Archive for the ‘spacex’ Category

Four astronauts took a Dragon for a spin on Monday morning

April 5th, 2021

Early on Monday morning, four astronauts donned their flight suits and clambered into their Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Resilience.

But they were not coming home. Rather, NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, as well as Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, were preparing to move the Crew Dragon spacecraft for the first time.

Over the course of 38 minutes, the spacecraft smoothly backed away from the International Space Station's Harmony module to a distance of 60 meters from the large laboratory. Under the power of its Draco thrusters, Resilience then reoriented itself to dock with another port on the Harmony module.

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SpaceX loses another Starship prototype as landing sequence fails

March 30th, 2021

Despite a thickly fogged launch site in South Texas, SpaceX let its SN11 Starship prototype fly on Tuesday morning at 8 am local time.

An onboard camera showed the vehicle making a nominal ascent to about 10 km, shutting off its three Raptor rocket engines in turn. As the vehicle ascended, it cleared the low cloud deck into blue skies. Starship then hovered before beginning its return to Earth.

The camera attached to the Starship vehicle's exterior provided imagery during the descent, which appeared to be fairly smooth as the vehicle "flopped" over and oriented itself to come back through the thickening atmosphere. During three previous high-altitude flights, Starship prototypes have performed this graceful maneuver without much apparent difficulty.

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SpaceX working toward early Tuesday morning Starship launch [Updated]

March 26th, 2021

7:45 am ET Tuesday Update: Today's the day—probably. After an inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration arrived on Monday evening, SpaceX checked the last remaining box for its Starship SN11 launch attempt.

The launch window runs from 7 am local time (12:00 UTC) to 3 pm (20:00 UTC). Although the region is clouded in this morning, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said early Tuesday that the company is working toward an 8 am launch (13:00 UTC), and roads are already closed to local traffic.

It is not clear how much visibility SpaceX will want for today's test flight, and we do anticipate some clearing of skies later this morning. So we'll watch and wait to see what happens with the vehicle and the weather. When SpaceX's official webcast goes live it will be embedded below. In the meantime, local activity can be tracked through's livestream.

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SpaceX plans Starlink broadband for cars, boats, and planes

March 8th, 2021
Off-road vehicle driving up a road on a hill on a foggy morning.

Enlarge / Cars could eventually get satellite Internet from SpaceX Starlink. (credit: Getty Images | Ozgur Donmaz)

SpaceX on Friday asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to deploy Starlink satellite broadband to passenger cars and other moving vehicles.

The application describes SpaceX's plans for Earth Stations in Motion (ESIMs) for automobiles, ships, and aircraft. SpaceX said it is "seek[ing] authority to deploy and operate these earth stations... throughout the United States and its territories... in the territorial waters of the United States and throughout international waters worldwide, and... on US-registered aircraft operating worldwide and non-US-registered aircraft operating in US airspace."

"Granting this application would serve the public interest by authorizing a new class of ground-based components for SpaceX's satellite system that will expand the range of broadband capabilities available to moving vehicles throughout the United States and to moving vessels and aircraft worldwide," SpaceX told the FCC. Internet users are no longer "willing to forego connectivity while on the move, whether driving a truck across the country, moving a freighter from Europe to a US port, or while on a domestic or international flight," SpaceX said.

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Posted in Biz & IT, satellite broadband, spacex, starlink | Comments (0)

SpaceX reveals the grand extent of its starport plans in South Texas

March 8th, 2021
An orbital view of SpaceX's South Texas launch site, with SN10 on the pad, in early March.

Enlarge / An orbital view of SpaceX's South Texas launch site, with SN10 on the pad, in early March. (credit: Maxar Technologies)

As part of a federal review process for its plans in South Texas, details of SpaceX's proposed spaceport have been made public. They were posted late last week in a public notice from the US Army Corps of engineers, which is soliciting public comments on the changes.

Most notably, the new documents include a detailed architectural drawing of the multi-acre site at the southern tip of Texas, along the Gulf of Mexico. The major hardware that exists or will be built includes:

  • Two orbital launch pads, one of which is already under constriction
  • Two suborbital launch pads, one of which already exists
  • Two landing pads, one of which already exists
  • Two structural test stands for Starship and the Super Heavy booster
  • A large "tank farm" to provide ground support equipment for orbital flights
  • A permanent position for the totemic "Starhopper" vehicle at the site's entrance

What is striking about this architectural drawing is its compact nature, largely because SpaceX has limited land to work with at the facility and must include stormwater ponds to mitigate against flooding. All of these facilities will be concentrated within a couple dozen acres, which is in stark contrast to more expansive launch sites in Florida at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

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Posted in science, south texas, spacex, starship | Comments (0)

SpaceX Starlink factory in Texas will speed up production of Dishy McFlatface

March 4th, 2021
View of the SpaceX Starlink satellite dish, with the back panel taken off.

Enlarge / The SpaceX Starlink satellite dish partway through a teardown. (credit: Ken Keither)

SpaceX says it is building a factory in Austin, Texas, to design systems that will help make satellite dishes, Wi-Fi routers, and other equipment for its Starlink satellite broadband network. The news comes from a job posting for an automation and controls engineer position flagged in a story Tuesday by local news channel KXAN.

"To keep up with global demand, SpaceX is breaking ground on a new, state of the art manufacturing facility in Austin, TX," the job posting said. "The Automation & Controls Engineer will play a key role as we strive to manufacture millions of consumer facing devices that we ship directly to customers (Starlink dishes, Wi-Fi routers, mounting hardware, etc)."

The factory apparently won't make the dishes and routers on site but will instead design systems that improve the manufacturing process. "Specifically, they will design and develop control systems and software for production line machinery—ultimately tackling the toughest mechanical, software, and electrical challenges that come with high-volume manufacturing, all while maintaining a focus on flexibility, reliability, maintainability, and ease of use," the job posting said.

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Posted in Biz & IT, dishy mcflatface, spacex, starlink | Comments (0)

Starship goes up. Starship goes down. But is the program moving forward?

March 4th, 2021

So what, exactly, are we to make of the third flight of a full-scale Starship prototype?

If nothing else, Wednesday afternoon's flight provided several minutes of first-rate entertainment: Rocketship goes up. Rocketship comes down. Rocketship lands. And then, with an incredible plot twist 10 minutes later, rocketship briefly ascends again and then blows up.

It all looked remarkable. Like many of the most inspiring things SpaceX has accomplished over the last decade, this launch, landing, and subsequent explosion looked almost otherworldly. It felt like a peek into the future, a glimpse of something yet unseen, that might yet be.

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SpaceX recycling vehicle for second Starship launch attempt [Updated]

March 3rd, 2021
Starship SN10 on the pad on Wednesday, March 3, 2021.

Enlarge / Starship SN10 on the pad on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (credit: Trevor Mahlmann / Ars Technica)

Update 3:45 pm EST: The SN10 Starship prototype very nearly launched on Wednesday afternoon from South Texas, but a last-second out-of-bounds reading aborted the attempt. The abort was caused by a "slightly conservative high thrust limit," SpaceX founder Elon Musk said afterward. Basically, the onboard flight computer received data from one of the engines that it was producing more thrust than anticipated.

The good news? This thrust limit can be adjusted upward in the flight software, and the vehicle is now recycling through propellant loading for another attempt. SN10 may still fly later today, time to be determined.

Original post 8:12 am EST: SpaceX may launch its third full-scale Starship prototype—named Serial Number 10, or SN10—as early as Wednesday from South Texas.

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Dish tries to disrupt SpaceX’s Starlink plans as companies fight at FCC

March 2nd, 2021
Illustration of the Earth with lines representing a global network.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | skegbydave)

SpaceX and Dish Network are fighting at the Federal Communications Commission over Dish's attempt to block a key designation that SpaceX's Starlink division needs in order to get FCC broadband funding.

A SpaceX filing submitted yesterday said that Dish's "baseless attempt" to block funding "would serve only to delay what matters most—connecting unserved Americans." While Dish says it has valid concerns about interference in the 12 GHz band, SpaceX described Dish's complaint to the FCC as a "facially spurious filing" that "is only the latest example of Dish's abuse of Commission resources in its misguided effort to expropriate the 12 GHz band."

The dispute is related to several FCC proceedings including one on a Starlink petition seeking designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) under the Communications Act. SpaceX needs this legal designation in some of the states where it won federal funding to deploy broadband in unserved areas. Dish asked the FCC to deny SpaceX the needed status in the 12 GHz band.

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Posted in DISH, Policy, spacex, starlink | Comments (0)

The 2008 moment when triumph turned to torment for SpaceX

March 1st, 2021
The launch of Flight Three of the Falcon 1 rocket looked promising at the beginning.

Enlarge / The launch of Flight Three of the Falcon 1 rocket looked promising at the beginning. (credit: Chris Thompson/SpaceX)

This is an excerpt from chapter eight of the book LIFTOFF: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX by our own Eric Berger. The book will be published on March 2, 2021. In this excerpt, it is the summer of 2008, and SpaceX has attempted to launch the Falcon 1 rocket twice already, failing both times. As the company's engineers prepare for a third launch attempt from tiny Omelek Island in the Kwajalein Atoll, time and money are running out...

By the time of Flight Three, the SpaceXers had grown accustomed to their visits out to the central Pacific Kwajalein Atoll for launches. Over the course of three years, they learned how to survive in the tropical environment and even enjoy island life. Some of these lessons were hard won, however.

Fairly early on during the Kwaj experience, engineer Brian Bjelde missed the evening boat back to Kwajalein. It happened. He and a few others slept under the stars, passing a perfectly pleasant night. But the next morning, Bjelde lacked a change of clothes. So he grabbed a T-shirt from a package of Falcon 1 swag items that had shown up in Omelek. The vacuum-packed, white T-shirt may have been wrinkled, but at least it was clean, and it kept the sun off his back. Bjelde went through massive quantities of sunscreen every day—any piece of skin exposed to the tropical sun was covered. Throughout that day, as he slathered himself in it, Bjelde noticed the T-shirt’s wrinkles straightening beneath the island’s heat and humidity.

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Posted in falcon 1, Features, liftoff, science, spacex | Comments (0)