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NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity won't fly until next week at the earliest - Space.com
The team will modify and reinstall Ingenuity's flight-control software.
We'll have to wait a bit longer to see the first Mars helicopter lift off. NASA had originally aimed to conduct the first Red Planet flight of its Ingenuity helicopter the first-ever powered flight on a world beyond Earth on Sunday (April 11). A high-speed rotor-spinning test on Friday (April 9) didn't go as planned, however, pushing the debut back until Wednesday (April 14) at the earliest. Now, after analyzing the issue over the weekend, the Ingenuity team has concluded "that minor modification and reinstallation of Ingenuity’s flight control software is the most robust path forward," officials at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, which manages Ingenuity's technology-demonstrating mission, wrote in an update Monday (April 12). "Our best estimate of a targeted flight date is fluid right now, but we are working toward achieving these milestones and will set a flight date next week," NASA officials wrote in the update. Related:Watch NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity test its blades! (video) Validating the software change and beaming it to the 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) chopper, via NASA's Perseverance rover , will take some time, the officials added. A detailed timeline is still being worked out, and the team plans to set a new flight date next week. "We are confident in the team’s ability to work through this challenge and prepare for Ingenuity’s historic first controlled, powered flight on another planet," officials wrote. Ingenuity remains healthy and stable, and its vital systems such as power and communications are working properly, they added. Perseverance and Ingenuity landed together inside Mars' 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater on Feb. 18. On April 3, the solar-powered helicopter deployed from the rover's belly and began soaking up the Martian sun for the first time. After powering up, Ingenuity began going through a series of preflight checkouts. The chopper sailed through all of these tests except the final one Friday's spinup, which aimed to get Ingenuity's two rotors up to 2,400 revolutions per minute, the same rotational speed they'll reach during flight. But during the test, "the command sequence controlling the test ended early due to a 'watchdog' timer expiration," NASA officials wrote in a statement on Saturday (April 10). "This occurred as it was trying to transition the flight computer from 'Pre-Flight' to 'Flight' mode." Ingenuity carries two cameras but no scientific instruments. Its main task is to show that powered flight on Mars is possible, potentially opening up a new mode of exploration on the Red Planet. If Ingenuity's month-long flight campaign is successful, future Mars missions could commonly include helicopters as scouts for rovers or as data gatherers in their own right, NASA officials have said. Perseverance is supporting Ingenuity's test campaign the mission team must route communications to and from the helicopter through the rover and will attempt to capture high-resolution imagery of its flights as well. While the helicopter team works out Ingenuity's issues, JPL officials said, Perseverance will continue studying nearby rock targets and prepare for a test of another technology demonstration the Mars Oxygen In Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), an instrument on the rover designed to generate oxygen from the carbon dioxide-dominated Martian atmosphere. Once Ingenuity has finished its flights, Perseverance will focus fully on its own mission, which has two main goals: searching for evidence of ancient life on the floor of Jezero Crater, which hosted a lake and a river delta long ago, and collecting dozens of samples for future return to Earth . 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 identifies cause of Starship SN11 prototype's crash - Space.com
A plumbing problem was apparently to blame.
We now know why SpaceX's latest Starship prototype went up in flames last week. The stainless-steel vehicle, known as SN11 ("Serial No. 11"), launched on a test flight last Tuesday (March 30) from SpaceX's South Texas facilities, near the Gulf Coast village of Boca Chica. SN11 soared to a maximum altitude of 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) as planned, and the 165-foot-tall (50 meters) craft checked a number of boxes on the way down as well. But SN11 didn't stick its landing, instead exploding in a massive fireball — because of a plumbing problem, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk announced today (April 5). Video:Watch SpaceX's Starship SN11 launch on a test flight "Ascent phase, transition to horizontal & control during free fall were good. A (relatively) small CH4 leak led to fire on engine 2 & fried part of avionics, causing hard start attempting landing burn in CH4 turbopump. This is getting fixed 6 ways to Sunday," Musk said via Twitter today . CH4 is methane, the propellant for SpaceX's powerful, next-generation Raptor engine. And a "hard start" refers to ignition when there's too much fuel in the combustion chamber and the pressure is therefore too high — not a good thing for any engine. SpaceX is developing Starship to take people and cargo to the moon, Mars and other distant destinations. The transportation system consists of two elements, both of which will be fully reusable: the Starship spacecraft and a giant first-stage booster called Super Heavy. Both Starship and Super Heavy will be powered by Raptors — six for the final Starship and about 30 for the huge booster, Musk has said. SN11 sported three Raptors, as did each of its three predecessors, SN8, SN9 and SN10, which launched on 6-mile-high test flights in December, February and early March, respectively. All four flights were broadly similar, with the prototypes performing well until the very end. SN10 even landed in one piece, in fact, but exploded about eight minutes later . SpaceX will keep trying to get the landing right. The company has already built the next Starship prototype, known as SN15, and it should take to the skies soon. (Yes, SpaceX is going directly from SN11 to SN15.) 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 to attempt record 9th flight of a Falcon 9 rocket with Starlink launch on Sunday - Space.com
Liftoff is at 6:01 a.m. EDT (1101 GMT).
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. SpaceX is gearing up to launch a third batch of Starlink satellites in as many weeks on Sunday (March 14) and you can watch the action live online. The Hawthorne, California-based company is planning to fly one of its veteran Falcon 9 rockets for a record nine times with the mission, which comes just days after SpaceX's last launch . The two-stage launcher will blast off from the historic Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center here in Florida at 6:01 a.m. EDT (1101 GMT). You can watch the launch live here and on the Space.com homepage, courtesy of SpaceX, beginning about 15 minutes before liftoff. You can also watch the launch directly via SpaceX. Related:SpaceX's Starlink satellite megaconstellation launches in photos Sunday morning's flight will mark the eighth launch for SpaceX this year, keeping up a rapid launch cadence established last year when the company set a new launch record of 26 flights . Forecasters with the U.S. Space Force's 45th Weather Squadron reported that the launch weather looks promising for Sunday's early morning liftoff, with a 90% chance of favorable weather . The only slight concern is the potential for cumulus clouds. If needed, there is a backup launch window on Monday, with weather conditions looking just as promising. Beautiful weather is also predicted down range, which is good news for SpaceX’s main drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" as it hopes to catch the booster as it returns to Earth. If successful, the landing will mark the 77th recovery for SpaceX since the company landed its first booster in 2015, and the ninth landing for this particular booster. Flight no. 9 The booster, B1051, is one of two fleet leaders in SpaceX's stable of reusable rockets. It first flew in March of 2019 , lofting an uncrewed Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of a demonstration mission. Following that successful debut, B1051 trekked across the country to launch a trio of Earth-observing satellites for Canada from SpaceX's facilities at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The booster then flew a total of five times from Florida in 2020, carrying five different Starlink missions and a broadband satellite for Sirius XM . Sunday's mission marks the second flight for B1051 this year, and its second Starlink mission so far in 2021. After its last flight took off on Jan. 20 , SpaceX engineers were able to turn around the booster and get it ready for its historic ninth flight in just 53 days the second quickest turnaround time for this particular booster. (The fastest was between flights 7 and 8, which took off just 38 days apart.) Expanding the constellation This particular flight, Starlink 21, is the 22nd set of internet-beaming satellites that SpaceX has delivered to space, including a set of initial prototypes in 2019. The company planned for its initial constellation to be 1,440 strong, and while SpaceX is well on its way to achieving that milestone, the company has already been granted approval for as many as 30,000 with the option for evenmore at a later time. The latest stack of 60 satellites will join the fleet already in orbit, bringing the total number launched over 1,300. (That number includes prototypes of the satellites that are no longer in service.) SpaceX is quickly filling its initial constellation, as it plans to launch a full commercial rollout later this year. To that end, the company recently started taking preorders via its website. If interested, potential customers can sign up via the company's Starlink website and secure service by putting down a deposit. The website does say that it could take several months for the service to become active, and that it's only allowing a limited number of users per area right now. In 2019, SpaceX kicked off an extensive beta-testing program, called "better than nothing beta ", which kicked off with employees only. The initial results proved to be a success, so the company expanded the testing program to residents of the U.S.. Now, the service is offered in multiple countries, including the U.K., Germany, Canada, and most recently, New Zealand. When wild fires raged across the Pacific Northwest, SpaceX provided its Starlink to service to Washington State's emergency management division to help first responders aid in battling the wildfires. It also provided terminals to the Hoh tribe, a reservation located in Western Washington. Tribal leaders said that members were struggling to get connected and that the service has helped with education and provided access to telehealth. SpaceX has also connected the Pikangikum tribe in Canada, as well as residents in Wise County, Virginia. These users are exactly the type of people the service was designed for those in rural or remote areas with little-to-no access to connectivity. Fairing recovery The net-equipped SpaceX boat GO Ms. Tree catches a Falcon 9 payload fairing half on Aug. 18, 2020. (Image credit: Elon Musk via Twitter) SpaceX's iconic rocket payload fairing catchers GO Ms Tree and GO Ms Chief are still sidelined in the port, undergoing maintenance. On the previous mission, GO Searcher and GO Navigator, two of SpaceX's Dragon recovery boats, were dispatched to the recovery zone to fetch the fairings. After pulling the two pieces of the fairing from the ocean, the dup transported them to Morehead City, NC, where they were transferred to another member of the SpaceX recovery fleet: GO Pursuit. The vessel will carry the pieces back to Port Canaveral so that GO Searcher and GO Navigator can retrieve the fairings after Sunday's launch. 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]
The Perseverance rover has recorded the 1st laser sound on Mars. It's a 'snap!' not a 'pew!' - Space.com
Perseverance keeps notching milestones on the Red Planet.
Our growing list of sounds on Mars now includes lasers. NASA's Perseverance rover has begun using its rock-zapping SuperCam instrument on the Red Planet, mission team members announced today (March 10). SuperCam is equipped with a microphone, which has picked up the gentle whoosh of the Martian wind as well as the not-so-gentle snaps generated by the laser when it hits a rock target. "These recordings have demonstrated that our microphone is not only functioning well, but we also have a very high-quality signal for our scientific studies," SuperCam team member Naomi Murdoch, a researcher at the Institut Supérieur de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace in Toulouse, France, said during a live webcast today . "In the SuperCam team, we're extremely excited about the perspectives and the scientific investigations that we're going to be able to do with the microphone data," Murdoch said. Related: NASA's Mars Perseverance rover mission to the Red Planet in photos This image shows a close-up view of the rock target named "Máaz" from the SuperCam instrument on NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. It was taken by SuperCam’s Remote Micro-Imager on March 2, 2021. "Máaz" means Mars in the Navajo language. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/CNRS) Join our forums here to discuss the Perseverance Mars rover landing. What do you hope finds? The car-sized Perseverance, the centerpiece of NASA's $2.7 billion Mars 2020 mission, landed on the floor of Jezero Crater on Feb. 18 . The rover's main tasks involve hunting for signs of ancient life within the 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero, which harbored a deep lake and a river delta billions of years ago, and collecting dozens of samples for future return to Earth. SuperCam, which sits on Perseverance's headlike mast, is one of the seven science instruments the rover will use to do this off-world work. SuperCam fires a laser at targets up to 23 feet (7 meters) away, generating a cloud of vaporized rock, the composition of which can be determined by the instrument's cameras and spectrometers. As Murdoch and her colleagues announced today, such rock zapping has already begun. SuperCam fired on a target named Máaz, the Navajo word for Mars, on March 2. (Perseverance is exploring a part of Jezero the team has dubbed Canyon de Chelly, after a national monument on Navajo land in northeastern Arizona.) The SuperCam observations allowed the team to determine that Máaz has a basaltic composition. Basalts are igneous, or volcanic, rocks that are common on Mars as well as Earth. But it's unclear at the moment if Máaz itself is volcanic, said SuperCam principal investigator Roger Wiens of Los Alamos National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy facility in New Mexico. It's also possible that Máaz "is a sedimentary rock composed of igneous grains that were washed downriver into Jezero Lake and cemented together," Wiens said during today's update. The SuperCam mic recorded audio of the Martian wind during Perseverance's first few days on Mars, the instrument team announced today. The microphone also captured the countless rapid-fire snaps of the Máaz work, which came from shock waves generated by the heat and vibration of the rock vaporization. Such audio will be quite useful to the SuperCam team, Murdoch said. For example, details of the snaps will reveal the hardness of each rock target, a detail that cannot be determined from composition alone. (Chalk and marble have the same chemical composition, as Murdoch pointed out.) SuperCam recordings will also help the Perseverance team keep tabs on the rover and its various subsystems and allow researchers to better understand the thin, carbon-dioxide dominated Martian atmosphere, Murdoch said. Perseverance carries another microphone as well — one that's built into its entry, descent and landing (EDL) camera system. The EDL mic didn't record sound during the rover's "seven minutes of terror" touchdown on Feb. 18, but it has captured audio on the Martian surface. These two microphones are the first ever to record true audio on Mars. And they may work together at some point; mission team members have discussed the possibility of operating both mics simultaneously to capture stereo sound on the Red Planet. Perseverance has not begun its science work in earnest yet. The first big task for the rover involves finding a suitable airfield for the rover's helicopter, a 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) craft named Ingenuity , to make its technology-demonstrating flights. Perseverance will attempt to document Ingenuity's forays into the Martian sky. And this might even be a multimedia extravaganza: It's possible that one or both mics could capture the sounds of Ingenuity's rotors churning through the thin Martian air, mission team members have said. 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]
Meteorite from brilliant UK fireball is England's first in 30 years - Space.com
It's the first meteorite found in the UK since 1991.
A piece of the space rock that lit up skies over England on Feb. 28 has been found. The singed hunk of asteroid was discovered in the driveway of a house in Winchcombe, a small town in the county of Gloucestershire in southwestern England. The rock, which weighs nearly 10.6 ounces (300 grams), is the first meteorite found in the UK since 1991, experts said, and the first known carbonaceous chondrite ever discovered in the country. Carbonaceous chondrites are especially pristine and primitive meteorites that generally contain lots of organic material, including complex molecules such as amino acids. Studying carbonaceous chondrites can shed light on the early solar system and how the building blocks of life found their way to Earth, researchers say. Fireballs, spaceships, iguanas:7 strange things that fell from the sky in 2020 The Winchcombe meteorite weighs nearly 10.6 ounces (300 grams). (Image credit: The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London) Such study is already under way at the Natural History Museum in London, where the meteorite now resides. "This is really exciting. There are about 65,000 known meteorites in the entire world, and of those only 51 of them are carbonaceous chondrites that have been seen to fall like this one," Sara Russell, a meteorite scientist at the museum, said in a statement . "It is almost mind-blowingly amazing, because we are working on the asteroid sample-return space missions Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx, and this material looks exactly like the material they are collecting," Russell said. "I am just speechless with excitement." Japan's Hayabusa2 mission returned about 0.16 ounces (4.5 g) of the asteroid Ryugu to Earth in December 2020, and NASA's OSIRIS-REx probe collected a large sample of the space rock Bennu in October of that year. The Bennu bits will land here on Earth in September 2023, if all goes according to plan. The newfound meteorite was spotted shortly after it came down. Residents of the Winchcombe house saw black smudges on their driveway on the morning of March 1, the day after the fireball blazed bright in England's skies. They soon collected pieces of the space rock that had made the marks and contacted the UK Meteor Observation Network, which then got in touch with Natural History Museum personnel. "For somebody who didn't really have an idea what it actually was, the finder did a fantastic job in collecting it," Ashley King, another meteorite researcher at the museum, said in the same statement. "He bagged most of it up really quickly on Monday morning, perhaps less than 12 hours after the actual event. He then kept finding bits in his garden over the next few days," King added. "It looks a bit like coal. It is really black, but it is much softer and is really quite fragile. It is exciting for us, because this type of meteorite is incredibly rare but holds important clues about our origins." The parent bodies of carbonaceous chondrites can hit Earth's atmosphere going more than 150,000 mph (240,000 kph), King said. But the Feb. 28 fireball came in much more slowly, at "only" around 31,000 mph (50,000 kph), which explains why some pieces of the rock survived the fiery ordeal. "The fact that it was going quite slowly, and then that it was collected so quickly after landing, avoiding any rainfall that could change its pristine composition, means that we've just really lucked out with everything," he said. A number of fireball cameras captured the Feb. 28 event, allowing researchers to calculate a probable landing zone for meteorites and determine a rough trajectory for the parent body. These analyses indicate that the object came from the outer region of the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, scientists said. There may well be more meteorite fragments from the Feb. 28 fireball waiting to be found. If you spot something in the Gloucestershire area that you suspect is a space rock, photograph it and record its location, Natural History Museum personnel said. Then collect a sample using a gloved hand, store the stuff in aluminum foil and contact the museum. 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]
China's Yutu 2 rover finds 'milestone' on far side of the moon - Space.com
This weird elongated rock shard could have reached the moon by meteor impact.
China's Chang'e 4 spacecraft are back in action for a 27th lunar day on the far side of the moon, but it's the discoveries from the mission's previous lunar day that have scientists excited. The Chang'e 4 lander and Yutu 2 rover resumed activities on Feb. 6 after hibernating during the severe cold of lunar night, according to the Chinese state-run media outlet Xinhua. But one lunar day earlier the rover came across a curious rock specimen which the Yutu 2 drive team began to refer to as a "milestone." According to a Yutu 2 diary published by Our Space, the Chinese language science outreach channel affiliated with the China National Space Administration (CNSA), mission scientists agreed with the drive team that the elongated rock was worth closer inspection. Related: China unveils ambitious moon mission plans for 2024 and beyond Space.com Collection: $26.99 at Magazines Direct Get ready to explore the wonders of our incredible universe! The "Space.com Collection" is packed with amazing astronomy, incredible discoveries and the latest missions from space agencies around the world. From distant galaxies to the planets, moons and asteroids of our own solar system, you'll discover a wealth of facts about the cosmos, and learn about the new technologies, telescopes and rockets in development that will reveal even more of its secrets. View Deal The team then planned to do a close approach and analyze the rock with Yutu 2's Visible and Near-infrared Imaging Spectrometer (VNIS) instrument, which detects light that is scattered or reflected off materials to reveal their makeup. VNIS has been used to investigate a number of rocks and regolith samples along Yutu 2's path across Von Kármán crater. These include unusual melt glass specimens and potentially material from the lunar mantle . While not looking particularly exciting to the untrained eye, the find has generated interest among lunar scientists. "It seems to have a shard-like shape and is sticking out of the ground. That's definitely unusual," Dan Moriarty, NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, told Space.com. "Repeated impacts, stresses from thermal cycling, and other forms of weathering on the lunar surface would all tend to break down rocks into more-or-less 'spherical' shapes, given enough time," Moriarty said. "Think of how rocky beaches wear down stones to smooth, round shapes over time by repeated jostling in the waves." Moriarty said both the shard-like shape and that pronounced "ridge" running near the edge of the rock seem to indicate that this rock is geologically young, and was emplaced relatively recently. Related: Yutu 2 snaps stunning new panoramas from the moon's far side Image 1 of 3 A navigation camera image of the elongated "milestone" rock spotted on the far side of the moon by China's Yutu 2 rover. (Image credit: CNSA) Image 2 of 3 A closeup of the elongated "milestone" rock spotted on the far side of the moon by China's Yutu 2 rover. (Image credit: CNSA) Image 3 of 3 This photo taken by China's Yutu 2 moon rover shows the elongated "milestone" rock on the lunar surface. (Image credit: CNSA) "I would definitely guess an origin as impact ejecta from some nearby crater. It is possible that a rock with this aspect ratio could have been produced by a process known as spallation, where intact fragments of rock are blown off the nearby surface without experiencing the same degree of shock pressures that the immediate target undergoes," Moriarty said, adding that this initial assessment is just a guess. Followup detections and data from VNIS will provide much greater insight. Clive Neal, a leading lunar expert at the University of Notre Dame, agrees that, based on the images, the specimens are impact ejecta rather than exposed bedrocks. "The question I have is are they locally derived? Hopefully the spectral data will allow an evaluation of the origin as local or exotic, that is, from outside this area," he said. Image 1 of 3 (Image credit: CNSA) Image 2 of 3 (Image credit: CNSA) Image 3 of 3 (Image credit: CNSA) Yutu 2 and the Chang'e 4 lander have already greatly exceeded their design lifetimes of 90 Earth days and one year, respectively. The rover has covered a total of 2,060 feet (628 meters) since its deployment from the lander on Jan. 3, 2019. In November last year China launched its Chang'e 5 lunar sample return mission. The mission resulted in 3.81 lbs. (1.73 kilograms) of fresh moon samples being delivered to Earth just over three weeks later. CNSA last month published procedures for requesting samples for scientific analysis. Follow uson 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]