Category Archives: Spacex

Science News Roundup: SpaceX capsule carrying NASA astronauts slated for August 2 return; Mexican cave artifacts show earlier arrival of humans in…

Posted: July 23, 2020 at 11:35 am

Following is a summary of current science news briefs.

SpaceX capsule carrying NASA astronauts slated for August 2 return

The NASA astronauts who traveled to the International Space Station in SpaceX's first crewed flight in May are expected to return to Earth on Aug. 2 after spending two months in orbit, a NASA spokesman said on Friday. U.S. astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will gear up for the final benchmark test of SpaceX's so-called Demo-2 mission: a coordinated splashdown somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean that will cap NASA's first crewed mission from U.S. soil in nearly a decade.

Mexican cave artifacts show earlier arrival of humans in North America

Stone tools unearthed in a cave in central Mexico and other evidence from 42 far-flung archeological sites indicate people arrived in North America - a milestone in human history - earlier than previously known, upwards of 30,000 years ago. Scientists said on Wednesday they had found 1,930 limestone tools, including small flakes and fine blades that may have been used for cutting meat and small points that may have been used as spear tips, indicating human presence at the Chiquihuite Cave in a mountainous region of Mexico's Zacatecas state.

China launches independent, unmanned Mars mission

China launched an unmanned probe to Mars on Thursday in its first independent mission to visit another planet, a bid for global leadership in space and display of its technological prowess and ambition. At 12:41 p.m. (0441 GMT), China's largest carrier rocket, the Long March 5 Y-4, blasted off with the probe from Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the southern island province of Hainan.


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Science News Roundup: SpaceX capsule carrying NASA astronauts slated for August 2 return; Mexican cave artifacts show earlier arrival of humans in...

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SpaceX’s historic 1st crewed mission set to end on Aug. 2 –

Posted: July 21, 2020 at 12:02 pm

SpaceX's first-ever crewed mission will come to an end in two weeks.

NASA is targeting an Aug. 2 splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean for the Demo-2 test flight, which sent NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Crew Dragon capsule, agency chief Jim Bridenstine announced today (July 17).

If all goes according to plan, Behnken and Hurley will depart the ISS on Aug. 1 and come back to Earth a day later, Bridenstine said via Twitter today. But those dates aren't set in stone, he stressed: "Weather will drive the actual date. Stay tuned."

Related: SpaceX's historic Demo-2 test flight in photos

Demo-2 launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on May 30 and reached the ISS a day later. The mission's duration was uncertain until today; NASA officials had previously said that Demo-2 would last between one and four months, depending on how Crew Dragon performed.

Demo-2 is the first orbital human spaceflight to lift off from the United States since the retirement of NASA's space shuttle fleet in July 2011. Ever since then, NASA had relied on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get American astronauts to and from orbit, at a cost, most recently, of about $90 million per seat. The U.S. space agency didn't want this dependency to last too long, so, over the last decade, it has been funding the development of private astronaut taxis to fill the shuttle's shoes.

In 2014, SpaceX and Boeing each received multibillion-dollar contracts from NASA's Commercial Crew Program to finish work on their human spaceflight systems and launch at least six operational missions to the ISS.

After Demo-2's successful splashdown, SpaceX will be clear to launch the first of those contracted flights. That mission, known as Crew-1, is scheduled to lift off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Aug. 30.

Boeing's capsule, called CST-100 Starliner, is not yet ready to carry astronauts to orbit; it must first refly an uncrewed test flight to the ISS later this year. During its first attempt at this mission, which launched in December 2019, Starliner suffered a glitch with its onboard timing system and failed to rendezvous with the orbiting lab. (SpaceX notched this milestone with its uncrewed Demo-1 flight in March 2019.)

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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SpaceX's historic 1st crewed mission set to end on Aug. 2 -

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Lockheed: SpaceX’s Dragon can’t go to the moon – Politico

Posted: July 5, 2020 at 10:54 am

With help from Bryan Bender and Connor OBrien

Lockheed Martin pushes back on the claim that SpaceX Dragon could bring astronauts to the moon.

Congress is likely to approve of the Space Forces organization plan, but one expert cautions the structural changes are not enough to speed up acquisition.

The House Armed Services Committee approved amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act that focus on a Space National Guard, partnerships with universities and GPS interference.

WELCOME TO POLITICO SPACE, our must-read briefing on the policies and personalities shaping the new space age in Washington and beyond. Email us at [emailprotected], [emailprotected] or [emailprotected] with tips, pitches and feedback, and find us on Twitter at @jacqklimas, @bryandbender and @dave_brown24. And dont forget to check out POLITICO's astropolitics page for articles, Q&As, opinion and more.

A message from Northrop Grumman:

Space isnt just for exploring. Its an international proving ground and vital for national security. At Northrop Grumman, our work in intelligence, surveillance, communications, and early warning systems ensures America always has the ultimate high ground. Find out more about how were defining possible in space. Learn more

TWO VERY DIFFERENT MISSIONS: A recent op-ed in The Washington Post from a pair of leading space experts proposing that SpaceXs Dragon capsule could be an alternative to take astronauts to the moon clearly struck a nerve at Lockheed Martin, which is building the Orion spacecraft that NASA plans to use for the mission.

Robert Zubrin, founder of the Mars Society and president of Pioneer Astronautics, and Homer Hickam, a career NASA engineer and author, argued that the Dragons recent success in transporting astronauts to the International Space Station has shown that a well-led entrepreneurial team can achieve results that were previously thought to require the efforts of superpowers, and in a small fraction of the time and cost.

But Tony Antonelli, a retired space shuttle pilot and naval aviator who is now the Orion Artemis mission director for Lockheed Martin, says not so fast. A spacecraft is more than a collection of hardware bolted together, he writes in a rejoinder in POLITICO. Low-Earth orbit and deep space exploration are two very different missions.

Spaceflight is a tough business, he explains. When things go sideways in harsh environments, we need backup systems, and backups to those backups, and backups to those. That is more than just redundancy. Its what in the military we call survivability. Dissimilar systems, manual overrides, and layers of options at every turn cant be just bolted onto an existing system.

You cant turn a Prius into a pick-up truck by changing the tires out, Antonelli adds. Its this capability, the ability to handle the unknown unknowns built literally from the ground up, that sets Orion apart as humanitys first exploration class spaceship.

SPACE IN THE NDAA: The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday adopted a few space-focused amendments during the markup of the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.

The chief of space operations must create a plan for the Space Force to establish a university consortium for national space research. The amendment from Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) would direct the Space Force to brief Congress on the plan no later than Jan. 31, 2021. The Air Force may not transfer any personnel into a Space National Guard unless either the chief of space operations certifies that doing so will not diminish the space capabilities of the Air Force or until the Air Force submits a report to Congress on the plan to establish a reserve component of the Space Force. That report is due Jan. 31, 2021, and troops can begin moving 180 days after that, according to the amendment from Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Miss.) In a swipe at Ligado Networks, the panel adopted an amendment from Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) that would bar the Pentagon from spending money to mitigate GPS interference caused by the company. Instead, the financial burden would fall on the company causing the problems.

SPACE FORCE ORGANIZES: The Space Force will be organized into three major commands in charge of operations, acquisition and training, the new branch announced this week. Space Operations Command and Space Systems Command will both be led by a three-star general, and Space Training and Readiness, or STAR, Command will eventually be led by a two-star general when it is fully established. The Space Force will also establish deltas led by officers in place of the space wings and groups that existed in the Air Force.

What will Congress think? The Space Force will have three layers of bureaucracy commands, deltas and squadrons compared with five layers within the Air Force major commands, numbered Air Forces, wings, groups and squadrons which seems in line with lawmakers mandate to keep the new service lean and agile, according to Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor at the Naval War College. That certainly provides the potential for more organizational efficiency, if the strong natural tendencies of bureaucracies to expand can be resisted, she told us. I am optimistic that the new structure can potentially streamline the internal portion of the process.

But the lean structure wont automatically speed up acquisition, warns Frank Rose, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former State Department official, who added that broader change across the Pentagon is needed. Unless you fix and streamline DOD acquisition processes and requirements processes, its going to be difficult for the Space Force to overcome the challenges the Air Force had when it was responsible for space acquisition.

TOP TWEET: .@NASA & @SpaceForceDoD have signed an agreement to share data from the USSF Space Surveillance Telescope in Australia with NASA's Planetary Defense program. Together, NASA, USSF, & RAAF will find & track near-Earth objects (NEOs) to be ready for any potential impact threat, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted Monday.

SPACE SUSTAINABILITY SUMMIT GOES VIRTUAL: The government has been issuing new space policy despite the ongoing pandemic. That makes the Secure World Foundation even more committed to holding its annual Space Sustainability Summit in September to unpack all the changes, said Krystal Azelton, the chair of the event.

From the new NOAA commercial remote sensing regulations to the FCCs decision on Ligados operations, its clear that the space world has not ground to a halt because of coronavirus, Azelton said. Launch is happening. The government is still pumping out regulations. We didnt feel comfortable canceling. Our driver has always been to have important conversations.

Some conference speakers will be announced next week, Azelton said. While holding a virtual event has some drawbacks, she said the foundation has had more luck than we expected with senior-level engagement because scheduling has been easier. Its also opened the door for more international participation since travel isnt required.

Our goal has always been to break through silos, she said of driving conversation among the military, civil and commercial space communities. To do that, I need people to participate in more than just the panel theyre interested in. The foundation is also holding an essay competition as a way to increase involvement by students, who are typically invited to the conference to participate and network.

ALSO: The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics announced Wednesday that its ASCEND conference will be fully virtual. The conference, which was originally scheduled for Nov. 16-18 in Las Vegas, will take place about two weeks after the Space Symposium, an international gathering in Colorado Springs that is still expected to be held in person.

INDUSTRY INTEL: Amazon Web Services on Tuesday launched a new Aerospace and Satellite Solutions business segment, which will sell cloud services to government and commercial space customers. The company, which can help customers quickly process and analyze large amounts of data collected in space, will be led by retired Maj. Gen. Clint Crosier, who served as the director of Space Force planning at the new branch just before leaving the Air Force.

The companys first customer will be Capella Space, a San Francisco-based Earth imaging company founded in 2016. The typical process from the initial tasking request for a certain image to the customer actually getting back the image can take multiple days, according to Capella Space CEO Payam Banazadeh. But using the cloud can speed that up so customers get back the information within a couple of hours.

This partnership with AWS is bringing everything to the cloud, Banazadeh told us. What ultimately this means to the customer is now we can do things very, very fast.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Congratulations to Ed LaCroix, a trustee of the National Association of Rocketry, for being the first to correctly answer that it took six months for the European Space Agencys Mars Express mission to reach Mars.

This weeks question: On July 4, 2016, NASA put a spacecraft into orbit around which planet?

The first person to email [emailprotected] gets bragging rights and a shoutout in next weeks newsletter!

NASA delays Perseverance rover launch to Mars for the third time: Popular Mechanics

The case for exploring Venus before Mars: Mashable

Astronauts conducted a spacewalk Wednesday to replace lithium ion batteries: CNN

NASA is using artificial intelligence to design its new space suit for the moon: Syfy Wire

NASA invests $51 million in more than 300 small businesses: NASA

The coronavirus pandemic isnt slowing SpaceX down: Ars Technica

Senate panel wants alternative GPS by 2023: Breaking Defense

Northrop Grumman gets $222.5 million contract to support legacy missile warning satellites: C4ISRNET

Americans will be able to see a lunar eclipse this weekend: USA Today

The smell of space is now available as a perfume: Engadget

A message from Northrop Grumman:

Space isnt just for exploring. Its an international proving ground to show off the best of what America has to offer and it is vital for national security. Thats why Northrop Grumman is always pushing the boundaries in space, whether through reliable navigation systems or powerful, integrated C4ISR to give our warfighters the complete picture. Because building and maintaining the very best in intelligence, surveillance, communications, and early warning space systems is what gives America ultimate high ground and thats what we do best. Find out more about how were Defining Possible in space. Learn more

TODAY: The Aerospace Corporation hosts a virtual event on the future of commercial spaceflight.

TUESDAY: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station participate in media events with The New York Times, Fox News and USA Today.

THURSDAY: The Aerospace Corporation hosts a virtual event on cybersecurity in space.

THURSDAY: Astronaut Bob Behnken conducts an educational event from aboard the station for the Artemis Student Challenge.

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Lockheed: SpaceX's Dragon can't go to the moon - Politico

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SpaceX launches new satellite that will make GPS three times more accurate (eventually) – ZME Science

Posted: at 10:54 am

Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite navigation could eventually be subject to a major upgrade as Elon Musks SpaceX has launched a satellite that promises to make GPS three times more accurate. Nevertheless, this doesnt necessarily mean that improvements will be seen overnight.

Usually taken for granted, GPS satellite navigation has become an essential tool for anything from military operations to a road trip. Every GPS device determines its position, navigation and timing information by receiving signals from a constellation of satellites orbiting the Earth 20,000 kilometers away.

The technology already works pretty well already and it feels like its always been there, despite its actually quite new, with the first such satellites launched in 1978 by the United States. Since then, many organizations have been involved in trying to refine it. Now, it was time for SpaceX to join that group.

Earlier this week, a Falcon 9 rocket delivered its first payload for the United States Space Force mission, carrying a state-of-the-art new GPS satellite. The mission sent up the third satellite for the so-called GPS III project, which seeks to upgrade the constellation of GPS satellites currently orbiting the planet.

Your GPS just got slightly better, Musk wrote on Twitter moments after the GPS III satellite was deployed. But thats not actually true since GPS doesnt get better automatically just because SpaceX launched a new satellite into space. Still, when more such satellites are deployed, the improvement should be more visible.

The current GPS technology can narrow down a location within 28 inches (about 71 centimeters). While thats quite an achievement, GPS III technology will narrow that range down even further, offering accuracy within nine inches (about 22 centimeters). Thats almost three times as accurate as now.

Coverage will also improve. This might mean that the dreaded searching for signal message on a cellphone while trying to get to a restaurant or a party could eventually be something of the past. Or maybe even forget about the difficulties of getting a GPS signal when you are in a forested or mountainous region during a hike.

The new satellites have a 15-year lifespan, which is twice as long as the current ones. They can be launched two at once, making them cheaper. And, most importantly, they will be harder to jam. So far, only one of the three that are in orbit is fully operational and the manufacturer Lockheed Martin is now building ten more.

GPS technology essentially uses signals from satellites in the sky to pinpoint the location of a user. A receiver, usually a smartphone, measures how long it took for a given satellites signal to reach Earth and then multiplies the time by the speed of a radio wave to work out the distance.

Nowadays GPS applications arent limited to simple, though widespread, auto-navigation, or as personal mapping; theyre used by manufacturing industries, supply chains, drilling oil, various other logistics, banks, and virtually anything you can imagine. A report warned in 2017 that the world might depend too much on the technology.

While the United States GPS constellation first started in 1978, the US is just one player in this global field. In 1982, the Soviet Union launched GLONASS, or Global Navigation Satellite System, and China followed with Beidou in 2000. Then came the European Space Agency with its first experimental satellite positioning system, Galileo, in 2005.

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SpaceX launches new satellite that will make GPS three times more accurate (eventually) - ZME Science

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SpaceX explosion, the Boston Dynamics Zeus robot in the area: there is also a small house! – InTallaght

Posted: at 10:54 am

Elon Musk and SpaceX never cease to amaze. Today we are dealing with one of those incredible ideas that are probably the fruit of the atypical CEOs mind. Indeed, the company is using a domestic robot (who has a lot of little house) to get help during his tests. Yes, you got it right.

In particular, according to what is reported by the Daily Mail and as you can see in the video published by the LabPadre YouTube channel, following the now-iconic explosion of the Starship SN7 test tank (made specifically to understand its limits), SpaceX has decided to send Zeus, a Boston Dynamics robot, to check for damage. In fact, carefully watching the video in which you see the tank, immediately after the explosion you see a figure moving near the involved area.

Some fans, therefore, wondered what it was, since it almost looked like a dog. Afterwards, the Twitter profile RGVAerialPhotography has published a photo that shows from above the place where SpaceX performed the test. Analyzing the photo, at the top right you can see it a yellow silhouette which refers in all respects to the robots of Boston Dynamics. As previously mentioned, the one used in this context seems to be called Zeus.

By the way, the operator of the Twitter profile Cooper_Hime managed to track down a house for Zeus in the test area of Elon Musks company. In short, there seems to be little doubt as to what the CEO of SpaceX is doing, that is, to use a robot so as not to risk the lives of human employees.

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SpaceX explosion, the Boston Dynamics Zeus robot in the area: there is also a small house! - InTallaght

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