by Jennifer Hurst
May 21, 2018


SpaceX’s Block 5 Falcon 9 Another Space Launch Game-Changer

Musk said the Block 5 is designed to be “the most reliable rocket ever built.” “That is the design intent,” he said. “I hope fate doesn’t punish me for these words, but that is unequivocally the intent. And I think our most conservative customers would agree with that.”

SpaceX put great effort into creating extremely reliable COPVs, or composite overwrapped pressure vessels, used to store helium to pressurize the propellant tanks in the launcher’s second stage. “The COPVs now have a burst pressure “more than twice what they are actually loaded to on the pad.”

Musk said that reusing the second stage of the rocket is still in the cards for the Falcon 9. For upcoming flights, he said the company is gathering data about the reentry experience of the stage. “Previously we’ve not put a lot of effort into gathering data on the upper stage after it does its disposal burn,” Musk said. “So we’re required to do a disposal burn and kind of the stage re-enter and break up in an unpopulated area in the Pacific.

SpaceX, Musk said, wants to learn in detail at what altitude and speed the second stage breaks up and under what conditions. But it will need to transmit that data, which he said is tricky. “When it’s coming in, it’s coming like a meteor,” Musk said. “So it’s got this sort of like, ball of plasma, and you can actually only broadcast sort of like, diagonally backward. — SpaceFlight Insider


Mining Asteroids Could Be Worth Trillions of Dollars

The race to space traditionally has advanced with exploration and even tourism in mind, but space-mining is looking like an increasingly legitimate idea, opening the possibility of a new civilization — and profits — on another planet. “Governments and even experts in the field are still debating over the appropriate uses of these resources, and it remains a difficult question to answer.”

Noted astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, among others, have claimed that the world’s first trillionaire will make his or her fortune in space minerals. According to NASA, the minerals that lie in the belt of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter hold wealth equivalent to a staggering $100 billion for every person on Earth.

There’s a lack of legal clarity over the ownership of space resources, however, and laws presiding over space are largely ambiguous in general, according to Ian Christensen, the director of private sector programs at the Secure World Foundation, a space-related think tank. “Enforcement is done by national government authorities, but a specialized space authority does not exist yet,” Christensen said. — CNBC

Erik Simonsen | Getty Images


Musk Wants to Launch the Same Rocket to Orbit Twice in a Single Day

Launching the same rocket to orbit twice in 24 hours has never been done before. But Elon Musk says the newest version of his Falcon 9 rocket will accomplish the feat in 2019. “This is a ridiculously hard thing that has taken us 16 years of extreme effort and many, many iterations,” he said.

Key to that goal is the ability to simply re-fuel the reusable rocket between flights, with no scheduled maintenance needed. The current version of the rocket requires at least 10 days of refurbishment between flights, on “hundreds of little things that need to be made more robust,” Musk said.

Post launch, Musk said his team will be “taking this rocket apart and confirming our design assumptions to be confident that it is indeed able to be reused without taking it apart. We need to take it apart to confirm it doesn’t need to be taken apart.” — Quartz


Pondering the Business Case of Ferrying Customers for Suborbital Point to Point

SpaceX plans to use its BFR vehicle for point-to-point suborbital passenger flights, but does that make economic sense? Sam Dinkin examines the logistical and financial issues for BFR passenger transportation. — Space Review

The HSC Francisco, the fastest passenger ferry in the world with top speed of 107 km/h, might be good at ferrying customers to take a suborbital flight. (credit: Merchant Marine of Uruguay blog)


NASA Successfully Test Fires 3D-Printed Rocket Engine Part 

NASA successfully hot-fire tested a 3D-printed combustion chamber for a rocket engine. The successful test is the latest in a series of advancements in 3D-printed rocket technology from both private companies and public research groups. The engine project is the work of three NASA centers across the country: Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio; Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia; and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

In 2015, material scientists at Glenn developed a powdered copper alloy that engineers at Marshall used to 3D-print the space agency’s first full-scale copper rocket engine part, a lining for the combustion chamber. Now, a new manufacturing project created a chamber jacket for that lining. Chamber jackets are used to help protect parts of the engine from the immense pressure generated in the engine’s combustion chamber. — Popular Mechanics



Space Tourism for the People: Become a Virtual Reality Astronaut

It’s the dream of any would-be space tourist: seeing our home planet from above. First you see the Earth’s horizon curve away, and then the luminous thin envelope of atmosphere that keeps us all alive comes into focus. As you cross the daylight side of Earth, you look down to see gigantic landscapes – mountains and valleys – beneath you. As your orbit continues, so night falls and the city lights turn on. Now you can see the human landscape of the planet.

It is an experience said to be so profound that many astronauts say it permanently alters the way they think of the world and humanity. Psychologists now recognize this and call it the overview effect. No wonder then that a number of companies are vying to build rockets to take space tourists on the trip of a lifetime. But with the cost of even the cheapest tickets running into hundreds of thousands of pounds, it seems likely to be an experience most of us will be denied. Or does it?

Now two UK-based companies have joined forces to offer the experience to virtually anyone. And the key word is virtual. Immersive content studio Rewind and the space industry experts at In-Space Missions have launched SpaceTime Enterprises. They plan to launch multiple satellites that will broadcast real-time immersive video of the entire Earth. To plug into this view, the only thing needed will be a set of virtual reality goggles. — The Guardian


Shrimp, Soybeans, and Tomatoes Top the Menu in Cities in Space

“What does a dinner menu look like in space?” asks Bryce Meyer, Founder and CEO of Cyan React LLC. “How about beer and burritos? Bloody Marys and fish tacos? Pho? Bread? Donuts? Fried Shrimp? Horchata? Yes, given the right space farm, all these are possible!” Then, says Meyer, there are supersized melons, berries, and low-gravity wine, and coffee. Coffee with its flavor tweaked by controlling carbon dioxide and light.

At the National Space Society’s annual International Space Development Conference® in Los Angeles at 11:30 am on May 24, Meyer, who is also an aerospace engineer, will reveal the menu items with which space farms will feed cities in space. Cities in space? Yes, from giant colonies hanging in the sky to Elon Musk’s goal of cities on Mars. Those cities will be fed by space farms. — NSS

Image: Scientists envision giant structures in space that could house acres of farms and cities. Courtesy Bryan Versteeg,


‘Lost’ Asteroid the Size of the Statue of Liberty Buzzes by Earth

An asteroid the size of New York City’s Statue of Liberty buzzed by Earth Tuesday, and this time, scientists were ready and waiting. At its closest point, the asteroid – called 2010 WC9 – was roughly 126,000 miles from earth, about half the distance between Earth and the moon at approximately 6:05 ET. The estimated diameter of the asteroid ranges from 197 to 427 feet, making this “pass one of the closest approaches ever observed of an asteroid of this size,” EarthSky reports. — FOX News


NASA Considers Helicopter for Mars 

NASA is expected to make a decision this month on whether to include a helicopter on the Mars 2020 rover mission. That decision, project officials said at a meeting last week, is expected “very shortly” and may be tied to a project development milestone for Mars 2020 known as Key Decision Point D scheduled for later this month. The small helicopter would test technologies that could be used on future missions, providing an aerial view to help the rover scout its path. Some involved with Mars 2020, though, see the helicopter as a distraction to its overall science mission. — Space News


House Panel Lays Foundation for Future Space Force

The House Armed Services Committee swiftly approved the recommendations of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee on military space reforms.

The House Armed Services Committee in its version of the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act — passed after midnight Wednesday by a vote of 60-1 — pushes forward with the reorganization of military space forces. The proposal sets the stage for further debate over the coming months as the HASC language moves toward a House vote and a House-Senate conference this fall.

The committee swiftly approved the recommendations of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee on military space reforms. One is to establish a subordinate unified Space Command under U.S. Strategic Command. Another provision calls for the secretary of the Air Force to establish a new numbered Air Force dedicated to space warfighting. The bill also directs the deputy secretary of defense to develop a plan to establish a separate acquisition system for military space vehicles, ground systems and terminals.

Unlike last year’s bill, this one does not mandate the establishment of a separate space corps in the U.S. military. That proposal is on hold pending the completion of an independent study mandated in the 2018 NDAA. The only obstacle in this year’s push to reorganize space was an amendment introduced by Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee Chairman Mike Turner to delay the creation of a sub-unified space command until after the Pentagon submits the independent study. — Space News

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.


Revitalizing Space Exploration Would Boost U.S. Manufacturing 

President Trump signaled what hopefully will become a vigorous return to space exploration by the United States when he reconstituted the National Space Council. Dormant since the end of the George H.W. Bush administration, the Council’s chairman, Vice President Mike Pence, and its new Executive Secretary, Dr. Scott Pace, have vowed to build a new manned space program to reach the moon and beyond to Mars.

A new era of cooperation with the private sector space leaders such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, Vulcan Aerospace and Boeing will be crucial to the success of the effort. Also crucial will be a more robust federal research and development commitment in the fields of physical science, advanced computing and communications, software and engineering. As with the two previous boom cycles of aerospace development, in World War II and the Apollo program, one of the main beneficiaries of the aggressive new effort will be the U.S. manufacturing sector.

Several high-tech billionaires have stepped up to continue the American quest to conquer the newest frontier: outer space. Paul Allen, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have all devoted considerable imagination and resources to create new space technology. Their firms-—especially SpaceX, Stratolaunch Systems and Blue Origin—-have begun to have some success in creating the launch, reentry and long-haul space vehicles needed to overcome the low-earth orbit quagmire and create the possibility for deep space exploration. Much of their success results from a willingness to take chances and try new approaches using and perfecting existing technology resulting from basic research. — Forbes


Space Tourism Could Be a Reality in 2018

Two space-faring companies run by billionaire entrepreneurs—Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin—just hit significant milestones, meaning we’re closer than ever to vacationing beyond this planet. In early April, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo successfully completed a long-awaited first powered test flight. And on April 29, Blue Origin made another successful test launch of its New Shepard rocket, this one equipped with a crash-test dummy and a handful of scientific experiments. So, are we about to start planning trips to space?

Still, despite the strides made this spring, some skepticism is warranted. There’s been talk about space tourism for decades and Virgin Galactic, in particular, has had a series of delays and one fatality, during a failed test flight in 2014. “Richard Branson has been promising and promising that space tourism flights were right around the corner,” says Davenport. “But now it does seem like he’s finally very close.” — Nast Traveler


Biggest Test Yet Shows Einstein Was Wrong About ‘Spooky Action at a Distance’

A groundbreaking quantum experiment recently confirmed the reality of “spooky action-at-a-distance” — the bizarre phenomenon that Einstein hated — in which linked particles seemingly communicate faster than the speed of light. And all it took was 12 teams of physicists in 10 countries, more than 100,000 volunteer gamers and over 97 million data units — all of which were randomly generated by hand.

The volunteers operated from locations around the world, playing an online video game on Nov. 30, 2016, that produced millions of bits, or “binary digits” — the smallest unit of computer data. Physicists then used those random bits in so-called Bell tests, designed to show that entangled particles, or particles whose states are mysteriously linked, can somehow transfer information faster than light can travel, and that these particles seem to “choose” their states at the moment they are measured. —


‘MONSTER’ Blackhole ‘BIGGER Than the Milky Way’ Found by Scientists in Shocking Discovery

ASTRONOMERS have identified the fastest-growing black hole ever seen in the known universe and they are calling it a “monster with an appetite” as its gravity can devour the mass equivalent of our sun every two days.

Dr Christian Wolf of the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics said: “This black hole is growing so rapidly that it’s shining thousands of times more brightly than an entire galaxy.

“The heat radiation from the matter falling into the black hole, which is the light we see, is a few thousand times brighter than our own Milky Way galaxy.”

Researchers at the Australian National University discovered the supermassive black hole, also known as a quasar, when a telescope called Skymapper indicated that the object could have been of potential interest. — Express UK