Tag: SpaceX

Elon Musk Reveals the Incredible Sci-Fi Design for SpaceX’s Hopper Starship

SpaceX’s Mars-bound rocket is taking shape. Last week, CEO Elon Musk shared an illustration of how the test version of the company’s Starship will look when complete, demonstrating a creative design that bears more than a passing resemblance to The Adventures of Tintin.

The rocket, aimed at completing short tests later this year, is a miniaturized version of one that is expected to send the first humans to Mars.

The image depicts the rocket currently under construction at the firm’s Boca Chica site in Texas. The “hopper” rocket will complete short “hop tests” of a few hundred kilometers to demonstrate the rocket’s effectiveness.

While it doesn’t reach the heights of the full Starship, announced with a size of 348 feet it does reach the same diameter of the final version at 30 feet.

While the stainless steel design is likely to reflect the final version, which Musk has described as looking like “liquid silver,” the “hopper” version also lacks features like windows expected to make the final design.

The steel looks incredible, and represents a stark departure from the carbon fiber composite used in the Falcon 9’s construction.

It’s similar to the approach used by NASA with the Atlas rockets in the 1950s, but those designs suffered as it buckled on the launchpad when depressurized.




SpaceX’s version should avoid the same pitfalls, with a metal that Musk says will “vary considerably according to loads.

SpaceX needs the rocket to succeed if it wishes to carry out its more ambitious missions.

The rocket now known as the “Starship” was unveiled at the International Aeronautical Congress in September 2017 under the name “BFR,” with a reusable design that could enable humans to travel to Mars and refuel its liquid oxygen and methane tanks by harvesting resources from the atmosphere.

SpaceX is aiming to send two unmanned Starships to Mars by 2022, followed by two unmanned and two manned in 2024.

The firm is also planning to send Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa on a trip around the moon with the Starship sometime in 2023, accompanied by a team of artists as part of a project.

While photos of the test site show the “hopper” still in an unfinished state, Musk stated on Sunday that the team is aiming to fly the rocket in just four weeks’ time, with the possibility of pushing the deadline back to eight weeks.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Science Stories You’ll Be Hearing About In 2019

2018 was a big year for science and technology, and 2019 is shaping up to be more of the same. Here’s some of the big science stories we’ll be following in the coming year.

On May 20th of this year, the scientific community will be redefining four metric units of measurement, the kilogram, the Kelvin, the mole, and the ampere.

The Event Horizon telescope is an attempt to image the black hole at the center of the Milky Way, known as Sagittarius A. The telescopes actually did the imaging last year, and the team is in the process of collecting the data and analyzing it, but the expectation is that this year we should get, for the first time, an actual image of a black hole

in the first half of the year, Tesla will finally unveil their long-awaited $35,000 baseline Model 3, but it’s also expected sometime this year that Tesla will unveil the Model Y, their crossover model based on the Model 3 platform. and a lot of people are also speculating that at the Model Y reveal, Elon may do a “one more thing” thing and introduce the Tesla pickup.

Other EVs that will be released in 2019 include the Audi e-Tron, the Mercedes EQC, an update for BMW’s i3 with a larger battery, the Jaguar iPace, the Volvo XC40, the Porche Taycan, the Kia e-Niro, The Kia Soul EV, the Hyundai Ioniq, and the Mini Electric.

New Horizons, the probe that sent us those amazing pictures of Pluto back in 2015, is now flying through the Kuiper belt, and just passed the asteroid Ultima Thule, which we’ll be getting detailed images from this year

Hayabusa2 from JAXA will collect soil samples from the asteroid Ryugu this year.

Similarly the Osiris Rex mission from NASA arrived at the asteroid Bennu just about a month ago on December 3rd and will spend 2019 scanning and imaging Bennu.

The Parker Solar Probe will make 2 flybys of the sun this year, one in April and one in September.

There’s also a slew of moon landings coming this year that are worth following.

ISRO, the Indian Space Research Organization plans to land on the moon with Chandrayaan-2 which they expected to launch last year but it’s been pushed back to January 31st.

But before that, the Chinese National Space Administration landed Change’4, which actually launched in December, on the far side of the moon.

SpaceX plans to start performing hopper tests this year for their Starship, previously known as BFR,

But perhaps no piece of news or space related event this year can come close to the first tests of the SpaceX Dragon 2 capsule that will finally return the US to manned missions to space.

At the same time, the Boeing Starliner capsule will see space for the first time in March with an uncrewed demo mission, followed by a scheduled manned mission in August of 2019.

All Four Last Tuesday Rocket Launches Postponed

If you’re a space fan, Christmas comes a week early this year. There are four — count ’em, four! — launches scheduled to take place last Tuesday (Dec. 18), and you can watch them all live.

The action begins in the morning with a one-two punch. At 9:34 a.m. EST (1434 GMT), SpaceX plans to launch a next-generation GPS satellite for the U.S. Air Force from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Nineteen minutes later, at 9:30 a.m. EST (1430 GMT), Blue Origin’s suborbital New Shepard capsule will take to the skies from West Texas on the 10th uncrewed test flight of the reusable vehicle.

You can watch both missions live here at Space.com, or directly via SpaceX and Blue Origin.

Then, at 11:37 a.m. EST (1637 GMT), an Arianespace Soyuz rocket will loft a spy satellite for the French military called CSO-1. You can watch that liftoff, which will take place from Kourou, French Guiana, at Arianespace’s website.

Another spysat launch will wrap things up tonight. A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the classified NROL-71 spacecraft for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office is scheduled to lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 8:57 p.m. EST (5:57 p.m. local California time; 0157 GMT on Dec. 19).




You can watch that one live on Space.com as well, or directly via ULA (though it appears the weather may not cooperate for an on-time liftoff).

There will be another flurry of spaceflight activity around the new year. NASA’s asteroid-sampling OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which has been flying along with the space rock Bennu since Dec. 3, will slip into orbit around that object on Dec. 31.

Just hours later, NASA’s New Horizons probe will zoom past the small, distant object Ultima Thule, which lies about 1 billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto.

That dwarf planet was New Horizons’ first flyby target, you probably recall; the spacecraft cruised past Pluto in July 2015, returning stunning images of water-ice mountains, vast plains of nitrogen ice and other dramatic landscapes.

And sometime in the first few days of January, China’s Chang’e 4 mission will drop onto the far side of the moon, if all goes according to plan.

Chang’e 4, which launched on Dec. 7, consists of a lander and rover, which will touch down within the huge South Pole-Aitken Basin. No probe has ever touched down on the lunar far side, which always faces away from Earth.

Update for Dec. 19: After all four launches scheduled for Tuesday were delayed, SpaceX and Blue Origin have again postponed their launches. Arianespace and United Launch Alliance are on track for a Dec. 19 launch, while the Indian Space Research Organisation successfully launched its GSAT-7A communications satellite into orbit.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Who Is SpaceX’s Mystery Moon Passenger?

The moon is essentially grey, no color. Looks like plaster of Paris or sort of a grayish beach sand.

This was how Jim Lovell described the lunar surface in 1968 from his perch about 60 miles above the moon.

Lovell and his fellow NASA astronauts never touched down, but they returned to Earth with memories of what was, at the time, the closest view a human being had ever experienced of the planet’s rocky companion.

Nearly 50 years after the Apollo 8 mission, SpaceX wants to give someone that view again.

Elon Musk’s spaceflight company announced Thursday that it will send a private passenger to fly around the moon on its next launch system, the Big Falcon Rocket. The voyage is “an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space,” SpaceX said on Twitter.

SpaceX did not give a potential launch date or other details, but those may come Monday night, when the company said it would reveal the identity of the passenger.

This gives us a full weekend to speculate, and speculate we will. Because this trip, if it indeed moves forward—SpaceX previously announced and scrapped a similar plan—would make history.

And not because the voyage would be developed, funded, and operated by a commercial company, rather than NASA, but because the passenger is probably unlike anyone who has made the journey before.

Only 24 people have been to the moon. They were all American, male, and white.

So, who could this mystery moon traveler be?




In February of last year, SpaceX announced it would send two paying customers on a trip around the moon aboard the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket sometime in 2018.

The plan never materialized, likely because Musk eventually decided not to certify the Heavy for human spaceflight and focused on the development of the BFR instead.

The identities of these private citizens were never revealed, though Musk did say that “it’s nobody from Hollywood.” The passenger SpaceX plans to fly on the BFR may be one of them.

The passenger doesn’t have to be a U.S. citizen.

SpaceX will someday fly Americans, yes, but these will be the astronauts that NASA has chosen to test the company’s crew transportation system, which the space agency wants to use to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Unlike that project, the BFR is not affiliated with or funded by NASA. After the announcement Thursday, when a Twitter user mused whether the lucky passenger may be Musk himself, Musk responded with the emoji for the Japanese flag, prompting some to throw out names of wealthy Japanese individuals with an interest in tech.

Russia, China, and India have all said they hope to put their astronauts on the moon, with India aiming to do so as early as 2022. SpaceX may beat them, and give another country the historic first.

Perhaps the voyage will record another first, for women. The Soviet Union sent the first woman to space, Valentina Tereshkova, in 1963. Twenty years later, the United States sent Sally Ride.

As of March of this year, 60 women from nine countries have gone to space, and several of them have made multiple trips, according to NASA. But none have been to the moon.

If this concept becomes reality, the mystery passenger—and the flight engineers picked to accompany them—will have plenty of leg room.

Their experience will be very unlike that of Jim Lovell and his fellow astronauts, who were packed like spacefaring sardines in the lunar module.

The view, however, will be the same. The window will fill up with the slate gray of the moon, with the texture of the ridges and craters of its surface.

And then, as the spaceship circles the moon, the Earth will slink into view from behind it. “Oh, my God! Look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty!” exclaimed one of the NASA astronauts 60 years ago when he snapped a photograph of that view, the now iconic “Earthrise” shot.

Whomever the mystery SpaceX passenger is, let’s hope they don’t forget to pack a camera.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Watch SpaceX Announce Its First Passenger To The Moon

Tonight will be a big night for space tourism.

SpaceX, the private spaceflight company spearheaded by Elon Musk, will reveal the identity of the mystery passenger who booked a trip around the moon on the company’s massive BFR rocket.

The announcement is being broadcast from the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, but you can watch the highly anticipated event live, courtesy of SpaceX.

The event—which kicks off at 9 pm EDT and is expected to last an hour—will feature Musk unveiling not only the name of the first BFR (aka the Big Falcon Rocket) passenger, but the person’s reasons for going.

The big reveal comes a few days after SpaceX’s initial surprise tweet announcement last Thursday that it signed its first passenger to fly around the moon on the company’s next-generation rocket, the BFR.

Leading up to today, Musk has stoked speculation by dropped tantalizing previews of the BFR’s new rocket design as well as subtle clues to the mystery passenger’s identity on Twitter.

Shortly after the announcement, Musk tweeted a Japanese flag emoji, which could be a hint as to the nationality of the BFR passenger.

It’s probably safe to assume that the mystery person is extremely wealthy.




With Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic preparing to take tourists to suborbital space for a couple hundred thousand dollars a ticket, and trips to the International Space Station carrying a hefty price tag of $35 million (or more) for space tourists, SpaceX’s moon shot will likely be significantly higher.

This customer will be the first private astronaut to go to the moon, assuming no one beats SpaceX to it in the meantime.

Only 24 humans have been to the Moon in history. No one has visited since the last Apollo mission in 1972,” SpaceX tweeted following its initial announcement.

The company has dubbed this flight the “BFR Lunar Mission.” But it’s not the first time that SpaceX has announced it would be ferrying tourists to lunar space.

In 2017, Musk said that the company would take not one, but two astronauts on a trip around the moon. Those two people, however, would be riding on the Falcon Heavy, not the BFR.

Scant details emerged about those individuals or their proposed flight. Musk revealed only that they had both put down a “significant deposit” for the trip.

But during the Falcon Heavy’s inaugural flight last February, Musk admitted that the Falcon Heavy moon trip was not going to happen; instead the company would focus on putting people on the BFR.

Musk did confirm that the design of the BFR has changed slightly since it was first announced in 2016.

Last night, he tweeted new images showing a few changes to the vehicle’s design, which included three huge fins, seven engines, and a black heat shield, mounted on the underside of the spacecraft.

Musk also indicated that there will be a deployable “forward moving wing” near its nose.

It’s unclear whether this new customer is one of the two passengers who planned to fly on the Falcon Heavy. We also don’t know any specific details about the mission other than the destination.

Will this person be alone, or will they be accompanied by official astronauts? If this person is one of the passengers who signed up to fly on the Falcon Heavy, what happened to the other one?

If this person is a third individual entirely, does that make two purported customers who are now unaccounted for? And the money question that we’re all asking: how much is this ride going to cost?

One thing, at least, is clear: The BFR is far from ready to send a passenger around the moon. SpaceX recently leased property near the Port of Los Angeles to build the massive new rocket. Exactly when that will happen remains to be seen.

We’ll be looking for answers to these questions and more during tonight’s event. Check back in at 9pm ET / 6pm PT to watch the livestream with us.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

 

SpaceX Blasts Off NASA’s New Spacecraft On Quest To Find New Planets

NASA’s TESS spacecraft embarked Wednesday on a quest to find new worlds around neighboring stars that could support life.

TESS rode a SpaceX Falcon rocket through the evening sky, aiming for an orbit stretching all the way to the moon.

The satellite — the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or Tess — will scan almost the entire sky for at least two years, starting at the closest, brightest stars in an effort to find and identify any planets around them.

Hundreds of thousands of stars will be scrutinized, with the expectation that thousands of exoplanets — planets outside our own solar system — will be revealed right in our cosmic backyard.

Rocky and icy planets, hot gas giants and, possibly, water worlds. Super-Earths between the sizes of Earth and Neptune. Maybe even an Earth twin.

Discoveries by Tess and other missions, he noted, will bring us closer to answering questions that have lingered for thousands of years.




Does life exist beyond Earth? If so, is it microbial or more advanced? But Tess won’t look for life.

It’s not designed for that. Rather, it will scout for planets of all sorts, but especially those in the so-called Goldilocks or habitable zone of a star: an orbit where temperatures are neither too cold nor too hot, but just right for life-nourishing water.

The most promising candidates will be studied by bigger, more powerful observatories of the future, including NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, due to launch in another few years as the heir to Hubble.

These telescopes will scour the planets’ atmospheres for any of the ingredients of life: water vapor, oxygen, methane, carbon dioxide.

TESS is the successor to NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, on its last legs after discovering a few thousand exoplanets over the past nine years.

Astronomers anticipate more than doubling Kepler’s confirmed planetary count of more than 2,600, once Tess’ four wide-view cameras begin scientific observations in early summer.

Unlike Tess, Kepler could only scour a sliver of the sky.

The total exoplanet census currently stands at more than 3,700 confirmed, with another 4,500 on the not-yet-verified list. That’s a lot considering the first one popped up barely two decades ago.

Until about 25 years ago, the only known planets were in our own solar system, noted NASA’s director of astrophysics, Paul Hertz.

While Kepler has focused on stars thousands of light-years away, Tess will concentrate on our stellar neighbors, dozens or hundreds of light-years away.

Most of TESS’ targets will be cool, common red dwarf stars, thought to be rich breeding grounds for planets.

To find the planets, Tess will use the same transit method employed by Kepler, watching for regular, fleeting dips in stellar brightness that would indicate a planet passing in front of its star. That’s the best astronomers can do for now.

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NASA’s Planet-Hunting TESS Telescope Launches Today Aboard A SpaceX Rocket

Some of the most exciting space news of the past few years has been about Earth-like exoplanets that could one day (or perhaps already do) support life. TESS, a space telescope set to launch today aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

It will scan the sky for exoplanets faster and better than any existing platforms, expanding our knowledge of the universe and perhaps finding a friendly neighborhood to move to.

The Transit Exoplanet Survey Satellite has been in the works for years and in a way could be considered a sort of direct successor to the Kepler, the incredibly fruitful mission that has located thousands of exoplanets over nearly a decade.

But if Kepler was a telephoto aimed at dim targets far in the distance, TESS is an ultra-wide-angle lens that will watch nearly the entire visible sky.

They both work on the same principle, which is really quite simple: when a planet (or anything else) passes between us and a star (a “transit”), the brightness of that star temporarily dims.

By tracking how much dimmer and for how long over multiple transits, scientists can determine the size, speed, and other characteristics of the body that passed by.




It may seem like looking for a needle in a haystack, watching the sky hoping a planet will pass by at just the right moment.

But when you think about the sheer number of stars in the sky — and by the way, planets outnumber them — it’s not so crazy.

As evidence of this fact, in 2016 Kepler confirmed the presence of 1,284 new planets just in the tiny patch of sky it was looking at.

TESS will watch for the same thing with a much, much broader perspective.

Its camera array has four 16.4-megapixel imaging units, each covering a square of sky 24 degrees across, making for a tall “segment” of the sky like a long Tetris block.

The satellite will spend full 13.7-day orbits observing a segment, then move on to the next one.

There are 13 such segments in the sky’s Northern hemisphere and 13 in the southern; by the time TESS has focused on them all, it will have checked 85 percent of the visible sky.

It will be focusing on the brightest stars in our neighborhood: less than 300 light-years away and 30 to 100 times as bright as the ones Kepler was looking at.

The more light, the more data, and often the less noise — researchers will be able to tell more about stars that are observed, and if necessary dedicate other ground or space resources towards observing them.

Of course, with such close and continuous scrutiny of hundreds of thousands of stars, other interesting behaviors may be observed and passed on to the right mission or observatory.

Stars flaring or going supernova, bursts of interesting radiation, and other events could very well occur.

In fact, an overlapping area of observation above each of Earth’s poles will be seen for a whole year straight, increasing the likelihood of catching some rare phenomenon.

SpaceX is the launch partner, and the Falcon 9 rocket on which it will ride into orbit has already been test fired. TESS is packaged up and ready to go, as you see at right.

Currently the launch is planned for a 30-second window at 6:32 Florida time; if for some reason they miss that window, they’ll have to wait until the moon comes round again — a March 20 launch was already canceled.

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The Evolution of the SpaceX Falcon 9

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SpaceX is on a roll lately with the launch of their Falcon Heavy rocket, but the real workhorse of the SpaceX lineup is the Falcon 9. So let’s look at the development of the Falcon 9 and how it got this way.

SpaceX is the most successful private rocket launch company in the world, and it’s due in large part to the Falcon 9 rocket.

And the journey to the Falcon 9 began with the Falcon 1 in 2006. The first three launches of the Falcon 1 failed, and with only one more shot before the company went bankrupt, they finally got into orbit on the 4th launch.

Plans for a larger Falcon 1e were scrapped, as well as a Falcon 5, so that they could move forward with the Falcon 9 v1.0.

With this first version of the Falcon 9, SpaceX was able to win a contract to service the ISS through NASA’s COTS program by proving that the Dragon capsule was capable of carrying out resupply missions.

SpaceX then focused on reusability and developed the Falcon 9 v1.1, which they used to test landings over open water, at the same time testing vertical take off and landing with their grasshopper vehicle.

But it was the next version, the Falcon 9 Full Thrust, that was the first to land, first on a landing pad at Cape Canaveral, and then on a drone ship.

Incremental improvements lead to the Falcon 9 Block 4 and Block 5 that will launch for the first time this April.

Earlier this year, SpaceX launched the Falcon Heavy, which is 90% reusable, making spaceflight even more sustainable, but the ultimate reusable rocket is the upcoming BFR, which is completely reusable.

This is the ultimate implementation of the SpaceX vision.

After Hard Landing, Falcon 9 First Stage Back At Port Canaveral

For the third time, a Falcon 9 first stage returned to Port Canaveral via a drone ship after launching toward the heavens from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) five days prior.

The booster landed at sea some 400 miles (644 kilometers) downrange less than 10 minutes after liftoff.

At about 11:30 a.m. EDT (15:30 GMT) on June 2, the Automated Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), also known as the Of Course I Still Love You, officially crossed into the port’s channel as it was towed toward the West Turning Basin.

The drone ship and booster, on their journey home, were accompanied by three ships called Go Quest, Go Searcher, and Elsbeth III. The latter is the tugboat that regularly pulls the platform to and from the landing area.




It was pushed to the dock at 12:30 p.m. EDT (14:30 GMT), about an hour after entering the channel. What took less than 10 minutes by rocket, took over five days by drone ship.

It technically arrived just on the other side of the horizon, from the perspective of Cape Canaveral, on May 31.

However, for as-of-yet undisclosed reasons, the ASDS and accompanying ships loitered for over 24 hours before making the final leg of the trip.

This Falcon 9 first stage was used to launch Thaicom 8 at 5:39 p.m. EDT on May 27 (21:39 GMT). After pushing the second stage and payload at speeds reaching over 5,000 mph (8,000 km/h), the first and second stages separated.

As the second stage finished the job of placing Thaicom 8 into a parking orbit, the first stage rotated nearly 180 degrees to point its nine engines in the boosters direction of travel.

The next mission for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled for June 16. It will launch the Eutelsat 117W B and ABS-2A satellites. This will be the second dual-GTO satellite launch that the company has carried out.

Both spacecraft were constructed by The Boeing Company and will employ solar electric propulsion to circularize their orbits.

Additionally, the next launch with a subsequent landing at Landing Zone-1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station will be during the CRS-9 mission to resupply the International Space Station.

That launch will also see a Dragon sent to the station with an International Docking Adapter in its trunk in advance of next year’s commercial crew activities.

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If Asteroids Don’t Destroy Elon Musk’s Space Tesla, Radiation Will, Experts Say

Its billion-year mission: To circle the sun, to hopefully not crash into Mars, to boldly go where no car has gone before.

Elon Musk’s old Roadster became the first car in history to be blasted into space on Tuesday, riding the successful test launch of the Falcon Heavy mega rocket to an orbital path that’s projected to send it out to Mars—or maybe even further.

In a tweet, Musk reported that the “third burn” procedure to push the Roadster out of Earth’s orbit worked a little too well, with the trajectory now slated to reach the edge of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

But as Live Science reported, big space rocks aren’t really the most significant threat to the spacefaring sports car.




No, that would be good ol’ radiation, which has the potential to mostly disintegrate the Tesla Roadster within a year or two, according to William Carroll, an Indiana University chemist and molecular expert.

Without the protection afforded by the Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field, the Roadster will be bombarded by radiation that will eventually tear apart anything not made of metal on the car.

All of the organics will be subjected to degradation by the various kinds of radiation that you will run into there,” Carroll said, noting that the term “organics” in this case includes not only fabric and leather but all plastic components as well as the car’s carbon fiber body.

Those organics, in that environment, I wouldn’t give them a year.”

Musk’s cherry-red Tesla already survived a full blast of radiation as it traveled through the planet’s Van Allen belt on its way out of Earth’s orbit, but the extended timeline of its journey creates a much different situation; eventually, the spacefaring Roadster could wind up stripped down to its aluminum chassis.

Any metal parts that do survive probably won’t look exactly the same either; Carroll added that it would be nearly impossible to avoid micrometeoroids that will pockmark exposed surfaces a thousand times over.

Live Science also got in touch with Richard Sachleben, a member of the American Chemical Society’s expert panel, who “largely agreed” with Carroll’s points, though he thought the Tesla might stay intact for a little longer than a year.

A direct impact with an asteroid could always change that timeline, though.

Then again, even if some future human were pluck it out of orbit and haul it home to see if it still works, it wouldn’t run: Musk & Co. reportedly stripped the car’s powertrain entirely before mounting it on the rocket.

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