When model rocket launches go wrong

My teenage son and I are both lifelong model rocket nerds but we've never experienced the most dramatic failures seen above. We'll keep trying.

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Watch: SpaceX prototype Starship rocket just exploded in a big fireball

SpaceX's Starship SN4 prototype launch vehicle just exploded in a huge fireball during a static fire test in Boca Chica, Texas. While the Starship spacecraft is still early in development, the explosion doesn't feel great leading up to the SpaceX-NASA historic launch now scheduled for tomorrow. Scrubbed on Wednesday due to weather, it'll be the first time humans will launch to space from the United States since 2011 and the first time a private company will take humans offworld.

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NASA astronaut Bob Behnken launched his own rocket on the eve of his historic trip to space that was scrubbed yesterday

On Tuesday evening, the night before NASA astronaut Bob Behnken was set to launch into orbit about a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule, he launched his own rocket from Florida's Atlantic Coast. Read the rest

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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SpaceX and Space Adventures offer tourist trips to orbit

SpaceX and Space Adventures have partnered to offer space tourists a trip to orbit on the SpaceX Crew Dragon space capsule. They expect the first flight to launch in late 2021 or early 2022. Around $50 million will get you a seat. From Spaceflight Now:

The mission would not dock with the space station, but would instead fly into an orbit above the station’s altitude of about 260 miles (420 kilometers) above Earth, according to Space Adventures, the Virginia-based company that arranged flights of seven wealthy space tourists on Russian Soyuz capsules between 2001 and 2009...

Responding to a question on Twitter about a possible price tag of $52 million per seat, (Space Adventures chairman Eric) Anderson tweeted: “Per seat price for a full group of four not quite that much (not dramatically less, but significant enough to note). Definitive pricing confidential, and dependent on client specific requests, etc.”

Anderson tweeted that the training regimen for the Crew Dragon flight will be “significantly less than the few months required for previous missions or ISS missions.”

“Dragon in this profile allows up to 5 days,” Anderson tweeted. “3 days is probably ideal, 40-50 orbits or so.”

image: SpaceX Crew Dragon (NASA, public domain) Read the rest

Florida fisherman catches parachutes and capsule door from SpaceX crew capsule

Last week, charter fishing boat captain David Stokes was fishing off the Daytona Beach coast when he reeled in a capsule door and two parachutes that were part of a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. On January 19, SpaceX conducted a successful in-flight abort test of their Crew Dragon that involved exploding the Falcon 9 rocket and releasing the capsule to carry the crew to safety. From UPI:

Stokes said he has attempted to contact SpaceX and tagged Elon Musk in a tweet about the discovery in the hopes of bringing it to their attention.

"I'd like for SpaceX to come check it out to see what they think about it ... any damage to it," Stokes told WKMG-TV. "It would also be awesome to have Elon Musk autograph it."

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Whose rocket was bigger?

Insert phallic joke here. Read the rest

Beautiful book, augmented reality, and film about stunning rocket launches

In the realm of rocket geeks and space nerds, filmmakers MaryLiz Bender and Ryan Chylinski have dream jobs. The pair have the equivalent of "backstage passes" to SpaceX, NASA and ULA rocket launches where they capture and share breathtaking videos that convey the power, risk, and thrill of space exploration. The work of their studio, called Cosmic Perspective, is visceral, wondrous, and inspiring. Now Bender and Chylinski are creating a fascinating art book enhanced with augmented reality along with a companion short film "documenting humanity's grand adventure to space." Titled "Guidance Internal: Lessons from Astronauts," the book, film, and their touring Cosmic Perspective show lies at the intersection of science and art "to inspire hope, elevate empathy, and bring people together." They've launched a Kickstarter to support the project and it looks, well, stellar.

From Kickstarter:

The art and the pages in this book come to life immediately teleporting you to rocket launch pads, directly to our intimate interviews with astronauts and the people sending missions to space. We fuse art with science blending our love of high-dynamic range photography with compelling video to capture the emotion, excitement, and gravity of these events. We also give you a front-row seat to transformative performances by artists inspired by these experiences.

We place autonomous high-resolution and ultra-high speed video cameras at the launchpads of SpaceX, NASA, and ULA. These are cameras we place well ahead of the liftoff, design to survive the elements and, since no humans can be anywhere near the rockets, trigger without any human interaction.

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Watch Russian rocket struck by lightning at launch

Lightning hit a Russian Soyuz rocket right after liftoff today. The direct hit resulted in nothing more (and nothing less) than this thrilling video. From Space.com:

The lightning strike occurred during the launch of a Glonass-M navigation satellite from Russia's Plesetsk Cosmodrome about 500 miles (800 kilometers) north of Moscow at 9:23 a.m. Moscow time (0623 GMT). In a statement, officials with Russia's space agency Roscosmos announced that the rocket successfully reached orbit.

"Lightning is not an obstacle for you!" Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin wrote on Twitter while congratulating the Glonass-M launch team and military Space Forces.

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All three SpaceX Falcon Heavy Boosters landing

I always find there's a surreal quality to footage of SpaceX's self-landing rockets. It's the "living in the future" moment for my reptile brain, irrespective of what it really means for mankind or where it truly sits in the spectrum of discovery and progress.

Three at once:

SpaceX launched the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket on its inaugural commercial mission on Thursday evening. This was the second flight for Falcon Heavy, which became the most powerful rocket in use in the world after SpaceX’s successful test flight in February 2018. That launch was purely demonstration — Thursday represents the first revenue-generating flight of Falcon Heavy. Falcon Heavy launched from SpaceX’s launchpad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Built out of three of the company’s Falcon 9 rockets, Falcon Heavy’s three cores stand side by side to create a 27-engine colossus. Together, those engines create about 5.1 million pounds of thrust.

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Watch a rocket launch from space

European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst captured this beautiful video of the Russian Progress MS-10 cargo spacecraft launching into space from Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome.

The images were taken from the European-built Cupola module with a camera set to take pictures at regular intervals. The pictures are then played quickly after each other at 8 to 16 times normal speed. The video shows around 15 minutes of the launch at normal speed....

Some notable moments in this video are:

00:07 Soyuz-FG rocket booster separation. 00:19 Core stage separation. 00:34:05 Core stage starts burning in the atmosphere as it returns to Earth after having spent all its fuel. 00:34:19 Progress spacecraft separates from rocket and enters orbit to catch up with the International Space Station.

(ESA on YouTube) Read the rest

Rocket failure forces emergency landing by joint American-Russian crew

NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin were forced to make an emergency landing in Kazakhstan this morning during their attempted trip to the International Space Station. The duo were on board a Russian-built Soyuz rocket, launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan when, according to early reports from NASA, the rocket's booster failed minutes after liftoff.

NASA reported in a tweet that the “...Soyuz capsule is returning to Earth via a ballistic descent, which is a sharper angle of landing compared to normal.” A search and rescue team was deployed to pick up the astronaut and cosmonaut from the capsule's landing site, approximately 12 miles east of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, will be conducting a formal investigation into what went wrong with their rocket.

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Gorgeous time-lapse video of Sunday night's SpaceX launch

On Sunday evening, SpaceX launched a satellite on a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Visual Burrito created this beautiful time-lapse, 4K video of the spectacle in the sky.

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Having your mail delivered by rocket is the most 1950s futurist thing ever

Before the Internet was a thing, the postal service was a big deal for folks flung far from one another. Back in the mid-20th century, a phone call from one coast to the other, no matter how brief, would see you paying through the nose. As such, the postal service reigned supreme when it came to staying in touch in an intimate, personal manner. There was just one problem: unless you paid for rushed delivery, using the postal service to send a letter or other document was, and still is, slow as hell.

Thank God for rocket-powered mail delivery! The future of mail!

Well, they thought it was, at the time. Read the rest

NASA photographer's camera cooked by last week's SpaceX rocket launch

Senior NASA photographer Bill Ingalls apparently set up his Canon EOS 5DS at an unlucky spot near yesterday's SpaceX rocket launch. He placed it outside the pad perimeter yet the launch sparked a small brush fire that cooked the camera. "I had many other cameras much closer to the pad than this and all are safe," Ingalls wrote.

Fortunately, the SD cards didn't melt and he was able to access the final photos taken by the camera before its untimely death. Two of them are below.

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Flat earth-preaching rocketeer finally gets off the ground

You likely read about "Mad" Mike Hughes in the news last year – you know, when you weren't busy stockpiling canned goods and potassium Iodide tablets to help deal with the existential dread that's currently gripping the planet. Hughes is the flat-earth loving, paradoxical science-hating DIY rocket designer who stated that he'd blast himself into the sky in a steam-powered, homemade rocket to prove that the earth isn't round.

That was a mouthful, but there's a lot going on here.

The first time that Hughes attempted to fire himself into the air in a blaze of Darwinism, the Department of Land Management shut him down, as his flight path would have taken him into the airspace over public lands. So, Hughes scrubbed the launch. Yesterday, he took another go.

According to the Associated Press, Hughes's steam-powered death chair was able to carry him to a distance of 1,875 feet into the air before he and his capsule floated back to earth, in relative safety, via parachute. When questioned about how he was feeling after surviving his flight, Hughes seemed happy that it was over and done with, citing that his back hurt, but over all he felt relieved that it was over.

No matter what you believe about Hughes' beliefs about the shape of the earth, of the lunacy it takes to strap yourself to the tip of a homemade rocket, you've got to respect that he pulled it off. Maybe he didn't gain as much altitude as he'd wanted. Read the rest

Flat-Earther's rocket failed again

Over the weekend, flat-Earther and DIY rocketeer Mike Hughes tried again to launch himself into space. Unfortunately, he failed. As a result, his belief that the Earth isn't round stands. The Washington Post has been following Hughes's misadventures:

All critics would be silenced, Hughes promised then, when he finally launched on private property outside the town of Amboy, Calif., on Saturday....

“I pulled the plunger five different times,” Hughes said. “I considered beating on the rocket nozzle from the underneath side. But you can't get anyone under there. It'll kill you. It'll scald you to death. It'll blow the skin and muscle off your bones.”..

Hughes's plans are unclear now. He said he'd take apart the rocket to see what went wrong, but he has commitments to think of besides science. He was supposed to be in court on Tuesday, he told the crowd, because he was suing the governor of California for unspecified reasons. He was also trying to claim the legal right to Charles Manson's guitar. He is a man of many ambitions...

“Guys, I'm sorry,” Hughes said. “What can you do?”

"A flat-earther finally tried to fly away. His rocket didn’t even ignite." (Washington Post) Read the rest

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