Starlinks Can Produce Surprisingly Bright Flares to Pilots

This diagram and artist illustration demonstrates how sunlight reflects off a Starlink version 1.5 satellite. (Credit: SpaceX)

How can sunlight reflecting off SpaceX’s Starlink satellites interfere with ground-based operations? This is what a recently submitted study hopes to address as a pair of researchers investigate how Starlink satellites appear brighter—which the researchers also refer to as flaring—to observers on Earth when the Sun is at certain angles, along with discussing past incidents of how this brightness has influenced aerial operations on Earth, as well. This study holds the potential to help spacecraft manufacturers design and develop specific methods to prevent increased brightness levels, which would help alleviate confusion for observers on Earth regarding the source of the brightness and the objects in question.

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SpaceX Shows Off Its New Extravehicular Activity Suit

SpaceX just revealed the EVA suits their Polaris commercial astronauts will use. Credit: SpaceX

In February 2022, SpaceX and entrepreneur/philanthropist Jared Isaacman (commander of the Inspiration4 mission) announced they were launching a new program to “rapidly advance human spaceflight capabilities” while supporting important charitable and humanitarian causes here on Earth. It’s called the Polaris Program. In a recent press release, SpaceX revealed the spacesuits its Polaris astronauts will be wearing (up top) and described the research crews will conduct during the program’s three human spaceflight missions – the first of which is scheduled to launch this summer!

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Starship Reaches Orbit on SpaceX’s Third Test but Breaks Up on Re-Entry

Starship rising into the sky
SpaceX's Starship rocket rises into the skies over Texas. (SpaceX Photo)

After falling short in its first two attempts, SpaceX got its Starship super-rocket to an orbital altitude today during the launch system’s third integrated flight test. Now it just has to work on the landing. 

Today’s test marked a major milestone in SpaceX’s effort to develop Starship as the equivalent of a gigantic Swiss Army knife for spaceflight, with potential applications ranging from the deployment of hundreds of Starlink broadband satellites at a time to crewed odysseys to the moon, Mars and beyond.

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SpaceX is Gearing Up for the Starship’s Third Orbital Test Flight

The fully-stacked Starship and Super Heavy liftoff from the Starbase Launch Facility. Credit: SpaceX

The Starship/Super Heavy is the world’s first fully reusable launch system and the most powerful rocket in history. It is also the key to fulfilling SpaceX’s long-term vision of broadband satellite internet, delivering crews and cargo to the lunar surface, and creating the first self-sustaining city on Mars. After years of development, design changes, and “hop tests” at the company’s launch facility near Boca Chica, Texas, orbital test flights finally began in April last year. The first two flights ended in the loss of both vehicles, though the second flight saw the Starship prototype reach orbit.

According to a recent statement from the company, Flight Test-3 (FT-3) could be happening as soon as Thursday, March 14th, pending approval of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The event will be covered in a live webcast streaming on the company website and SpaceX’s official X (Twitter) account.

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Now We Know Why Starship’s Second Flight Test Failed

The moment of separation between Superheavy and Starship. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX is often in the headlines, unfortunlatey its not always good news. On 18th November we saw the second of the Starship and SuperHeavy booster get off the launchpad successfully, it failed before reaching orbit. In a recent event, Elon Musk explained how a fuel venting near the end of the burn was responbie but entirely avoidable next time!

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A Chinese Booster (and Additional Secret Payload) Caused a Double Crater on the Moon

A rocket body impacted the Moon on March 4, 2022, near Hertzsprung crater, creating a double crater roughly 28 meters wide in the longest dimension. Credits: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Last year, astronomers warned that a large piece of debris was on a collision course with the Moon. Initially, they speculated that it was a SpaceX booster but later zeroed in on a Chinese Long March 3C rocket booster that launched the Chang’e 5 mission. When it did impact on March 4, 2022, astronomers noted a strange double crater.

A new paper suggests that it couldn’t have been a single object breaking up since there’s no atmosphere on the Moon. Instead, the booster must have been carrying an additional, undisclosed payload.

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SpaceX Tested Its Starship Again. Successful Launch But Both Vehicles Were Destroyed

The SN25 Starship and BN9 booster on the landing pad at Boca Chica, Texas. Credit: SpaceX

After months of waiting, SpaceX made its second attempt at an orbital flight this past Saturday (November 18th). During their previous attempt, which occurred back in April, a fully-stacked Starship (SN24) and Super Heavy (BN7) prototypes managed to make it off the landing pad and reach an altitude of about 40 km (25 miles) above sea level. Unfortunately, the SN24 failed to separate from the BN7 booster a few minutes into the flight, causing the vehicle to fall into an uncontrolled tumble and forcing the ground teams to detonate the onboard charges.

Things went better this time as the SN25 and BN9 prototypes took off at about 7:00 AM local time (8:00 AM EDT; 05:00 AM PDT) from the Starbase launch complex. The SN25 successfully separated from its booster two minutes and fifty seconds later – at an altitude of 70 km (43 mi) – and reached an altitude of about 148 kilometers (92 miles), just shy of SpaceX’s goal of 150 km (~93 mi). However, the booster stage was lost about 30 seconds after separation, exploding over the Gulf of Mexico. The SN25 also exploded about eight minutes into the flight, reportedly because its flight termination system was activated.

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Starship Could Be Ready to Launch on Friday

SpaceX Starship's Superheavy Booster, serial no. B7, being tested on the orbital launch pad at Starbase, Boca Chica, Texas in February 2023.
SpaceX Starship's Superheavy Booster at Starbase, Boca Chica, Texas (Credit : Mobilus In Mobili)

Space exploration should never be run of the mill nor something that finds itself on the back pages of the newspaper.  Captain James T. Kirk was right that space really is the final frontier and making it more accessible is one of the driving forces behind SpaceX.  Their mission to seek out new life and new civilisations, wait that’s wrong – that’s Starfleet.  The SpaceX mission ‘to revolutionise space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets is at the forefront of the development of the enormous Starship which may make another launch attempt as soon as this Friday 17th November. 

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SpaceX Test Fires a Raptor Engine, Simulating a Lunar Landing

A Raptor Vacuum engine was successfully cold-started during a test in August 2023. Via SpaceX.

When NASA astronauts return to the surface of the Moon in the Artemis III mission, the plan is to use a modified SpaceX Starship as their lunar lander. NASA announced last week that SpaceX has now demonstrated an important capability of the vacuum-optimized Raptor engine that will be used for the lander: an extreme cold start.  

A test last month successfully confirmed the engine can be started in the frigid conditions of space, even when the vehicle has spent an extended time in space, where temperatures will drop lower than a shorter low-Earth orbit mission. The Raptor vacuum engine was chilled to mimic conditions after a long coast period in space, and then was successfully fired.  

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Crew-7 Reaches the International Space Station

The SpaceX Dragon Endurance spacecraft, with four Crew-7 crew members aboard, approaches the space station for a docking on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023. Credit: NASA TV

SpaceX Crew-7, the next group of four astronauts, are now on board the International Space Station, and this diverse crew is definitely putting “International” in the ISS. The new crew hails from four different countries: the US, Denmark, Japan and Russia. There will be 11 people on board the station for a few days before the Crew-6 foursome head back to Earth.

NASA has at least 200 science experiments and technology demonstrations queued up for Crew-7[‘s six months space, many of which will help prepare for the upcoming Artemis missions.

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