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Showing posts from August, 2020

SpaceX kicks off orbital Starship launch pad construction in Texas

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 CEO Elon Musk has confirmed that SpaceX is already well into the process of building an orbital-class Starship launch pad in Boca Chica, Texas. After much ado about nothing and a multi-day fan skirmish over whether a new SpaceX construct was meant for a water tower or launch pad, the debate can finally be brought to a close. As of almost two weeks ago, it was just shy of guaranteed that the concrete foundation SpaceX was working on would be wildly excessive for a water tower, turning it into a question of whether it would be a suborbital or orbital-class test stand for Starship. Now, Musk has confirmed – somewhat surprisingly – that the foundation will ultimately support an “orbital launch mount” capable of hosting what will eventually be the largest and most powerful rocket ever built. All the way back in September 2019, SpaceX actually broke ground on a separate orbital-class Starship launch pad at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A). Despite rapid progress over t

Japan's ispace aims to be 'gateway' for lunar business activity

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 Toyota-backed startup offers new data service and raises $28m for 2022 landing TOKYO -- Japanese startup ispace has launched a data service aimed at helping companies pursue business opportunities on the moon, part of the lunar rover developer's aim to become a "gateway" for commercial space activities. The Tokyo-based startup says it will collect lunar data, including images, environmental data, telemetry and resources information, and provide them to potential customers including government space agencies, universities and private companies for mission planning and lunar surface development. Ispace aims to become the first private venture to reach the moon, with its first landing mission planned in 2022. Interest in space-related business opportunities, including those on the moon, has been strong in Japan. The company hopes to become a "gateway [by] helping companies design a blueprint for lunar market entry," said Takahiro Nakamura, chief operating officer

SpaceX’s Elon Musk talks next goals for Falcon rocket reusability

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 CEO Elon Musk has reiterated that SpaceX is still pursuing a major rocket reuse milestone he originally set for the company several years ago and revealed that its Falcon rockets could ultimately soar far beyond it. Musk has been talking publicly about reusable rockets for well over a decade but the first hard numbers linked to real hardware came with the debut of Falcon 9’s Block 5 upgrade in May 2018. In a conference call with reporters, Musk famously revealed that the Block 5 upgrade incorporated design changes that would ultimately allow SpaceX to reuse orbital-class Falcon boosters at least ten times each. An upper bound of 100+ flights per booster would also be possible with regular maintenance and part replacements every ten or so launches. Since the upgrade’s May 11th, 2018 launch debut, Falcon 9 and Heavy Block 5 rockets have completed 37 launches – all successful – with only one in-flight anomaly, a March 2020 engine failure that prevented booster recovery but didn’t preclud

Trump administration urges more commercial activities in space

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 The plan is outlined in a White House memo released Aug. 14. The Trump administration has taken another small step towards its larger leap to commercialize space laboratory activities, even as NASA struggles to put current commercialization plans into place. A new White House memo released Friday (Aug. 14) said that low Earth orbit research "on new platforms" — commercial facilities that could succeed the International Space Station — should be a priority. It was published as part of the yearly joint initiative to figure out budget priorities in research and development, between the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. While this year's memo has very similar wording to that released last year, according to SpaceNews, there is one key sentence that shows the new prioritization on low Earth orbit (LEO) research. "Microgravity research in biological and physical science on new platforms in Low Earth Orbit is impor

SpaceX’s next Starship hop a step closer after ‘cryo proof’ test

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 SpaceX appears to have successfully completed one of three major tests standing between a new Starship prototype and the rocket’s next hop. Known as a cryogenic proof test (“cryo proof”), signs currently point towards a success on Starship SN6’s first try – albeit an hour or two past the end of the planned test window. The proof was planned between 8 am and 5 pm CDT (UTC-5) on August 16th with identical backup windows on Monday and Tuesday in the event of an abort or delay. Thankfully, in a breath of fresh air after many Starship SN5 test delays, SpaceX had no such need. With the help of local sheriffs, SpaceX closed the highway around 10:15 am and pressurized Starship SN6 with ambient-temperature gas (likely nitrogen) around half an hour later. As usual, the company took its time while the Starship prototype effectively came to life for the first time. Around 2.5 hours later, the Starship began visibly venting for the first time as it operated dozens of valves to maintain safe tank p