sunday is targeting a middle-of-the-night launch window to send up a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. From the Cape’s launch complex 37B, the NROL-44 satellite will launch at 12:01 a.m. atop ULA’s Delta IV Heavy, a powerful rocket with three engines.
The last time ULA tried this launch, it was aborted with just three seconds left in the countdown. The company later said it was because of a torn piece of equipment that helps regulate pressure. ULA was slated to try again Saturday, but the launch was again delayed because of an issue with the arm retraction system, which pulls away from the rocket just before liftoff.
The 45th Weather Squadron hasn’t released a forecast for the Sunday launch yet.
Then, on Monday, SpaceX will be sending up a mission of its own, carrying another batch of the company’s Starlink satellites. Between 10:12 a.m. and 10:33 a.m., a Falcon 9 rocket will lift from Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39A about 60 of the 570-pound satellites.
It’s one of many Starlink missions SpaceX has undertaken since starting the program last May. The goal is to create a constellation of satellites orbiting the Earth that can provide affordable internet for even remote parts of the world. If this next launch is successful, it will bring the number of satellites in place to about 750.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said he hopes to have 1,500 satellites in place by the end of the year, enough to provide coverage for all of North America, and near global coverage by 2021.
Weather for the launch is at 70% “go.”
SpaceX will also attempt another launch on Tuesday, with a window opening at 9:55 p.m. — an updated GPS satellite for the U.S. Air Force built by Lockheed Martin. Called GPS III SV-04, it will also launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, but this time from Cape’s Launch Complex 40.
Weather for the launch is at 80% “go,” and there is a backup window 24 hours later with weather at 60%.
Want more space news? Follow Go For Launch on Facebook. Email the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @bycarolineglenn .