See-thru rockets are GO for launch!

If you're as ancient as I am, you might remember that awesome line of Revell "Visible" model kits: The Visible Man, Visible Woman, Visible V-8, Visible Mustang, etc. These see-thru models were a fun way to teach kids what lies beneath the surfaces of biological and mechanical worlds. I loved these kits!

Now, thanks to the wonders of modern desktop animation, we have this video of four transparent rockets showing engine burn and staging, from launch to orbital insertion.

Key: Red = Kerosene RP-1 Orange = Liquid Hydrogen LH2 Blue = Liquid Oxygen LOX

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Be like a SpaceX rocket in quarantine: pressurized yet chilled and not exploding

From Ars Technica:

Late on Sunday night, SpaceX completed a critical cryogenic test of a Starship prototype at its launch site in South Texas. […] The vehicle, dubbed SN4—which stands for Serial Number 4—was pressurized to 4.9 bar, or 4.9 times the atmospheric pressure at the surface of the Earth. This pressure is not as high as Starship's fuel tanks and plumbing system are designed to withstand, but it is enough for a basic flight.

This marks an important moment in the Starship program. Since November 2019, the company has lost three full-scale Starship prototypes during cryogenic and pressure tests. The most recent failure came on April 3. This is the first time a vehicle has survived pressure testing to advance to further work. Such tests are designed to ensure the integrity of a rocket's fueling system prior to lighting an engine.

So it's been chilled, but also highly pressurized, and is somehow still holding it together. Which is also how I feel every day of quarantine.

Starship chilled. Starship pressurized. And for the first time, it didn’t explode. [Eric Berger / Ars Technica]

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A spent Chinese rocket booster destroyed part of a village near the launching site

On at 8:55am local time on Saturday, November 23, 2019, the Chinese government "successfully" launched a Long March 3B carrier rocket into orbit. Leaving from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, the Yuanzheng-1 upper was carrying two Beidou satellites—basically China's version of GPS.

I say "successfully" in quotes because, while the rocket and satellites reached their destination, they also happened to drop one of their lower rocket boosters on someone's house, along with some toxic propellant gas:

But worst of all? This isn't the first time in recent history that it's happened, either.

According to SpaceNews, residents within the calculated drop zones were given an evacuation notice, and advised against approaching the potential wreckage of their homes. Based on a quick perusal of comments on Twitter (and the ones I can parse from the Chinese social media service Sina Weibo), the Chinese government allegedly compensates people when something like this happens. I certainly hope that's true, though I wouldn't bet money on it. And even if it is, the fact that the government keeps launching rockets with the knowledge that the boosters may come down and destroy homes and lives is concerning enough.

Presumably, the Chinese government doesn't want to launch any rockets on the their coasts for fear of pissing off or threatening their neighbors—it's probably easier to handle your own citizens than deal with an accidental booster falling on someone in South Korea. Read the rest

A stunning timelapse of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch flying over Arizona

Last Friday night, my Facebook feed blew up with images of "UFOs." It took a beat before my concerned SoCal friends got the news that the big illuminated streak they saw across the sky was actually Elon Musk's latest rocket launch on its way to space, and not something nefarious.

Shortly after, my brother Andrew texted me in excitement from Arizona, saying that he and his family had caught the rocket launch from Scottsdale. I was surprised to hear that it was visible in Arizona, as I had already learned it was launched from Vandenberg in California.

Then today I came across this gorgeous timelapse video shot by photographer Jesse Watson and I can see what all the fuss was about.

Watson writes:

This particular launch was close to my hometown in Yuma, Arizona, roughly 400 miles away but perfectly viewable for people in Arizona. I’ve one previous rocket launch years ago from White Sands Missile range in the morning time at sunrise and knew with the correct lighting from sunset that this launch had the opportunity to pop in a dramatic fashion.

I scouted four locations that had foregrounds to add depth to the imagery and was uniquely inspiring to my hometown. Location choices were between a favorite local hiking mountain, the Imperial Sand Dunes, or a small hill that resides in the historic downtown area overlooking the city. I ended up choosing the location that overlooked the city, partially because it was the easiest to access with all of my time-lapse gear.

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NASA rocket launch to be visible along U.S. East Coast Wednesday night

If you're on the East Coast, keep your eyes on the skies this evening--you might see something rare up there. Read the rest