Another Starship Test Tank is Pushed to the Limit and Explodes

They say that failure can be the greatest teacher of all, and it’s easy to see why. Those who learn from their mistakes become informed as to what can go wrong, and will develop the necessary strategies to avoid making the same mistake in the future. This philosophy is also at the core of SpaceX rapid-prototyping process, where full-scale models of the Starship and its components are tested to the point of failure.

At Boca Chica, SpaceX ground crews continue to follow this process in order to get the Starship ready for orbital testing. The latest piece of hardware that was tested to failure was the SN7.1 Test Tank, which was pressurized until it exploded. This test took place a week ago (on the evening of September 23rd) shortly after the SN5 and SN6 prototypes both completed a 150 m (~500 ft) hop test.

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Astronauts are Getting a New Toilet Next Week

When astronauts have to go, NASA wants them to boldly go.

A new space toilet is heading to the International Space Station, with official name “Universal Waste Management System” (UWMS). (If it’s NASA, there has to be an acronym). The new toilet is smaller than the current toilets aboard the station, is more user-friendly, and includes 3-D printed titanium parts.  

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Design for a Space Habitat With Artificial Gravity That Could Be Grown Larger Over Time to Fit More People

There are two main approaches that humanity can take to living in space.  The one more commonly portrayed is of us colonizing other celestial bodies such as the Moon and Mars.  That approach comes with some major disadvantages, including dealing with toxic soils, clingy dust, and gravity wells.

The alternative is to build our own habitats.  These could be located anywhere in the solar system, could be of any size that material science allows, and have different characteristics, such as temperature, climate, gravity, and even lengths of day.  Unfortunately, we are still a very long way from building anything like a fully sized habitat.  However, we are now one step closer to doing so with the release of a paper from a team at Texas A&M that describes a way to build an expandable space habitat of concentric cylinders that can house up to 8000 people.

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The Space Court Foundation is Now in Session!

With the closing of the Apollo Era, the priorities of the world’s space agencies began to shift. Having spent the past two decades racing to send astronauts to orbit and to the Moon, the focus now changed towards developing the technologies needed to stay there. A new era of international cooperation, space stations, and partnerships between space agencies and commercial industry is what followed.

In the near future, things are expected to become even more interesting, with plans for the commercialization of Low Earth Orbit (LEO), the mining of Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs), and the establishment of a permanent human presence on the Moon. Beyond the logistical and technical challenges this poses, there’s been no shortage of concern about the legal issues and implications this will raise as well.

To this end, a group of legal scholars and space experts recently came together to form the Space Court Foundation (SCF), a non-profit educational organization created to foster a conversation about these and other related space issues. By beginning the conversation now, they hope, the public will be able to play an active role in the burgeoning and evolving domain known as “space law.”

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The SpaceX Starship Could be Making its Biggest Hop Yet (and a Belly-Flop) Next Month!

SpaceX is getting closer to the day when it will be able to make good on its promise of conducting regular missions to orbit, the Moon, and to Mars. At the heart of all this is the progress they are making with their Starship and Super Heavy launch system. In recent weeks, Musk’s commercial space company conducted two successful 150 m (500 ft) hop tests with the SN5 and SN6 prototypes at the Boca Chica launch facility in southern Texas.

Based on the latest announcements to come out of SpaceX, it appears that this recent string of successes has emboldened Musk and his company. Previously, Musk indicated that he was planning on making several more small hop tests and that the SN8 would attempt a 20 km (12 mi) flight sometime next year. More recent indications, however, suggest that Musk wants to conduct this high-altitude test before the end of October.

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Electron Rocket’s 13th Launch Failed, Destroying its Satellite Payload

This past weekend (June 5th), the California and New Zealand-based aerospace company Rocket Lab suffered a terrible accident. During the 13th launch of their Electron rocket, an anomaly caused the second stage of the rocket to explode in midair. Luckily, there were no injuries, but the explosion did claim the mission payload, which consisted of satellites and commercial payloads for three different companies.

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Behold! The Martian Menu, Courtesy of Mars City Design!

Today, there is no shortage of people who want to see humans go to Mars in their lifetime. Moreover, many want to go there themselves, and some even want to stay! It goes without saying that this proposed endeavor presents all kinds of challenges (the word Herculean comes to mind!) This is especially true when it comes to feeding future missions to Mars, not to mention permanent residents.

Regular resupply missions to Mars are simply not feasible, which means astronauts and settlers will have to grow their own food. To inspire ideas for how this could be done, and what the resulting meals would be like, Vera Mulyani and the organization she founded (Mars City Design) created the Martian Feast Gala. This annual event showcases what a Martian Menu could consist of and illustrates how every challenge is an opportunity to get creative!

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What Does it Mean to Be a Space Architect?

Here on Earth, the concept of architecture (and those who specialize in it), is pretty clear and straightforward. But in space, human beings have comparatively little experience living and working in habitats. For the past sixty years, multiple space stations have been sent to Low Earth Orbit (LEO), which include the now-defunct Salyut stations, Skylab, and Mir, as well as the present-day International Space Station (ISS).

But in the near the future, we hope to build stations and commercial habitats in LEO, on the surface of the Moon, and Mars. In addition to needing a steady supply of food, water, and other necessities, measures will need to be taken to ensure the psychological well-being of their crews. In a recent article, Stellar Amenities founder and CEO (a space architect herself!) Anastasia Prosina explored how space architecture can meet these needs.

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Crew Dragon Will Be Launching on May 27th

NASA and SpaceX are targeting May 27, 2020 for an historic mission: the launch of the first astronauts on the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, with the destination as the International Space Station (ISS). The crew, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, are scheduled to launch on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:32 pm EDT that day from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. If all goes well, the Crew Dragon will autonomously dock with the space station about 24 hours later.

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Rocket Lab was Able to Catch Falling Inert Rocket Stage With a Helicopter, Continuing Their Path to Reusability

In the summer of 2017, the company Rocket Lab officially tossed its hat into the commercial aerospace (aka. NewSpace) ring with the first test flights of their two-stage Electron Rocket. Dedicated to providing cost-effective launch services for the small satellite market, the company began conducting commercial launches from their complexes in New Zealand and California using the lightweight Electron.

Looking to cut the costs associated with individual launches further, Rocket Lab has decided to pursue reusability as well. In early March, before the isolation orders were issued, the company achieved a major milestone when it conducted a successful mid-air recovery of the test stage of an Electron Rocket – which involved a helicopter catching the test stage after its parachute deployed.

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