by Jennifer Hurst
November 18, 2018

SpaceX Launch: Elon Musk’s 12,000 Satellite Starlink Network Will Beam Worldwide Internet

SpaceX has launched a Falcon 9 rocket into orbit today to deliver the first prototypes of 12,000 orbital satellites that will one day beam down internet access to every single person on the planet.

Real-life Tony Stark, Elon Musk, aims to make history once again just weeks after he launched a sports car into a billion year orbit of the sun.

The South African billionaire has revealed his plans for a global network of 12,000 internet satellites dubbed Starlink and the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has just given him the green light.

Mr. Musk teased online on Wednesday: “Today’s Falcon launch carries 2 SpaceX test satellites for global broadband. If successful, Starlink constellation will serve the least served.”

The rocket manufacturer aims to have its ambitious satellite network up and running by the year 2020.

The company believes it can answer a growing worldwide demand for fast and reliable internet connectivity.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement on Wednesday the project promises a brighter future for those living in areas where internet access is a rare commodity. Mr. Pai said: “To bridge America’s digital divide, we’ll have to use innovative technologies. — EXPRESS

SpaceX launch: The company will send 12,000 rockets into orbit by 2020



Satellites Are Tracking Devastation of California Wildfires from Space

The late-season Camp wildfire is still raging across Northern California, but firefighters are gradually corralling the Woolsey Fire, which has burned swaths of Southern California.

That means that the work of satellites monitoring the fires is shifting. While images of the Camp Fire are still being used to track the blaze itself, scientists are now focusing their satellite analysis on measuring the destruction left behind. [Satellite Photos of the 2018 California Wildfires] —

NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of smoke billowing off the Camp Fire in Northern California on Nov. 14, 2018.
Credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview


Es’Hail-2 Mission

SpaceX successfully launched the Es’hail-2 satellite on Thursday, November 15 from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Liftoff occurred at 3:46 p.m. EST, or 20:46 UTC, and the satellite was deployed to a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) about 32 minutes after liftoff.

Falcon 9’s first stage for the Es’hail-2 mission previously supported the Telstar 19 VANTAGE mission in July 2018. Following stage separation, SpaceX landed Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. – SpaceX


Musk Likes the Idea of Trump’s Space Force

“Well, this may be a little controversial, but I actually like the idea. I think it’s cool,” Musk told Swisher. “You know, like, when the Air Force was formed, there was a lot of like pooh-poohing, and like, “Oh, how silly to have an Air Force!” You know, because the aircraft in World War II were managed by the Army.”

He continued: “And so you had the Army and the Navy and the Coast Guard and the Marines, and then … it became pretty obvious that you really needed a specialized division to manage aircraft. And so the Air Force was created. And people today may not realize back then it was wildly panned as a ridiculous thing to create the Air Force, but now everyone’s like, ‘Obviously, you should have an Air Force.’ And I think it’s gonna become obvious that we should have a Space Force, too.” — Fox News


Air Force Explores Space-Based Cargo Operations

The U.S. Air Force is exploring the logistics of space-based cargo operations under the purview of Air Mobility Command, even as the impact of a new Space Force on the mobility community remains to be seen. “I don’t know how it will affect mobility, but most of you know space affects mobility every day,” Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday at the 2018 Airlift/Tanker Symposium outside Dallas, Texas.

“Whatever the Space Force is or does, it has to protect our national interest in space,” he said, adding that GPS is critical to the air mobility community. As for what space cargo operations could look like, the previous head of Air Mobility Command, Gen. Carlton Everhart, espoused the possibility of moving cargo. “Think about this. Thirty minutes, 150 metric tons [and] less than the cost of a C-5,” he said at the time. Apart from cargo operations, such a focuses space presence could help with pre-positioning equipment and supplies in orbit, ready to be dropped to Earth. — Defense News



Air Force Test-Launches a Minuteman III Missile

The U.S. Air Force has conducted a test launch of an unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The Air Force Global Strike Command says in a statement the missile was launched at 11:01 p.m. Tuesday to determine the accuracy and reliability of the system and such tests “are not related to any real world events.”

In response to query from Noozhawk, Global Strike Command officials ultimately said the test occured as expected.

“A reliable test launch occurs when a test missile launches, completes its flight path within a designated safety corridor, the equipment functions properly, sensor data is collected, and the reentry vehicle impacts where targeted,” said Joe Thomas, a spokesman for Louisiana-based Global Strike Command, which oversees nuclear weapons. “Though the reentryvehicle reached its intended target, the test and analysis data is not releasable to the public.” — Air Force Times

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at 12:03 a.m., PDT, April 26, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The Minuteman system has been in service for 60 years. The Minuteman system remains state-of-the art and is capable of meeting all modern challenges. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ian Dudley)



Stratolaunch Tests Rocket Engine

Stratolaunch has test-fired a key component of a rocket engine it is developing. The company said it fired the preburner of its PGA engine for the first time last week. The preburner serves as the smaller of two combustion chambers in a staged combustion engine. The company is developing the engine, which uses liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants, for use on future air-launched rockets. The engine takes its name from the initials of Paul G. Allen, the founder of Stratolaunch who died last month. — Space News


Further Changes in BFR Design

SpaceX is no longer pursuing an upgrade to its existing Falcon 9 vehicle that would make the vehicle’s second stage reusable. The company’s focus, Musk said, would instead be on speeding up work on SpaceX’s heavy-lift reusable launch vehicle formally known as Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR.

Falcon 9 second stage will be upgraded to be like a mini-BFR Ship,” he announced on Twitter. That design, he said, would allow SpaceX to test technologies like the vehicle’s heat shield and control surfaces during reentry from orbit that can’t otherwise be tested. — Space News

The upper “spaceship” stage of SpaceX’s BFR separating from its booster, based on the design of the vehicle the company announced in September. Elon Musk suggested Nov. 17 that more changes to the BFR are being considered. Credit: SpaceX



NASA’s Supersonic X-Plane

Lockheed Martin has begun building the X-59 Quiet Supersonic plane that could herald the return of supersonic passenger travel.

Officially known as the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology aircraft, it is being built with NASA to perfect quiet sonic booms that would allow craft to go supersonic over land.

Lockheed Martin said the move ‘marks a milestone to bring supersonic commercial travel over land one step closer to reality.’

The design research speed of the X-plane at a cruising altitude of 55,000 feet is Mach 1.42, or 940 mph. Its top speed will be Mach 1.5, or 990 mph. — Daily Mail

Officially known as the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology aircraft, it is being built with NASA to perfect quiet sonic booms that would allow craft to go supersonic over land. The X-59 will conduct its first flight in 2021. It is designed to cruise at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 940 mph and create a sound about as loud as a car door closing, 75 Perceived Level decibel (PLdB), instead of a sonic boom.



NASA’s Daring Asteroid Mission Unfurls its Sampling Arm for the First Time

NASA officials confirmed Friday that a test of a key component of the space agency’s mission to sample an asteroid was completed successfully. On Wednesday, for the first time in more than two years, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft unfurled its robotic arm and put it through a series of maneuvers to ensure its space-worthiness after being packed away for launch and a long flight to the asteroid Bennu.

The asteroid sampling mission launched in September 2016, and the spacecraft has since been traveling through space to catch up to an asteroid known as Bennu, which has a diameter of about 500 meters. The spacecraft will officially “arrive” at Bennu in about two weeks, on December 3, so mission scientists wanted to make sure the robotic arm was functional after being stowed for so long.

This arm and its sampler head, known as the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism or TAGSAM, is critical to the mission’s goal of retrieving at least 60 grams of material from the surface of Bennu and returning this sample to Earth by 2023. The collection device will act something like a reverse vacuum cleaner. — Ars Technica


Rocket Lab Aces First Commercial Launch

The spaceflight startup’s Electron rocket aced its first commercial flight tonight (Nov. 10), lofting six small satellites and a technology demonstrator to low-Earth orbit, about 310 miles (500 kilometers) above our planet. The mission, which Rocket Lab called “It’s Business Time,” lifted off from the company’s New Zealand launch site. The two-stage Electron first delivered its payloads to an elliptical parking orbit; a “kick stage” that separated from the rocket’s upper stage then circularized the orbits of the satellites, which were deployed about 54 minutes after liftoff, Rocket Lab representatives said. — Space News

Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket lifts off from its New Zealand launch site on the “It’s Business Time” mission. Credit: Rocket Lab


Cape Canaveral Can Now Launch Commercial Spaceplanes

Cape Canaveral Spaceport is made of more than launchpads. The famed space coast site also has a 15,000-foot runway, a veteran of more than 130 Space Shuttle landings. Those landings came to an end in 2011, though, but now, seven years later, that runway is open for commercial business. Yesterday, Florida’s spaceport authority reported that the FAA issued a launch license for operations at the site.

The runway, for now still called the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), is a symbol of where spaceflight has been—now it’s becoming a key hub of the future. Since 2015 the runway, tower, and other pieces have been operated by Space Florida, the state’s spaceport development authority. Space Florida has been working on this license since December 2015 and just submitted the more than 120-page application in February. On Thursday the FAA approved the paperwork, which allows the Cape Canaveral Spaceport to support operations of aircraft that carry air-launched rockets.

SLF Airfield Manager James Mofitt said that direct-to-orbit spaceplanes—those that take off from a runway and cruise directly into suborbital space without using a carrier—are covered by the license. The best-known company offering this type of spacecraft was XCOR, which folded earlier this year, but the spaceport wants to be ready for future developments. The license cost “a couple million dollars” but that amount includes work being done to credential a secondary site. Spaceports are often accused of a build-it-and-they-will-come strategy, but Mofitt points to the plethora of space launch companies that are coming online. “Did we get this license on spec? Sure. But it’s safe to say this will pay off,” he says. — Popular Mechanics



Navy Vet Wants to Create Space Medicine Hub in Northeast Florida

A retired Navy pilot from Orange Park is spearheading an effort to create a space medicine hub in Northeast Florida. Larry Harvey, co-founder of the Center for Applied Space Technology, or CAST, recently helped a Jacksonville Mayo Clinic project get on board an EXOS Aerospace Systems & Technologies rocket launch.

Husband-and-wife team Dr. Michelle Freeman and Dr. David Freeman helped create technology that can monitor astronauts’ vital signs without them having to wear cumbersome medical equipment. “People ask: How does this help us on Earth?” said Dr. David Freeman, who is the medical director of the neurology intensive care unit at the Mayo Clinic. “If you can do that in space, you can monitor people in their own home — their health monitoring in home, like Alexa or Siri.”

Harvey said one of the reasons he thinks Northeast Florida has potential is the development of Cecil Spaceport on Jacksonville’s Westside. It’s the only licensed horizontal launch commercial spaceport on the East Coast. The first launch is expected to happen there in the spring. — Action News Jax


NASA Wants to Send Humans to Venus, to Live in Airships Floating on Clouds

NASA is currently working on a conceptual manned mission to Venus, named the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept —(HAVOC).

But how is such a mission even possible? Temperatures on the planet’s surface (about 460 degrees Celsius) are in fact hotter than Mercury, even though Venus is roughly double the distance from the sun.

Luckily, the idea behind NASA’s new mission is not to land people on the inhospitable surface, but to use the dense atmosphere as a base for exploration. No actual date for a HAVOC type mission has been publicly announced yet. This mission is a long term plan and will rely on small test missions to be successful first. Such a mission is actually possible, right now, with current technology. The plan is to use airships which can stay aloft in the upper atmosphere for extended periods of time.

The atmosphere above this altitude is also dense enough to protect astronauts from ionizing radiation from space. The closer proximity of the sun provides an even greater abundance of available solar radiation than on Earth, which can be used to generate power (approximately 1.4 times greater). — Live Science

There are plans to cause HAVOC on Venus.
Credit: Advanced Concepts Lab at NASA Langley Research Center