Space News


SpaceX Launches Satellite Successfully; Barge Landing of Stage 1 Booster a Spectacular Failure

One can learn much more from failures, than from successes. SpaceX put a lot of effort into its rocket boosters to achieve successful space launch. If it wants to recover its stage 1 boosters for re-use it must go back to the drawing board and use a bit of smart creative thinking this time.

The SpaceX stream should begin close to launch in the viewer above.   The satellite launch from Vandenberg AFB in California should be routine, but the offshore barge landing of the stage 1 booster will be tricky — with ocean swells up to 15 feet.

The NASA stream will be ongoing in the viewer below.

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

The mission is launching out of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. After it delivers the Jason-3 oceanographic satellite into orbit, the rocket will attempt to land.

Jason-3 is a relatively small satellite, weighing just 1,124 pounds (510 kilograms) and only about 3.3 feet (1 meter) per side with a 12.1-foot (3.7 meter) solar panel wingspan. It will be carried on an older v1.2 model Falcon 9 rocket. __

SpaceX Booster Recovery

A handout picture made available by SpaceX on 22 December 2015 shows a nine-minute exposure picture of the launch, re-entry, and landing burns of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, December 21, 2015. Photo: European Pressphoto Agency

SpaceX performed a successful static fire test of its Falcon 9 rocket late Jan. 11, clearing the way for the launch of an ocean science satellite, and another first stage landing attempt, this weekend.

SpaceX carried out the static fire test, a standard part of the company’s pre-launch preparations, at 8:35 p.m. Eastern at Space Launch Complex 4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Preliminary data from the seven-second test “looks good,” the company said in a tweet.

A successful test will allow preparations to continue for the Jan. 17 launch of Jason-3, a joint U.S.-French mission to measure ocean surface conditions. __

Dream Chaser to Supply Cargo to ISS

After losing a bid to SpaceX and Boeing to taxi astronauts to the International Space Station, Sierra Nevada’s miniature space shuttle Dream Chaser will have a new mission — flying cargo for NASA… The space agency also re-hired SpaceX and Orbital ATK, which currently fly cargo to the station. Each company’s contract covers at least six cargo runs to the station between 2019 and 2024.

The Dream Chaser Cargo System builds on the mini-space shuttle design Sierra Nevada has been working on for a decade, including four years with NASA backing.

The robotic version of Dream Chaser features foldable wings so the spaceship can fit inside standard 5-meter payload fairings, used by United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket, the baseline vehicle for the cargo resupply missions, as well as Arianespace’s Ariane booster. __

On to the Moon

Think a village on the moon sounds like science fiction? – It could be a reality by 2030, if the head of the European Space Agency gets his way.

Jan Woerner​ has outlined a vision for replacing the International Space Station (ISS), when it is eventually taken out of service, with a lunar “village” of structures made by robots and 3D printers that use moon dust as a building material.

“I looked into the requirements I see for a project after ISS. As of today, I see the moon village as the ideal successor of the International Space Station for [space] exploration,” Mr Woerner said at a news briefing in Paris on Friday.

Mr Woerner made a moon mission a central project when he took the helm of the ESA in July last year, saying it was a key step on the way to humans eventually flying to Mars.
__ SMH

At this point, none of the national and international space agencies have the cash to build and operate a lunar colony. If the level of inter-agency cooperation can be boosted much higher than at present, a cooperative lunar colony may be possible.

Of course, we should always remember the lessons of the ISS, where Russia took money meant to be used to build quality ISS components, and used it to upgrade its nuclear ballistic missile programs. Most of the Russian components to the ISS were pure shite. We can always hope that Russia has moved beyond that kind of thing now.

Image: The pressurized volume of a 20 ton B330 is 330m3, compared to the 106m3 of the 15 ton ISS Destiny module; offering 210% more habitable space with an increase of only 33% in mass. Credit: Bigelow Aerospace.

Image: The pressurized volume of a 20 ton B330 is 330m3, compared to the 106m3 of the 15 ton ISS Destiny module; offering 210% more habitable space with an increase of only 33% in mass. Credit: Bigelow Aerospace.

Proposed Manned Habitat to Higher Orbit

We need to answer some fundamental questions regarding human life beyond the confines of our home planet. Will humans thrive under lunar or martian gravity? Can children be conceived in extraterrestrial environments? What is the safe threshold for human exposure to high-Z galactic cosmic rays (GCRs)?

To address these issues we might require a dedicated facility in Earth orbit. Such a facility should be in a higher orbit than the International Space Station (ISS) so that frequent reboosting to compensate for atmospheric drag is not required. It should be within the ionosphere so that electrodynamic tethers (ETs) can be used for occasional reboosting without the use of propellant. An orbit should be chosen to optimize partial GCR-shielding by Earth’s physical bulk. Ideally, the orbit selected should provide near-continuous sunlight so that the station’s solar panels are nearly always illuminated and experiments with closed-environment agriculture can be conducted without the inconvenience of the 90 minute day/night cycle of equatorial Low Earth Orbit (LEO). __ via NextBigFuture

Asteroid Mining: What Comes Next?

Recently passed legislation which legalized space mining has spawned speculation that it could kick off a proverbial ‘gold rush’ as private companies race to stake a claim to the universe’s vast unclaimed resources.

The law officially gives ownership of any resources that a person or company manages to extract from an asteroid or the moon.

Observers of the private space industry see the legislation as a major breakthrough for companies looking for investors in their quest to reach the cosmos…

… One potential project already under discussion is the development of a refueling station for hydrogen-powered rockets that would harness water frozen inside asteroids.

Additionally, there is a wealth of valuable minerals which could be collected, brought back to Earth, and sold for tremendous profit.

As of now, space mining remains a theoretical enterprise, but the first prospecting missions are expected to begin in 2017 with actual mining to get underway three years later.


Will 2016 See the Beginning of Something Really Big in Human Space Enterprise?

Last December, Moon Express became the first private company to successfully build and test a Moon-capable robotic lander — the MX-1 — here on Earth. By 2016, it plans to land on the Moon itself in a bid to claim the $20 million (£13m) Google Lunar XPRIZE for the first private lander to successfully travel 500 metres along the surface and transmit high-definition imagery back home. In October, in partnership with Nasa, it was on track to launch a shuttle to retrieve experiments from the International Space Station.

… Virginia-based Deep Space Industries and Washington-based Planetary Resources have both set their sights on near-Earth asteroids, the original source of much of the Earth and Moon’s precious metals.

“Space travel isn’t about distance,” explains Planetary Resources’ president and chief engineer, Chris Lewicki, who was also former flight director for Nasa’s twin Mars Rover missions. “Everything is measured in terms of the amount of rocket fuel that you need. Asteroids have no gravity, so going there and bringing stuff back requires as little fuel as docking with a space station. There are almost 4,000 asteroids that we know of which are energetically closer to us than the surface of the Moon.”

… As with the Moon, a major draw to asteroid mining is the abundance of rare Earth metals found throughout space — in particular, the platinum group, used not only in jewellery but in the manufacture of everything from catalytic converters and smartphones to cancer treatments. Access to an abundance of these, Lewicki suggests, could have a similar impact on technological development as the discovery of how to extract aluminium from the Earth’s crust. Yet the high value of the most important in-space resources comes not from their rarity on Earth, but from their presence off it — specifically outside of the planet’s gravitational field.

“The first resource we’re interested in is plain old water,” explains Lewicki. “In space, it’s never quite where you need it. At the moment it costs us about £60 million per tonne just to get it out there.” On the Moon, she says, water will provide the oxygen needed to begin the expansion of human habitation into space. Its presence throughout the universe will essentially fuel its exploration.

“H2O contains the elements of the same rocket fuel that powered all 135 space shuttle launches,” explains Lewicki. “By capturing water from asteroids and bringing it back to Earth orbit, we’ll be able to refuel all abandoned satellites in space. And we can serve as refuelling stations around the Solar System for wherever human beings want to take their activities.”

Not only fuel stations, but factories. Iron, nickel and cobalt, the base metals needed for spacecraft manufacture, are also abundant throughout space, where zero or low gravity will allow for the creation of entirely new chemical compounds and alloys that would be impossible under the Earth’s pull. “There are pharmaceutical drugs, for example, that could only be developed in space,” Jain says. “The chemicals will crystallise very differently in something like Moon gravity.” __ Focus On

Others are More Pessimistic

The US has no agency or process to issue licenses for space mining. “The politics can’t be known, but there will be politics,” says Joanne Gabrynowicz, a spacelaw expert at the University of Mississippi. Licenses give clarity not only to would-be miners but also to investors and governments starting their own operations. “If you don’t have that license, the investors are taking a big chance,” she says.

The US is now drawing up a law. Problem is, it’s unilateral and incomplete. The Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015 says citizens can “possess, own, transport, use, and sell” an asteroid resource once they obtain it. But the bill doesn’t establish an agency or process for issuing licenses. Worse, it says your ownership claim begins as soon as you detect the existence of metals on an asteroid. You don’t even have to plant a flag. But what if China and Russia have different ideas—and different laws for their own citizens? Commercial activity in distant space could easily cause seething international strife here on our home planet.

In other words, people may decide to go to war over the rich resources and high strategic advantages of outer space. Of course, wars can always happen — regardless of how many licenses or clear rights someone has to a resource or a location. Just ask Ukraine about living next to an ambitious little big man.

More on possible battles over space resources

Others are worried about saving the planet from asteroids

This entry was posted in Asteroids, Space Future and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Space News

  1. Pingback: Outside in - Involvements with reality » Blog Archive » Chaos Patch (#97)

  2. vxxc2014 says:

    One of the great potential advantages of space is the off-worlding of resource conflict.


Comments are closed.