Space Thread

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Boeing’s first astronaut flight now set for June after review of small leak
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published May 24, 2024 • 1 minute read

Boeing's Starliner capsule
Boeing's Starliner capsule atop an Atlas V rocket is seen at Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Tuesday, May 7, 2024. PHOTO BY JOHN RAOUX /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Boeing is now aiming for its first astronaut launch at the beginning of June, after spending the past few weeks struggling with more problems on the space capsule.


Officials for the company and NASA said Friday that intensive reviews indicate the Starliner capsule can safely fly with two test pilots, despite a small propulsion system leak. The helium leak was discovered following the first launch attempt on May 6 that was scuttled by an unrelated rocket problem that has been fixed.

Engineers suspect a defective seal that, even if the leak worsens, could be managed in flight. Boeing is targeting June 1 for the launch from Florida.

Identification of the leak led to the discovery of a “design vulnerability” in Starliner’s propulsion system in the unlikely event of a string of failures, said Steve Stich, NASA’s commercial crew program manager. The team has developed workaround methods to get the capsule safely out of orbit at flight’s end if such problems arise, he added.

“We’re not going to fly until we’re sure we’re safe,” NASA Associate Administrator Jim Free told reporters.

Boeing’s Starliner capsule is already years late in transporting astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA. SpaceX has been launching crews since 2020. NASA wants both companies for backup taxi service.
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Saskatchewan farmer who found space junk in field not alone; others discover debris
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Bill Graveland
Published May 30, 2024 • Last updated 2 days ago • 2 minute read

Barry Sawchuk (left) and Samantha Lawler pose near a piece of space debris
Barry Sawchuk (left) and Samantha Lawler, an associate professor of astronomy at the University of Regina, pose near a piece of space debris found on his farm in February. PHOTO BY HO /The Canadian Press
Barry Sawchuk is not alone in the space junk universe.


The Saskatchewan farmer who made headlines earlier this month when he reported a giant piece of space debris had slammed into his field now says his neighbours are also reporting close encounters with orbital debris.

“There’s other pieces here,” said Sawchuk, for farms near Ituna, northeast of Regina.

“There are neighbours that have them, too. There’s seven pieces that I know of right now, and there could be more any day.

“Everybody’s going across their fields for the first time … we’re seeding. There’s big pieces. I don’t know if it’s harvesting space junk, but we found it.”

He declined to identify the neighbours, saying the wreckage is their story to tell. But he said he’s seen pictures of their debris, including one shard that appears to be well over two metres high.


Sawchuk said he has been contacted by spacecraft builder SpaceX and is attempting to negotiate a price to send back the junk. He said he gave the company’s contact information to his neighbours, too.

“They (SpaceX) want it — and they should want it — back,” Sawchuk said.

He said SpaceX needs to explain why the junk didn’t burn up in the atmosphere like it’s supposed to and instead plowed intact to the ground.

It’s concerning one piece landed less than a half kilometre from one of the houses on his farm, Sawchuk said.

“What happens if it hit a city? As near as I can tell, it would have been going 160 to 200 kilometres an hour when it landed.”

SpaceX has not publicly confirmed it owns the debris. The Canadian Press twice reached out for comment to the manufacturer, which is owned by entrepreneur Elon Musk, but received no reply.


Sawchuk, 66, farms with his three sons. He said he was checking the moisture in his fields at the end of April when he spotted the debris — a scorched piece of carbon fibre honeycombed with aluminum attached to what appeared to be a hydraulic cylinder.

Sawchuk said the fragment weighs 44 kilograms and is taller than he is. A second, smaller one — about 10 kilograms — was also found on the farm.

Samantha Lawler, an associate professor of astronomy at the University of Regina, said she isn’t surprised more debris is turning up.

“The pieces that Barry Sawchuk found are enormous, so of course there’s going to be many, many smaller pieces that are around,” Lawler said.

“I know from meteorite re-entries, they could be spread out over quite a wide area.”


Lawler sent photos and information about Sawchuk’s space fragment to her colleague Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard who tracks space launches.

Looking at data, McDowell determined Sawchuk’s find was likely linked to a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft that returned to Earth in February with four passengers from the International Space Station.

Lawler said the wreckage is a black eye for SpaceX, as debris has been found in other locations in the United States and Australia.

“I would hope SpaceX would want the pieces back, so they could learn and do some better engineering so giant pieces of their spacecraft are not falling on people on the ground,” she said.
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Boeing’s first NASA astronaut flight halted at the last minute in latest setback
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Jun 01, 2024 • Last updated 1 day ago • 2 minute read

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Last-minute computer trouble nixed Saturday’s launch attempt for Boeing’s first astronaut flight, the latest in a string of delays over the years.


Two NASA astronauts were strapped in the company’s Starliner capsule when the countdown automatically was halted at 3 minutes and 50 seconds by the computer system that controls the final minutes before liftoff.

With only a split second to take off, there was no time to work the latest problem and the launch was called off.

Technicians raced to the pad to help astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams out of the capsule atop the fully fueled Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Within an hour of the launch abort, the hatch was reopened.

Boeing's Starliner capsule, atop an Atlas V rocket, sits the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 after being scrubbed Saturday, June 1, 2024, in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Boeing’s Starliner capsule, atop an Atlas V rocket, sits the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 after being scrubbed Saturday, June 1, 2024, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. PHOTO BY CHRIS O'MEARA /AP Photo
The team can’t get to the computers to troubleshoot the problem until the rocket is drained of all its fuel, said Tory Bruno, CEO for the rocket maker, United Launch Alliance.


Bruno said one of the three redundant computers located near the rocket at the pad was sluggish. All three must work properly to proceed with a launch, he said.

Depending on what needs to be fixed, the next launch attempt could be as early as Wednesday. If it doesn’t blast off this coming week, then that would be it until mid-June in order to move the rocket off the pad and replace batteries.

“This is the business that we’re in,” Boeing’s Mark Nappi said. “Everything’s got to work perfectly.”

It was the second launch attempt. The first try on May 6 was delayed for leak checks and rocket repairs.

NASA wants a backup to SpaceX, which has been flying astronauts since 2020.

Boeing should have launched its first crew around the same time as SpaceX, but its first test flight with no one on board in 2019 was plagued by severe software issues and never made it to the space station.


A redo in 2022 fared better, but parachute problems and flammable later caused more delays. A small helium leak in the capsule’s propulsion system last month came on top of a rocket valve issue.

More valve trouble cropped up two hours before Saturday’s planned liftoff, but the team used a backup circuit to get the ground-equipment valves working to top off the fuel for the rocket’s upper stage. Launch controllers were relieved to keep pushing ahead, but the computer system known as the ground launch sequencer ended the effort.

“Of course, this is emotionally disappointing,” NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, the backup pilot, said from neighbouring Kennedy Space Center shortly after the countdown was halted.

But he said delays are part of spaceflight. “We’re going to have a great launch in our future.”
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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope temporarily pauses observations after malfunction
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Jun 04, 2024 • 1 minute read

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The Hubble Space Telescope has temporarily stopped observing the cosmos.


NASA said the telescope slipped into a hibernating state more than a week ago when one of its three remaining gyroscopes — part of the pointing system — malfunctioned. The same device has been acting up for months and disrupting scientific operations.

Hubble remains safe but inactive as flight controllers figure out how to proceed, officials said. The space agency planned to outline a path forward on Tuesday.

Hubble got six new gyroscopes during astronauts’ final visit in 2009. The devices’ spinning wheels keep the telescope stable and looking the right way by tracking Hubble’s rotation and position in space.

Three gyroscopes no longer function. NASA said the 34-year-old observatory could keep making discoveries with only one or two good gyroscopes.

Space shuttle Discovery delivered Hubble to orbit in 1990. Its bigger and more powerful successor, the Webb Space Telescope, launched in 2021.
 

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Boeing launches NASA astronauts for the first time after years of delays
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Jun 05, 2024 • Last updated 3 days ago • 3 minute read

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Boeing launched astronauts for the first time Wednesday, belatedly joining SpaceX as a second taxi service for NASA.

A pair of NASA test pilots blasted off aboard Boeing’s Starliner capsule for the International Space Station, the first to fly the new spacecraft.

The trip by Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams was expected to take 25 hours, with an arrival Thursday. They will spend just over a week at the orbiting lab before climbing back into Starliner for a remote desert touchdown in the western U.S. on June 14.

“Let’s get going!” Wilmore called out a few minutes before liftoff.



Half an hour later, he and Williams were safely in orbit and giving chase to the space station. Back at Cape Canaveral, the relieved launch controllers stood and applauded. After all the trouble leading up to Wednesday’s launch, including two scrapped countdowns, everything went smoothly before and during liftoff, prompting congratulations from SpaceX’s Elon Musk and others.

“Today it all lined up,” said Boeing program manager Mark Nappi.

Years late because of spacecraft flaws, Starliner’s crew debut comes as the company struggles with unrelated safety issues on its airplane side.

Wilmore and Williams — retired Navy captains and former space station residents — stressed repeatedly before the launch that they had full confidence in Boeing’s ability to get it right with this test flight. Crippled by bad software, Starliner’s initial test flight in 2019 without a crew had to be repeated before NASA would let its astronauts strap in. The 2022 do-over went much better, but parachute problems later cropped up and flammable tape had to be removed from the capsule.


Wednesday’s launch was the third attempt with astronauts since early May, coming after a pair of rocket-related problems, most recently last weekend. A small helium leak in the spacecraft’s propulsion system also caused delays, but remained extremely low and manageable.

“It’s just a tough endeavor to get to flight and huge kudos to the entire team for getting there,” said Steve Stich, NASA’s commercial crew program manager.

Boeing was hired alongside Elon Musk’s SpaceX a decade ago to ferry NASA’s astronauts to and from the space station. The space agency wanted two competing U.S. companies for the job in the wake of the space shuttles’ retirement, paying $4.2 billion to Boeing and just over half that to SpaceX, which refashioned the capsule it was using to deliver station supplies.


SpaceX launched astronauts into orbit in 2020, becoming the first private business to achieve what only three countries — Russia, the U.S. and China — had mastered. It has taken nine crews to the space station for NASA and three private groups for a Houston company that charters flights.

The liftoff from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station was the 100th of an Atlas V for rocket maker United Launch Alliance. It was the first ride for astronauts on an Atlas rocket since John Glenn’s Mercury era more than 60 years ago; the rocket usually launches satellites and other spacecraft.

Despite the Atlas V’s perfect record, the human presence cranked up the tension for the scores of NASA and Boeing employees gathered at Cape Canaveral and Mission Control in Houston.


Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Dragon are designed to be fully autonomous and reusable. Wilmore and Williams occasionally will take manual control of Starliner on their way to the space station, to check out its systems. The only snag early in the flight involved the capsule’s cooling system. More water was used than expected before the radiators took over in orbit. The tank will be refilled before the ride home.

If the mission goes well, NASA will alternate between SpaceX and Boeing for taxi flights, beginning next year. The backup pilot for this test flight, Mike Fincke, will strap in for Starliner’s next trip.

“This is exciting. We built up to this moment for years and years, and it finally happened,” Fincke said from neighboring Kennedy Space Center. “I feel like the whole planet was cheering for them.”
 

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'I don't really want to know much more'

Author of the article:Mark Daniell
Published Jun 05, 2024 • 4 minute read

For Tucker Carlson, the truth is certainly out there when it comes to UFOs. But when it comes to alien life on earth, he doesn’t “really want to know that much more.”


During a recent interview on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Carlson talked at length about extraterrestrial life and Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP). In that conversation, the former Fox News host spoke about a supposedly top-secret dossier that was released by the U.S. government “apparently by accident.”

He also claimed that he has seen proof that aliens are living beneath the earth’s surface.

“There’s a lot of stuff under the water … There’s a ton of evidence that they’re under the ocean and under the ground,” Carlson told Rogan. “They’ve been here for a long time.”

In his discussion with Rogan, Carlson described the entities as “spiritual beings” that are working for good and bad.

“We’re being acted on by spiritual forces at all times … I think some of them are bad … they’re serving a bad force … they’re beyond nature as we understand it,” Carlson said.


Carlson theorized that there’s been extensive knowledge about aliens on earth for decades, going as far back as the 1930s.

“There are two possible explanations. The first is the one you often hear, which is this is so heavy that if the public were to know about it, it would be just disruptive; it would be too scary. You don’t want to scare people … there’s nothing we can do about it. You also don’t want to suggest that the U.S. military isn’t capable of protecting the country,” he said.

But there was a deeper element to considering extraterrestrial beings coexisting with humanity. “What’s the U.S. government’s relationship with these things? There’s evidence that there’s a relationship and that it’s longstanding and that raises a lot of questions about intent.”


Noting that people have been hurt and even killed, Carlson said he spoke to Garry Nolan from Stamford University about some of the injuries that have been sustained by U.S. servicemen.

“The point is, people have died. It does raise a lot of questions … Why are you hiding that?” he asked.

In a new chat with the Shawn Ryan Show, Carlson revisited the topic as he went into the further detail saying that he’s “stopped gathering information” on aliens.

“I’m satisfied that I know enough; I don’t really want to know that much more,” he said. “I’ve stopped being curious about this because I don’t want to know anymore.”

Pressed by Ryan, Carlson said he’s a Christian. “But one thing you noticed about all world religions … there are commonalities. Jesus is unique and I believe in Jesus. I don’t think all (religions are) equal. I think mine is correct, but there are commonalities that are very striking between all world religions and all creation myths. One of them is the belief that supernatural beings take physical form. They all believe that … They’re not just shadows floating around.”


He continued, “If every culture in the world, that we know about, who’s left any kind of written or physical record is reaching the same conclusions about something, maybe there’s something there? Maybe it’s not so crazy to think that what everyone else has always thought since the beginning of time.”



Carlson went on to add that it’s only since 1945, when America dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, that people have come to think differently about religion.

“From then until now, it’s just a spec of time in the continuum of history for that one period we’ve assumed that (religion is not) true, but everyone else has assumed that it is true,” Carlson said. “I’m going with everyone else on that.”

Carlson said he drew his conclusions after talking to people in government.

“I was really shocked by what credible people told me,” he recalled. “I became completely satisfied that they were not lying.”

Last winter, Carlson said that the classified UFO information he had been briefed on would have far-reaching consequences across the planet if it was ever released.


“The more you dig into that and talk to people with actual knowledge. Again, this is another story where there are some fanciful ideas floating around but there just isn’t any evidence that they’re true. But if you talk to people who have actual knowledge of it that they gathered themselves, there are parts of that story that I do not understand at all that are really, really, really dark … That story bothers me,” Carlson said during a appearance on the Redacted podcast with hosts Clayton and Natali Morris.

Carlson’s comments came after retired Maj. David Grusch alleged in front of Congress last summer that the U.S. is concealing a longstanding program that retrieves and reverse engineers unidentified flying objects.


“I was informed in the course of my official duties of a multi-decade UAP crash retrieval and reverse engineering program to which I was denied access,” he said (per the Associated Press).

Asked whether the U.S. government had information about extraterrestrial life, Grusch said the U.S. likely has been aware of “non-human” activity since the 1930s.

In his appearance on Redacted, Carlson hinted that the information that he’s been privy too is “so dark,” he hasn’t shared it with his wife.

“I haven’t verified any of this, but this is not just stuff I read on the Internet,” the pundit said. “But there is some stuff there, like, man, I’m not even sure I know what that means. There’s a spiritual component there that I don’t fully understand. So yes, that story bothers me.”

But a Pentagon report on unidentified flying objects released in March said that U.S. government investigations since the end of the Second World War have found no evidence of alien technology and concluded that most sightings were simply misidentified everyday phenomena.

mdaniell@postmedia.com
 

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Maui council opposes U.S. Space Force plan to build new telescopes on Haleakala volcano
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Audrey Mcavoy
Published Jun 05, 2024 • 2 minute read

HONOLULU — Local officials on the Hawaiian island of Maui on Wednesday voted to oppose a U.S. military proposal to build new telescopes on the summit of Haleakala volcano, the latest observatory project to meet objection in the islands.


The U.S. Space Force and Air Force want to build a new facility on the top of Haleakala, Maui’s highest peak, to track objects in space.

The Maui County Council voted 9-0 to pass a resolution opposing the project. The measure said Haleakala’s summit was a sacred place used for religious ceremony, prayer and connecting to ancestors.

“Haleakala is more than just a mountain; the summit is considered wao akua, or ‘realm of the gods,’ and continues to be a place of deep spirituality for Native Hawaiians to engage in some of these traditional practices,” the resolution said.

It said that the Space Force hasn’t finished cleaning up a 700-gallon (2,650-liter) diesel fuel spill at the site of one its existing Haleakala telescopes. The spill occurred last year when a pump that supplies fuel to a backup generator failed to shut off during a lightning storm.


The proposed new facility is called AMOS STAR, which is an acronym for Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing Site Small Telescope Advanced Research. It would feature six telescopes enclosed in ground-mounted domes and one rooftop-mounted domed telescope.


The county’s resolution urged the military to heed community calls to cease their development efforts. It urged the National Park Service, Federal Aviation Administration and the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources to deny the project permits.

The clear skies and dry air at Haleakala’s peak make for some of the world’s best conditions for viewing space, similar to the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island which hosts about a dozen telescopes.


Haleakala rises to 10,023 feet (3,055 meters) It already hosts multiple University of Hawaii observatories and an existing collection of Space Force telescopes called the Maui Space Surveillance Complex. Protesters tried to block the construction of a new observatory on Haleakala in 2017 but building went ahead and the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope released its first images in 2020.

A proposal by a consortium of universities to build a new observatory on Mauna Kea called the Thirty Meter Telescope triggered massive protests in 2019. The TMT project is currently paused while planners seek National Science Foundation funding.
 

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Boeing’s astronaut capsule arrives at space station after thruster trouble
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Jun 06, 2024 • Last updated 3 days ago • 2 minute read

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket with Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft launches from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on June 5, 2024.
The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket with Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft launches from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on June 5, 2024. PHOTO BY MIGUEL J. RODRIGUEZ CARRILLO /AFP via Getty Images
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Boeing’s new capsule arrived at the International Space Station on Thursday, delayed by last-minute thruster trouble that almost derailed the docking for this first test flight with astronauts.


The 260-mile-high (420-kilometer-high) linkup over the Indian Ocean culminated more than a day of continuing drama for Boeing’s astronaut flight debut carrying NASA test pilots Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams.

Boeing plans to keep Starliner at the space station for at least eight days before guiding it to a landing in the western U.S.

“Nice to be attached to the big city in the sky,” Wilmore said once the hooks between the two spacecraft were tight.

Williams entered the space station first, dancing on the way in to music. Wilmore followed, snapping his fingers. They embraced the seven space station residents.

“It was such a great welcome, a little dance party,” said Williams. “That’s the way to get things going.”


The Starliner capsule already had one small helium leak when it rocketed into orbit with two NASA astronauts Wednesday. Boeing and NASA managers were confident they could manage the propulsion system despite the problem and that more leaks were unlikely. But just hours into the flight, two more leaks cropped up and another was discovered after docking.

Later, five of the capsule’s 28 thrusters went down. The astronauts managed to restart four of them, providing enough safety margin to proceed. By then, Starliner had passed up the first docking opportunity and circled the world for an extra hour alongside the station before moving in.

The thrusters problems were unrelated to the helium leaks, NASA’s commercial crew program manager Steve Stich said after the docking.


Going forward in the flight, “we have some tools in our tool kit to manage this,” Stich said.

Earlier in the day, before the thrusters malfunctioned, officials stressed that the helium leaks posed no safety issues for the astronauts or the mission.

Helium is used to pressurize the fuel lines of Starliner’s thrusters, which are essential for maneuvering. Before liftoff, engineers devised a plan to work around any additional leaks in the system. A faulty rubber seal, no bigger than a shirt button, is believed responsible for the original leak.

Boeing program manager Mark Nappi said there should be plenty of helium in reserve for the trip home.

After the space shuttles retired, NASA hired Boeing and SpaceX to ferry astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX’s taxi service began in 2020. Boeing was supposed to start around the same time, but was held up for years by safety concerns and other troubles.

Stich said none of the problems so far would require a repeat of an astronaut test flight before certifying the capsule for regular use.
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SpaceX’s mega rocket completes its fourth test flight from Texas without exploding
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Jun 06, 2024 • 2 minute read

The SpaceX Starship launches on its fourth flight test from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, on June 6, 2024.
The SpaceX Starship launches on its fourth flight test from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, on June 6, 2024. PHOTO BY CHANDAN KHANNA /AFP via Getty Images
SpaceX’s mega Starship rocket completed its first full test flight Thursday, returning to Earth without exploding after blasting off from Texas.

It was the fourth launch of the world’s biggest and most powerful rocket, standing nearly 400 feet (121 metres) tall. The three previous flight demos ended in explosions. This time, the rocket and the spacecraft managed to splash down in a controlled fashion, making the hourlong flight the longest and most successful yet.

“Despite loss of many tiles and a damaged flap, Starship made it all the way to a soft landing in the ocean!” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said via X.



Starship was empty as it soared above the Gulf of Mexico and headed east on a flight to the Indian Ocean. Within minutes, the first-stage booster separated from the spacecraft and splashed into the gulf precisely as planned, after firing its engines.

The spacecraft reached an altitude of nearly 211 kilometres, traveling at more than 26,000 km/h, before beginning its descent. Live views showed parts of the spacecraft breaking away during the intense heat of reentry, but a cracked camera lens obscured the images.

The spacecraft remained intact enough to transmit data all the way to its targeted splashdown site in the Indian Ocean.


It was a critical milestone in the company’s plan to eventually reuse the rocket that NASA and Musk are counting on to get humanity to the moon and then Mars.


“What a show it has been,” SpaceX launch commentator Kate Tice said from Mission Control at company headquarters in California.

SpaceX came close to avoiding explosions in March, but lost contact with the spacecraft as it careened out of space and blew up short of its goal. The booster also ruptured in flight, a quarter-mile above the gulf.

Last year’s two test flights ended in explosions shortly after blasting off from the southern tip of Texas near the Mexican border. The first one cratered the pad at Boca Chica Beach and hurled debris for thousands of feet.

SpaceX upgraded the software and made some rocket-flyback changes to improve the odds. The Federal Aviation Administration signed off Tuesday on this fourth demo, saying all safety requirements had been met.


Starship is designed to be fully reusable. That’s why SpaceX wants to control the booster’s entry into the gulf and the spacecraft’s descent into the Indian Ocean — it’s intended as practice for planned future landings. Nothing is being recovered from Thursday’s flight.

NASA has ordered a pair of Starships for two moon-landing missions by astronauts, on tap for later this decade. Each moon crew will rely on NASA’s own rocket and capsule to leave Earth, but meet up with Starship in lunar orbit for the ride down to the surface.

SpaceX already is selling tourist trips around the moon. The first private lunar customer, a Japanese tycoon, pulled out of the trip with his entourage last week, citing the oft-delayed schedule.

SpaceX’s founder and CEO has grander plans: Musk envisions fleets of Starships launching people and the infrastructure necessary to build a city on Mars.
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SpaceX staff collect cosmic junk found on farmer’s field in Saskatchewan
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Jeremy Simes
Published Jun 11, 2024 • Last updated 2 days ago • 2 minute read

Two men with SpaceX, who didn't provide their names, retrieve space junk that fell earlier this year from one of its spacecraft, in a still frame taken from video footage made near Ituna, Sask., on Tuesday, June 11, 2024.
Two men with SpaceX, who didn't provide their names, retrieve space junk that fell earlier this year from one of its spacecraft, in a still frame taken from video footage made near Ituna, Sask., on Tuesday, June 11, 2024. PHOTO BY JEREMY SIMES /THE CANADIAN PRESS
ITUNA, Sask. — Two men with SpaceX descended on a Saskatchewan farm in a moving truck Tuesday to retrieve cosmic junk that fell earlier this year from one of its spacecrafts.


The workers, who didn’t give their names while at the farm near Ituna, lugged the large scorched pieces of carbon fibre and aluminum into the back of the U-Haul before leaving.

They declined to say why the fragments failed to burn up before slamming into the field, what spacecraft the pieces came from, where the wreckage was going and what the company plans to do with it.

They confirmed they work for SpaceX, founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk, and directed further questions to a company email. SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The retrieval comes months after farmer Barry Sawchuk found the debris and said he was contacted by SpaceX for its return.

One fragment, taller than Sawchuk, weighs 44 kilograms. A second, smaller one is about 10 kilograms. Other pieces were also found on neighbouring farms.


Sawchuk said SpaceX paid him an undisclosed amount of money to get the junk back, and he plans to use those dollars to help fund a new rink in the community northeast of Regina.

He said having the men show up Tuesday felt like any other day.

“It’s no different than going to seed a crop or harvesting a good crop. It’s all just the same thing,” Sawchuk told reporters.

“I guess the one thing is it’s a little community that is on the map. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again and somebody doesn’t get hurt.”

Sawchuk, who briefly spoke with the SpaceX staff, said they told him the company wants to figure out why the debris didn’t dissolve in the atmosphere.

“They realized there was an issue, so they’re trying to deal with it,” he said.

Samantha Lawler, an astronomy professor at the University of Regina who was at the farm to witness the retrieval, said she wanted to learn why the space junk didn’t burn up.


She said the company has thousands of Starlink satellites in orbit that are expected to re-enter Earth in batches over the next few years. There will be problems if they hit the ground, she said.

“If those re-entries make it to the ground in hundred-pound pieces of garbage, like we just saw, that (could) kill lots of people. It’s terrifying.”

Lawler added she wasn’t surprised the SpaceX workers didn’t share more details.

“SpaceX is so notorious for not responding to journalists, ever,” she said.

Lawler previously sent photos and information about Sawchuk’s debris to Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard who tracks space launches.

Looking at data, McDowell determined the farmer’s find was likely linked to a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft that returned to Earth with four passengers from the International Space Station in February.

Debris has also been found in other locations in the United States and Australia.
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Elon Musk pursued women working at SpaceX for sex: Report
Author of the article:Bloomberg News
Bloomberg News
Catherine Larkin
Published Jun 12, 2024 • 1 minute read

SpaceX Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk pursued women working at the company for sex, including a former intern, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing affidavits signed by one of the women and other interviews.


Former SpaceX executives told the Journal that company policies aren’t enforced with Musk, and that contributes to a culture of sexism and harassment. President Gwynne Shotwell disagreed with that assessment, telling the newspaper that SpaceX fully investigates all complaints of harassment and takes appropriate actions in response.

Musk and SpaceX didn’t reply to requests for comment from Bloomberg. Allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation at SpaceX have been raised in previous legal filings, including California civil rights complaints earlier this year.
 

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Voyager 1 is back to life in interstellar space, but for how long?
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Joel Achenbach, The Washington Post
Published Jun 13, 2024 • 4 minute read

NASA engineers have succeeded in breathing new life into Voyager 1, the spacecraft launched in 1977 and once again communicating after it went silent seven months ago. But now comes another challenge: Keeping Voyager 1 scientifically useful for as long as possible as it probes a realm where no spacecraft has gone before.


Voyager 1 and its twin, Voyager 2, are treasured at NASA not only because they have sent home astonishing images of the outer planets, but also because in their dotage, they are still doing science that can’t be readily duplicated.

They are now in interstellar space, far beyond the orbits of Neptune and Pluto. Voyager 1 is more than 15 billion miles from Earth and Voyager 2 nearly 13 billion miles. Both have passed the heliopause, where the “solar wind” of particles streaming from the sun terminates.

“They’re going someplace where we have nothing, we have no information,” NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy said. “We don’t know anything about the interstellar medium. Is it a highly charged environment? Are there a lot of dust particles out there?”


Even as the Voyagers continue their journeys, engineers and scientists at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. are mourning the loss of Ed Stone, the scientist who guided the mission from 1972 until his retirement in 2022. Stone, a former director of JPL, died June 9 at the age of 88.

“It’s great. This is exploration. This is wonderful,” Stone told The Washington Post in 2013 when he and his colleagues determined that Voyager 1 had reached interstellar space.

Voyager 1 has four scientific instruments still operational in this extended phase of its mission, but it suddenly ceased sending intelligible data on Nov. 14. A “tiger team” of engineers at JPL spent the ensuing months identifying the problem – a malfunctioning computer chip – and restoring communication.


That laborious process is nearly complete. Data is coming from all four instruments, project scientist Linda Spilker said, though engineers are still checking to see whether data from two of the instruments is fully usable.

What no one can change, though, is the mortality of a spacecraft with a limited power supply. Voyager 1 is running on fumes, or, more precisely, on the dwindling power from the radioactive decay of plutonium.

The Voyagers have traveled so far from the sun they can’t rely on solar power and instead use a radioisotope thermoelectric generator. But an RTG doesn’t last forever. Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 will eventually go silent as they continue to cruise the galaxy. NASA scientists and engineers are hoping Voyager 1 can keep sending data until at least Sept. 5, 2027, the 50th anniversary of its launch.


“At some point, we’ll have to start turning off the science instruments one by one,” Spilker said. “Once we’re out of power, then we can no longer keep the spacecraft pointed at the Earth. And so [the Voyagers] will then continue on as what I like to think of as our silent ambassadors.”

In a sense, this is all a bonus because the primary mission for the two Voyagers was the exploration of the outer planets. Both visited Jupiter and Saturn, and Voyager 2 went on to Uranus and Neptune in what was known as the “Grand Tour” of the outer solar system, enabled by a rare orbital arrangement of the planets. The Voyagers delivered spectacular close-up images of the outer planets, and the mission ranks among NASA’s greatest achievements.


The gravitational slingshot from the planetary encounters sent Voyager 1 out of the elliptical plane of the solar system and did the same to Voyager 2 in a different direction.

About four years ago, Voyager 1 encountered something unexpected – a phenomenon scientists have dubbed a pressure front. Jamie Rankin, deputy project scientist, said the instruments on the spacecraft picked up a sudden change in the magnetic field of the interstellar environment, as well as a sudden increase in the density of particles.

What exactly caused this change remains unknown. But NASA scientists are eager to get all the data flowing normally again to see whether the pressure front is still detectable.

“Is the pressure front still there; what is happening with it?” Melroy said.


Voyager 1 is heading toward the constellation Ophiuchus, according to NASA, and in about 38,000 years, it will come within 1.7 light-years of an unremarkable star near the Little Dipper. But although it will have long gone silent, it does carry the equivalent of a message in a bottle: the “Golden Record.”

The record was curated by a committee led by astronomer Carl Sagan and includes greetings in 55 languages, sounds of surf, wind and thunderstorms, a whale song and music ranging from Beethoven to Chuck Berry to a Navajo chant. The Golden Record is accompanied by instructions for playing it, should the spacecraft someday come into the hands of an intelligent species interested in finding out about life on Earth.

“The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced spacefaring civilizations in interstellar space,” Sagan said.

But that advanced spacefaring civilization might not be an alien one, NASA scientists point out. It’s conceivable that the cosmic message in a bottle could be picked up someday by a human deep-space mission eager to examine a vintage spaceship.