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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Starlink on Mars? NASA Is Paying SpaceX to Look Into the Idea

Starlink satellites in Earth orbit, under consideration for Mars
An artist's conception shows Starlink satellites in orbit. Credit: SpaceX

NASA has given the go-ahead for SpaceX to work out a plan to adapt its Starlink broadband internet satellites for use in a Martian communication network.

The idea is one of a dozen proposals that have won NASA funding for concept studies that could end up supporting the space agency’s strategy for bringing samples from Mars back to Earth for lab analysis. The proposals were submitted by nine companies — also including Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance, Astrobotic, Firefly Aerospace, Impulse Space, Albedo Space and Redwire Space.

Awardees will be paid $200,000 to $300,000 for their reports, which are due in August. NASA says the studies could lead to future requests for proposals, but it’s not yet making any commitment to follow up.

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Watch a Real-Time Map of Starlinks Orbiting Earth

Image of the Starlink interactive map offered by SpaceX. (Credit: StarlinkMap.org)

In an effort to enhance the educational outreach of their Starlink constellation, there is an interactive global map of their Starlink internet satellites, which provides live coverage of every satellite in orbit around the Earth. This interactive map and information was produced by Will DePue, who is a an OpenAI programmer and openly states he is not affiliated with SpaceX or Starlink. This interactive map comes as SpaceX continues to launch Starlink satellites into orbit on a near-weekly basis with the goal of providing customers around the world with high-speed internet while specifically targeting rural regions of the globe. In 2022, Starlink officially reached all seven continents after Starlink service became available in Antarctica. Additionally, SpaceX announced in 2023 a partnership with T-Mobile for Starlink to provide mobile coverage, as well.

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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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A Capsule With Antiviral Drugs Grown in Space Returns to Earth

The W-1 capsule landing at the Utah Test and Training Range. Credit: Vargas Space Industries

On Wednesday, February 21st, at 01:40 p.m. PST (04:40 p.m. EST), an interesting package returned to Earth from space. This was the capsule from the W-1 mission, an orbital platform manufactured by California-based Varda Space Industries, which landed at the Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR). Even more interesting was the payload, which consisted of antiviral drugs grown in the microgravity environment of Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The mission is part of the company’s goal to develop the infrastructure to make LEO more accessible to commercial industries.

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Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus Lander Begins Its Moon Odyssey

Odysseus launch on SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rises from its Florida launch pad to send Intuitive Machines' Odysseus moon lander spaceward. (NASA via YouTube)

Now it’s Intuitive Machines’ turn to try making history with a robotic moon landing.

Today’s launch of the Houston-based company’s Odysseus lander marks the first step in an eight-day journey that could lead to the first-ever soft landing of a commercial spacecraft on the moon. Odysseus would also be the first U.S.-built spacecraft to touch down safely on the lunar surface since Apollo 17’s mission in 1972.

The lander — which is as big as an old-fashioned British phone booth, or the Tardis time portal from the “Doctor Who” TV series — was sent spaceward from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 1:05 a.m. ET (0605 UTC).

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Space Force Chooses its First “Guardian” to go to Space

U.S. Space Force Col. Nick Hague will serve as the pilot on NASA’s Space X Crew-9 mission aboard the Dragon spacecraft that will take him and his crewmates to the International Space Station. Credit: U.S. Space Force.

Although the U.S. Space Force is tasked with military operations in regards to space, they’ve never actually sent one of their own into orbit. This week, the agency announced that Col. Nick Hague will launch to the International Space Station in August 2024 to pilot the Crew-9 mission, as part of SpaceX’s ninth crew rotation to the ISS for NASA. He’ll join two NASA astronauts and a cosmonaut on the trip to space and then work as a flight engineer, spending six months on the station doing research and operations activities.

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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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