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SpaceX almost drops finished Starship prototype – but it might be salvageable
Something on or around a metal stand holding up SpaceX’s next completed Starship collapsed, causing the rocket to rapidly tilt sidewise and smash into the assembly building containing it.
Put simply, launch vehicles very rarely designed or expected to survive the kind of structural loads the fall and impact put Starship SN9 through and the early prognosis – prior to any up-close observation – was not not great. Weighing at least 50-70 metric tons (110,000-155,000 lb), any other rocket – and possibly even Starship itself – should have been damaged beyond repair from anything less than a minor bump.
Instead, Starship SN9 – fully assembled and perhaps just a few days away from a scheduled transport to the launch pad – shifted some 10 degrees (~10 m/30 ft) in a few seconds, seemingly coming to rest against scaffolding and the interior wall of SpaceX’s “high bay” assembly building.
Starship SN9 – as photos would soon show – appeared to be almost entirely unscathed, baring no obvious hull damage. The rocket’s fore and aft starboard flaps, however, were clearly crumpled.
Japanese scientists get first peek inside Hayabusa2 asteroid sample-return capsule
On Dec. 5, that capsule landed in the Woomera Prohibited Area in Australia; scientists with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), which runs the mission, then flew the capsule to Japan.
On Monday (Dec. 14), mission personnel got their first look inside the capsule. “We confirmed black grains thought to be from Ryugu were inside,” mission representatives wrote on Twitter. “This is outside the main chambers, and likely particles attached to the sample catcher entrance.”
Scientists later opened one of the three sample chambers and confirmed that it contained a fair amount of asteroid dust.
During one of those sampling attempts, the spacecraft grabbed rocks from the asteroid’s surface; during the second, it shot a copper bullet into the asteroid to uncover subsurface material. The combination should allow scientists to understand how the harsh environment of space has affected the surface of Ryugu.
JAXA has not yet announced when scientists will begin analyzing the asteroid bits
A large number of particles are confirmed to be in “sample chamber A” inside the collected capsule (~11:10 JST on 12/15). This is thought to be the sample from the first touchdown on Ryugu. The photo looks brown, but our team says “black”! The sample return is a great success!
Virgin Galactic traces SpaceShipTwo launch abort to bad computer connection
April 05, 2018
A bad computer connection foiled Virgin Galactic’s attempt to reach space over the weekend, company officials said.
VSS Unity, Virgin Galactic’s newest SpaceShipTwo vehicle, lifted off Saturday morning (Dec. 12) from New Mexico’s Spaceport America beneath the wings of its carrier airplane, VMS Eve.
Unity’s destination was suborbital space, but it didn’t get there. Eve dropped Unity at an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters) as planned, but the space plane’s onboard rocket motor didn’t light up properly.
Virgin Galactic quickly diagnosed the issue. Post-flight analyses have revealed “that the onboard computer which monitors the propulsion system lost connection, triggering a fail-safe scenario that intentionally halted ignition of the rocket motor,” Virgin Galactic representatives wrote in a blog post published Saturday. “This system, like others on the spaceship, is designed such that it defaults to a safe state whenever power or communication with sensors is lost.”
‘Luxury Space Hotel’ to Launch in 2021
Well-heeled space tourists will have a new orbital destination four years from now, if one company’s plans come to fruition.
That startup, called Orion Span, aims to loft its “Aurora Station” in late 2021 and begin accommodating guests in 2022.
“We are launching the first-ever affordable luxury space hotel,” said Orion Span founder and CEO Frank Bunger, who unveiled the Aurora Station idea today (April 5) at the Space 2.0 Summit in San Jose, California. [Aurora Station: A Luxury Space Hotel in Pictures]
“Affordable” is a relative term: A 12-day stay aboard Aurora Station will start at $9.5 million. Still, that’s quite a bit less than orbital tourists have paid in the past. From 2001 through 2009, seven private citizens took a total of eight trips to the International Space Station (ISS), paying an estimated $20 million to $40 million each time.
Aurora Station will accommodate four paying guests and two crewmembers; these latter personnel will likely be former astronauts, Bunger said.
If you’ve got $80,000 to spare, you can put a (fully refundable) deposit down on an Aurora Station stay beginning today. Folks who fly up will undergo a three-month training program, the last portion of which will occur aboard the space hotel itself, Bunger said. To learn more, go to www.orionspan.com
Orion Span has taken what was historically a 24 month training program and streamlined it to 3 months.
When can I go?
Aurora Station will launch in late 2021 and host its first guests in 2022. Our waitlist is now open. As we get closer to launch, we will reach out to guests on the waitlist sequentially to offer potential dates for their trip.
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