Hexbyte Glen Cove Touchdown! SpaceX successfully lands Starship rocket thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Touchdown! SpaceX successfully lands Starship rocket

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In this photo screengrab made from SpaceX’s live webcast shows the Starship SN15 after landing in Boca Chica, Cameron County, Texas on May 5, 2021

SpaceX managed to land its prototype Starship rocket at its Texas base without blowing it up on Wednesday, the first time it has succeeded in doing so in five attempts.

The test flight represents a major win for the hard-charging company, which eventually wants to carry crew inside Starship for missions to Mars.

“Starship landing nominal!” tweeted founder Elon Musk triumphantly, after the last four tries ended in big explosions.

“Nominal” means normal in the context of spaceflight.

The execution wasn’t quite perfect, with a small fire engulfing the base of the 50 meter- (160 feet-) high rocket, dubbed SN15, shortly after landing.

SpaceX webcaster John Insprucker explained this was “not unusual with the methane fuel we’re using,” adding engineers were still working out design issues.

The flames were quickly put out with water cannons, footage showed.

Earlier, the rocket took off at around 5:25 pm local time (2225 GMT) from the Starbase in Boca Chica in southern Texas, reached an altitude of 10 kilometers (6 miles) and performed a series of maneuvers, including a horizontal descent called a “belly flop.”

SpaceX was facing added pressure to succeed with Wednesday’s flight after NASA last month announced a version of Starship will be used as a lunar lander when the space agency returns humans to the Moon.

But the $2.9 billion contract is currently suspended after two rival companies, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Dynetics, lodged a protest.

Nevertheless, if the award is eventually confirmed, it will transform Starship from Musk’s pet project to a major tax payer-funded venture, with all the scrutiny that entails.

The first two flight tests of Starship, SN8 and SN9, both crash landed and exploded when they launched in December and February, respectively.

The next, SN10, successfully landed then blew up a few minutes later on March 3.

The video feed cut out during the test flight of the fourth, SN11, with Musk later confirming it too had exploded, this time in mid-flight.

Eventually, SpaceX plans to combine the Starship spaceship with a Super Heavy rocket, creating a fully reusable system to explore deep into our solar system.

This final version will stand 394 feet (120 meters) tall and will be able to carry 100 metric tonnes into Earth orbit—the most powerful launch vehicle ever developed.

Musk wants to use this to help realize his goal of transforming humanity into a multiplanetary species with a colony on Mars.

The planned lunar version of Starship would however serve a more modest goal—docking with a future lunar orbital station, collecting astronauts, then setting them down on the Moon.

To get the astronauts to the lunar station in the first place, NASA has a more traditional plan in mind: using its own giant SLS rocket with a crew capsule called Orion affixed on top.

But the SLS rocket has suffered severe delays and cost overruns, and observers have mused if Starship succeeds, it could one day make SLS obsolete.



© 2021 AFP

Citation:
Touchdown! SpaceX successfully lands Starship rocket (2021, May 6)
retrieved 7 May 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-05-touchdown-spacex-successfully-starship-rocket.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove NASA chooses SpaceX to take humans back to Moon thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove NASA chooses SpaceX to take humans back to Moon

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For its Moon lander bid, SpaceX put forward its reuseable Starship spacecraft

NASA has selected SpaceX to land the first astronauts on the surface of the Moon since 1972, the agency said Friday, in a huge victory for Elon Musk’s company.

The contract, worth $2.9 billion, involves the prototype Starship spacecraft that is being tested at SpaceX’s south Texas facility.

“Today I’m very excited, and we are all very excited to announce that we have awarded SpaceX to continue the development of our integrated human landing system,” said Lisa Watson-Morgan, NASA’s Human Landing System program manager.

SpaceX beats out Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics to be the sole provider for the system, a surprising break from the past when NASA has chosen multiple companies in case one fails.

Industry analysts said the decision underscores the company, founded by Musk in 2002 with the goal of colonizing Mars, as NASA’s most trusted private sector partner.

Last year, SpaceX became the first private firm to successfully send a crew to the International Space Station, restoring American capacity to accomplish the feat for the first time since the Shuttle program ended.

For its Moon lander bid, SpaceX put forward its reusable Starship spacecraft, which is designed to carry large crews and cargo for deep space voyages, and land upright both on Earth and other celestial bodies.

Prototypes of the vessel are currently being put through their paces at the company’s south Texas facility, though all four versions that have so far attempted test flights have exploded.

Under the Artemis program to return humans to the Moon, NASA wants to use the Space Launch System rocket to launch four astronauts on board an Orion crew capsule, which will then dock with a lunar space station called Gateway.

Starship will be waiting to receive two crew members for the final leg of the journey to the surface of the Moon.

The idea is for Gateway to be the go-between but for the initial mission Orion might dock directly with Starship, Watson-Morgan said.

The astronauts would then spend a week on the Moon before boarding Starship to return to lunar orbit, then take Orion back to Earth.

Separately, SpaceX has plans to combine the Starship spaceship with its own Super Heavy rocket, to make a combined vessel that will tower 394 feet (120 meters) tall and be the most powerful launch vehicle ever deployed.

Humanity last stepped foot on the Moon in 1972 during the Apollo program.

NASA wants to go back and establish a sustainable presence, complete with a lunar space station, in order to test new technologies that will pave the way for a crewed mission to Mars.

In 2019, then vice president Mike Pence challenged NASA to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024, but it’s likely that timeline will be relaxed under President Joe Biden.

Another change under the current administration is its stated goal of placing the first person of color on the Moon under the Artemis program.



© 2021 AFP

Citation:
NASA chooses SpaceX to take humans back to Moon (2021, April 16)
retrieved 18 April 2021

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