All posts in “Spaceflight”

Watch Blue Origin’s most critical rocket launch right here

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The launch is scheduled for 11:00 am EDT on July 18, 2018.

Blue Origin is about to preform a critical rocket test. For the first time Jeff Bezos’ rocket company will send send its New Shepard rocket to its red line at the edge of space and then fire the escape motor on the capsule that will carry passengers. If this test goes well, Blue Origin’s New Shepard program could become operational as early as this year.

This is the ninth mission for the New Shepard program and the third time this reusable rocket was used.

About 20 seconds (and 100 feet) after the New Shepard booster and the crew capsule separates, the motor on the capsule will fire with 70k foot pounds of thrust, sending the capsule 50,000 km higher than it has gone before. After the motor fires, parachutes will hopefully deploy allowing the capsule to return safely to solid ground. Separately, the booster will hopefully return to Earth and land so it can be reused again.

Inside the capsule is a crash dummy loaded with instruments to measure the forces of the rocket launch. Bezos dubbed the dummy “Mannequin Skywalker” because even the richest man in modern history is a nerd. Mannequin Skywalker will experience around 3Gs during the launch, a Blue Origin representative said.

Blue Origin could charge $200k-$300k for a trip to space

How much would you pay to leave our dumpster fire of a world for just a few minutes? Blue Origin is considering charging $200,000 to $300,000 according to a Reuters report. For that price, passengers would get a seat on Blue Origin’s New Shepard, the commercial space vehicle from Jeff Bezos’ rocket company.

The rocket would take passengers to suborbital space to experience weightlessness and see the curvature of the Earth. This is done autonomously and can hold six passengers. Parachutes will return the capsule back to solid ground.

This claim comes from two people with knowledge of the space program’s pricing, Reuters says.

Passengers have time to start saving. Ferrying passengers to space is still a ways off for Blue Origin. The company has completed eight test flights including landing the rocket vertically, but has yet to strap a human into one of the seats. That’s apparently coming within weeks, one employee is quoted on saying in the Reuters’ report.

Blue Origin isn’t the only one selling tickets to space. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic says it has sold about 650 $250,000 tickets to space aboard its craft; launch dates have yet to be announced for that trip too.

Bezos has larger ambitions than just being an amusement ride. In May, speaking at the Space Development Conference in Los Angeles with the inimitable Alan Boyle, Bezos chatted about the idea of making the moon a center for heavy industry, which he thinks will help conserve resources here on Earth. When the time comes, he hopes that lunar residence and industry will be a shared privilege, with countries working together in a “lunar village” and combining their strengths rather than testing them against one another.

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.

Elon Musk’s latest SpaceX idea involves a party balloon and bounce house

Elon Musk took to Twitter Sunday night to announce a new recovery method for an upper stage SpaceX rocket. A balloon — a “giant party balloon” to quote him directly — will ferry part of a rocket to a bounce house. Seriously.

If anyone else proposed this idea they would be ignored, but Elon Musk lately has a way of turning crazy ideas into reality.

It was just in 2012 that SpaceX launched and landed its first rocket and now the company is doing it with rockets significantly larger. And then early this year SpaceX made a surprise announcement that it would attempt to use a high-speed boat and large net to catch part of rocket. And it worked after a failed first attempt.

This isn’t the first time a balloon has tried to be used to return a rocket. Legendary programmer John Carmack’s rocket company attempted to use a ballute in 2012 to return a rocket body and nose cone. It didn’t work as planned and according to officials at the time, the rocket made a “hard landing” around the Spaceport America property in New Mexico.

Just like SpaceX’s self-landing rockets and its giant net boat, the goal is to reduce the cost of launching rockets by reusing parts. It’s unclear when this latest plan will be implemented but chances are SpaceX will at least attempt it in the coming future.

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.