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NASA launching new space toilet and more to space station this week - Space.com
The private Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled to launch on Sept. 29.
A private cargo spacecraft will lift off from Virginia on Tuesday (Sept. 29), carrying tons of fresh supplies to the International Space Station, including scientific experiments, skincare from Estée Lauder and a brand-new space toilet. The mission, known as Cygnus NG-14, will be deliver 7,624 lbs (3,458 kilograms) of cargo on the14th flight for Northrop Grumman's robotic Cygnus spacecraft and the resupply craft's 13th mission to the International Space Station. Cygnus will launch atop an Antares rocket Sept. 29 at 10:27 p.m. EDT (0227 a.m. GMT Sept. 30) from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Northrop Grumman has named the Cygnus spacecraft the S.S. Kalpana Chawla to honor astronaut Kalpana Chawla, who was one of seven astronauts who died in the Columbia shuttle tragedy in 2003. You can watch the launch live here at Space.com , courtesy of NASA TV, directly at NASA TV beginning at 10 p.m. EDT (0200 GMT Sept. 30) or at NASA Wallops' Ustream site beginning at approximately 5:30 p.m. EDT. Related: See amazing launch photos of Antares and Cygnus NG-13! "Humanity faces many challenges today, and I'm proud to be part of a community that accepts challenges on a regular basis that turns problems into solutions and opportunities into reality," David Brady, assistant program scientist for the International Space Station Program at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, said about the launch during a prelaunch teleconference Thursday (Sept. 24). The nearly 8,000 lbs. of cargo carried to space by Cygnus will include crew supplies like food alongside scientific experiments and even a newly updated space toilet, officially called the Universal Waste Management System. The cargo will be delivered to support the Expedition 64 crew aboard the space station, though pretty soon SpaceX's Crew 1 astronauts may make use of some of this cargo, as they are set to launch on Oct. 23 . NASA's new space toilet for the International Space Station undergoes testing at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. (Image credit: NASA) The $23 million space toilet, which was created with astronaut input, will be among the important experiments and equipment sent with this launch. This toilet is 65% smaller and 40% lighter than the toilet currently on the space station, NASA officials said. It was designed to optimize "the use of the toilet for the female crew, and NASA spent a lot of time working with crewmembers to improve the use of the commode," Melissa McKinley, NASA Advanced Exploration Systems Logistics Reduction project manager, said during the same teleconference. The cargo will also include a radish-growing experiment known as Plant Habitat-02; the Onco Selectors investigation, which will focus on cancer therapies; a novel water recovery system experiment; a specialized camera that will capture what it's like to be aboard the space station in 360-degree virtual reality; bottles of skincare serum from Estée Lauder; and much more. Email Chelsea Gohd at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: [email protected]
Meet Calypso, a daredevil mission concept to explore the surface of Venus - Space.com
Just because it's hard doesn't mean we shouldn't do it.
Of all the rocky, inner worlds of the solar system, Venus is the most challenging to explore. With surface temperatures reaching a bewildering 867 degrees Fahrenheit (464 degrees Celsius), even the most hardened landers can't survive for long. But a new idea, called the Calypso Venus Scout, calls for a bold new mission design: a science probe dangling 20 miles (32 kilometers) below a cloud-borne balloon. Welcome to hell Because Venus is only slightly smaller than our own planet, it's taken up the nickname of the "Earth's twin." But if Venus really is a twin of the Earth, it's the evil kind. Despite their similar sizes, the two worlds couldn't be more different . While Earth maintains a balmy climate, with a decent atmosphere keeping the lid on vast expanses of liquid water oceans, Venus is a nightmare world. Related: Venus, once billed as Earth's twin, is a hothouse (and a tantalizing target in the search for life) Its atmosphere is almost completely carbon dioxide and reaches pressures 92 times that found at Earth's sea level. The noxious atmosphere is so thick that the planet's surface temperatures are the hottest in the inner solar system — warmer even than Mercury , despite sitting 50% farther away from our sun. Of all the missions of Venus, only the Soviets attempted any landings, with the Venera program. Brutalized by the extreme conditions, most of those landers failed, but a few managed to survive long enough to send back a few quick exposures before succumbing. No lander has reached the Venusian surface since Venera 14 in 1982. To date, our only records of the surface come from those few Soviet probes and the occasional orbiter. Even though Venus may be our twin, we know far too little about it. The winds of Venus Even nearly 40 years after the last Venera mission, we do not have the technology to build a reliable, long-term probe to survey the terrain of Venus like we do on Mars. What's more, with all the interest in Mars exploration , including possible human visits, nobody really wants to spend the money on developing the technologies needed for a still-risky Venus venture. But there could be another way to do it, and it's called the Calypso Venus Scout, as outlined in a white paper recently posted to the preprint site arXiv.org . Calypso isn't under NASA consideration right now; the paper's author wrote about it to give the decadal survey, the government's long-term planning process for planetary science, a broader sense of current options. The mission tries to balance the twin challenges of Venus: The surface of Venus is just too dang hot, but orbital missions trying to study the surface are hampered by the miles and miles of thick, hazy cloud layers, making precise measurements incredibly difficult. So Calypso would go in between. At an altitude of about 20 miles, the thick clouds of Venus clear away. If you can get a probe below that level, then you should have a clear, unobstructed view of the ground. And while it's still ridiculously hot at that altitude, it's not nearly as hot as the surface: a relatively balmy 260 F (130 C). Upon Calypso's arrival at Venus, a massive balloon would deploy in the atmosphere, right at the top of the cloud layers, keeping steady at an altitude of about 30 miles (50 km). At that height, the temperature and pressure don't require any ingenious new technology and solar panels can provide ample power to the probe. From that balloon, a descent module would trail down, held to the balloon by a tether 10-20 miles (15-30 km) long. The descent module would poke beneath the clouds and take some pictures, surveying the terrain as the high-altitude winds blow the balloon around. Then, once the temperatures inside the descent module get too hot to handle, the module would reel back up above the clouds, relaying the data back to Earth while the module cools off for another round. The better to see you On its way up and down, the probe would slowly scan the surface of Venus in visible and infrared wavelengths to a potential resolution of just a few inches or centimeters. One of the most powerful aspects of Calypso is that it wouln't be limited to studying just a single landing site, but would be able to survey wide swaths of the Venusian landscape . Understanding Venus is critical for learning about our own planet. Billions of years ago, Venus really was a twin of Earth, with liquid water oceans and a pleasant atmosphere. But a runaway greenhouse event on Venus evaporated the oceans, allowed carbon dioxide to vent into the atmosphere unchecked, and left the place a ruin. Venus became so dry that plate tectonics completely shut down, locking its surface in place for at least hundreds of millions of years. Venus is both a time capsule, providing a glimpse into what an Earth-size planet was up to long ago, and a cautionary tale . By studying Venus more, with daring missions like Calypso, we can better learn what our own fate might be. Paul M. Sutter is an astrophysicist at SUNY Stony Brook and the Flatiron Institute, host of Ask a Spaceman and Space Radio, and author of Your Place in the Universe.Sutter contributed this article to Space.com's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights. Follow uson Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 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An airplane-size asteroid gives Earth a close shave today - Space.com
It poses no threat to our planet, though.
An asteroid the size of a jumbo jet will have a close encounter with Earth today (Sept. 1), zooming past our planet at about one-third the average distance to the moon. Asteroid 2011 ES4 will make its closest approach today at 12:12 p.m. EDT (1612 GMT), according to NASA. At that time, it will be about 75,400 miles (121,000 kilometers) from Earth. Because the object's orbit isn't well known, it could pass even closer than that, at a distance of just 45,400 miles (73,000 km), NASA added. "Will asteroid 2011 ES4 hit Earth? No!," NASA's Asteroid Watch outreach arm wrote on Twitter. "2011 ES4's close approach is 'close' on an astronomical scale but poses no danger of actually hitting Earth." The asteroid measures somewhere between 72 feet to 161 feet in diameter (22 to 49 meters), or about the size of a commercial airliner. During its close approach, it will be traveling at a speed of 18,253 mph (29,376 kph). Video: Airplane-size asteroid to fly close to Earth - Orbit animationRelated: Potentially dangerous asteroids (images) Asteroid 2011 ES4 will fly by Earth (orbit shown in blue) on Sept. 1, 2020, at 12:12 p.m. EDT (1612 GMT). (Image credit: NASA JPL) Asteroid 2011 ES4 was discovered by astronomers using the Mount Lemmon Survey at the University of Arizona on March 2, 2011, less than two weeks before the space rock's first known flyby of Earth. But astronomers were only able to observe the asteroid for four days before it became too faint, and it has not been directly observed since, according to EarthSky.org. This lack of observation data means that there is some uncertainty when it comes to calculating its exact trajectory. Related: No, an asteroid will not hit Earth the day before Election Day Will #asteroid 2011 ES4 hit Earth? 🌎 No! 2011 ES4’s close approach is “close” on an astronomical scale but poses no danger of actually hitting Earth. #PlanetaryDefense experts expect it to safely pass by at least 45,000 miles (792,000 football fields) away on Tuesday Sept. 1.August 28, 2020 Although this asteroid has been known to astronomers for almost a decade, plenty of asteroids that fly by Earth go undetected until the last minute — or remain unknown until after the flyby has happened. For example, two weeks ago the newfound asteroid 2020 QG made the closest near-miss on record, and it wasn't discovered until six hours later. Email Hanneke Weitering at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @hannekescience. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: [email protected]
SpaceX doubleheader! Watch 2 Falcon 9 rockets lift off from Florida Sunday - Space.com
If the weather cooperates.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. SpaceX is preparing for a potential launch doubleheader on Sunday (Aug. 30), and you can watch the action live online. On Sunday morning, the companys Starlink internet megaconstellation is expected to grow as SpaceX plans to launch an additional 60 satellites into orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket. Just nine hours later, a different Falcon 9 is slated to deliver the Argentinian satellite SAOCOM-1B into a polar orbit, marking the first such mission to fly from the Cape since the 1960s. The Starlink mission is scheduled to launch from Pad 39A at NASAs Kennedy Space Center at 10:12 a.m. EDT (1412 GMT). SAOCOM-1B will fly from SpaceXs other Florida launch pad, at Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. That liftoff is scheduled for 7:18 p.m. EDT (2318 GMT). You can watch both launches live here at Space.com and on our homepage, courtesy of SpaceX, beginning about 15 minutes before liftoff. You'll also be able to watch the launches directly from SpaceX . Related: SpaceX's Starlink satellite megaconstellation launches in photos The launch doubleheader is contingent upon a couple of factors. First, the weather needs to cooperate, and summertime in Florida can be tricky. The most recent weather reports issued by the Air Force's 45th Weather Squadron do not look terribly promising, with a 50% chance of favorable conditions for Starlink and only a 40% chance of favorable conditions for SAOCOM-1B. SpaceX also needs to get launch approvals from the Eastern Range, the entity that oversees all launch operations on the East Coast. The company announced potential launch times on Friday (Aug. 28), but those assumed that United Launch Alliances (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket would launch early Saturday morning (Aug. 29) from Cape Canaveral, which did not happen . The Delta IV Heavy's engines ignited and its on board computers quickly shut them down after detecting an anomaly. ULA has not yet announced what caused the shutdown but has said it will be at least a week before its triple-barrel rocket will attempt to fly again. The Delta IV Heavy launch directly affects SpaceXs plans because it will deliver a national security payload. The satellite perched atop the massive rocket is a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the U.S. governments spy satellite agency. Theres a hierarchy when it comes to launch payloads, with NRO satellites receiving priority over all other missions, followed by civilian (such as NASA) and then finally commercial payloads. SAOCOM-1B will be the first satellite launched into a polar-orbiting trajectory from Cape Canaveral since the 1960s. Typically, polar-orbiting missions are launched from the West Coast, at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Thats because they can fly north or south over open water, which is not the case in Florida. Most launches from Florida blast off on an easterly trek, while polar launches need to go north or south. In late 1960, debris from a Thor rocket reportedly fell on Cuba and killed a cow . This incident resulted in polar launches being moved to California. Officials were later able to secure the rights to launch this type of mission from Florida, but only if the rocket had an automated flight termination system, which the Falcon 9 does. For the SAOCOM-1B mission, the Air Force secured a southerly corridor that passes over Cuba, while the rockets first stage will return to land and touch down at SpaceX's Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral. There is some concern that the SAOCOM-1B missions unique flight path puts Space Launch Complex 37 (and the Delta IV Heavy) in the hazard zone. Since ULA was unable to get the Heavy off the ground Saturday morning, there was some speculation that the SAOCOM-1B mission would have to stand down until further notice. However, SpaceXs communications team tweeted that, as of Saturday afternoon, both missions were still on for Sunday. Related: Why SpaceX's Starlink satellites caught astronomers off guard SpaceX hopes to provide global broadband coverage with its Starlink megaconstellation. Users on the ground will employ a small terminal (no larger than a laptop) to connect to the ever-growing constellation flying overhead. To date, SpaceX has launched more than 600 of the internet-beaming satellites. Company founder and CEO Elon Musk has said that there need to be between 500 and 800 satellites in orbit before service can begin to roll out. Users are beta-testing the service now, but many more satellites may end up launching before Musk and SpaceX connect the world. The weather on Sunday morning looks iffy, with only a 50% chance of favorable weather for Starlink, according to forecasters at the 45th Weather Squadron. Temperatures in the area are supposed to be around 83 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius) with some thick clouds being the main cause for concern. Later in the day, the weather conditions deteriorate a bit with just a 40% chance of launch for SAOCOM-1B. Temperatures in the area should stay around 83 degrees Fahrenheit, but forecasters are concerned about the potential for storm clouds to develop. SpaceX has deployed one of its two drone ships, Of Course I Still Love You, to the designated recovery zone in the Atlantic Ocean. Here the massive ship will wait for the Starlink Falcon 9's first-stage booster to return to Earth. The first stage used in the SAOCOM-1B mission will land on terra firma at Cape Canaveral Air Force station, and locals should be treated to some sonic booms. SpaceX is also expected to attempt to recover the Falcon 9 payload fairings, or nose cones, as the company deployed its two net-equipped boats to different locations. One ship will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean at each recovery zone to support the recovery efforts of both missions. Follow Amy Thompson on Twitter @astrogingersnap. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook. Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: [email protected]
SpaceX launches 58 Starlink satellites and 3 SkySats, sticks rocket landing - Space.com
It's a record sixth flight for this Falcon 9 rocket.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. SpaceX successfully launched a new Starlink rideshare mission into orbit today (Aug. 18), lofting a bevy of Starlink internet satellites along with three small Earth-observation satellites before sticking a rocket landing at sea. The two-stage Falcon 9 rocket carrying 58 SpaceX Starlink satellites, and a trio of small SkySat satellites for the California-based imaging company, Planet, lifted off at 10:31 a.m. EDT (1431 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 40 here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The launch is the second Starlink mission this month and SpaceX's 14th mission so far in 2020. The company, taking advantage of its fleet of reusable, flight-proven boosters, also set another record with the launch flying the same booster for the sixth time. Today’s mission also marks the 40th reflight of a Falcon 9. The booster featured in today's flight, designated B1049 by SpaceX, previously launched three separate Starlink flights, as well as the Telstar 18 VANTAGE and Iridium-8 missions. And now, after pulling off yet another landing this morning, it became the first six-time flier. Approximately eight minutes after an on-time liftoff, the booster settled softly onto the deck of SpaceX's "Of Course I Still Love You" drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. Related:SpaceX's Starlink satellite megaconstellation launches in photos Image 1 of 6 (Image credit: SpaceX) Image 2 of 6 A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying 58 Starlink internet satellites and three Planet SkySat Earth-observation satellites launches from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Aug. 18, 2020. (Image credit: SpaceX/YouTube) Image 3 of 6 A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying 58 Starlink internet satellites and three Planet SkySat Earth-observation satellites launches from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Aug. 18, 2020. (Image credit: SpaceX/YouTube) Image 4 of 6 (Image credit: SpaceX) Image 5 of 6 (Image credit: SpaceX) Image 6 of 6 (Image credit: SpaceX/YouTube) The road to 100 Today's flight inches SpaceX towards another major milestone beyond the reusability aspect as it marks the company's 99th launch. It's important to note that this accolade pertains to the Falcon family of rockets, including all versions of the Falcon. SpaceX's first rocket, the Falcon 1, had a total of five missions, two of which were successful and paved the way for SpaceX's many achievements. Since its debut in 2010, the company's workhorse Falcon 9 has now flown a total of 90 times with only two mishaps. (The CRS-7 resupply mission for NASA was lost during launch , and the AMOS-6 payload was lost on the pad during a routine preflight test.) The company's heavy-lifter, known as Falcon Heavy , has flown three times so far, all of which have been a success. SpaceX was founded in 2002 with one overarching goal: to make life multiplanetary. Company founder and CEO Elon Musk has said that SpaceX's philosophy has always been that a fully (and rapidly) reusable rocket is the key to dramatically reducing the cost of spaceflight. To that end, Musk and SpaceX strive for reusability. Historically, rockets have been a one-and-done piece of hardware. Following a launch, the various parts of a rocket would be discarded and never used again. SpaceX's Falcon 9 has since proved that the same first stage booster can launch and land multiple times. In fact, the latest iteration of the Falcon 9 is capable of flying 10 times with little refurbishment in between, and as many as 100 times before being retired, Musk has said. To date, SpaceX has flown one rocket six times and two others five times. Related: See the evolution of SpaceX's rockets in pictures Image 1 of 2 (Image credit: SpaceX) Image 2 of 2 (Image credit: SpaceX) Rocket reuse The first stage of the Falcon 9 featured in today's mission is now a record six-time flier, having previously launched three separate Starlink flights, as well as the Telstar 18 VANTAGE and Iridium-8 missions. Earlier this year, it became the second Falcon 9 booster to launch five times and the first to land successfully five times. The first booster to launch five times, designated B1048 by SpaceX, experienced an inflight anomaly in March. There was some residual cleaner trapped inside an engine part, which resulted in the booster missing its intended landing on the drone ship. (The booster did deliver the payload to orbit with no issues, however.) As a result, SpaceX subsequently changed its refurbishment techniques and has now launched and recovered three different boosters five times, one of which starred in today's mission. A view of Planet's SkySats 19, 20 and 21 launching on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket alongside 58 Starlink satellites. Liftoff is set for Aug. 18, 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. (Image credit: Planet/SpaceX) The Falcon 9's first stage successfully landed on SpaceX's drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You " approximately eight minutes after liftoff, marking the company's 58th recovery since the first in 2015. In order to land, the booster must conduct a series of orbital ballet moves, after separating from its upper stage, to reposition itself for landing. Then it relies on one of its nine engines to conduct a series of three brief burns to slow itself enough to gently touch down on the deck of a floating platform. That floating platform is one of two massive drone ships, SpaceX deploys out in the Atlantic Ocean, to catch its returning boosters. To date, the company has made 58 catches out of 68 attempts. Once the boosters are returned to Florida's Port Canaveral, they are transported back to SpaceX's facilities, where each one is carefully inspected and repurposed to fly again. That's thanks to a series of upgrades improved engines, a more durable interstage (which connects the first and second stages), titanium grid fins and a more robust thermal protection system the Falcon 9 received in 2018, allowing it to hold up better against the stresses of launch. Rapid reuse, coupled with the fact the company now has two drone ships to recover its first-stage boosters, means that the company can launch more frequently. SpaceX launched a total of four times between the end of May and the end of June, and it plans to conduct a number of launches through the end of 2020. Related: SpaceX launches 60 Starlink satellites, lands rocket in dazzling nighttime liftoff Sunshades SpaceX's Starlink satellites have been a thorn in the side of astronomers since the first launch in 2019. The flat-paneled satellites caught the astronomy community off guard , appearing as a bright train of dots marching across the night sky. Ever since, SpaceX has been trying to mitigate the brightness, thus minimizing their impact on night sky observations. To that end, the company started outfitting its fleet of internet-beaming satellites with a special visor. The sunshade , as SpaceX is calling it, is a deployable visor designed to prevent sunlight from reflecting off the shiniest parts of the satellites, such as the antennas. The company is hoping to decrease the fleet's overall brightness and enable them to appear as dark as possible in the night sky. A previous Starlink launch in June of this year featured one satellite outfitted with the experimental visor; today's mission is the second in which all satellites sport it. Fairing Recovery SpaceX has proven that it can reuse the most expensive portion of the rocket: the first stage. This piece of hardware accounts for 60% of the Falcon 9's total price tag. But the company hasn't stopped there. In an effort to further reduce launch costs, SpaceX has started recovering and reusing its payload fairings . The clamshell-like hardware (also known as the rocket's nose cone) returns to Earth in two pieces, each outfitted with parachutes and software that guides it back to Earth, where the company's two boats GO Ms. Tree and GO Ms. Chief are waiting with outstretched nets. However, simply waiting in the ocean with an outstretched net is not always the key to snagging a falling fairing. Whether they're able to make a catch depends on many factors, including the weather. If the two boats are unable to catch the fairings, they can scoop them up out of the water and carry them back to port. From there, the pieces will be prepped for reuse. The Falcon 9 on this flight carried a reused payload fairing half, that previously flew on the company’s fourth Starlink mission in January. SpaceX has been marking the fairings with different symbols to indicate if they were caught mid air or scooped up from the ocean, as captured by a local launch photographer . SpaceX is expected to make an attempt to snag the falling fairings, which will occur approximately 40 minutes after liftoff. Follow Amy Thompson on Twitter @astrogingersnap. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook. Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: [email protected]
Mars rover Perseverance refines course toward Red Planet - Space.com
Four more such maneuvers are scheduled before the rover's February 2021 landing.
NASA's Perseverance Mars rover just fired up its deep-space thrusters for the first time. Perseverance, the centerpiece of NASA's $2.7 billion Mars 2020 mission , refined its course toward the Red Planet with a trajectory-correction maneuver on Friday (Aug. 14), 15 days after the life-hunting rover lifted off. The maneuver, which employed eight thrusters on Perseverance's cruise stage the vehicle that carries the rover through deep space was a success, mission team members announced via Twitter on Friday. Related:The Mars Perseverance rover mission in photos My first planned Trajectory Correction Maneuver was a success. I do TCMs on my journey to stay on target for a Feb. 18, 2021 date with Mars. I left Earth over 2 weeks ago and already put on 27+ million miles. Only ~265 million more to go! #CountdownToMars https://t.co/1PJU9YwxvJ pic.twitter.com/wdvVPHqPvJAugust 15, 2020 Perseverance's mission plan calls for five trajectory-correction maneuvers to set the rover up for its pinpoint landing inside Mars' Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021. The four remaining engine burns are scheduled to take place on Sept. 28, Dec. 20, Feb. 10 and Feb. 16. (There's also a backup opportunity on Feb. 17 if needed, and a final "contingency" window on Feb. 18, just nine hours before touchdown.) Perseverance launched July 30 on a mission to seek out signs of ancient Mars life inside the 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater, which hosted a lake and river delta in the ancient past. The rover will also collect and cache samples for future return to Earth, potentially as early as 2031 . Mars 2020 will test out new exploration technologies as well. For example, a tiny helicopter named Ingenuity is traveling to the Red Planet on the rover's belly and will attempt the first-ever rotorcraft flight on a world beyond Earth. Additionally, one of Perseverance's instruments, called MOXIE (short for "Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment"), will generate oxygen from the carbon dioxide-dominated Martian atmosphere. A scaled-up version of MOXIE could one day help human pioneers get a foothold on Mars, NASA officials have said. (The agency aims to put boots on the Red Planet in the 2030s.) Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook. Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: [email protected]
SpaceX's toasted Crew Dragon returns home after historic NASA astronaut splashdown - Space.com
It looks like a toasted marshmallow.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule cruised into its home port Friday evening (Aug. 7), secured to one of the companys recovery vessels. Onlookers gathered at Jetty Park (while social distancing) in anticipation of the Crew Dragons arrival after the capsule's historic splashdown on Aug. 2 that returned NASA astronauts Bob Benken and Doug Hurley to Earth. The mission, SpaceX's first crewed flight, was NASA's first orbital crewed flight from U.S. soil since 2011. Jetty Park a popular launch viewing location is located at the mouth of the port, and all marine traffic comes through this point. Typically packed with excited space fans waiting to see a launch, Jetty Park has been closed during most of the pandemic, but recently reopened in phases. Related: 'It sounds like an animal': NASA astronauts describe Crew Dragon reentry The SpaceX recovery ship carrying Crew Dragon, named GO Navigator, pulled into port just after 5:30 p.m. EST (2130 GMT) on Friday. Crew members on board the ship waved at onlookers as the vessel made its short trek through the channel. The ship and Crew Dragon were quickly moved into a U.S. Navy submarine basin, where the vehicle would be offloaded and transported to SpaceX's Cape Canaveral facilities. (Typically, when SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket first stages arrive in port after landing on one of the companys drone ships, the boosters are towed to SpaceX's dock, further into the port). Friday's arrival wrapped up SpaceXs historic first crewed mission , that began when astronauts Behnken and Hurley blasted off from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on May 30. Just over two months ago, a shiny new Falcon 9 rocket, adorned with NASA's retro worm logo, lofted the capsule into orbit. Crew Dragon then spent about a day chasing down the International Space Station, before delivering Behnken and Hurley to the orbiting outpost. Full coverage: SpaceX's historic Demo-2 Crew Dragon astronaut test flight SpaceX's GO Navigator returns to Port Canaveral in Cape Canaveral Florida on Aug. 7, 2020 following a successful splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola on Aug. 2. (Image credit: Amy Thompson/Space.com) The duo spent a total of 63 days on station, assisting fellow NASA astronaut, Chris Cassidy, with station maintenance, research experiments, and even a series of spacewalks. Crew Dragon departed the space station Saturday evening (Aug. 1), splashing down off the coast of Pensacola, in the Gulf of Mexico at 2:48 p.m. EST (1848 GMT) on Sunday (Aug. 2). Recovery crews were waiting to pluck the capsule its previous stark white exterior now resembling a toasted marshmallow out of the water and haul it back to shore. GO Navigator met the Dragon and hoisted the capsule aboard shortly after splashdown. After a series of checkouts, recovery teams opened the crafts hatch at 3:59 p.m. EDT (1959 GMT), extracting the two astronauts about 10 minutes later. Once the astronauts were safely offloaded, GO Navigator began its journey back to Port Canaveral. The craft sailed around the Florida peninsula, arriving back at its home dock five days later. With the help of marine traffic sites, space enthusiasts were able to track Dragon on its journey home. In photos: A behind-the-scenes look at SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship It was a bright, beautiful Florida afternoon as SpaceX's Dragon-toting vessel appeared on the horizon, it' white paint gleaming in the sunlight. As the distance between GO Navigator and her awaiting fans closed, Crew Dragon came into view. Peeking out from the stern of the ship, Dragon's scorched appearance was visible as the vessel approached the Navy basin. Once Dragon is offloaded, SpaceX engineers will take it apart so they can analyze how it performed. The craft is scheduled to fly again next spring, and this time with a crew of four. NASA officials expect to certify the craft for regular astronaut flights as soon as the end of this month. That certification will greenlight SpaceX's next crew of astronauts to fly on a long-duration mission to the space station. In the meantime, SpaceX's drone ship, Of Course I Still Love You, is expected to return to port in a few days. Early Friday (Aug. 7), the company launched one of its Falcon 9 rockets , carrying a stack of Starlink satellites into space along with two small satellites for Black Sky Global. Follow Amy Thompson on Twitter @astrogingersnap. Follow us on [email protected] orFacebook. Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: [email protected]
SpaceX launches 57 more Starlink satellites, lands rocket at sea - Space.com
The internet megaconstellation continues to grow.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. SpaceX successfully launched dozens of Starlink internet satellites and two small Earth-imaging satellites into orbit Friday (Aug. 7) in the second of what's expected to be a series of Starlink rideshare missions. A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket carrying 57 SpaceX Starlink satellites, along with two BlackSky Global Earth-observation satellites, lifted off at 1:12 a.m. EDT (0512 GMT) from Pad 39A here at NASAs Kennedy Space Center. It was the fifth launch for this Falcon 9's first stage. And the booster pulled off yet another landing this morning, settling softly onto the deck of SpaceX's "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship in the Atlantic Ocean about eight minutes after liftoff. Related:SpaceX's Starlink satellite megaconstellation launches in photos This is SpaceX's 10th Starlink mission since 2019, and the company's 12th overall mission for 2020. SpaceX has been relying on its fleet of used, flight-proven boosters to sustain a rapid launch cadence. The company has had a stellar summer, with the launch and landing of two NASA astronauts on the Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station a first for a private company and isnt slowing down anytime soon. The third time was the charm for SpaceX as its Falcon 9 rocket roared to life and lit up the night sky over Floridas Space Coast. Nighttime launches are always a stunning spectacle, and this one did not disappoint. The rumble from the rocket's nine engines seemed especially loud tonight and could still be heard even after the rocket disappeared from view. Hitchhiking satellites Tucked inside the Falcon 9's nose cone this morning was a stack of 57 internet-beaming satellites. Part of SpaceXs Starlink megaconstellation, the satellites will join hundreds already in orbit. To date, the company has launched 595 Starlink satellites as it works to complete the huge constellation. SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has said that SpaceX needs between 400 and 800 Starlink satellites in orbit to begin to roll out minimal coverage. As that goal draws nearer, SpaceX has been teasing the arrival of a beta program, which will help the company test the service for eventual worldwide consumption. SpaceX is also taking other steps to make Starlink service a reality. For example, the company has gained approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission for up to one million user terminals . Musk has said that he wants the terminals to be easy to operate. Resembling a "UFO on a stick," as Musk calls it, each terminal is equipped with actuators to ensure that it points at the sky at all times. All a user has to do is plug it in and point it at the sky. Hitching a ride with the Starlink stack today were two small, Earth-observing satellites for BlackSky. The rideshare was arranged by another company called Spaceflight, which finds rides to space for smaller satellites. SpaceX also has its own rideshare program, which books small satellites directly instead of going through a third-party service. (Three small Earth-observing satellites built by San Francisco-based company Planet flew on the previous Starlink mission last month, in a deal booked directly through SpaceX.) Related: What's that in the sky? It's a SpaceX rocket, but it sure doesn't look like it Satellite sunshades The Starlink satellites on this mission are a bit different than the ones that have launched previously. That's because they're outfitted with a special visor that will help reduce their apparent brightness. The sunshade , as SpaceX is calling it, is a deployable visor designed to prevent sunlight from reflecting off the shiniest parts of the satellites, such as the antennas. The company as well as astronomers and dark-sky advocates around the world are hoping to decrease the Starlink fleet's overall brightness. This will enable them to appear as dark as possible in the night sky, thus minimizing their impact on night sky observations. When the very first set of Starlink satellites launched, it caught the astronomy community off guard as the satellites appeared brighter in the sky than SpaceX intended. Scientists around the globe voiced their disapproval, concerned that the bright satellites would inhibit scientific observations. A previous Starlink launch back in June featured one satellite outfitted with the experimental visor; today's mission is the first in which all 57 sport it. Rocket reuse The first stage of the Falcon 9 featured in today's mission is now a five-time flier, as it previously launched the Demo-1 mission in 2019 , which sent an uncrewed Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station; a trio of Earth-observing satellites for Canada; and two Starlink missions this year. It is the third Falcon 9 booster to launch five times, and the second to launch and land successfully five times. The first booster to launch five times, designated B1048 by SpaceX, experienced an inflight anomaly . There was some residual cleaner trapped inside an engine part, which resulted in the booster missing its intended landing on the drone ship. (The booster did deliver the payload to orbit with no issues, however.) SpaceX subsequently changed its refurbishment techniques and has now launched and recovered two different boosters five times. Each of these should fly again soon, especially if SpaceX is going to keep up its rapid launch cadence. Related:See the evolution of SpaceX's rockets in pictures The Falcon 9's first stage successfully landed on SpaceX's drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" approximately eight minutes after liftoff. To do so, the booster separated from its upper stage and conducted a series of orbital ballet moves, reorienting itself for landing. The rocket conducted a series of three engine burns to slow itself enough to gently touch down on the deck of a floating platform. The massive drone ship, stationed out in the Atlantic Ocean, is one of two vessels that SpaceX uses to catch its returning boosters. To date, the company has successfully recovered 56 first-stage boosters. Once they're back in Florida's Port Canaveral, the boosters are transported back to SpaceX facilities, where they're carefully inspected and repurposed to fly again. The current iteration of the Falcon 9 was finalized in 2018. Known as the Block 5, it features 1.7 million pounds of thrust as well as some other upgrades that make it capable of rapid reuse. SpaceX boasts that each of these boosters can fly as many as 10 times with minor refurbishments in between, and as many as 100 times before retirement. (To date, SpaceX has launched and landed the same booster a maximum of five times.) Rapid reuse, coupled with the fact the company now has two drone ships to recover its first-stage boosters, means that the company can launch more frequently. SpaceX launched a total of four times between the end of May and the end of June, and it plans to conduct a number of launches through the end of 2020. Related: SpaceX launches 60 Starlink satellites and lands rocket in dazzling nighttime liftoff Falling fairings Ahead of today's launch, SpaceX deployed its twin fairing catchers, GO Ms. Tree and GO Miss Chief. These two boats act as giant, mobile catcher's mitts, snagging payload fairings in their attached nets as they fall back down to Earth. Whether or not they're able to make a catch depends on many factors, including the weather. To facilitate reuse, SpaceX has equipped its payload fairings (also known as the rocket nose cones) with parachutes and software that guides them to the recovery zone. If Ms. Tree or Ms. Chief are unable to catch the fairings, which come back to Earth in two pieces, the boats can scoop them up out of the water and carry them back to port. Once back in Port Canaveral, the fairings (along with the booster) are refurbished and reused, so long as they're intact. SpaceX has reflown fairings several times, most of which were retrieved from the ocean and refurbished. However, on a recent mission , the dynamic boat duo made its first double catch, snagging both falling fairings. SpaceX attempted to catch the fairings today but did not succeed, company launch commentators said about 48 minutes after liftoff. Todays launch was the third attempt at getting this particular mission off the ground. The launch was originally scheduled to blast off in mid-June , but was delayed due to the need for extra rocket checks. Another attempt on July 8 was called off due to poor weather at the launch site. Follow Amy Thompson on Twitter @astrogingersnap. 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Demo-2 success keeps SpaceX on track for tourist flights in late 2021 - Space.com
Demo-2 could help pave the way for some very exciting things.
SpaceX is over the moon after the successful completion of the company's first-ever crewed mission. The Demo-2 test flight to the International Space Station wrapped up on Sunday (Aug. 2), when a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico. During a news conference Sunday after the historic landing, SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell expressed her excitement, saying that the mission's success bodes well for the future. Full coverage:SpaceX's historic Demo-2 Crew Dragon astronaut test flight "This mission was incredibly smooth," she said. "Not to say that there weren't things that we want to work on and do better next time, but the capsule worked beautifully." "We certainly feel comfortable that we're on the right path to carry commercial passengers," she added. Now that the Crew Dragon capsule , which Behnken and Hurley named Endeavour, is safely back on Earth, engineers will spend several weeks combing over mission data to make sure everything went as expected. The early returns are positive in that regard, Shotwell said. "Based on the telemetry, and any visual indications that we've had so far, the vehicle looks like it's in really good shape," she said. Once that analysis is complete, NASA is expected to certify Crew Dragon and SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket for crewed trips to orbit. Steve Stich, NASA's Commercial Crew Program manager, estimated that the certification process could be wrapped up by the end of August. SpaceX is contracted to fly at least six crewed missions to the International Space Station as part of its commercial crew contract with NASA. The first operational flight, known as Crew-1, is scheduled to launch in late September. But that's not all that SpaceX has planned. The California-based rocket builder inked a deal with Virginia-based company Space Adventures earlier this year to fly four space tourists on Crew Dragon . That mission is estimated to take off sometime in late 2021. "This historic mission will forge a path to making spaceflight possible for all people who dream of it, and we are pleased to work with the Space Adventures team on the mission," Shotwell said in a statement from Space Adventures in February of this year. In photos:A behind-the-scenes look at SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship Under the agreement, four passengers will launch into orbit atop a Falcon 9. Crew Dragon will not rendezvous with the space station, however; it will circle Earth for up to five days as a free-flying spacecraft that gets higher than the orbiting lab. "This will provide up to four individuals with the opportunity to break the world altitude record for private citizen spaceflight and see planet Earth the way no one has since the Gemini program," Space Adventures representatives said in the same statement . (The space station orbits at an average altitude of about 250 miles, or 400 kilometers.) SpaceX has also signed a deal with Axiom Space to ferry private astronauts into space. The Houston-based space startup has reached an agreement with SpaceX to send a total of four astronauts to the space station sometime in 2021. The crew will include three private astronauts and one Axiom-trained mission commander, embarking on a 10-day mission to the International Space Station. The crew will be selected and trained by Axiom, with SpaceX providing the taxi service. Axiom Space has not released details about how much the company will pay SpaceX to fly the four people to the International Space Station. In the past, however, the company has said such a flight for space tourists would cost about $55 million per seat, with the majority of that cost likely going to SpaceX for the launch vehicle and Crew Dragon spacecraft. Last year, NASA opened a path for commercial trips to the space station, saying it would charge $35,000 per person per day for private stays on the orbiting lab. The upcoming flight and others like it to follow will be just the beginning, if everything goes according to Axiom's plan. The company also aims to install its own commercial module on the space station and, eventually, to set up its own orbital outpost. Axiom representatives say this is part of a two-step process the company has laid out to build and serve a growing market for access to low-Earth orbit (LEO). "These flights, along with helping to grow and serve the demand for access to LEO in the near term, will give our operational procedures formal testing to prepare for when we begin managing flights to our own modules," Axiom representatives said . NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine echoed that sentiment during Sunday's post-splashdown briefing, explaining that the Demo-2 mission's success is a shining example of how well public-private partnerships work and how important they are to the future of space exploration. Shotwell expressed great optimism about the future as well. "This is really just the beginning," she said during the news conference. "We are starting the journey of bringing people regularly to and from low-Earth orbit and on to the moon, and then ultimately on to Mars." Follow Amy Thompson on Twitter @astrogingersnap. Follow us on [email protected] orFacebook. Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! 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NASA announces astronauts to launch on SpaceX's Crew-2 Dragon in 2021 - Space.com
The crew for SpaceX's Crew-2 mission. From the left it's NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet. (Image credit: NASA) SpaceX's Crew-2 mission for NASA has its astronauts. NASA and its international partners have officially assigned the astronauts to fly on SpaceX's Crew-2 mission in spring of 2021, the U.S. space agency announced today (July 28). The mission will be SpaceX's second operational Crew Dragon flight to the International Space Station, following the upcoming Crew-1 astrononaut mission, which is slated to launch in September. Crew-2 will include NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, who will serve as spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively. JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet. Hoshide and Pesquet will join Crew-2 as mission specialists. Related: SpaceX's historic Demo-2 crewed test flight in photos Crew-2 is set to launch in the spring of 2021, assuming that SpaceX's current Demo-2 and upcoming Crew-1 missions are successful. Demo-2 is scheduled to wrap up on Sunday (Aug. 2) when NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley return to Earth from the space station aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon vehicle. Interestingly enough, Behnken and Crew-2 crewmember McArthur are actually married. After The Crew-2 astronauts launch, they will spend about six months aboard the space station as expedition crew members. They will share the station with three crewmates (who will fly aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft), making for a total of seven astronauts on the space station. All four Crew-2 astronauts are space veterans, with a variety of missions under their belts. Kimbrough has flown to space twice: first in 2008 on NASA's shuttle Endeavour as part of the STS-126 mission to the station, then again in 2016 on a Soyuz capsule as part of the Expedition 49/50 long-duration mission to the station. McArthur has flown to space once aboard space shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist on STS-125, which was the final servicing mission for the Hubble Space Telescope. Hoshide was a part of two missions to space. On the first, STS-124 in 2008, he flew aboard the shuttle Discovery and on the second in 2012, he flew to the space station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft for Expeditions 32 and 22. Pesquet has flown once, riding a Soyuz to the space station as part of Expeditions 50 and 51. Email Chelsea Gohd at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: [email protected]