SpaceX News

9

Elon Musk’s private space company is developing an impressive new rocket, Starship, that could carry astronauts all the way to Mars. A test flight for this massive vessel will take place this week from Texas.

But it has its issues; after its test flight last Thursday failed, engineers will work to identify where something went wrong and find solutions.

SpaceX’s Starlink

Over the past several years, anyone with access to a nighttime view of the sky has witnessed the Starlink constellation, created by SpaceX to bring high-speed satellite internet services to homes and businesses worldwide. While its success is undeniable, its constantly shifting position establishes a trail of light that disrupts telescope data as it follows Earth orbit – interfering particularly with sensitive radio-based antennas, which will enable researchers to study our universe more deeply when the large Vera Rubin Observatory opened in 2022. This phenomenon has raised considerable concern among astronomers – as its brightness causes telescope data disruption as it creates light that trails out across Earth orbit causing telescope data disruption that causes telescope data corruption and interferes with radio-based antennae that will help researchers study our universe more closely once it opens.

As such, SpaceX has undertaken efforts to mitigate Starlink’s effects on astronomers and other observers. Recently launched satellites feature visors designed to stop sunlight from reflecting off them too strongly, while it has attempted to limit the number of satellites within its mega constellation. Achieve this balance has proven challenging; one major customer of SpaceX’s rockets is the federal government, while senior Pentagon officials have attempted mediating issues pertaining to Starlink in Ukraine, while governments such as Taiwan are wary about using it due to potential censorship by China;

SpaceX has offered to install Starlink terminals in regions hit by natural disasters, like Tonga’s volcanic eruption and tsunami earlier this year. However, some officials have expressed reservations over SpaceX’s political agenda as well as their possible connections with China or Russia.

As such, the Department of Defense awarded SpaceX with a $70 million contract for Starlink services, which likely includes “unique terms and conditions” not found elsewhere in commercial contracts – such as enhanced cybersecurity protection against anti-jamming attacks from Jammer or anti-jamming guard. Should SpaceX decide to spin off Starlink into its entity in future years, having more precise delineations between commercial and government businesses may help ease tensions; but for now, SpaceX continues its massive satellite deployment program with Tuesday evening’s launch sending 22 V2 mini-Starlink satellites into orbit from launcher 3.

SpaceX’s OSIRIS-REx

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe recently completed a successful mission: Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer. Scientists hope that by studying its contents closely, they may uncover clues to our solar system’s formation in its early years.

OSIRIS-REx has spent much of 2019 exploring Bennu and, on Tuesday, took one final step before its return to Earth for an impact landing on Sept 24. When close enough, the sample capsule will detach from its mother ship and land safely at Utah TTR with help from both its drogue parachute and main one, carrying valuable samples back to Houston, where scientists will begin studying them shortly after return.

OSIRIS-REx team has long anticipated this momentous moment – and they know it is significant. OSIRIS-REx is the first mission in history to collect samples from an asteroid for return, as well as using cutting-edge techniques that allow vehicles to target planet surfaces precisely. According to Lauretta, this technology represents “an incredible breakthrough.”

Bennu was also crucial because it provided scientists with another critical piece of news – they analyzed some surface material that was blasted off from Bennu’s carbon-rich body that may offer clues as to how life evolved on Earth.

OSIRIS-REx team members are pleased that its cargo has safely returned home but are already planning its next mission. Once in Utah, OSIRIS-Apophis Explorer will rename itself before undertaking an epic voyage toward Apophis, which could impact Earth during an imminent flyby date in 2029 – it will use Aerojet Rocketdyne-built thrusters for this maneuver.

OSIRIS-REx’s data could also prove invaluable if Apophis does pose any threat to Earth – something the scientists and engineers involved with the mission take very seriously, given that American taxpayers cover its cost.

SpaceX’s Crew 7

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX successfully launched an international crew of four astronauts aboard its new Dragon capsule called Endurance on Sunday morning (Aug 26) towards the International Space Station for Expedition 69/70, performing science investigations and station maintenance duties while performing their duties under Expeditions 69 and 70.

The Dragon’s voyage to the International Space Station was marked by carefully planned maneuvers designed to bring it into position for an effortless docking connection with the Harmony module on board the complex. Sensors and artificial intelligence guided its course.

Jasmin Moghbeli, commander of Crew-7 mission and NASA astronaut born in Germany but residing in Baldwin, New York, is the first American woman ever to fly a SpaceX vehicle. Joining her on this historic endeavor are ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen, JAXA astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov from Roscosmos and ESA, respectively.

Moghbeli will make her fourth space flight during this mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Born and educated in Denmark, Moghbeli earned both her undergraduate degree at Copenhagen International School and a master’s in aeronautical engineering from Imperial College London before enlisting with the U.S. Marine Corps – flying 150 combat missions over war zones during that time!

Furukawa will make his second trip to the International Space Station (ISS), serving as a mechanical engineer, he will focus on station maintenance and research while Borisov, also a test cosmonaut, will focus on monitoring spacecraft during its dynamic launch and entry phases of flight he joined the Russian Space Agency’s Cosmonaut Corps as a candidate in 2018.

The Crew-7 flight, under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, marked SpaceX’s sixth of eight astronaut flights between Earth and the ISS using the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule of SpaceX astronauts. While only these two vehicles currently can transport astronauts there, Boeing Starliner should begin service soon – though in the future, SpaceX may use two of their massive Raptor engines as part of the Starship Super Heavy rocket to propel astronauts there as well.

SpaceX’s Lunar Lander

SpaceX and its partners’ lunar lander is set to make the first human landing since Apollo in the 1970s as part of NASA’s Artemis program in 2024. SpaceX developed an ambitious lunar lander explicitly designed to achieve this objective – SpaceX hopes its Artemis project can put astronauts back onto the lunar surface once again!

Starship Lander, being constructed at SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Texas, will utilize a SpaceX booster to fly into orbit before decelerating back down towards the Moon’s surface, carrying with it a robot vehicle to search for ice deposits at the South Pole of the Lunar Orbit. Initial tests should take place next year, followed by crewed missions scheduled for 2029.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk celebrated Starship’s win by commending its team on their hard work and dedication, saying he was eager to see its innovative propulsion system enable crewed lunar missions as well as its spacecraft systems that will transport astronauts safely around the Moon’s surface.

SpaceX announced their announcement only weeks after being disqualified from NASA’s competition to design and construct a rocket named New Glenn that is supposed to transport humans between Earth, the space station, and Mars. NASA did not publish an official call for proposals as required by law, thus making the competition invalid. Reuters reports.

Blue Origin, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and competing against SpaceX for high-profile space awards, has failed to secure one thus far. Blue Origin has invested billions of dollars trying to win contracts but has been without success so far.

This victory marks an essential step toward developing Starship, the company’s 52-foot-tall spacecraft designed to carry up to six astronauts between Earth and the Moon on one single trip. Reusability is intended, with plans in the works for cargo variants that can transport 20 tons each trip back into lunar orbit; such trips could serve as precursors towards creating Gateway lunar bases, which would allow humans to stay there for extended periods.