In 2011, NASA announced a bold new program to leverage partnerships between the government and the commercial space sector to restore domestic launch capability. As part of the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX to develop next-generation crew-rated capsules that would transport astronauts and payloads to International Space Station (ISS) and other locations in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO).
While SpaceX has managed to meet all the requirements of the CCP with their Crew Dragon module, Boeing’s Starliner has experienced technical problems and several delays. With the latest delay (caused by the ISS being temporarily pushed out of its orbit), NASA has decided to reassign the astronauts that were scheduled to take the Starliner on its maiden crewed flight (Starliner-1) to the next crewed flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the ISS (Crew-5).
Continue reading “The Astronauts who Would Have Tested Starliner Have Been Reassigned to an Upcoming SpaceX Crew Dragon Launch”
Starlink keeps growing, and so do its capabilities. Lately, even people outside of SpaceX have even been developing capabilities for it. A team of researchers from the Ohio State University (OSU) and the University of California Irvine (UCI) has developed a way to use Starlinks networked satellites as a basic navigation tool.
Continue reading “Starlink can be Used as a Navigation System too”
Update: SpaceX has posted footage of what its like to see Earth from space when peering through the Resilience‘s cupola!
Today, history was made when the first all-civilian spaceflight launched from Launch Complex 39A at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The purpose of this flight was to raise awareness and funds for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and offer inspiration to people all over the world. Operated by SpaceX and sponsored by Jared Isaacman and Shift4Payments, this flight illustrates how accessibility to space is growing by leaps and bounds.
The mission began at 08:02 PM local time (05:02 PM PST) as the Crew Dragon spacecraft blasted off the launch pad atop a SpaceX Falcon 9. The rocket lifted off without any issues and soared into the night sky, rapidly gaining altitude towards orbit. During the next few minutes, the mission controllers at SpaceX watched in anticipation and waited for updates. They were joined by people all over the world watching the many live streams of the event.
Continue reading “SpaceX Launches Four Civilians to Space with Inspiration4!”
On the evening of Wednesday, September 15th, history will be made as a crew of four commercial astronauts launch to orbit aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft Resilience. This flight will be operated by SpaceX, sponsored by Jared Isaacman (CEO of Shift4Payments) and represents the first all-civilian spaceflight in history. The launch will take place tonight at 08:00 PM EDT (05:00 PM PDT) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A.
The purpose of this mission is to raise awareness and funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which specializes in the treatment of childhood cancers and pediatric diseases. At the same time, it demonstrates the accessibility of the modern space age, where civilians (and not just astronauts) can go to space. Universe Today’s own Alex Brock was on the scene to capture the pre-flight excitement, which was palatable!
Continue reading “Here’s How to Watch Inspiration4 Blast off on Wednesday.”
In ten days, SpaceX and the payment processing company Shift4Payments will be making history as four commercial astronauts board the Crew Dragon Resilience and fly to space. This mission, known as Inspiration4, will be the first all-civilian flight in history, the purpose of which will be to raise awareness, funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and inspire the next generation to seek out education and employment in the STEM fields.
In preparation for this moment in spaceflight history, the four-person crew got a chance to see a key piece of hardware that will make the mission special. This was the Crew Dragon cupola, a domed glass window that replaced the usual docking adapter on the front of the spacecraft. Before it was shipped off to Florida to be integrated with the rest of the spacecraft, the crew got a chance to peer through the dome and imagine what it will be like to do so in space!
Continue reading “Inspiration 4 Crew Gets a Sneak Peak out of Crew Dragon’s Cupola”
Supply chains have been wreaking havoc across the industrial world. The complex web that holds the world’s economies together has been fraying at the edges, resulting in some unexpected shortages, such as a lack of rental cars in Alaska and a lack of Lunchables at the author’s local grocery store. Now there’s a supply shortage that directly ties to the pandemic that is starting to affect the space launch industry – oxygen.
Continue reading “COVID-19 Treatments Require so Much Oxygen it Could Delay Rocket Launches”
It’s no secret that a new Space Race has been brewing over the past few years. This time, rather than being a competition between two federal space agencies, the race has more competitors and is more complicated. In addition to more state competitors, there are also commercial space entities vying for positions and lucrative contracts. Add to that a network of public-private partnerships, and you have Space Race 2.0!
In particular, there has been quite the stir ever since NASA awarded the Artemis contract for the Human Landing System (HLS) to SpaceX. This resulted in legal challenges filed by Blue Origin and Dynetics (SpaceX’s competitors), as well as a lawsuit and messy public relations campaign. NASA has since removed the stop-work order and commenced payments to SpaceX, which recently indicated their HLS concept could be ready to go before the 2024 deadline.
Continue reading “SpaceX Thinks it can Send Humans to the Moon Sooner Than 2024”
In January of 2021, Elon Musk announced SpaceX’s latest plan to increase the number of flights they can mount by drastically reducing turnaround time. The key to this was a new launch tower that would “catch” first stage boosters after they return to Earth. This would forego the need to install landing legs on future Super Heavy boosters and potentially future Starship returning to Earth.
Musk shared this idea in response to a Tweet made by an animator who goes by the Twitter handle Erc X, who asked if his latest render (of a Starship landing next to its launch tower) was accurate. As usual, Musk responded via Twitter, saying:
Continue reading “Musk Confirms how “Mechazilla” Will Catch and Assemble Starship and Super Heavy for Rapid Reuse”
“We’re going to try to catch the Super Heavy Booster with the launch tower arm, using the grid fins to take the load… Saves mass & cost of legs & enables immediate repositioning of booster on to launch mount—ready to refly in under an hour.”
The fight over who gets to take the Artemis astronauts back to the Moon continues! It all began when NASA announced that they had awarded the contract for its Human Landing System (HLS), the reusable lunar lander that would ferry the Artemis III astronauts to the lunar surface. This decision did not sit well with the other two finalists, Blue Origin and Dynetics, who appealed the decision because NASA was showing “favoritism.”
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) rejected these appeals, which has prompted Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos to bring out the big guns. In addition to filing a lawsuit in federal court and lobbying Congress, they have also waged a public relations war against SpaceX itself, calling their safety record and into question. In response, Elon Musk took to Twitter to address Blue Origin’s claims and set the record straight.
Continue reading “Musk Says That Refueling Starship for Lunar Landings Will Take 8 Launches (Maybe 4)”
Once again, things are gearing up at SpaceX’s South Texas Launch Facility, located just outside the village of Boca Chica, Texas. In recent weeks, the aerospace community has been abuzz about the rollout and Static Fire test of the Super Heavy Booster 3 (B3) prototype. This was the first time a booster was tested, which will be responsible for launching the Starship to space in the near future. Since then, things have only ramped up some more.
First, there was the announcement on Aug. 2nd that the fourth Super Heavy prototype (the BN4) received a full complement of 29 Raptor engines and grid fins. This was followed on Aug. 3rd with news that BN4 was being moved to the launch pad and that the SN20 Starship prototype received a full six Raptor engines. On Aug. 6th, the denouement came with the stacking of both prototypes together, which resulted in the tallest rocket in the history of spaceflight!
Continue reading “Starship is Stacked on the Super Heavy Booster. The Tallest Rocket Ever Built”