MAKE CHAPTER 288 YOUR AVIATION HOME! E-AB, TYPE CERTIFIED, VINTAGE, WARBIRD, ETC.
MAKE CHAPTER 288 YOUR AVIATION HOME! E-AB, TYPE CERTIFIED, VINTAGE, WARBIRD, ETC.
February 10, 2023
SpaceX's giant Starship vehicle just took a huge step toward its first-ever orbital test flight, which could take place as soon as next month.
A Starship first-stage prototype known as Booster 7 ignited 31 of its 33 Raptor engines during a "static fire" test today (Feb. 9) at SpaceX's Starbase facility in South Texas.
The goal was to fire all 33 Raptors during the test, which occurred at 4:13 p.m. EST (2113 GMT; 3:13 p.m. local Texas time). But SpaceX will take it.
"Team turned off 1 engine just before start & 1 stopped itself, so 31 engines fired overall. But still enough engines to reach orbit!" company founder and CEO Elon Musk said via Twitter (opens in new tab) just after the test wrapped up.
The static fire lasted about seven seconds, the duration that SpaceX had mapped out beforehand, according to the company (opens in new tab). And Booster 7 emerged from the huge cloud of kicked-up dust in one piece, which is something to celebrate as well.
SpaceX views Starship as a potentially revolutionary transportation system, one that could make Mars colonization and other ambitious off-Earth feats economically feasible. The stainless-steel vehicle consists of two elements: A giant booster called Super Heavy and a 165-foot-tall (50 meters) upper-stage spacecraft known as Starship.
Both Starship and Super Heavy are designed to be fully reusable, and both are powered by SpaceX's next-generation Raptor engine — 33 for the booster and six for the upper stage.
For months, SpaceX has been preparing Booster 7 and a Starship prototype called Ship 24 for an orbital flight test. Such work has included a fueling test with the duo, which the company achieved on Jan. 23, and a number of static fires — prelaunch trials in which engines are ignited briefly while a vehicle remains anchored to the ground.
Ship 24 fired up all six of its Raptors at Starbase last September, for example, and Booster 7 ignited 14 of its 33 engines two months later. That was the big first stage's static-fire high until today's test, which apparently checked a crucial box on the road to an orbital attempt.
That highly anticipated flight could occur as early as next month, provided today's test went as well as it appeared to (a verdict SpaceX won't render before analyzing all the data) and remaining checkouts go well, founder and CEO Elon Musk has said.
During that test mission, the Booster 7-Ship 24 duo will become the most powerful rocket ever to fly, taking the mantle from NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which debuted Nov. 16 on the agency's Artemis 1 moon mission.
SLS generated 8.8 million pounds of thrust on that liftoff. Super Heavy's 33 Raptors produce about 16.5 million pounds of thrust at full power, according to SpaceflightNow (opens in new tab).
Booster 7 will come back to Earth in the Gulf of Mexico shortly after liftoff, if all goes according to the test-flight plan. Ship 24 will circle our planet once and then splash down in the Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
January 25, 2023
SpaceX’s Starship—the vehicle by which Elon Musk, his legions of boffins, NASA, and the whole of mankind aims to return humans to the m
oon and eventually pack them off to Mars—is drawing ever nearer its inaugural launch. In point of fact, the mammoth spacecraft and the Super Heavy booster by which it is to be borne heavenward may well make their first orbital flight within weeks.
Reports from SpaceX’s Starbase rocket development facility in Boca Chica, Texas indicate Booster 7, an early prototype of the aforementioned Super Heavy booster, may be test-fired in short order and dramatic fashion.
On Monday, 23 January 2023, SpaceX engineers and technicians successfully conducted the mammoth vehicle’s first full wet dress rehearsal—an herculean undertaking in which more than ten-million-pounds of liquid oxygen and methane fuel were loaded into Starship and the Super Heavy booster, then pressurized to operational values. For purpose of perfecting complex pre-launch protocols, SpaceX personnel simulated countdown procedures up to the moment of liftoff.
Data gleaned during the wet dress rehearsal is currently being evaluated by SpaceX engineers. The absence of irregularity from subject test would bode well for a near-future Starship static-firing and subsequent test launch.
A static-firing would see the Super Heavy booster secured to a test stand and its Raptor engines—all 33 of them—briefly lit. To date, SpaceX has conducted 1, 3, 7, 11, and 14-engine static-firings of Booster 7. The anticipated 2023 static-firing will mark the first instance in which a fully-loaded Super Heavy booster stage is subjected to the cumulative thrust of its full complement of Raptor engines
Throughout 2020 and 2021, Starship upper-stage prototypes SN8 through SN15 alternately undertook test-flights and served as proof-of-concept demonstrators. On 05 May 2021, SN15 launched, ascended to an altitude of approximately ten-kilometers, then landed softly after a six-minute flight.
Starship’s first orbital flight is slated to be a straightforward affair. After propelling the Starship second-stage to a predetermined altitude, the Super Heavy booster first stage will separate and either splash-down in the Gulf of Mexico, land on a modified oceanic oil-rig, or return to its Boca Chica launch pad and land vertically thereupon. Starship, meanwhile, will continue to low Earth orbit, dally a bit in space, then return to Earth, splashing down off the coast of Hawaii.
SpaceX intends to conduct numerous Starship ground and flight tests throughout 2023. Once thoroughly vetted, the vehicle will be among the key assets of NASA’s Artemis program—eventually carrying cargo and astronauts to Earth’s moon later this decade.
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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has produced the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe to date. Known as Webb’s First Deep Field, this image of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 is overflowing with detail.
Thousands of galaxies – including the faintest objects ever observed in the infrared – have appeared in Webb’s view for the first time. This slice of the vast universe covers a patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground.
This deep field, taken by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), is a composite made from images at different wavelengths, totaling 12.5 hours – achieving depths at infrared wavelengths beyond the Hubble Space Telescope’s deepest fields, which took weeks.
The image shows the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago. The combined mass of this galaxy cluster acts as a gravitational lens, magnifying much more distant galaxies behind it. Webb’s NIRCam has brought those distant galaxies into sharp focus – they have tiny, faint structures that have never been seen before, including star clusters and diffuse features. Researchers will soon begin to learn more about the galaxies’ masses, ages, histories, and compositions, as Webb seeks the earliest galaxies in the universe.
This image is among the telescope’s first-full color images. The full suite will be released Tuesday, July 12, beginning at 10:30 a.m. EDT, during a live NASA TV broadcast. Learn more about how to watch.
United Launch Alliance (ULA)—the Boeing/Lockheed joint-venture that provides space launch services to the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA, and other major players in the space industry—expects the first flight of its Vulcan Centaur rocket to take place by the end of 2022.
The Vulcan Centaur will replace ULA’s Atlas-5 launch vehicle—a twenty-year old Lockheed Martin design and the oldest active American rocket.
Each Atlas-5 comprises two main stages, the first of which is powered by a Russian RD-180 engine. The RD-180 is being phased out on account of the national security implications inherent its being reliant on foreign parts—which became a concern subsequent the U.S.’s and Russia’s disagreement over Ukrainian sovereignty.
Provided preparations proceed apace, the partially reusable Vulcan Centaur’s inaugural mission will see it depart from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station carrying Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander—an autonomous, robotic vehicle capable of delivering payloads of up to 265-kilograms to the lunar surface with a target accuracy of one-hundred meters.
The Vulcan Centaur was to have launched in 2020, but the program has been delayed by the rocky development of Blue Origin’s BE-4 rocket engine (pictured)—which burns methane and is more powerful than the main engines that powered the space shuttle. ULA’s optimism notwithstanding, space industry insiders believe it’s unlikely that Kent, Washington-based Blue Origin will deliver the new engines before 2023.
Gary L. Wentz Jr., ULA’s vice president of government and commercial programs, asserts ULA has in its possession a number of the Russian-made RD-180 sufficient to complete the Atlas-5’s planned missions. Mister Wentz states Atlas 5 flights will wind-down as Vulcan Centaur launches spool-up. At present, Atlas-5 operations are slated to continue into 2024.
Space Force Col. Erin Gulden shares Mr. Wentz’s outlook, stating of the transition from the Atlas 5 to the Vulcan Centaur, “from the Space Force’s perspective, we don’t see any issues or concerns at this point with a gap in capability or ability to launch.”
The Space Force’s first launch on a Vulcan Centaur is planned for late 2023.
This article is reprinted from "Propwash"
To learn more about United Launch Alliance go to: https://www.ulalaunch.com/rockets/vulcan-centaur
The history of the universe and how it evolved is broadly accepted as the Big Bang model, which states that the universe began as an incredibly hot, dense point roughly 13.7 billion years ago. So, how did the universe go from being fractions of an inch (a few millimeters) across to what it is today?
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Many folks have not had the opportunity to ever see the Launch Control Center except for viewing of the firing rooms on TV during the Apollo and Shuttle launches. Here's a short, one minute video on the recent remodel of the LCC lobby.
SpaceX plans to get even more ambitious with its pinpoint rocket landings.
Elon Musk's company routinely recovers and reuses the first stages of its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, bringing the boosters down for soft vertical landingsabout 9 minutes after liftoff on ground near the launch pad or on autonomous "drone ships" in the ocean.
These touchdowns are impressively precise. But SpaceX aims to achieve something truly mind-blowing with Starship, the next-generation system the company is developing to take people and payloads to the moon, Mars and other distant destinations.
The core stage of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for NASA’s Artemis I mission was placed on the mobile launcher in between the twin solid rocket boosters inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The boosters attach at the engine and intertank sections of the core stage. Serving as the backbone of the rocket, the core stage supports the weight of the payload, upper stage, and crew vehicle, as well as carrying the thrust of its four engines and two five-segment solid rocket boosters. After the core stage arrived on April 27, engineers with Exploration Ground Systems and contractor Jacobs brought the core stage into the VAB for processing work and then lifted it into place with one of the five overhead cranes in the facility.
Once the core stage is stacked alongside the boosters, the launch vehicle stage adapter, which connects the core stage to the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS), will be stacked atop the core stage and quickly followed by the ICPS.
Artemis I will be an uncrewed test of the Orion spacecraft and SLS rocket as an integrated system ahead of crewed flights to the Moon. Under the Artemis program, NASA aims to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon in 2024 (now 2026) and establish sustainable lunar exploration by the end of the decade.
See a time lapsed video of the 'stacking' that took place at Kennedy Space Center
With hundreds of thousands logging in all over the globe to watch, the 'much upgraded' Starship SN15 aced a test flight that had destroyed four prototypes before it.
On Wednesday, May 5, Starship serial number 15 (SN15) successfully completed SpaceX’s fifth high-altitude flight test of a Starship prototype from Starbase in Texas.
Similar to previous high-altitude flight tests of Starship, SN15 was powered through ascent by three Raptor engines, each shutting down in sequence prior to the vehicle reaching apogee – approximately 10 km in altitude. SN15 performed a propellant transition to the internal header tanks, which hold landing propellant, before reorienting itself for reentry and a controlled aerodynamic descent.
The Starship prototype descended under active aerodynamic control, accomplished by independent movement of two forward and two aft flaps on the vehicle. All four flaps were actuated by an onboard flight computer to control Starship’s attitude during flight and enabled precise landing at the intended location. SN15’s Raptor engines reignited as the vehicle performed the landing flip maneuver immediately before touching down for a nominal landing on the pad.
While a small fire (probably methane-fed) was evident for several minutes after the landing, it was eventually extinguished without visible damage.
SpaceX notes that, "These test flights of Starship are all about improving our understanding and development of a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo on long-duration interplanetary flights, and help humanity return to the Moon, and travel to Mars and beyond."
SpaceX’s first-generation Starlink network comprises over 3,200 satellites.
The company’s second-generation Starlink network was to have spanned a massive 29,988 satellites—that was until Thursday, 01 December 2022, when the U.S. Federal Communications Commission granted Elon Musk’s space concern authority to operate only 7,500 satellites at altitudes over five-hundred-kilometers above the Earth.
The FCC’s decision was predicated in part on concerns expressed by rival telecommunication companies, environmental groups, astronomers, and other disgruntled parties about the second-generation satellite constellation’s immense size.
In its 01 December decision, the FCC wrote: “This limited grant and associated conditions will protect other satellite and terrestrial operators from harmful interference and maintain a safe space environment, promoting competition and protecting spectrum and orbital resources for future use. To address concerns about orbital debris and space safety, we limit this grant to 7,500 satellites only, operating at certain altitudes.”
Notwithstanding the partial approval—which underscores the compulsions and ethos for which the agency is infamous—the FCC rationalizes that it has indeed increased the number of satellites it’s permitting SpaceX to launch. According to the FCC, this baffling mathematical convolution derives of SpaceX’s plans to consolidate 7,518 satellites from its unlaunched V-band satellite constellation into the second-generation network.
“This means our action today does not increase the total number of satellites SpaceX is authorized to deploy, and in fact slightly reduces it, as compared to the total number of satellites SpaceX would potentially have deployed otherwise,” the Commission somewhat bafflingly wrote.
The FCC insinuated, however, that it might approve additional second-generation Starlink satellites in the future, stating: "The smaller number of satellites will allow continued monitoring of deployment based on conditions adopted in this Order, prior to consideration of the much larger number of satellites SpaceX requests over the long term.”
That a federal agency ostensibly dedicated to the furtherance of communication is capable of such labyrinthine equivocation is a triumph of irony.
The FCC—in addition to contemporaneously culling, supplementing, and culling the Starlink satellite population—has made it incumbent upon SpaceX to coordinate with NASA, the National Science Foundation, and specific observatories for purpose of preventing Starlink from interfering with scientific missions. Per FCC edict, second-generation Starlink satellites—to mitigate spectrum interference—must use “no more than one satellite beam” while “in the same frequency in the same or overlapping areas at a time.”
Expansion of extant satellite constellations is crucial to Starlink, which is facing chronic congestion woes. Since the beginning of 2022, data transmission speeds for U.S. and Canadian Starlink customers have dropped as ever-increasing numbers of users strain the network’s capacity. SpaceX plans to remedy the conundrum by launching larger, more powerful second-generation satellites at weekly intervals starting in 2023.
SpaceX's Starlink megaconstellation is designed to provide global broadband coverage for high-speed internet access, particularly for people in rural and remote areas. Each of the flat-panel Starlink satellites weighs roughly a quarter-ton and are built in-house at a SpaceX facility in Redmond, Washington. (The company also manufactures its own own user terminals and ground stations.) While SpaceX expects its initial set of Starlink satellites to be 1,440 strong, the company has plans to launch thousands more. Company founder and CEO Elon Musk has said SpaceX needs between 500 and 800 satellites in orbit before service can begin to roll out. SpaceX is inching closer and closer to that goal, as it has delivered nearly 800 into orbit so far.
The Federal Communications Commission has granted SpaceX permission to launch as many as 12,000 of the flat-panel broadband satellites, but SpaceX may not stop there. The company has indicated it will see approval to launch as many as 30,000 of its internet-beaming satellites to beam down high-speed, low-latency Internet signals.