OK, I really need this. It's the SpaceX Dragon rendezvousing and docking with the International Space Station with "Blue Danube" as the soundtrack. Holy 2001, Batman!
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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.
UPDATE: Launch scrubbed due to weather just a few minutes before launch. See you Saturday for another try!
Today, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule is scheduled to shuttle two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. This will 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. Intrepid science journalist Nadia Drake is at the launchpad reporting on the mission for National Geographic and ABC News. Tune in above for Nadia's live reporting. Liftoff is set for 4:33pm ET, weather and technology permitting. From Nadia's coverage at National Geographic:
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The Demo-2 mission is slated to lift off from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A—the same pad in Florida that hosted Apollo 11 and STS-135, the last flight of a space shuttle. However, next week's mission represents a new way of getting humans to orbit, in which agencies including NASA purchase rides to space from private companies. For astronauts [Doug] Hurley, 53, and [Bob] Behnken, 49, the Demo-2 flight also presents a rare opportunity: to be the first people to fly in a new type of spacecraft. Behnken and Hurley were specially selected for NASA’s commercial crew program back in 2015. Both men are former military test pilots—Hurley in the Marines and Behnken in the Air Force. Both are married to fellow astronauts, and the two have been colleagues since joining NASA in 2000 as part of Astronaut Group 18.
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.
SN4 passed cryo proof! 😅 pic.twitter.com/EJakThZRGF
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 27, 2020
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]
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:
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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."
SPOILER: Nobody got baked. Not that kind of space cookies. Sorry.
“How do they taste? No one knows.” Read the rest
In April, my wife and I returned from a few months in Mexico, to Texas. We were planning on hanging around until the end of the month before driving back up to Canada. On a particularly hot day, we thought it'd be nice to take our pooch to the beach so that she could cool off. Landlocked as we were, in Mission, we opted to drive east, to the coast. We considered South Padre Island, but seeing the traffic thicken the closer we got, we opted out at the last minute. Instead, on the advice of a fella we met while pulled over for a few licks of an ice cream, we set our Garmin to direct us to Boca Chica. The beach was beautiful, we were told, and no one cares if your dog plays the goof, provided she doesn't bother anyone else.
We were sold.
It wasn't a long drive, but it was a damn flat one. When we arrive in south Texas each year, I'm always thrilled to see the scrub brush, flatlands and palm trees. It's a completely alien world compared to what I grew up with in Canada. By the time we're getting ready to head north, I long for mountains. As the miles down the lone road to Boca Chica clicked by, I starting to whine that I knew what would be around the next corner... it would be flat and dry, with just a hint of dust, just as with the last corner we'd whipped around. Read the rest
NASA astronaut Anne McClain captured this astonishing image of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule approaching her temporary residence, the International Space Station. "The dawn of a new era in human spaceflight," McClain tweeted with the photo.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon, containing supplies rather than humans for this test, docked at the ISS yesterday morning and the hatch was opened a few hours ago. From NASA:
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(The mission, called) Demo-1 is the first flight test of a space system designed for humans built and operated by a commercial company through a public-private partnership. The mission also marks a significant step toward returning to the nation the capability to launch astronauts on a U.S.-built spacecraft from U.S. soil.
“It’s an exciting evening,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said after the launch. “What today really represents is a new era in spaceflight. We’re looking forward to being one of many customers in a robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit.”
Elon Musk's SpaceX let go 10% of its 6,000 person staff today. In May of last year, the company stated that it has had "many years" of continuing profitability and in recent weeks raised $273 million so far in a planned $500 million funding round.
"To continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft and a global space-based Internet, SpaceX must become a leaner company," SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell wrote in an email to employees. "Either of these developments, even when attempted separately, have bankrupted other organizations. This means we must part ways with some talented and hardworking members of our team..."
From the Los Angeles Times:
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SpaceX makes most of its money from commercial and national security satellite launches, as well as two NASA contracts, one a multibillion-dollar deal to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and the other up to $2.6 billion to develop a capsule that will deliver astronauts to the space station. The first launch of that capsule, without a crew, is planned for February.
The Elon Musk-led company has even more ambitious — and expensive — plans. Musk has said SpaceX will conduct a “hopper test” of its Mars spaceship prototype as early as next month...
SpaceX is offering a minimum of eight weeks’ pay and other benefits to laid-off workers, according to Shotwell’s email.
I regret to inform you that Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk is back on his inappropriate for a CEO tweets again. Read the rest
Elon Musk's SpaceX revealed the name of the person who is set to become the first private space tourist to travel to the moon: Yusaku Maezawa. Read the rest
It's an ISS supply run, but what a beautiful boat. Check out the plume -- "Holy Cow, look at that thing!" -- in this clip:
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.
We were promised flying cars, and we finally pretty much got 'em. Elon Musk, Tesla, and SpaceX's 'Live Views of Starman' is the first car commercial broadcast in real time from space. Read the rest