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Blue Origin launches and lands a New Shepard rocket on its seventh trip to space
The vehicle took off from West Texas this morning
Today’s test will mark the 13th launch of the New Shepard program and the seventh overall flight for this particular rocket. But it’s been a long time since the New Shepard fleet has seen any action, with the last test flight (featuring the same rocket launching today) taking place back in December 2019. In April, at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, the company had hoped to conduct another New Shepard test launch, despite concerns voiced by employees at the time. That launch was ultimately delayed, and Blue Origin waited until late September to try again, though it had to push the launch back until this week due to a power supply issue.
One NASA experiment will actually remain mounted to the outside of the rocket for the entire flight. Called “Safe and Precise Landing – Integrated Capabilities Evolution,” or SPLICE for short, this payload is equipped with sensors, instruments, and software that NASA has developed to help future crewed and robotic spacecraft land on the Moon.
New Shepard’s flight profile makes it a great testbed for trying out lunar landing technologies, says NASA. The rocket takes off vertically from the ground, flying up to around 62 miles high, where any passengers inside would experience microgravity. (Similarly, lunar landers also experience microgravity and the vacuum of space before touching down on the Moon.) After reaching space, the crew capsule detaches from the rest of the rocket, and both vehicles fall back down to Earth. A series of parachutes deploy to land the crew capsule safely on the ground while the rocket reignites its engine to land upright. Lunar landers also employ similar landing techniques on the Moon, using onboard engines to slow down and touch down gently on the lunar surface. During that descent and landing, NASA’s SPLICE experiment will be collecting a whole lot of data.
NASA delays launch of Crew-1 mission with SpaceX to early November
SpaceX and NASA appeared all set to kick off a new era in spaceflight later this month, with the Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station scheduled for October 31. That date has now been pushed back following a mishap on the launchpad during a separate SpaceX mission earlier this month, with the agency allowing the company time to get to the bottom of the issue before launching its astronauts into space for just the second time.
But plans for a late October lift-off have been scrubbed in favor of an early-to-mid November launch, NASA announced this week. This is to provide ”additional time for SpaceX to complete hardware testing and data reviews as the company evaluates off-nominal behavior of Falcon 9 first stage engine gas generators observed during a recent non-NASA mission launch attempt,”
The incident it refers to took place on October 3, as SpaceX prepared to launch a satellite into space for the US Airforce using its Falcon 9 rocket. The launch was aborted prior to take off, which CEO Elon Musk went on to explain on Twitter was the result of unexpected pressure build up in the turbomachinery gas generator, which powers the rocket’s Merlin engines.
US Army Partners With SpaceX to Deliver Military Cargo Anywhere In an Hour
The US military is partnering with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to explore the possibility of transporting military systems in a rocket anywhere on the globe in merely 60 minutes.
While the project will assess the costs and technical challenges of the project, General Stephen Lyons, head of US Transportation Command, said that the initial tests can be expected by as early as 2021.
“Think about moving the equivalent of a C-17 payload anywhere on the globe in less than an hour,” Lyons asked a virtual audience on October 7.
No Need for Air Refueling
Apart from a quantum jump in speed, the technology also eliminates the en-route stops or air refueling, a necessity of present cargo aircraft, allowing point-to-point rapid movement of resources.
Before that, Musk had discussed the concept of traveling in a space rocket in 2017 at the International Astronautical Congress.
“So, most of what people consider to be long distance trips would be completed in less than half an hour,” he said in the presentation showing passengers in New York City boarding a Starship-class rocket for a 40-minute trip to Shanghai.
A mini moon about to orbit Earth may actually be a piece of space junk from the 1960s
An asteroid likely to get caught in Earth’s orbit and become a “mini moon” for several months may in fact not be an asteroid at all.
Dubbed 2020 SO, the object is on track to be pulled into Earth’s orbit in the coming weeks and circle the planet until it returns to its own track.
But instead of being space rock, experts think it is actually part of a rocket from a failed moon-landing mission in 1966.
“I’m pretty jazzed about this,” Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told The Associated Press. “It’s been a hobby of mine to find one of these and draw such a link, and I’ve been doing it for decades now.”
Mini moons – objects that temporarily orbit Earth – are rare. While more have likely occurred over history, only two have been confirmed: one from 2006 to 2007 and another discovered earlier this year that was in orbit from 2018 to 2020, according to space and astronomy news outlet Universe Today.
The object is also moving much slower than scientists would expect a similar asteroid to move.
“The velocity seems to be a big one,” space archaeologist Alice Gorman of Flinders University in Australia told science news outlet ScienceAlert. “What I’m seeing is that it’s just moving too slowly, which reflects its initial velocity. That’s essentially a big giveaway.”
Based on its brightness, 2020 SO is roughly 26 feet long. The Centaur rocket stage from the Surveyor 2 mission is less than 32 feet long and 10 feet in diameter.
Carrie Nugent, an asteroid hunter at Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts, told the AP that the conclusion that the object is space junk is “a good one.”
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