Using Balloons to Launch Rockets

Since the turn of the century, space exploration has changed dramatically thanks to the unprecedented rise of commercial aerospace (aka. NewSpace). With the goal of leveraging new technologies and lowering the costs of launching payloads into space, some truly innovative and novel ideas are being put forth. This includes the idea of using balloons to carry rockets to very high-altitudes, then firing the payloads to their desired orbits.

Also known as “Rockoons”, this concept has informed Leo Aerospace‘s fully-autonomous and fully-reusable launch system – which consists of a high-altitude aerostat (balloon) and a rocket launch platform. With the first commercial launches slated for next year, the company plans to use this system to provide regular launch services to the microsatellite (aka. CubeSat) market in the coming years.

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SpaceX Launches Another 60 Starlink Satellites

In May of 2019, Elon Musk began delivering on his promise to create a constellation of satellites (named Starlink) that would offer broadband internet access. It all started with the launch of the first sixty Starlink satellites and was followed by Musk sending the inaugural tweet using the service this past October. Earlier today, another batch of Starlink satellites was sent into space as part of a live-streamed launch event.

The mission, known as Starlink-1, saw the launch of another 60 satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, atop a Falcon 9 rocket. Unlike previous launches, this mission involved the latest version of Starlink (Starlink 1.0), which feature a number of upgrades and refinements over the previous version (Starlink 0.9) and made this mission the heaviest Starlink launch to date.

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Elon Musk Tweets with Starlink. Services Could be Available Next Year.

In January of 2015, Elon Musk shared his vision of creating a constellation of satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) that would provide broadband internet access to the entire planet. Back in May, SpaceX launched the first batch of 60 Starlink satellites to orbit, with plans to send an additional 1,584 to space by 2024 and 2,200 more by 2027.

Naturally, consumers have been wondering when they will be able to avail themselves of this new internet service. As SpaceX Chief Operations Officer Gwynne Shotwell announced on October 22nd, the company should be able to offer broadband access within the US by mid-2020. This came a day after Musk sent the inaugural tweet using Starlink services.

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Now that Many Countries Have the Ability to Destroy Satellites, the US is Figuring Out Ways to Make Them More Armored

As long as human beings have been sending satellites into space, they have been contemplating ways to destroy them. In recent years, the technology behind anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons has progressed considerably. What’s more, the ability to launch and destroy them extends beyond the two traditional superpowers (the US and Russia) to include newcomers like India, China, and others.

For this reason, Sandia National Laboratories – a federal research center headquartered in New Mexico – has launched a seven-year campaign to develop autonomous satellite protection systems. Known as the Science and Technology Advancing Resilience for Contested Space (STARCS), this campaign will fund the creation of hardware and software that will allow satellites to defend themselves.

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SpaceX Files a Request to Launch Another 30,000 Satellites for Starlink, on Top of the 12,000 They’re Already Planning to Launch

SpaceX is really kicking things into high-gear with its Starlink network. The creation of this satellite constellation is central to Elon Musk’s vision of providing high-bandwidth internet access to a global market. Deployment began in earnest back in May with the launch of the first sixty Starlink satellites, with plans to launch an additional 1,584 by 2024 and 2,200 by 2027.

Until now, SpaceX’s long-term goal was to create a constellation of 12,000 satellites at altitudes ranging from 328 km to 580 km (200 to 360 mi) – based on what the FCC has approved so far. But according to recent filings with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), SpaceX intends to send an additional 30,000 Starlink satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in the coming years.

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Thanks to Trump, We’ve Got a Better Idea of the Capabilities of US Surveillance Satellites

The US President has done it again.

Just when you think things can’t get any more—”unusual”— in the White House, the President has Tweeted an American spy satellite image as part of a juvenile jab at Iranian leadership. After some sleuthing, astronomers were able to figure out which satellite it came from: a (formerly) top-secret satellite called USA 224, an optical reconnaissance satellite.

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NASA Tests Water Powered Spacecraft in Orbit

Picture two tissue box-sized spacecraft orbiting Earth.

Then picture them communicating, and using a water-powered thruster to approach each other. If you can do that, then you’re up to speed on one of the activities of NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program (SSTP.) It’s all part of NASA’s effort to develop small spacecraft to serve their space exploration, science, space operations, and aeronautics endeavors.

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