All posts in “Spacex”

Watch SpaceX launch NASA’s new planet-hunting satellite here

It’s almost time for SpaceX to launch NASA’s TESS, a space telescope that will search for exoplants more across nearly the entire night sky. The launch has been delayed more than once already: originally scheduled for March 20, it slipped to April 16 (Monday), then some minor issues pushed it to today — at 3:51 PM Pacific time, to be precise. You can watch the launch live below.

TESS, which stands for Transit Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is basically a giant wide-angle camera (four of them, actually) that will snap pictures of the night sky from a wide, eccentric, and never before tried orbit.

The technique it will use is fundamentally the same as that employed by NASA’s long-running and highly successful Kepler mission. When distant plants pass between us and their star, it cause a momentary decrease in that star’s brightness. TESS will monitor thousands of stars simultaneously for such “transits,” watching a single section of sky for a month straight before moving on to another.

By two years, it will have imaged 85 percent of the sky — hundreds of times the area Kepler observed, and on completely different stars: brighter ones that should yield more data.

TESS, which is about the size of a small car, will launch on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX will attempt to recover the first stage of the rocket by having it land on a drone ship, and the nose cone will, hopefully, get a gentle parachute-assisted splashdown in the Atlantic, where it too can be retrieved.

The feed below should go live 15 minutes before launch, or at about 3:35.

[embedded content]

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.

[embedded content]

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.

SpaceX has authorized new shares that could value it at $24B

SpaceX has authorized a new Series I round for 3 million shares in a new round that will be worth up to $507 million, according to a certificate of incorporation document filed in Delaware.

If all shares in this round are issued, the new round would value SpaceX at around $23.7 billion, according to the new filing provided by Lagniappe Labs, creator of the Prime Unicorn Index. We’ve previously reported that SpaceX was planning to raise around $500 million in a financing round led by Fidelity, helping provide a lot of liquidity for the company as it begins to ramp up its plans to grow its ambitious launch schedule. While the filing does not confirm that it has raised the full $500 million, it serves as another data point to support that the company has picked up an additional huge influx of cash. The 3 million shares are priced at $169, in the range that we previously reported mid March.

The FCC in March gave SpaceX the green light to launch a network of thousands of satellites to blanket the globe with broadband access. Each additional flight offers SpaceX an opportunity to not only prove out its efficiency as a launching company, but also that it can provide a wide array of companies with a potentially cheaper option to get equipment into orbit for purposes like providing broadband. SpaceX already runs plenty of missions to the International Space Station. SpaceX also won a $290 million contract with the U.S. Air Force to launch three GPS satellites.

SpaceX isn’t the only company that may end up providing a new generation of orbital launches, like Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. Virgin Galactic also successfully tested its rocket-powered spacecraft for the first time since 2014 earlier this week, and while the details on that launch are still very slim it shows that there’s a wide variety of companies that see potential in figuring out a lower-cost way to get equipment into orbit.

We also previously reported that there could be a secondary offering that could also total up to $500 million in shares. That would run through special purpose vehicles, according to what we’re hearing, which would give investors an opportunity to get some liquidity in the company as it looks to remain private a little longer with the new financing.

We reached out to SpaceX for a comment and will update the story when we get back.

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.