Elon Musk promised a short film about the inaugural Falcon Heavy launch from the team behind Westworld, and he delivered. The entrepreneur has posted the video (he calls it Falcon Heavy and Starman) in two parts on Instagram. It's not exactly a magnu… Engadget RSS Feed
A surprise guest joined the cast and creators of HBO’s Westworld at the end of the show’s SXSW panel on Saturday. SpaceX founder Elon Musk, a friend of show creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, appeared as a way to end the panel on a note of “optimism”, in Nolan’s words, while also showing the audience an inspirational trailer that Nolan created promoting the February launch of the SpaceX Heavy Falcon rocket.
“One of the things that I really used to, when I was a kid, spend an unhealthy amount of time thinking about was space, and spaceflight,” Nolan said, noting that he had grown up watching Super 8 footage of Saturn rocket launches, but that the fervor and excitement that space exploration once fostered has faded. “And so I was having…
Early Tuesday morning, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 successfully completed another launch. The rocket took off from the Complex 40 launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying a satellite for Spanish telecommunications company Hispasat.
The rocket took off promptly at 12:33 AM, and deployed its payload just shy of 33 minutes later. Several times throughout the livestream, loud cheers could be heard — the SpaceX team applauded its achievement at each phase of the successful deployment and separation.
If the rocket is reusable, it’s a moot point now — SpaceX made no attempt to land the rocket, due to forecasted choppy weather in the Atlantic, according to a press release.
The mission was originally scheduled to take off on February 25. But SpaceX needed to do more tests to make sure the rocket’s payload fairing, the shield that protects the payload shortly after launch, was properly pressurized, according to SpaceFlightNow. So the launch was pushed to today.
Weighing in at 6,092 kilograms (13,400 pounds), the satellite, dubbed the Hispasat 30W-6, marks Falcon 9’s heaviest payload ever, The Verge reports. Now that it’s presumably in orbit, the satellite will provide commercial video, data, and broadband service to Hispasat customers as the company expands its coverage to Europe, Africa, and the Americas.
With the recent success of their Falcon Heavy launch, SpaceX may seem like the current leader of the space industry. However, while Musk’s aerospace company is new and exciting, NASA isn’t finished pushing the boundaries of space flight and exploration.
In 2010, NASA began developing the Space Launch System (SLS), and upon completion, it will be the most powerful rocket in history (yes, including Falcon Heavy).
NASA is modifying the retired space shuttle’s RS-25 engines to power this rocket. On February 21, the agency tested one of those engines, and it reached a remarkable 113 percent thrust level. That means the modified RS-25 engine exceeded the absolute limit of efficiency possible when NASA built it decades ago by a whopping 13 percent.
According to NASA, the February 21 hot fire also tested the RS-25’s flight controller and a 3D-printed engine component.
“Each RS-25 test moves the agency closer and closer to its return to deep space exploration, to such destinations as the moon and Mars,” wrote NASA after the successful test, but the SLS isn’t our only hope of such missions. SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is also up to the task, and it can already fly.
As for other differences between the two spacecraft, the SLS will be much taller: 97 meters (321 feet) compared to the Falcon Heavy’s 70 meters (230 feet). The as-designed SLS also has a slightly higher payload into low-Earth orbit – 77 tons versus 70 tons – but proposed future improvements could skyrocket the SLS up to 130 tons.
As Elon Musk noted during the post-Falcon Heavy launch press conference, the craft cost about $ 500 million to develop. According to a report released by NASA’s Office of Inspector General in April 2017, the agency will spend roughly $ 23 billion on the SLS by the end of this year. Falcon Heavy is also reusable, while the SLS is not, which will affect future launch costs.
To support the launch of the SLS, NASA is modifying a launch tower originally designed for another rocket. That tower has cost NASA nearly $ 1 billion, and it may require additional improvements in the future. It might only be used once, requiring NASA to invest in another tower for any subsequent launches.
NASA has repeatedly pushed back the SLS’s launch date, but as of November 2017, the agency has their eyes on a 2020 launch. For its initial mission, Exploration Mission 1, SLS will fly a crewless capsule around the Moon, and future missions are set to explore the surface of the Moon, Mars, and far beyond.
Given NASA’s increased budgetary stress, that 2020 launch date could change, but if and when the SLS does make its maiden voyage, it will usher in a new era in spaceflight and secure NASA’s position as an aerospace company of the future, not just the past.
SpaceX successfully launched another Falcon 9 rocket today carrying Spain's radar imaging Paz satellite as well as two of its own satellites, Microsat-2a and -2b. The two experimental satellites will be used to test SpaceX's plan to deliver internet… Engadget RSS Feed
Today’s Falcon 9 reusable rocket launch may not be quite as headline-making as the Falcon Heavy’s epic sendoff a few weeks earlier, but it was nothing to sneeze at either. After all, Elon Musk does not simply launch a rocket. No, the SpaceX CEO prefers to break records. Or better yet, set them.
Today’s Falcon launch carries 2 SpaceX test satellites for global broadband. If successful, Starlink constellation will serve least served.
While the primary mission of Thursday’s launch was to carry Spain’s newest Earth-observation satellite, known as Paz, the rocket’s payload also included SpaceX’s first two internet satellites. It’s this pair of spacecraft that could kick off a new phase for the company — and for the global internet as we know it.
Musk has been working on somewhat secretive plans to launch internet satellites into orbit for a couple of years now. Back in 2016, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the launches of 4,425 SpaceX internet satellites. The company then jacked that number up to almost 12,000 – six times the number of active satellites currently orbiting Earth.
At first glance, it may not seem as impressive as launching a Tesla Roadster into space, but these satellites are pretty hefty: they’re roughly car-sized — about 390 kg (850 pounds) — and will eventually fill out SpaceX’s proposed constellation of satellites that would beam high-speed internet back down to Earth.
To that end, hitching a ride with Paz are two small telecommunication satellite prototypes: Microsat-2a and Microsat-2br. They’ll be the first of what SpaceX ultimately hopes will become two large groups of internet-beaming satellites, each operating on a different radio frequency.
Of the 12 grand, 4,425 SpaceX internet satellites will be positioned about 1,1oo km (700 miles) above Earth and the other 7,518 will orbit just 300 km (200 miles) above. The sheer number of the satellites, their varying positions in orbit, and their beaming-ability pose a formidable challenge for SpaceX.
The company will need to ensure the satellites can coordinate with receivers on Earth, for one. Then there’s the more fundamental question of how they’ll manage to keep track of so many objects in orbit and prevent them from colliding.
But if he can actually assemble this fleet of satellites, Musk says the network (informally known as Starlink, according to the Wall Street Journal) could provide internet to virtually any location on Earth. Such a network would lift the burden of developing internet infrastructure off of the developing world — in which less than half the population has ready access to the internet.
When Musk initially requested permission from the FCC to start this project in 2015, he said at SpaceX Seattle thatthe goal for the network would be to handle more than half of long-distance internet traffic. This would allow faster and more direct communication between different continents than is currently possible, Musk said.
That said, the impact on local internet communications would be less dramatic. Starlink would probably handle only 10 percent business-to-consumer direct — leaving the other 90 percent of local access to fiber. But that reality could only be for the short term.
“We’re really talking about something which is, in the long term, like rebuilding the internet in space,” Musk said at SpaceX Seattle. And after today’s successful launch, it seems like SpaceX is one step closer to doing just that.
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy could facilitate a 21st century Gold Rush of sorts, only instead of heading west, these miners would search for valuable minerals and chemicals in space.
Our solar system is filled with millions of asteroids, rocky worlds ranging in size from just a few feet across to hundreds of miles in diameter. For more than a century, humans have considered the possibility of mining asteroids, but the logistics have proven prohibitive.
The first step — landing on an asteroid — requires a craft that is powerful enough to switch between low-Earth orbit and orbit around the asteroid. According to Martin Elvis, an astronomer from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Falcon Heavy could be that craft.
He told an audience at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Austin, Texas, that he believes Falcon Heavy has the potential to make asteroid mining a reality by increasing the number of asteroids we could potentially land on by a factor of 15. “Instead of a few hundred, we may have thousands of ore-bearing asteroids available,” said Elvis, according to Gizmodo.
The potential value of the minerals in these asteroids is staggering.
The iron found in the asteroid 16 Psyche alone is worth an estimated $ 10 quintillion, and according to NASA, if we could extract all of the minerals in the asteroids between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, the total value would be enough to give every person on Earth about $ 100 billion.
Asteroid mining has the potential to not only make millionaires or even billionaires out of successful miners, it could also facilitate humanity’s colonization of the cosmos.
Some asteroids contain iron, cobalt, titanium, and other materials we could use to construct objects, such as space stations, while in space. Others boast oxygen and water, which astronauts need to survive, while still others contain hydrogen and ammonia, which we could turn into rocket fuel to power our spacecraft.
If Elvis is right and Falcon Heavy can help us tap into these off-world resources, SpaceX’s $ 90 million per launch cost will seem like peanuts to the modern miners with their eyes on asteroids.
Last week, the world watched as SpaceX launched their Falcon Heavy rocket with a Tesla Roadster stowed aboard. However, the rocket also carried something else, and while SpaceX’s secret Falcon Heavy payload may not have generated the same headlines as the Roadster, it could have even bigger implications for humanity’s future in space.
Inside of the Roadster, SpaceX hid an Arch (pronounced “ark”). The tiny, disc-shaped object is one of the longest-lasting storage devices ever built. It’s expected to withstand millions to billions of years in the harsh conditions of space (or potentially even on the surface of a cosmic object or distant planet).
The Arch isn’t just durable, though. It’s also able to store enormous quantities of data for extended periods of time. Each crystal disc, which looks like a throwback to the “mini-discs” of the early 2000s, can theoretically hold up to 360 terabytes of data. The longevity of the Arch is due to the technology used to inscribe the data and the medium: 5D optical storage in quartz.
SpaceX’s secret Falcon Heavy payload is known as Arch 1.2, and it contains Issac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, a sci-fi series that discusses the preservation of humankind — a relevant topic.
Eventually, the disc’s developers at the Arch Mission Foundation plan to add to the collection to create what they’re calling the “Solar Library.” As co-founder Nova Spivack wrote in a post on Medium, “This is only the first step of an epic human project to curate, encode, and distribute our data across the solar system and beyond.”
Ultimately, the nonprofit group hopes their small quartz crystal discs could “preserve and disseminate humanity’s knowledge across time and space, for the benefit of future generations,” according to Spivack.
They already have plans to launch discs to support early colonists on Mars, and eventually, they hope to connect the Arch Libraries in an enormous, decentralized network that will allow for data sharing and storage throughout the solar system. This is certainly a moonshot, but if humans become a multi-planetary species, we’ll need such a system in place.
SpaceX has now launched the most powerful spacecraft since the Apollo era – the Falcon Heavy rocket – setting the bar for future space launches. The most important thing about this reusable spacecraft is that it can carry a payload equivalent to sending five double-decker London buses into space – which will be invaluable for future manned space exploration or in sending bigger satellites into orbit. Falcon Heavy essentially comprises three previously tested rockets strapped together to create one giant spacecraft. The launch drew massive international audiences – but while it was an amazing event to witness, there are…
A lot of things happened this week in the world of The Verge, and we have some first-hand experience to share.
This week on The Vergecast, Nilay, Dieter, and Paul, welcome science reporter Loren Grush back to the show to tell us what it was like to watch SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket launch in person, as well as meeting SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
Also, Dieter got an exclusive look at Intel’s new smart glasses, and Nilay reviewed Apple’s HomePod, so they share their experiences with the technology and discuss what it means for the rest of the market.
There’s a lot more in between that — like Paul’s weekly segment “USB-C-crets” (I think that’s how you spell it) — so listen to it all, and you’ll get it all.