Friday, May 8, 2015


This blog has moved to: http://www.megalexto … .php/category/space/. This page will likely no longer be updated but will remain here as-is for the time being.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

SpaceX Narrowly Misses Rocket Landing After Dragon Spaceship Launch Success

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the company’s Dragon cargo capsule toward the International Space Station today, then turned around and nearly pulled off a soft landing on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 4:10 p.m. EDT (2010 GMT) today (April 14), sending Dragon to orbit on a resupply mission for NASA. SpaceX then attempted to bring the rocket’s first stage back down for a vertical landing on an “autonomous spaceport drone ship,” in a highly anticipated reusable-rocket test.

The unprecedented maneuver almost worked — but not quite.

“Ascent successful. Dragon enroute to Space Station. Rocket landed on droneship, but too hard for survival,” SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said via Twitter today. “Looks like Falcon landed fine, but excess lateral velocity caused it to tip over post landing,” he added in another tweet.

Today’s launch was originally scheduled for Monday (April 13) but was delayed a day by bad weather.

Developing fully and rapidly reusable rockets is a key priority for SpaceX and Musk, who has said that such technology could slash the cost of spaceflight by a factor of 100.

SpaceX has now attempted the rocket landing twice. The previous try occurred on Jan. 10, during the last Dragon launch; the Falcon 9 first stage came down on target that day as well, but it hit the drone ship too hard and exploded on the deck.

Musk said in the aftermath of the Jan. 10 attempt that the rocket stage’s stabilizing “grid fins” ran out of hydraulic fluid. SpaceX addressed that issue and also upgraded the drone ship — which is called “Just Read the Instructions,” after a sentient colony ship in the novels of sci-fi author Iain M. Banks — to be more stable in rough seas, company representatives have said.

Musk is probably not particularly surprised or disappointed by today’s near-miss. On Monday, he tweeted that the chances of landing success were less than 50 percent.

[Read More…]

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Falcon 9 launch of DSCOVR (2015-02-11)

The Falcon 9 launch of DSCOVR as seen from the Melbourne, Florida area. … /watch?v=sCGHLtlfu1k

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

SpaceX: No One Laughs Anymore When We Talk About Colonizing Mars

When Elon Musk founded SpaceX, way back in 2002, the plan was to colonize Mars. The company is now profitable, America’s number one choice for flying astronauts to the International Space Station, and thinking about building a satellite-based internet to connect the world. But all of those are stepping stones for the Mars plan, which is very much still the focus of the company.

“We’re not shy about talking about Mars, which would be an extraordinary step for humans, to actually have a settlement there,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said Tuesday at the Satellite conference in Washington, DC. “The whole company is geared up on that, everybody’s eye is on the Red Planet.”

Mars One, a long shot, crowdsourced plan to colonize Mars, ​is apparently in shambles, so, even on the non-SpaceX front, there’s not much in the way of a concrete plan to get to Mars. We know that SpaceX is developing a methane-based rocket engine known as Raptor to get to Mars, but beyond that, much of it is speculative. That said, the company is still deadly serious about getting there, eventually.

“When we talked about Mars before, people thought we were certifiable,” Shotwell said. “Now, people kind of groove on it and they like to hear about it.”

Unlike the Mars One mission, Shotwell said that SpaceX has no intention of sending people to Mars to die. That’s one reason (of many) why the company is working on reusable rockets.

[Read More…]

Friday, March 13, 2015


IN NOVEMBER, A spacecraft made a dramatic, first-ever landing on a comet—three times. After the Philae lander touched down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the harpoons that were supposed to latch it onto the surface didn’t fire, and instead, the spacecraft bounced back into space before returning to the comet. Another shorter hop then took it to its current, shady resting spot. Since then, the Philae lander has been slumbering in the cold and dark some 286 million miles away, with only meager recharging from its solar panels. Now, with warmer and brighter days ahead, it’s time to see if the Philae lander is awake and ready to get back to work. Just don’t expect anything too soon.

Today, for the first time since it started napping, mission engineers have begun trying to communicate with Philae, which exhausted its batteries soon after landing. After four months, the orbit of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft, which has been circling comet 67P, is now aligned with Philae so that they can talk to each other—as long as Philae has eked out enough power and warmth from its limited sunlight. “We don’t think we’ll hear anything just yet, but we cannot be very sure,” says Koen Geurts, the technical manager of the Philae team.

Lacking communication with Philae, scientists still don’t know exactly where it is and what its surroundings are like. Engineers have used Rosetta’s cameras to narrow down its location, but the orbiting spacecraft is currently too far away to spot the lander. Rosetta will swoop in closer in July, but as of now, engineers can only estimate that Philae is only getting 1.3 hours of sunlight for each 12.4-hour day on the comet. For the lander to wake up, its solar panels have to be turning those meager hours of sunlight into 5.5 watts of power. And to send and receive signals from Rosetta, it needs 19 watts. Philae also has to be warmer than -49˚F to work. “We do not expect that this is already the case,” Geurts says. “We think Philae is still cold.” In its shadowy hole, Philae’s temperature may have dropped to as low as -150˚F, and even though comet 67P is getting closer to the sun—Philae’s getting twice as much solar energy than it did in November—the spacecraft probably needs more time to thaw.

[Read More…]

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