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.
SpaceX’s Starship launch system lifted off on its first full-scale test flight today, rising majestically from its Texas launch pad but falling short of stage separation.
The uncrewed mission represented the most ambitious test yet for the world’s most powerful rocket — which eventually could send people to the moon and Mars, and even between spaceports on our own planet.
Liftoff from SpaceX’s Starbase complex at Boca Chica on the South Texas coast came at 8:33 a.m. CDT (9:33 a.m. EDT). The Starship system’s Super Heavy booster, powered by 33 methane-fueled Raptor rocket engines, rose into clear skies with a deafening roar and a blazing pillar of flame.
Hundreds of SpaceX employees cheered at the company’s California headquarters, but the crowd turned quiet three minutes into the flight when the Starship upper stage failed to separate from the booster as planned. The entire rocket spun in the air as a ground-based camera watched.
A minute later, SpaceX’s flight termination system destroyed both stages of the rocket as a safety measure. “Obviously, we wanted to make it all the way through, but to get this far, honestly, is amazing,” launch commentator Kate Tice said.
The purpose of this workshop is to identify activities that will help prepare for missions to Mars by the 2030s. In particular, the workshop sought to address how a sustainable program of human Martian exploration can be achieved. The highlights of this event were recently shared with the release of the Achieve Mars (AM) IX Report, which established priorities and science objectives for future missions to Mars. The authors also made several recommendations for how cutting-edge technologies could play a role, how the health and safety of astronauts can be assured, and how Mars and Earth can be protected from possible contamination.
For years, China has been dropping hints about its Long March 9 (CZ-9) rocket, a three-stage super-heavy variant of the Long March family. This launch vehicle will reportedly be capable of transporting up to 150,000 kg (165 tons) to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and 54,000 kg (59.5 tons) to a trans-lunar injection. On March 2nd, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) announced (via the Chinese social media platform Weixin) that it had finished building the first propellant tank for the CZ-9.
The news was accompanied by pictures that showed the finished tank and the many components that went into making it – and they are massive!
Another day, another static fire test, another milestone on the road to space! For months, crews at the SpaceX Starbase near Boca Chica, Texas, have been conducting static fire tests of the B7 Super Heavy booster prototype. In previous tests, the ground crews test-fired 7 to 14 of the B7s Raptor 2 engines for periods lasting 7 to 13 seconds. Today, the crews prepped the BN7 Booster for the first static fire test, where all thirty-three engines would fire simultaneously. While two of its Raptors did not fire, the test was a success and set a new record for the amount of thrust produced in a single booster fire.
Four years after announcing that he’d lead an around-the-moon mission aboard SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has named the eight people he wants to fly with him.
In 2018, Maezawa said he’d fund a mission aimed at letting creative artists on the level of the late Pablo Picasso or Michael Jackson experience a trip beyond Earth orbit. Some of the people he’s picked are making use of creative channels that didn’t exist when Picasso was in his prime.
The eight crew members — and two alternates — were chosen out of more than a million people from 249 countries and regions who registered their interest via Maezawa’s DearMoon website.
“I’m very thrilled to have these amazing people join me on my journey to the moon and excited to see what inspiring creations they come up with in space,” Maezawa said as he announced his selections.
SpaceX is at it again! Yesterday (November 29th), the company conducted another static fire test with the Booster 7 (BN7) prototype at its Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas. The test began at 02:42 p.m. EST (11:42 a.m. PST) and saw eleven of the BN7’s thirty-three Raptor 2 engines fire for 13 seconds. While static fire tests have been the norm these past few months, this latest might be the prelude to the orbital test flight Musk has been hinting at for close to a year. News of the successful test was shared via Twitter, while NASA Spaceflight (NSF) shared footage of the test via Youtube.
Twenty-one years after becoming the first paying passenger to visit the International Space Station, California financial analyst Dennis Tito and his wife, Akiko Tito, are taking on a new space adventure: a trip on SpaceX’s Starship super-rocket around the moon and back.
SpaceX Founder and CEO Elon Musk recently took to Twitter and hinted that the much-anticipated Starship—currently undergoing upgrades in preparation for its upcoming maiden flight—could launch as soon as November.
Responding to a question from a curious Twitter account asking about updates for Starship’s orbital flight date, Musk responded, “Late next month maybe, but November seems highly likely. We will have two boosters & ships ready for orbital flight by then, with full stack production at roughly one every two months.” As usual, his tweet garnered thousands of likes and hundreds of retweets.
Europe plans to have its own reusable spacecraft for cargo and crewed missions to LEO and beyond. It’s called SUSIE (Smart Upper Stage for Innovative Exploration). At first glance, it may look like Europe’s answer to SpaceX’s Starship, but it’s not that simple.