Tag: SpaceX

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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Pass it on: Popular Science

Why Elon Musk’s Reusable Rockets Are More Than A Publicity Stunt

SpaceX has made history: the rocket company, founded in 2002 by billionaire playboy Elon Musk, has launched his cherry-red Tesla Roadster into space, on course to the asteroid belt after overshooting its intended Mars orbit.

As with so much Musk does, the event was a hybrid of genuine breakthrough and nerd-baiting publicity stunt.

The presence of the car – replete with spacesuit-wearing crash test dummy, David Bowie playing from the speakers and a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quote on-screen – may not have any real point beyond generating good press pics, but the same can’t be said for the Falcon Heavy it was launched in.

Reusable rockets

SpaceX’s killer app has been the development of easily reusable booster rockets: once used up, they descend to Earth in a controlled drop, before landing vertically on land or sea, ready to be refuelled and sent off in another flight.

At least, that is the theory.

In practice, SpaceX’s rockets have hardly proven infallible: during the development of the technology, the company went so far as to release a blooper reel of all the various explosions caused by failed attempts to land the boosters, ending on the first successful landing in April 2016.




Tuesday’s launch was no exception.

The Falcon Heavy – which is essentially three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together – successfully landed its two outer stages in beautiful synchronisation, but the core module was a different story, hitting the water 100 metres from its intended landing barge at 300mph.

[It] was enough to take out two thrusters and shower the deck with shrapnel,” Musk said.

Really Falcon big

Reusable rockets have been an ace in SpaceX’s pocket for a couple of years.

The real success of Tuesday’s event was managing to build a launch vehicle out of those reusable rockets that is capable of lifting almost twice as much into orbit as any other rocket in production.

The Falcon Heavy should be able to carry more than 60 tonnes to low Earth orbit (LEO), compared with 27.5 tonnes for the Space Shuttle, and 28.8 tonnes for the Boeing/Lockheed Martin co-produced Delta IV, previously the biggest rocket in contemporary use.

All those pale compared to the fireworks of the past, however: the Saturn V, which took man to the moon, had an LEO capacity of 140 tonnes.

But it also cost almost $2bn in 2018 dollars, as opposed to the $95m SpaceX is charging for a Falcon Heavy launch.

Since 1969, as space flight budgets have been slashed and the focus has shifted from gadding about on the moon to getting satellites in orbit, priorities have changed, and the glory days have faded into the past.

There is a long way to go before we are back where we started.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

The Middle Booster Of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Rocket Failed To Land On Its Drone Ship

Though the Falcon Heavy’s outer cores successfully landed after launch this afternoon, the middle core of SpaceX’s huge rocket missed the drone ship where it was supposed to land they said.

The center core was only able to relight one of the three engines necessary to land, and so it hit the water at 300 miles per hour about 300 feet from the drone ship.

As a result, two engines on the drone ship were taken out when it crashed, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a press call after the rocket launch. “[It] was enough to take out two thrusters and shower the deck with shrapnel,” he said.

It’s a small hiccup in an otherwise successful first flight. The Falcon Heavy rocket took off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 3:45PM ET on Tuesday and made a beautiful arc to space.




About two and a half minutes after liftoff, the two outer boosters of the rocket broke away and returned to Earth.

The pair then touched down just seconds apart on SpaceX’s two ground landing pads at the Cape called Landing Zone 1 and Landing Zone 2.

At about three minutes after liftoff, the center core broke away from the upper stage — the top portion of the rocket that is carrying the Falcon Heavy’s payload, Musk’s Tesla Roadster.

It then attempted to land on SpaceX’s drone ship, but live video of the landing stalled just before the core was slated to make its touchdown. “We lost the center core,” someone said on a separate, unlisted live stream of the launch.

Meanwhile, the upper stage seems to be doing just fine. After launch, Musk tweeted that it had successfully ignited its engine and raised its orbit as intended.

Now, the upper stage will spend about six hours coasting through space — a move by SpaceX to demonstrate a tricky orbital maneuver for the US Air Force.

That coast will take the rocket through regions of intense radiation that surround Earth called the Van Allen belts, where it will be pelted by high-energy particles.

If the vehicle is still operating as it should by then, the upper stage will do another engine burn, putting the car on its deep space path to Mars’ orbit.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Everything You Need To Know About Today’s Falcon Heavy Launch

The time has finally come for SpaceX to launch its Falcon Heavy rocket. A launch license has been issued for the giant vehicle to take flight this Tuesday.

It’s a mission that many have been waiting for since 2011 when SpaceX CEO Elon Musk first announced plans to develop the vehicle.

Now, after seven years and numerous delays, the launch of the rocket is imminent — and it could be a game-changer for SpaceX.

Here are all the details you need to know about this launch and why it’s such a big deal for both SpaceX and the industry.




What is the Falcon Heavy?

The essence of the rocket is right there in its name: it’s the heavy-lift version of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. The vehicle consists of three Falcon 9 cores strapped together, giving the rocket an awesome amount of power.

And since each Falcon 9 has nine main rocket engines, there are 27 total engines that will all be used to send this vehicle to space. No other working rocket has ever used so many.

All of this hardware can supposedly create more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.

That makes the Falcon Heavy capable of putting around 140,000 pounds of cargo into lower Earth orbit, earning the title of the most powerful rocket in the world.

Where is it launching from?

The Falcon Heavy is taking off from a historic launch site at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, called LC-39A.

The site was used to launch the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon as well as numerous Space Shuttle missions — including the final Shuttle launch.

In 2014, SpaceX signed a 20-year lease with NASA to use the pad at 39A for the company’s flights, and it has since modified the site to accommodate launches of the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.

 

What is the Falcon Heavy going to do?

For the first Falcon Heavy flight, SpaceX is going to try to launch it to orbit without blowing up. This is a demonstration mission, meant to see if the Falcon Heavy can simply send a payload to orbit.

That’s why the rocket’s cargo is pretty silly: it’s Elon Musk’s Tesla roadster, made even sillier with the possible inclusion of a dummy in the passenger seat, dressed in a brand-new SpaceX suit, naturally.

The Falcon Heavy is supposed to put the car (as well as the passenger, presumably) into an orbit around the Sun known as a Hohmann transfer orbit.

This path will take the car as far out from the Sun as the distance of Mars’ orbit. However, the car won’t be going anywhere near Mars, so there’s no risk of the car contaminating the planet with Earth microbes.

What happens if it’s successful?

Then the Falcon Heavy has some more flights scheduled. The vehicle is booked to a put up a large communications satellite for operator Arabsat of Saudi Arabia sometime in early 2018.

And the Falcon Heavy is also slated to launch a test payload for the US Air Force no earlier than June.

That launch will allow the Air Force to judge whether or not the Falcon Heavy is ready to fly national security payloads, which could become a big market for the vehicle.

The flight will also contain a cluster of secondary satellites, too, including a special test spacecraft from the Planetary Society called LightSail.

The probe is designed to deploy a large, thin sail that uses radiation from the Sun to propel through space.

When is the launch happening?

The launch is currently scheduled to take off on Tuesday, February 6th, sometime during a launch window that spans from 1:30PM to 4PM ET.

However, this is the first flight of the Falcon Heavy — ever — so technological glitches could arise that push the launch back a couple of days.

Weather could also cause a delay, but there’s an 80 percent chance that weather will be favorable, according to Patrick Military Air Force Base at the Cape.

How can I watch the launch?

SpaceX will be live-streaming the mission on YouTube, which will be embedded in this post. Coverage should begin shortly before liftoff, so check back then to watch one of the most anticipated rocket launches in the last decade.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

The SpaceX Falcon Heavy Is Ready To Launch (Ft. The Everyday Astronaut)

Elon Musk’s dream of landing on Mars is a little closer to reality as SpaceX prepares to launch its Falcon Heavy rocket this month, and it couldn’t be more exciting.

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TRANSCRIPT:

The Falcon Heavy was first announced in 2011 at a news conference in Washington DC, but the idea had been floating around since 2004. And the idea was pretty simple.

SpaceX had the Falcon 9 rocket, which at the time had done a couple of test runs into Low Earth Orbit so they were getting a feel for what it was capable of.

And what they saw was it was a great workhorse to take cargo to the ISS, and satellites to low Earth orbit and smaller payloads to geosynchronous orbit… but there were some payloads that needed more power.

So… Why not strap a few Falcon 9’s together? Boom. Done.

And that’s basically what the Falcon Heavy is, it’s three Falcon 9 cores connected together with a second stage and payload on the top of the middle core, giving it 27 engines total with 5 million pounds of thrust.

Falcon 9 rockets care called Falcon 9 because they have 9 Merlin engines on them.

Liftoff of this thing is going to be awesome. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a rocket this powerful take off but with SpaceX, the launch is just the precursor to watching them land.

So once it gets into space, the two side cores will disengage, turn around, and head back to the pad.

Then, we are going to watch two Falcon 9s land almost simultaneously. It’ll be like some kind of rocket version of synchronized diving.

The third, middle core will continue to push the dummy cargo into orbit before it disengages, turns and lands on a barge further out to sea.

So once all the first stage cores land, the fairing opens and reveals the dummy cargo, which in the case of this first test flight will be… you guessed it… Elon Musk’s personal original Tesla Roadster.

Never to be outdone in the PR department, Elon Musk announced in December that he was going to use this event to launch his personal Tesla Roadster into Mars orbit. Something he seemed to insinuate was just a joke, but… (show picture)

It’s not a joke. He’s actually launching a car into space.

Just to make it more fun, he says that the stereo on the car will be playing Space Oddity by David Bowie, though I don’t think you’d be able to hear it in the vacuum of space, but still.

And just to be clear, the car isn’t going to Mars, it’s going out to the distance of Mars, so it will circle the sun relatively along Mars’ orbit. For the next billion or so years, according to Elon.

Anyway, when the heavy goes into operation, it will be the most powerful rocket currently in use today, by a factor of 2.

And it will be 4th most powerful rocket of all time behind the Saturn V, the Space Shuttle, and the Soviet N-1, which had a tendency to explode. Every time. It never made it.

Because it had 30 engines. Mo engines mo problems.

This title will be taken back by NASA once the Space Launch System gets up and running, it’ll actually be more powerful than the Saturn V, but we’re still a year or so out on that.

The Heavy already has a couple of satellite launches scheduled, the Arabsat 6A communications satellite and Space Test Program 2 mission for the US Air Force…

There’s also a plan to carry a Dragon Crew spacecraft with two passengers on a circumlunar mission in late 2018. But that’s very speculative.

So they’re making a Big Falcon Rocket. The BFR.

The BFR combines all the power of the three Falcon cores in the Heavy with 31 next-generation Raptor engines, and a large second stage capable of hauling more cargo than the Saturn V and can land vertically, making it fully reusable.

The Raptor engines in the BFR use a liquid methane and liquid oxygen mix called Methalox as fuel because those are capable of being created on Mars, which is the ultimate destination of the BFR.

But the Raptors are also a huge step up from the Merlin engines because they work at extremely high pressure to burn more efficiently and provide more thrust.

The plan is to begin construction on the BFR sometime in 2018 and the first launch isn’t expected until 2022, but even Elon said that was optimistic.

So we may get a few good years out of the Falcon Heavy yet. But it all starts with the first test launch, which is what makes this so compelling.

SpaceX To Launch Heaviest Rocket Falcon Heavy At ‘End Of Month’, Elon Musk Announces

The space exploration company has said that it will fire its Falcon Heavy rocket in a test flight from the Kennedy Space Center “at the end of the month”, without giving a specific date.Billionaire Mr Musk posted a picture of the Falcon Heavy on Instagram, alongside the caption: “At 2500 tons of thrust, equal to 18 Boeing 747 aircraft at full throttle, it will be the most powerful rocket in the world by a factor of two.

Excitement on launch day guaranteed, one way or another.”




Rather than carrying a customers’ payload, the Falcon Heavy will carry a “cherry Tesla Roadster” to orbit Mars, playing David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ on repeat.

The firm said it would “be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn’t blow up on ascent.

Last month, Mr Musk posted a series of pictures on Instagram of the red Tesla Roadster inside the Falcon Heavy.Alongside the images, Mr Musk put: “Test flights of new rockets usually contain mass simulators in the form of concrete or steel blocks.

“That seemed extremely boring. Of course, anything boring is terrible, especially companies, so we decided to send something unusual, something that made us feel.

“The payload will be an original Tesla Roadster, playing Space Oddity, on a billion-year elliptic Mars orbit.”However, Mr Musk has admitted there is a significant chance that the Falcon Heavy rocket test could fail.

Speaking of the rocket in July, he said: “I hope it makes it far enough away from the pad that it does not cause pad damage.

“I would consider even that a win, to be honest.”

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Pass it on: New Scientist

This Is NASA’s Plan For Humanity’s Return To The Moon, And Beyond

There is still no official NASA mission to Mars, but after years of uncertainty, America’s space agency is giving us a glimpse of its grand strategy to extend human presence beyond low-Earth orbit with a plan to build a solid technological foundation for sending astronauts to other worlds.

The decades-long space exploration schedule, detailed in a press conference last week with NASA’s William Gerstenmaier, lists 10 upcoming missions involving NASA’s new-generation Orion spacecraft.

But unlike earlier disjointed proposals for loosely defined missions, this new plan is laid out more like an Ikea manual—a step-by-step guide on how to get to Mars.




NASA says the enterprise relies on a substantial but not outrageous budget, and that the plan has been drafted in close coordination with NASA’s key partners like the European Space Agency, Roscosmos, JAXA, and the Canadian Space Agency.

The main goal of the Orion program is to assemble a Moon-orbiting space station, which by the end of the 2020s could be beefed up to become a kind of interplanetary mothership.

Without additional money, the proposed spacecraft will not be able to put astronauts onto the surface of Mars, but it will be able to carry a crew into the vicinity of the Red Planet as early as 2033, says Gerstenmaier.

Visits to Martian moons Phobos and Deimos and expeditions to asteroids might also be possible.

In a nutshell, this is the closest humanity’s ever been to setting foot on Mars and many other destinations in the Solar System.

The program will certainly be the boldest, riskiest, and most ambitious undertaking for human spaceflight in nearly half a century—since the end of the Apollo program in 1972.

Now for a gut punch of reality. Due to budget constraints, the Mars program likely move at a snail’s pace, according to available flight manifests.

That means its unlikely astronauts will have a chance to leave new footprints on another world before well into the 2030s.

An even longer wait is a bitter pill to swallow, and that probably explains why NASA has been shy about publicizing its mega-plan right away.

It’s easy to draw parallels with the Apollo program’s 10-year plan for putting a man on the moon to the Orion project, which has been in planning and development since 2003 and is not even expected to carry its first crew until 2021.

The first manned flight of Orion, called Exploration Mission 2 or EM-2 was recently “de-ambitioned” from entering a lunar orbit to just running a quick loop behind the Moon and returning to Earth eight days after liftoff from Cape Canaveral.

In the meantime, NASA’s international partners will have an opportunity to dispatch robotic and, possibly, even human missions to the surface of the Moon.

With the nascent outpost growing in the vicinity of the Moon, the Orion crews could extend their stays in lunar orbit from a week to months or even a year.

Inhabitants of the outpost could also make outings to other locations near the Moon, such as a visit to a scientifically interesting Lagrangian points, where gravitational forces of the Moon and the Earth cancel each other out.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

SpaceX Launch Leaves Ghostly Glowing Trail In The Sky

People along the West Coast looked toward the heavens Friday to find a strange, morphing orb glowing in the night sky.

It looked like the stuff of science fiction, but it was actually the mark of a SpaceX rocket hauling a group of telecom satellites into Earth’s orbit.

The rocket took off from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California, and kicked up a flurry of wonder from social media users from across the state.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk fueled the fun by teasing onlookers who were confused by the eerie contrail.

Nuclear alien UFO from North Korea,” he tweeted.




But the show was, in fact, put on by the rocket’s exhaust meeting the crisp air.

Water vapor from the aircraft engine exhaust is immediately exposed to very cold temperatures at very high altitudes.”

“The impurities in the exhausts and the very cold temperatures are the perfect recipe for a condensation trail,” writes meteorologist and Forbes contributor Marshall Shepherd.

It’s just like what airplanes leave behind when they streak across the sky.

Friday’s launch marked SpaceX’s 18th and final launch for the 2017 calendar year, making it the busiest private-sector rocket company in the world.

The mission was to deliver a group of 10 telecommunications satellites to low-Earth orbit for a company called Iridium, which is in the process of replacing its vast satellite network.

It’ll be used to deliver communications services and, among other things, track airplane traffic.

Musk took advantage of the buzz created by Friday’s spectacle to tout SpaceX’s next big feat: conducting a test launch of its massive new rocket, called Falcon Heavy.

That’s due in January.

To translate, “rocket cores” refer to the boosters at the base of the rocket.

They provide the initial thrust at lift-off. SpaceX’s defining move is to guide those boosters back to Earth for a safe landing so they can be reused in future missions.

The Falcon Heavy has three boosters, two more than SpaceX’s operational Falcon 9 rocket, and SpaceX will attempt to recover all of them.

Droneship refers to a landing pad that SpaceX sends into the ocean to capture boosters that fly out with a horizontal trajectory.

Reusing hardware is all part of SpaceX’s plan to drastically drive down the cost of spaceflight, and the company has all but mastered the move. It’s landed rockets on 20 separate occasions.

No rocket landing was attempted on Friday, however.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

How SpaceX’s 2018 Moon Flight Will Work

Nearly 45 years after NASA astronauts last embarked on a lunar mission, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has announced his company’s plans to send two private citizens on a flight around the moon in 2018.

The weeklong trip will look a lot like NASA’s historic Apollo 8 mission, the first and only purely circumlunar, crewed mission in history.

Sut SpaceX’s mission will fly with two crewmembers instead of three, and will use a fresh new spacecraft and launch vehicle.




SpaceX’s new Falcon Heavy rocket will launch the crewed Dragon 2 spacecraft to the moon. The rocket and crew capsule have not flown on any missions yet.

But the Falcon Heavy is slated to blast off for its first test launch this summer, and the Dragon 2 will make its first test flight in November.

The Falcon Heavy is a variation of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which was made to carry the uncrewed Dragon spacecraft to and from the International Space Station.

With two extra boosters strapped to its sides, the Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful rocket to blast off since NASA’s Saturn rockets, which were retired in the early 1970s.

Musk said the crewed Dragon spacecraft “would skim the surface of the moon” before heading “further out into deep space.” The spacecraft won’t literally touch the lunar surface, though.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Budweiser Is Sending Barley To Space In Hopes Of Learning How To Brew Beer On Mars

Budweiser wasn’t kidding about its plans to brew “the first beer on Mars.

After announcing its initiative at the South by Southwest conference in March, Budweiser is reportedly taking its next steps toward accomplishing its out-of-this-world goal by sending beer-making grains, namely, barley — into space later this year.

According to a press release, this December, SpaceX will be delivering the shipment of barley to the International Space Station, where it will remain in orbit for a month.




Once back on Earth, the barley will be analyzed in order to determine how the grain reacts to microgravity environments.

Budweiser’s “innovation team” will also experiment with germinating the exposed barley seeds.

Budweiser is always pushing the boundaries of innovation and we are inspired by the collective American Dream to get to Mars,” said Budweiser Vice President Ricardo Marques in a statement.

“We are excited to begin our research to brew beer for the red planet.”

The company said its efforts might also provide insight on its agricultural practices here on Earth, although it maintained that its foremost goal is to one day supply “a colonized red planet the same enjoyments provided here on Earth.

Budweiser executives originally announced the company’s plans back on March 11 during SXSW in Austin, Texas, at a panel discussion that also included retired astronaut Clayton “Clay” Anderson and actress Kate Mara, of the 2015 film “The Martian.”

At the time, Budweiser also explained the challenges it faced in brewing beer in a Mars-like environment, including limited water resources, limited sunlight for growing hops and atmospheric pressure that would turn traditional beer to “foamy slop.”

Nevertheless, the company vowed to be ready to “toast on Mars” when mankind finally colonizes the planet.

With this bold, new dream Budweiser is celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit in which our iconic brand was founded upon,” said Marques in a press release issued shortly after the initial announcement.

Through our relentless focus on quality and innovation, Budweiser can today be enjoyed in every corner of the world, but we now believe it is time for the King of Beers to set its sights on its next destination.”

“When the dream of colonizing Mars becomes a reality, Budweiser will be there to toast the next great step for mankind.”

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Pass it on: New Scientist