Ars Technica New Zealand
For the first time, a Starship prototype roars to life with three engines - Ars Technica
SpaceX now likely to fully assemble spaceship for a 15km test flight.
As part of the Starship program, SpaceX began experimenting with earlier prototypes in late 2019 and early 2020, losing three vehicles during various proof tests. In May, the company successfully tested a full scale tank section of its Starship vehicle (SN4) for the first time with a single Raptor engine. It was later lost due to a ground-systems issue. Then, in August, and again in September, it flew two different vehiclesSN5 and SN6on short hops to 150 meters. These vehicles looked something like flying spray paint cans as they rose above the scrubby Texas coastal plain, but they provided valuable experience to the company's engineers, who learned to control the Raptor engine in flight and pushed the pressure limits on its fuel tanks. Since then, work has proceeded on developing SN8 to make a far higher flight. For this, SpaceX needed to add large flaps to the tank section, and a nose cone. This vehicle more closely resembles what the final Starship vehicle will look like. It will ultimately have six Raptor engines. This will include three engines optimized for thrust at sea-level, and three more with larger nozzles optimized for thrust in the vacuum of space.
- Ignition of SN5 on August 4, 2020.
- Starhopper looks on as SN5 lifts off for its 150m hop test.
- Roger, roger, SN5we see you hovering clear five by.
- SN5. In flight. Over Texas.
- Turning to orient for landing.
- SN5 coming in for a landing. Those legs!
With Starlink, SpaceX continues to push the bounds of reusing rockets - Ars Technica
Don't miss a gallery of breathtaking images showing the rocket recovery process.
SpaceX has employed its used rockets to build out its Starlink constellation, with Sunday morning's launch adding 60 more satellites. This was the 13th launch of "operational" satellites, bringing to 835 the number of Starlink satellites launched in a year and a halfalthough 45 of the demonstration version satellites launched in May 2019 have since deorbited. The company is expected to begin offering a "beta" version of its Internet-from-space program by the end of this year. And the beat goes on. On Wednesday, October 21, the company will attempt to launch 60 more Starlink satellites from Space Launch Complex-40 in Florida. There is a 60 percent chance of favorable weather at the opening of the launch window at 12:29pm ET (16:29 UTC).
- The 61st landed Falcon 9 nearing the end of the jetty at Port Canaveral after landing aboard 'Of Course I Still Love You' after the 12th operational Starlink mission.
- Falcon 9 aboard OCISLY entering Port Canaveral after the 12th operational Starlink mission in early October.
- Falcon 9 aboard OCISLY entering Port Canaveral after the 12th Starlink mission.
- Fairing catcher ship GO Ms. Tree leading the way into Port Canaveral.
- Close-up of Falcon 9 aboard OCISLY entering Port Canaveral after the 12th Starlink mission.
- This was how this booster core looked after three missions. A bit sooty.
- SpaceX has also begun recovering payload fairing halves.
- Combined, they are worth an estimated $6 million.
- Why would you not try to catch $6 million falling out of the sky, Elon Musk has reasoned.
Rocket Report: Sweden invests in launch site, SLS hotfire test in a month - Ars Technica
Also, China has launched its 30th rocket of the year.
Self-eating rocket lands some funding. The United Kingdom's Defense and Security Accelerator has pledged nearly $120,000 to further development of a novel "autophage" rocket. The project, under development at the University of Glasgow, burns its own structure as propellant during its ascent to orbit. Burn the fuel, burn the tanks ... Autophage engines have already been test-fired by the Glasgow team using all-solid propellant, Parabolic Arc reports. The new funding will underwrite the research required to use a more energetic hybrid propellant, and this new engine will be test-fired at Kingston University in London's new rocket laboratory in London next year. (submitted by platykurtic) Crew-1 mission slips into November. Launch of NASA's SpaceX Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station is now targeted for no earlier than early-to-mid-November, the space agency said this week. This mission will launch NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency mission specialist Soichi Noguchi, from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. Issue related to GPS III launch attempt ... NASA said the delay would provide additional time for "SpaceX to complete hardware testing and data reviews as the company evaluates off-nominal behavior of Falcon 9 first-stage engine gas generators observed during a recent non-NASA mission launch attempt." The issue occurred on an October 2 Falcon 9 launch attempt scrubbed at T-2 seconds. A new date for the GPS III mission has not been set. (submitted by Ken the Bin and platykurtic) Momentum building for propellant depots? This week, NASA made a significant investment in technology to store and transfer cryogenic propellant in space. Its $250 million in grants will go to four companies: United Launch Alliance, SpaceX, Lockheed Martin, and Eta Space. Ars explains why this is a consequential decision and could transform spaceflight, including launch. Mine water, power rockets ... At the same time, chief executive Tory Bruno of ULA has proposed the creation of a "Strategic Propellant Reserve," a series of fuel depots between the Earth and the Moon. This would incentivize launch companies to think about reusing upper stages and support companies seeking to mine water from the Moon. ULA has pitched the idea to the National Space Council's users advisory council. Bruno said the group agreed to study it further, SpaceNews reports. (submitted by JohnCarter17, Ken the Bin, and platykurtic) China launches 30th rocket of the year. The Chinese Earth-observation Gaofen-13 satellite is on its way to a geostationary orbit after successful launch on a Long March 3B from Xichang on Sunday. This was the first launch from the busiest of China's four launch sites since July 9, following renovations and upgrades involving launch towers, refueling, power supply, and communications to boost reliability, safety, and cadence, SpaceNews reports. Ten more to go? ... The renovations are aimed at improving annual launch capacity from around 17 to about 30 launches. Sunday's launch was China's 30th in 2020, including major launches of interplanetary spacecraft and space station-related launch vehicles. Four of the 30 ended in failure. Chinese officials said earlier they were aiming for 40 launches this year. (submitted by Ken the Bin) Soyuz crew launch marks end of an era. A Soyuz spacecraft launched to the International Space Station Wednesday on what will likely be the last mission in which NASA pays Russia for a seat, SpaceNews reports. NASA's Kate Rubins was added to the crew in May when NASA announced it was purchasing a final Soyuz seat from Roscosmos for $90.25 million. Time to barter? ... NASA officials had stated for months leading up to that May announcement that it was in talks with Russia not just for that seat, but potentially a second seat for a mission launching in spring 2021. Since the successful Demo-2 commercial crew mission to the ISS by SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft this summer, though, NASA has not expressed any public interest in buying future Soyuz seats. It is likely NASA and Roscosmos will trade seats on future missions, but nothing has been formally announced. (submitted by Ken the Bin and platykutic) Upper stages pose highest risk for space debris. Although launch providers are doing a better job at disposing of upper stages left behind in orbit, rocket bodies still constitute the most dangerous pieces of orbital debris, according to a new report by the European Space Agency. The report identifies more than 25,000 tracked objects, including satellites, upper stages, and debris, SpaceNews reports. Please dispose of unwanted rockets ... In 2019, more than 70 percent of rocket bodies complied with orbital debris mitigation guidelines, compared to only about 20 percent in 2000. However, many upper stages from launches decades ago remain in low Earth orbit and continue to pose a problem. About 80 percent of objects on the list of most-concerning space debris were spent upper stages. (submitted by Ken the Bin and platykurtic) Engines ready for first Ariane 6 launch. Europe's new heavy-lift rocketwhich will be powered by a single main Vulcain 2.1 core stage engine, a Vinci upper stage engine, and two or four solid rocket motorsis tracking toward a launch during the second half of 2021. Now, says ArianeGroup, all of its engines are ready for flight after a series of qualification tests. A continental endeavor ... The LOX-hydrogen Vulcain 2.1 and Vinci engines are ready to be mounted on the core stage in Les Mureaux, France, and on the upper stage in Bremen, Germany. Ariane 6 is a program managed and funded by the European Space Agency, for which ArianeGroup is design authority and industrial prime contractor. Boeing pressing ahead with core-stage tests. During a call with reporters this week, Boeing's Space Launch System program manager, John Shannon, said the core stage is nearing its final two tests. Boeing is planning a "wet dress rehearsal" test on October 30, followed by a hot-fire test on November 14 at NASA's engine test facility in Southern Mississippi. Rona and the tropics ... At the beginning of the year, Shannon said during a media call that Boeing hoped to conduct the hot fire test in "July or August" of this year. However, the dual whammies of COVID-19, which forced a shutdown of the engine test facility, alongside closures for five hurricanes and tropical storms this summer have led to delays. If all goes well, the core stage will be shipped to Kennedy Space Center in January.
The first PlayStation 5 teardown reveals some hardware secrets - Ars Technica
Easy-to-remove outer panels hide "dust catcher" holes and more.
103 with 68 posters participating
- The PlayStation 5 comes with everything seen here. Some assembly required. Batteries not included. From Sony!
- The entire rear of the system is pretty much one big air vent.
- The stand at the base of the (vertical) system is attached with a single large screw.
- The stand and the screw sit alone.
- In horizontal orientation, the stand snaps into place without tools.
- The white panels on the sides of the system can be slid off without tools.
- The cooling fan draws air from both sides of the system.
- The massive cooling fan itself.
- One of two "dust catcher" holes that should be easy to vaccuum out after extended use.
- This panel for PCIe storage expansion can be opened with a screwdriver.
Russian space corporation unveils planned “Amur” rocket—and it looks familiar - Ars Technica
Musk: “It’s a step in the right direction, but they should really aim for full reusability.”
71 with 49 posters participating, including story author
- Here's a schematic of the proposed Amur rocket.
- How the Amur rocket would land.
- A Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad.
- A Falcon 9 rocket with landing legs deployed.
Rocket Report: An old Centaur comes home, Super Heavy construction begins - Ars Technica
“We can launch rockets that have satellites into space from right here in Queensland.”
Enlarge/ The Delta IV Heavy rocket lit up the night sky on Wednesday night, but not by launching. 64 with 35 posters participating, including story author Welcome to Edition 3.18 of the Rocket Report! I'm thrilled this week to announce that I've written a book about the origins of SpaceX. It focuses on the Falcon 1 rocket, Elon Musk, and the early employees who carried out his vision. I spent oodles of time with Musk, who was expansive about those early years. But just as importantly, I talked to dozens of the first SpaceX employees about those desperate days. Liftoff tells their story, and it is one hell of a tale. The book will be published by William Morrow on March 2, 2021. You can preorder now. As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar. German company tests hybrid rocket motor. Two-year-old launch startup HyImpulse successfully tested its 16,800 lbf hybrid rocket motor this month at the German space agency's Lampoldshausen facility, SpaceNews reports. The company said the hot-fire test on September 15, its first, confirmed that the paraffin/LOX hybrid rocket engine performed on par with liquid hydrocarbon-based fuels. An important engine ... HyImpulse is developing its three-stage "SL1" launch vehicle designed to carry payloads of up to 500kg to Sun-synchronous orbit. The rocket will be powered by 12 identical 16,800 lbf hybrid rocket motorseight on its first stage, and four on its second stageplus four smaller versions of the engines powering its third stage. (submitted by platykurtic and Ken the Bin) Another German startup picks a launch site. Rocket Factory Augsburg AG has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Norway-based Andøya Space to implement a launch site for the RFA One rocket and provide end-to-end launch services for small satellites. "This partnership is pivotal, it allows RFA and Andøya to launch the first satellite into orbit from continental Europe with an European launcher" said Dr. Stefan Brieschenk, chief operation officer of RFA, in a news release. A bigger small rocket ... The startup is backed by the German satellite manufacturer OHB as a strategic investor and by Munich-based venture capital firm Apollo Capital Partners. Rocket Factory is currently building the RFA One booster to deliver up to 1.5 metric tons to low-Earth orbit. The first launch is scheduled for 2022. There is an interesting ongoing race in Germany among small-launch startups, including RFA, HyImpulse, and Isar Aerospace. (submitted by Ken the Bin) The easiest way to keep up with Eric Berger's space reporting is to sign up for his newsletter, we'll collect his stories in your inbox. Space becomes a bona fide political issue in Australia. We are not on top of Australian politics, but the opposition Liberal National Party of Queensland is apparently running on a platform that includes the accelerated development of a spaceport on islands along the country's northeast coast. Opposition leader Deb Frecklington has pledged $15 million to build an orbital rocket launch site at Abbot Point in north Queensland, the Brisbane Times reports. Gotta go fast ... The Labor government is moving too slowly on the project, opponents say. An LNP government would start building the government-owned site next year, which would create 100 construction jobs, Frecklington said, and another 200 jobs would come from securing Gilmour Space Technologies as the anchor tenant. "This means that we can launch rockets that have satellites into space from right here in Queensland," she said. "Make no mistake, if these rockets with their satellites are not launched from Queensland, they are going to be launched out of Cape Canaveral in the US." Or, presumably, New Zealand. (submitted by Cognac) Maine company sets launch date for small rocket. Brunswick-based bluShift Aerospace plans to launch its 20-foot rocket in October. The launch location, at the site of a former Naval Air Station, is in far northern Maine. The company is targeting October 21 for the launch of its Stardust rocket to an altitude of 4,500 feet. Showing, not telling ... The company is developing biofuel rockets, and this test will provide data about the performance of this fuel. "We learned early on in our research and development that having an engine that used a green fuel was not enough to inspire investment," bluShift CEO Sascha Deri told the Times Record. "We had to demonstrate that we could match or beat the petroleum alternative." We wish them luck! (submitted by Jenming) Skyroot unveils 3D-printed engine. The commercial launch startup based in India shared images of its Dhawan-1 cryogenic engine to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Indian rocket pioneer Satish Dhawan. The "100 percent" 3D-printed engine will be powered by liquified natural gas and liquid oxygen, Parabolic Arc reports. Another honorary name ... The company says it is developing three rocketsthe Vikram I, Vikram II, and Vikram IIIto serve the small-satellite launch market. The smallest rocket will have a capacity of 225kg to a Sun-synchronous orbit, while the largest will carry up to 580kg. The launch vehicles are named for Vikram Sarabhai, who is known as the father of the Indian space program. (submitted by Ken the Bin and platykurtic) Speaking of Indian launch history. If you're like me, you probably don't know all that much about India's history with regard to space and launch. (I can barely keep my US and Soviet history straight). However, if you're into podcasts, there's a fascinating new one titled Mission to ISRO that dives deep into this past. Great context for modern-day activity ... Narrated by Harsha Bhogle, the podcast is targeted at those with a basic knowledge of space history but no knowledge whatsoever of Indian launch history (raises hand). So if you're wondering who Vikram Sarabhai was and why an Indian startup is naming rockets after him, this is a good place to start. I've been loving it. Alas, it's exclusive to Spotify. Space Force agrees to fly on used Falcon 9s. Last Friday, the US Space Force said it would launch two critical Global Positioning System missions on used Falcon 9 rockets next year, Ars reports. Doing so will save the military $52 million, officials said, as SpaceX agreed to lower compensation for the two missions in return for flying used hardware. A continuing journey ... This represents a significant step by the Space Force toward validating the use of flight-proven first stages of a rocket for the most critical national security missions. "We're looking forward to this journey with SpaceX as we get even more experienced with them and reusable hardware," said Walter Lauderdale, Space and Missile Systems Center Falcon Systems and Operations Division chief, in a call with reporters. Next Crew Dragon launch moves to Halloween. NASA and SpaceX now are targeting 2:40am ET (06:40 UTC) on Saturday, October 31, for the launch of the agency's SpaceX Crew-1 mission with astronauts to the International Space Station. This is an eight-day slip from the previous date but is not due to a hardware issue, the space agency said. Closing open work ... Rather, NASA sought to deconflict the Crew-1 launch and arrival from upcoming Soyuz launch and landing operations. This additional time is needed to ensure closure of all open work, both on the ground and aboard the station, ahead of the Crew-1 arrival. In the coming weeks, Ars will have more on this exciting mission carrying four astronauts. (submitted by TFargo04, Ken the Bin and platykurtic) DARPA awards contract for nuclear-thermal rocket. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded a $14 million task order to Gryphon Technologies, a company in Washington, DC, to design a nuclear thermal rocket for cislunar operations, Space.com reports. This was the result of a contracting process that opened in June. A lot of work ahead ... The money will support DARPA's Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations program, whose main goal is to demonstrate a nuclear thermal propulsion system in space. "We are proud to support DRACO and the development and demonstration of NTP, a significant technological advancement in efforts to achieve cislunar space awareness," Gryphon CEO PJ Braden said. (submitted by Rick)
One of this year’s most severe Windows bugs is now under active exploit - Ars Technica
Zerologon vulnerability lets hackers access network crown jewels almost instantly.
15 with 11 posters participating One of the highest-impact Windows vulnerabilities patched this year is now under active exploitation by malicious hackers, Microsoft warned overnight, in a development that puts increasing pressure on laggards to update now. CVE-2020-1472, as the vulnerability is tracked, allows hackers to instantly take control of the Active Directory, a Windows server resource that acts as an all-powerful gatekeeper for all machines connected to a network. Researchers have dubbed the vulnerability Zerologon, because it allows attackers with only minimal access to a vulnerable network to login to the Active Directory by sending a string of zeros in messages that use the Netlogon protocol.Zerologon carries a critical severity rating from Microsoft as well as a maximum of 10 under the Common Vulnerability Scoring System. Despite the high rating, the escalation-of-privileges vulnerability received scant, if any, attention when Microsoft patched it in August, and Microsoft deemed the chances of actual exploitation less likely. The security world finally took notice last week with the release of several proof-of-concept exploits and a detailed writeup, which demonstrated severity of the vulnerability and the relative ease in exploiting it. All hands on deck On Wednesday evening, Microsoft issued a series of tweets that Zerologon was now being exploited in the wild. Microsoft is actively tracking threat actor activity using exploits for the CVE-2020-1472 Netlogon EoP vulnerability, dubbed Zerologon, Microsoft representatives wrote. We have observed attacks where public exploits have been incorporated into attacker playbooks. Microsoft 365 customers can refer to the threat analytics report we published in Microsoft Defender Security Center. The threat analytics report contains technical details, mitigations, and detection details designed to empower SecOps to detect and mitigate this threat. — Microsoft Security Intelligence (@MsftSecIntel) September 24, 2020 The company provided several digital signatures of files used in the attacks, but it didnt publicly provide additional details. Microsoft has published a threat analytics report thats designed to help administrators assess the vulnerability of their networks, but its available only to Office 365 subscribers. For everyone else, the best resource is this white paper from Secura, the security firm that discovered Zerologon. Microsoft representatives didnt respond to an email asking for a copy of the analytics report. Crown jewels Its hard to overstate the severity of an exploit that makes it possible to take control of an Active Directory using several dozen lines of code. Active Directories (and the domain controller servers they run on) are the resources most cherished by ransomware attackers. With control over the central provisioning directory, they can infect entire fleets of machines within minutes. Nation-sponsored hackers performing surgical-precision espionage campaigns also prize such access because it allows them to control specific network resources of interest. Both types of attackers often begin hacks by compromising a computer with low-level privileges on a network, often by tricking an employee into clicking on a malicious link or file or by entering a password on a phishing page. It can sometimes take weeks or months to escalate low-level privileges to those needed to install malware or execute commands. In certain cases, Zerologon can allow an attacker with this kind of toehold to almost instantly gain control of the Active Directory. There may also be ways to exploit Zerologon directly from the Internet with no previous access. Internet searches like this one and this one show more than 33,000 and 3 million networks are exposing domain controllers and Remote Procedure Call login servers to the public Internet. In the event a single network is exposing both resources, the combination may leave a network wide open with no other requirements. Enlarge/ Domain controllers exposed to the Internet. Enlarge/ Remote Procedure Call exposed to the Internet. The risk posed by Zerologon isnt just that of facing a catastrophic hack. Theres also the threat of applying a patch that breaks a networks most sensitive resource. Late last week, the cybersecurity arm of the Department of Homeland Security mandated agencies to either apply the patch by Monday night or remove domain controllers from the Internet.With word less than three days later that exploits are in the wild, its clear there was good reason for the directive.
Chitin could be used to build tools and habitats on Mars, study finds - Ars Technica
The manufacturing process would require minimal energy and no specialized equipment.
Enlarge/ Scientists mixed chitinan organic polymer found in abundance in arthropods, as well as fish scaleswith a mineral that mimics the properties of Martian soil to create a viable new material for building tools and shelters on Mars. 17 with 17 posters participating Space aficionados who dream of one day colonizing Mars must grapple with the stark reality of the planet's limited natural resources, particularly when it comes to building materials. A team of scientists from the Singapore University of Technology and Design discovered that, using simple chemistry, the organic polymer chitincontained in the exoskeletons of insects and crustaceanscan easily be transformed into a viable building material for basic tools and habitats. This would require minimal energy and no need for transporting specialized equipment. The scientists described their experiments in a recent paper published in the journal PLOS ONE. "The technology was originally developed to create circular ecosystems in urban environments," said co-author Javier Fernandez. "But due to its efficiency, it is also the most efficient and scalable method to produce materials in a closed artificial ecosystem in the extremely scarce environment of a lifeless planet or satellite." As we previously reported, NASA has announced an ambitious plan to return American astronauts to the Moon and establish a permanent base there, with an eye toward eventually placing astronauts on Mars. Materials science will be crucial to the Artemis Moon Program's success, particularly when it comes to the materials needed to construct a viable lunar (or Martian) base. Concrete, for instance, requires a substantial amount of added water in order to be usable in situ, and there is a pronounced short supply of water on both the Moon and Mars. And transport costs would be prohibitively high. NASA estimates that it costs around $10,000 to transport just one pound of material into orbit. So there has been much attention on the possibility of using existing materials on the Moon itself to construct a lunar base. Past proposals have called for 3D-printing with Sorel cement, which requires significant amounts of chemicals and water (consumables), and a rocklike material that would require both water and phosphoric acid as a liquid binder. And back in March, a paper by an international team of scientists suggested that astronauts setting up a base on the Moon could use the urea in their urine as a plasticizer to create a concrete-like building material out of lunar soil. As with the Moon, any plan to set up a habitable base on Mars must employ manufacturing technologies that make use of the red planet's regolith. But the authors of the current paper point out that most terrestrial manufacturing strategies that could fit the bill typically require specialized equipment and a hefty amount of energy. However, "Nature presents successful strategies of life adapting to harsh environments," the authors wrote. "In biological organisms, rigid structures are formed by integrating inorganic filler proceed from the environment at a low energy cost (e.g., calcium carbonate) and incorporated into an organic matrix (e.g., chitin) produced at a relatively high metabolic cost." Enlarge/ Building a model with a 3D-printed lander module illustrates a possible scenario of fabricating habitats on Mars. Fernandez and his colleagues maintain that chitin is likely to be part of any planned artificial ecosystem because it is so plentiful in nature. It's the primary component of fish scales and fungal cell walls, for example, as well as the exoskeletons of crustaceans and insects. In fact, insects have already been targeted as a key source of protein for a possible Martian base. And since the chitin component of insects has limited nutritional value for humans, extracting it to make building materials "does not hamper or compete with the food supply," the authors wrote. "Rather, it is a byproduct of it." For their experiments, the researchers relied on fairly simple chemistry. They took chitosan derived from shrimp, dissolved it in acetic acida common byproduct of both aerobic and anaerobic fermentationand combined it with a mineral equivalent to Martian soil to create their chitinous building material. They tested its properties by fashioning various objects out of it, most notably a functional wrench, which they tested by tightening a hexagonal bolt. While acknowledging that this would be unlikely to replace metallic tools for certain critical space applications, it proved hardy enough to sustain sufficient torque for small daily tasks. Next, the team tried molding the material in various geometries to study its potential as a building material via additive manufacturing, ranging from cylinders and cubes to objects with both rounded and angular shapesincluding a little humanoid Martian figure. The scientists also demonstrated that the biolith could be used as makeshift mortar to effectively plug a small hole in a pipe. The pipe subsequently went several weeks without leakage. Finally, they built a full 3D-printed model of one possible design for a Martian habitat; it took just under two hours to complete. The researchers concluded that their results demonstrated the feasibility of such "closed-loop, zero-waste" solutions on Mars. "Bioinspired manufacturing and sustainable materials are not a substituting technology for synthetic polymers, but an enabling technology defining a new paradigm in manufacturing, and allowing to do things that are unachievable by the synthetic counterparts," said Fernandez. "We have demonstrated that they are key not only for our sustainability on Earth but also for one of the next biggest achievements of humanity: our transformation into an interplanetary species." DOI: PLOS ONE, 2020. 10.1371/journal.pone.0238606 (About DOIs).
Rocket Report: Delta IV Heavy gets a new date, SpaceX to destroy test tank - Ars Technica
“We believe the current providers address the plans we have today for the near future.”
Enlarge/ Rocket Lab launches its "I Can't Believe It's Not Optical" mission on August 31. 52 with 30 posters participating Welcome to Edition 3.15 of the Rocket Report! The realm of small lift overflows with news in this edition. And as usual, our report covers news from around the world, spanning this week from Germany, to China, to India, to South America. Ours is a global enterprise. As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar. Rocket Lab launches a Photon satellite. The launch company said it has sent its first in-house-designed and -built operational satellite into orbit. "First Light" was deployed to orbit on Rocket Lab's 14th Electron mission, "I Can't Believe It's Not Optical," which lifted off from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand on August 31. The mission's primary customer was a 100kg microsatellite for Capella Space. Not just a rocket company anymore ... Photon's launch cements the company's "evolution from a launch provider to an end-to-end space solutions company that offers turnkey satellites and spacecraft components, launch, and on-orbit," a news release said. Photon is designed to provide in-space services such as power and propulsion to satellites, even allowing for deep-space missions to the Moon and Venus. (submitted by Ken the Bin) Virgin Galactic sets date for next test flight. Virgin Galactic plans to conduct its next crewed spaceflight test on October 22, according to documents the company filed with the Federal Communications Commission, CNBC reports. This flight will likely be the first of two that the space tourism company has planned to complete testing of its SpaceShipTwo spacecraft system, and it should have just two test pilots on board. Commercial service, finally, next year? ... Virgin Galactic said last month that the second test spaceflight, for which no date has yet been set, will have four "mission specialists" inside the cabin. If both test flights succeed, Virgin Galactic expects to fly founder Sir Richard Branson in the first quarter of 2021. This milestone flight would mark the beginning of the company's commercial tourism service. (submitted by Ken the Bin, JohnCarter17, and DanNeely) The easiest way to keep up with Eric Berger's space reporting is to sign up for his newsletter, we'll collect his stories in your inbox. LandSpace raises $175 million. Chinese launch firm LandSpace has raised $175 million in series C+ round funding for development of its Zhuque-2 series of methane/liquid-oxygen launch vehicles, SpaceNews reports. The funding comes two weeks after Chinese competitor launch firm iSpace secured $173 million in series B funding. Both are impressive cash hauls that signal serious intent. A powerful small rocket ... LandSpace is working toward an inaugural launch of the Zhuque-2 in June 2021. The 49.5-meter-tall, two-stage Zhuque-2 will be capable of delivering 4,000kg to a 200km low-Earth orbit or 2,000 kilograms to 500kg Sun-synchronous orbit, according to LandSpace. (submitted by platykurtic and Ken the Bin) NASA sounding rocket launches DUST-2 mission. A two-stage Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket launched on Tuesday from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico carrying the DUST-2 science mission. NASA said the rocket launched the payload to an apogee of approximately 346km before descending back to Earth by parachute. Cheap access to microgravity ... DUST-2's goal is to study how individual atoms, shed by dying stars and supernovae, stick together. When they do, the atoms form dust grainssome of the basic building blocks of our universe. "What we're trying to do is duplicate what happens in at least two astrophysical environments," said principal investigator Joe Nuth, a planetary scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. (submitted by JohnCarter17) Blue Origin vets start several new companies. Blue Origin turned 20 years old this week, and although the privately held company hasn't yet put people into space or put a rocket into orbit, it has spawned a new generation of space startups, Cosmic Log reports. Relativity Space is fairly well known, but more companies are currently emerging from semi-stealth mode. Launch and in-space propulsion ... One of them, Stoke Space Technologies, appears to be working on technology to enable the reuse of upper stages. Reach Space Technologies seems to be a propulsion company. And Starfish Space says it is working on an "on-demand, in-space transportation service." We'll add all of them to our list of companies to track! (submitted by Ken the Bin and BH) Brazil launch site evaluating proposals. The Brazilian Space Agency says it has begun evaluating 11 proposals from companies interested in launching rockets from the Alcântara Space Center, located on the country's northern Atlantic coast. The site, at just 2 degrees south of the equator, offers prime territory from which to launch equatorial missions. Turning to commercial use ... Following an initial analysis, the companies will have until October 30, to finalize their proposals, Parabolic Arc reports. It is not clear how many companies the Brazilian spaceport will accept, but it seems likely to prioritize companies with mature, or nearly mature, rocket designs. The spaceport has been used, until now, primarily for military launches. (submitted by Ken the Bin) Australian rocket firm signs Aussie payload. Gilmour Space Technologies says it has signed an Australian customer for the first launch of its Eris rocket, no earlier than 2022. Space Machines Company has contracted to launch a 35kg spacecraft to orbit. "This could well be the first Australian payload to be launched to orbit on an Australian rocket, from an Australian launch site," said Adam Gilmour, co-founder and CEO of Gilmour Space. Talking a big game by the middle of the decade ... The first Eris rockets are advertised as having the capacity to launch payloads up to 305kg into low-Earth orbit and 215kg into 500km Sun-synchronous orbits. The company says its goals are to reach a flight rate of 12 launches a year by 2025 and to help spur a broadening of the Aussie space industry. (submitted by Ken the Bin and platykurtic) Germany considers North Sea launch facility. The German government is studying a proposal from German industry to create a mobile launch pad for satellites in the North Sea. Under the plan, small satellites weighing up to one tonne would be launched with German-built rockets. The Federation of German Industries is lobbying for the project, the BBC reports. A good spot for polar launches ... The pad would be a public-private partnership. German media quote the BDI proposal as saying, "a German launchpad is technically feasible and makes strategic and economic sense." Among the companies that could potentially launch from the platform is Isar Aerospace. (submitted by cpushack, Ken the Bin, and JohnCarter17) China launches a secretive spaceplane. Following months of low-key preparations at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, China launched an experimental reusable spacecraft on Friday, SpaceNews reports. A Long March 2F launch vehicle delivered the spacecraft into orbit following launch at an unspecified time. Maybe an X-37B clone? ... "After a period of in-orbit operation, the spacecraft will return to the scheduled landing site in China. It will test reusable technologies during its flight, providing technological support for the peaceful use of space," the Xinhua report stated following the launch. The plane landed after about two days in space. This Twitter thread by NPR's Geoff Brumfiel provides more interesting details about where the mission landed. (submitted by Ken the Bin) Chandrayaan-3 Moon mission may launch next year. India's "Chandrayaan-3" lunar mission is likely to be launched in the first quarter of 2021, DNA India reports. After the Chandrayaan-2 mission was lost last September, the Indian space agency said it would try again to make a soft landing on the Moon's surface. Enter Chandrayaan-3 ... Because the orbiter launched with the Chandrayaan-2 mission remains functional, this follow-up launch will only carry a lander. It is expected to launch on a GSLV Mark III rocket from India's Satish Dhawan Space Center, and India will attempt to become just the fourth country to make a soft landing on the Moon. (submitted by JohnCarter17) China still has a toxic rocket problem. On Monday, a Long March 4B rocket launched from China's Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center carrying a remote-sensing satellite. This 50-year-old spaceport is located in north-central China, about 500km to the southwest of Beijing. As often happens with the first stages of Chinese rockets launching from the inland Taiyuan facility, the spent Long March 4B booster fell downstream of the spaceport. In this case, it landed near a school and created a predictably large cloud of toxic gas. Living the hydrazine dream (or nightmare) ... The use of hydrazine as a fuel for launch vehicles has been phased out for most of the world, Ars reports. The last major US rocket to use hydrazine was United Launch Alliance's Delta II rocket, which used the toxic fuel in its second stage. Yet the majority of China's launch fleet is powered by hydrazine fuel and nitrogen tetroxide oxidizer. This includes its human-rated Long March 2F rocket as well as the widely used Long March 4 family. Delta IV Heavy launch reset for September 18. United Launch Alliance teams have determined the cause behind a Delta IV Heavy rocket's dramatic, last-second abort late last month, Florida Today reports. This sets the stage for another attempt no earlier than a week from Friday, and an exact time has not been released. This will be the third attempt to launch the NROL-44 classified mission. Rip in the regulator ... On August 29, a torn diaphragm in one of three pressure regulators at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 37 caused the computer-controlled scrub just three seconds before liftoff, ULA CEO Tory Bruno said via Twitter on Wednesday. The engines briefly lit on fire, but the rocket remained firmly on the pad. (submitted by BH and JohnCarter17) Military takes wait-and-see approach to super-heavy lift. The US military is happy with the current offerings from United Launch Alliance and SpaceX, but it is keeping an eye on future super-heavy rockets under development. That's according to comments made this week by Brig. Gen. D. Jason Cothern, who oversees launch services procurement for the US Space Force (SpaceNews reported on his comments). If you build it, will they come? ... "We believe the current providers address the plans we have today for the near future." That's what Gen. Cothern said in response to a viewer's question on the potential military value of super-heavy-lift vehicles like Starship and New Glenn, which are being developed to fly to the Moon and beyond. As to what might be required in the next generation of launch vehicles, "as the lead acquirers for military space, it's a question that's dear to us," Cothern said. (submitted by JohnCarter17 and platykurtic) SpaceX may roll a test tank to pad this week. The next tests at SpaceX's Boca Chica facility are likely to involve a test tank rather than a full-scale Starship prototype, NASASpaceflight.com reports. This "SN7.1" model is a larger test tank than its predecessor, SN 7, and made from 304L-series stainless steel (or at least a variant of that alloy). It is likely to be pushed to the bursting point so that SpaceX engineers can understand its limits. Prepping for another pop ... While 304L may not be the "final" alloy SpaceX is hoping to utilize on Starships and Super Heavies in the longer-term future, all previous Starships have been made from the 301-series alloy. Future versions, beginning with SN8, will use the new alloy. With two launch mounts available, it remains to be seen if SN7.1 will take up residence on Starship's regular mount or the second test mount. (submitted by platykurtic) Sept. 11: Rocket 3.1 | Astra demonstration mission | Kodiak Spaceport, Alaska | 02:00 UTC Sept. 17: Falcon 9 | Starlink-12 mission| Kennedy Space Center, Fla. | 18:17 UTC Sept. 18: Delta IV Heavy | NROL-44 | Cape Canaveral, Fla.| TBD
NASA versus Katrina: August 29, 2005 - Ars Technica
From the archives: How 38 NASA employees kept the program alive amid the devastating hurricane.
It may not look like much, but Building 320 housed the 38 members of Michoud's ride out team during Hurricane Katrina. 2 with 2 posters participating, including story author Update, Sept. 7, 2020: It's Labor Day Weekend in the US, and even though most of us now also call home "the office," Ars staff is taking a long weekend to rest and relax. The end of August marked 15 years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, the federal levees failed, and the city of New Orleans changed forever. We planned on resurfacing a few pieces from the archives to keep the lights on over this holiday, so we're resurfacing this look at how NASA managed to weather the impact of Katrina at its Michoud Assembly Facility just outside New Orleans. This story originally ran in August 2015 and it appears unchanged below. MICHOUD, La.On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina came, the federal levees failed, and chaos ensued in the New Orleans metro area. By now the damage is well documented. So many people were displaced that New Orleans still only sits at approximately 80 percent of its pre-storm population a decade later. More than 1,200 people diedthe most for a US storm since 1928. And 80 percent of the city flooded, causing property damage since estimated at $108 billion by the National Hurricane Center. Almost regardless of metric, Katrina stands as the most devastating Atlantic storm to ever hit the US. Yet one day before Katrina, Malcolm Wood had to go into work. Wood lived roughly an hour away in Picayune, Mississippi, and luckily the rest of his family had the means and access to get north to Hattiesburg for safety. But unlike most folks working in Greater New Orleans while living in the Mississippi Delta or Southern Louisiana, Woods company refused to shut down on the eve of the storm of the centurydespite New Orleans' first-ever mandatory evacuation. It couldnt. For starters, billions in prior and future work were on the line. The livelihood of Woods direct coworkersmore than 2,000 colleagueswas too. Heck, the entire national operation that Wood was a part of likely hung in the balance depending on whether his facility, just 15 miles east of the Lower 9th Ward, could survive. So Wood, a large and capable man whod already logged 20-plus years of employment at the same location, set out to do the job he was assigned. Facing direct impact from a 400-miles-across stormfront and 120+ mph winds, he was part of a 38-person team that had to ride out Hurricane Katrina on site to defend the companys 832-acre water adjacent facility. The goal? Keep as much of it intact and online as possible. This task was dauntingWe knew from the weather station it was going to be worse than previous storms, Wood says. It looked like the perfect stormbut the stakes were literally out of this world. So Wood traveled the roughly 40 miles down to tiny Michoud, Louisiana, and prepared to spend the night at Building 320. The unassuming office space sits toward the back of NASAs Michoud Assembly Facility, where the organization's fuel tanks have been made since the 1960s. Itd be the first night of roughly 30 straight that Wood and company would spend on the Michoud grounds. As you might expect given its large Southeastern US contingent, NASA has plans in place for storm mitigation. Michoud in particular, given its location, had faced 25 to 30 such events in its time before Katrina. As Wood explained, ride out crews are part of the typical pre- and post- storm processes. Among their duties, a ride out crew tours facilities to identify any possible areas susceptible to damage, ties down any materials that could prove dangerous if blown about, maintains provisions and generators on site, and eventually helps navigate whatever the aftermath brings in order to get the facility back online. If a storm looks bad enough (and Katrina qualified), the ride out crew will also be the only group on site, a last line of defense against the elements. Weve had numerous storms weve been here for and gone through, but usually its two days, three days and youre back up and running, Wood told Ars. This was so much different. Wood claims some of the memories are gone 10 years after the storm, but he can recall much of what that initial 24 hours felt like. The rains began overnight on the 28th. It came so heavily, with winds so loud, that soon you couldnt stand outside Building 320 and make out any of the normally visible campusincluding Building 450, the all-important pumphouse at the very southern end of the facilities near a then 17-foot levee. To maintain a sense of calm, Wood remembers simply reverting to hyperfocus, becoming fixated on something. Theres a little light down at the pump house, so as long as I saw that light, I knew the pump was running, Wood said. I knew they were pumping water just to keep the rain out. We didnt know if wed been flooded, but if you stand in front of this building (320), this would be where wed see the water rise. If it didnt hit the first step here, we were OK.
- Building 450 represented the frontlines for keeping Katrina's waters at bay.
- Here is the machinery powering the pumps inside the waterfront shack.
- Here's a satellite image of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. See that green spec in the upper right (northeast) portion of the map?
- Highlighted in yellow, that's the Michoud Assembly Facility essentially becoming an island during the storm.