All posts in “outer space”

Watch SpaceX launch NASA’s latest exoplanet-hunting satellite

SpaceX is set to launch a Falcon 9 rocket today during a 30 second window at 6:32pm EDT. Onboard is NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) designed to find exoplanets. SpaceX said this morning there’s an 80 percent chance of launching today. Following the launch, SpaceX will attempt to recover the Falcon 9 rocket and nose cone by landing the rocket on a drone ship and using parachutes to slow down fairings before they hit Atlantic. SpaceX’s high-speed net boat Mr. Stevens is still in the Pacific.

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The livestream is set to begin at 6:00pm EDT.

The satellite onboard uses four cameras to hunt for exoplanets around stars. They measure tiny dips in a star’s brightness that could indicate a planetary body passing in front of the camera’s line of sight. This is called a transit. Mission officials have said that this satellite will likely find thousands of worlds during its two-year mission.

The Falcon 9 used in today’s mission has never been launched before though if it lands successfully, it will be reportedly used in a future mission. This rocket is also the final block 4 version before Tesla starts using block 5 versions with upgraded engines and improvements to increase the reusability of the rocket.

Virgin Galactic successfully tested its rocket-powered spacecraft today for the first time since 2014

Virgin Galactic took to the skies today for the first test of its rocket-powered spacecraft in over three years. The SpaceShipTwo launch platform deployed the USS Unity at a set altitude where the space craft will fire its engines for as long as 30 seconds bringing the craft to 1 1/2 the speed of sound. This was the first powered test of the Unity since the SpaceShipTwo Enterprise broke up during a test flight in late 2014.

After the accident Richard Branson’s space program reworked a lot of components but as of late ramped up testing including releasing the Unity for glide testing.

For today’s test two pilots — Mark “Forger” Stucky and Dave Mackay — were at the controls of the VSS Unity as its dropped from its mothership. Unlike the original SpaceCraftTwo vehicle, the Unity is built by The Spaceship Company, a subsidiary of Virgin Group, which is also building two more spaceships for the space company.

Virgin Galactic has yet to announce target altitude or speed for this test. This is a big test for the company and it has been relatively quiet about its existence — a stark difference from Elon Musk’s SpaceX .

Update: Richard Branson just released a bit of info minutes after the flight.

Virgin Galactic was founded and so far existed to provide a reusable platform to reach sub-orbital altitudes of about 68 miles above the Earth. It’s capable of carrying passengers who are expected to pay around $250,000 for the trip and today’s showed that the company is back on the track to be a viable space delivery system. It’s unlikely the company could have survived another fatal disaster.

3D printed rocket maker Relativity raises $35M to simplify satellite launches

LA-based space startup Relativity has raised $35 million in Series B funding, in a new round led by Playground Global, and including existing investors Social Capital, Y Combinator Continuity and Mark Cuban. The funding will help the startup expand its automated, 3D-printing process for manufacturing rockets quickly and with greatly reduced complexity, with the ultimate aim of making it easier and cheaper to send satellites into space.

Relativity’s goal is to introduce a highly automated rocket construction process that relies on nearly 100 percent 3D printed rocket parts, to create custom, mission-specific rockets that can launch payloads the size of small cars, or much larger than those of some of its cubesat-targeting competitors. It boasts a process that has reduced rocket part count from around 100,000 to just 1,000, while also dropping labor and build time, using machine learning and even proprietary base materials to achieve these drastic reductions.

Basically, Relativity wants to play in the same ballpark as SpaceX for some prospective missions, and it’s getting closer to be able to do that. It has a 20-year test site partnerships with NASA Stennis, for use of its E4 Test Complex, and this will allow the would-be launcher to develop and quality as many as 36 complete rockets per year on the 25 acre space, with an option to grow its footprint to as many as 250 acres for launches.

Rocket’s 3D metal printer, aptly named ‘Stargate,’ is the largest of its kind in the world, and aims to be ale to go from raw materials to a flight-ready vehicle in just 60 days. The process overall should save between two and four years of time per launch overall, which would mean a drastic improvement in time allotment for mission conception to execution for commercial clients.

Behind the scenes of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch day prep

SpaceX is launching its Falcon Heavy rocket tomorrow, and if it’s successful, it’ll be twice as powerful in terms of cargo capacity as its next closest active rival. That will help give SpaceX an edge in the growing private space race, and open up new opportunities in terms of potential clients, as well as set the stage for traveling to Mars.

The launch itself is happening on Tuesday, February 6 at 1:30 PM EST, weather permitting. The window lasts until 4 PM EST, however, so if conditions are good within that time the lunch should go off as planned. There’s a backup window on February 7, which also starts at 1:30 PM EST, and we’ll be there live to watch it happen and report back all the news right here on TechCrunch.

Lego’s official ‘Women of NASA’ set goes on sale November 1


Lego has a new set that originated by a member of its Lego Ideas fan-sourced creation platform: The Women of NASA, a package that includes NASA pioneers Nancy Grace Roman, Margeret Hamilton, Sally Ride and Mae Jamison, as well as a space shuttle model, the Hubble telescope and display stands for all.

The Lego set was originally proposed by MIT News deputy editor Maia Weinstock on the Ideas platform last year, and quickly made its way to the 10,000 mark needed for official project approval by Lego.

Weinstock had suggested that the set include computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, who developed onboard software for the Apollo missions while working at NASA during the 60s; Katherine Johnson, who calculated and verified launch and landing trajectories for Mercury and Apollo programs (and who was depicted in the film Hidden Figures); Sally Ride, the first American woman in space; Nancy Grace Roman, who helped plan and create the Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s astronomy research program; and Mae Jamison, the first African-American woman in space.

The final kit includes all but Katherine Johnson, which Lego says is only because it requires approval from all involved, and apparently there was some hiccup in gaining approval from Johnson and her family at this time.

The set was designed by Lego’s Gemma Anderson and Marie Sertillanges, and sticks close to Weinstein’s original vision. Anderson and Sertillanges went to great lengths to capture specific details in the Lego recreations of these space icons, including how Sally Ride’s name tag says just “Sally,” which is in keeping with a request she actually made in real life.

Again, the Women of NASA set is on sale starting November 1, and will retail for $24.99.