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]

Image: Public Domain via Stuart Rankin / Flickr Read the rest

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

NASA’s High Dynamic Range Stereo X camera captures rocket test in breathtaking detail

This is cool as hell. “While thousands turned out to watch NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) recently complete a full-scale test of its booster, few were aware of the other major test occurring simultaneously.” NASA’s High Dynamic Range Stereo X (HiDyRS-X) camera project captured the test like we've never seen before, and recorded propulsion video data in unprecedented detail. Read the rest

NASA completes rocket design review for future Mars journey

NASA's new Space Launch System (SLS) is about to go into full-scale fabrication after a detailed review. SLS Block 1, which just passed a design review milestone, will go to an asteroid placed in lunar orbit, and eventually to Mars. Read the rest