Tag Archives: Rocket
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – A joint venture between Boeing Co (BA.N) and Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) will conduct the final design review for its new flagship Vulcan rocket within months, it said on Wednesday, as the aerospace company heads for a showdown with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and others in the launch services market.
FILE PHOTO: The Boeing logo is pictured at the Latin American Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition fair (LABACE) at Congonhas Airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker
The final design review is a crucial milestone as the company, United Launch Alliance (ULA), tries to move into full production ahead of a first flight in spring 2021 after slipping from its initial 2019 timetable.
“The design is nearly fully mature,” ULA systems test engineer Dane Drefke told Reuters during a tour of Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The companies are vying to develop rockets to carry satellites into orbit in what the Satellite Industry Association lobby group estimates is a roughly $ 5.5 billion satellite launch services market.
ULA has started cutting and building hardware and has begun structural and pressure testing at its Decatur, Alabama factory. Engineers were also modifying the Florida launch pad and tower to accommodate Vulcan.
ULA’s legacy Atlas and Delta rockets have been synonymous with America’s space missions for decades. But the Colorado-based company has waged a cost-cutting campaign in recent years that included job cuts and trying new production methods as it faces mounting competition from SpaceX.
Musk has upended the industry with reusable rocket technology that has slashed the cost of space transportation.
And Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin said last week it will fly its still-in-development New Glenn rocket in 2021 – the same year as Vulcan.
While ULA’s rockets burn up during each voyage, making for reliable but costlier missions, the company is charting a strategy of returning the first-stage engine to Earth under a parachute and plucking it out of mid-air with a helicopter.
ULA does not envision more job cuts and has been adding engineers in Florida and elsewhere, it said on Wednesday.
“We are now optimal-sized,” Drefke said, adding that ULA will be hiring more engineers as it moves into production.
The Vulcan, which will be powered partly by Blue Origin’s U.S.-built BE-4 engine, is central to ending U.S. reliance on Russia’s RD-180 engine for national security missions.
ULA confirmed new purchases of at least five more RD-180s in recent months for non-military missions, like commercial satellite launches.
Meanwhile, Blue Origin has hit “a few minor setbacks” during rigorous BE-4 testing but was “progressing nominally” and was expected to live up to delivery targets, Drefke said.
Blue Origin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Cape Canaveral; additional reporting by Joey Roulette in Orlando, Florida, editing by Bill Berkrot
A new video from the European Space Agency shows the spectacular launch of the Soyuz rocket.
The video was captured by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and shows the Russian Progress MS-10 cargo spacecraft taking off from the Soyuz rocket on Nov. 16. The spacecraft was carrying food and supplies for astronauts aboard the International Space Station and fuel to resupply the ISS. The spacecraft was carrying 5,653 lbs of supplies and fuel.
The time-lapsed footage condenses the 15-minute launch into a video of just a minute and a half. It shows the Soyuz-FG rocket booster separation, the core stage separation, the core beginning to burn in the atmosphere and go back to Earth after using up its fuel, and finally the Progress spacecraft separating from the rocket and entering orbit to catch up with the ISS.
The rocket flies at 17,900 miles per hour at 249 miles above Earth before it docked two days later.
Rocket League has just announced their latest paid DLC, a Jurassic Park themed content pack which includes a new “hard hat” topper, a Jurassic Park flag and decals, a T-Rex goal explosion, and the classic Jurassic Park Jeep. This DLC is the latest of the officially licensed content, and with the newest ‘Jurassic’ film in theaters soon, the iconic Jeep is an easy choice to add to the Rocket League lineup.
Fans of the Jurassic Park franchise are rejoicing, and I was too until I saw this Tweet from Psyonix. The tweet confirms that the new Jurassic Park car will have the same hitbox as Octane, Rocket League’s most popular car by far. For those unaware, since Patch 1.35, each Rocket League car is based on one of five standardized car body types, the solid 3D models of the car that the ball actually bounces off of. For example, the Merc (a van) uses the same hitbox as Octane, despite looking much different visually. In practice, even though the front end of the Merc appears to be much taller than on Octane, the ball bounces off of the two the exact same way. These changes in shape make a huge impact during gameplay, since even the slightest difference in how the ball bounces off of a player’s car can make or break a goal.
Sure, it’s possible for most players to change cars on a whim, but more intense players notice the slight differences in turn radius, aerial control, and hitbox shape when they change between cars. Personally, I’m about 300 hours into using Breakout so trying to use Octane, which many consider to be the “best” car, just feels wrong. The tiny differences between the two feel massive to me, and to any avid players who try out cars different than their favorite.
It does make the most sense financially to sell a DLC car that will attract the most buyers; players are more likely to buy a new car that handles the same as their favorite. But with so many existing re-skins for Octane, including ‘Twinzer’, released in the very recent Salty Shores update, the rest of us are missing out on the fun. A Psyonix employee revealed on Reddit the official list of cars and their hitboxes as of the 1.37 update, which confirms that the Octane body type has the largest number of cars by far, with the gap growing even larger since the release of the new Jeep and Twinzer.
In a game where customization is almost as much fun as the game itself, it’s unfortunate that players who don’t use Octane or Dominus-type cars are limited to so few choices of cars. The customization options in Rocket League are incredible, and the player base has come up with some truly fantastic creations. In the future, I’d like to see a larger diversity in newly released cars so that the vast customization options aren’t limited to just one or two body types.
The launch company Rocket Lab has amusing names for its missions. The first, in May, was called “It’s a Test” (it was). When the staff debated what to call the second launch of their diminutive Electron rocket, so sized (and priced) specifically to carry small satellites to space, they said, “Well, we’re still testing, aren’t we?”
They were. And so “Still Testing” became the name of Rocket Lab’s second launch, which took place on January 20, at around 8:45 pm Eastern Standard Time. In December, the company canceled multiple attempts before rescheduling the launch window for 2018. The livestreamed rocket lifted off from the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, headed for someplace with an even better view.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the launch (or any test launch, for that matter), the rocket was carrying real payloads for real customers: three small satellites, one for a company that images Earth and two for one that monitors weather and ship traffic. But why on Earth would a satellite company choose a rocket-in-progress when there are so many reliable launchers out there? After all, even established rockets blow up sometimes.
The short answer is that smallsats—which the Electron was built to transport, exclusively—are by nature expendable. Smallsat makers like Planet and Spire, the two clients on this mission, have ever-growing, genetically similar populations of orbiters. So losing one or two in a less-than-successful test flight? Probably worth the risk. Smallsat companies are willing to put their hardware on this particular liftoff line because the Electron is poised to be the first commercially bookable rocket built specifically for small payloads, which typically have to piggyback on big, expensive rockets with big, expensive payloads that don’t launch often enough and aren’t always headed to their orbit of choice. In the next decade, 3,483 small satellites (between 1 and 100 kilograms) will go to space, generating just over $ 2 billion of launch revenue, according to the Small Satellite Markets, 4th edition report, which research and consulting firm Northern Sky Research released last month. In this future world where thousands more smallsats provide environmental, economic, and even political intelligence, as well as Earth-covering internet, the test-steps necessary to get on up to space quickly, cheaply, and precisely seem worth the risk not just to Planet and Spire but, perhaps, to you and me.
But boy, was there risk. While Rocket Lab’s first Electron didn’t explode and did reach space—and so gets at least an A- for its first attempt—“It’s a Test” didn’t quite get to orbit. After an investigation, Rocket Lab determined that, four minutes post-blastoff, ground equipment (provided by a third party) temporarily stopped talking to the rocket. When communication breaks down, Official Procedures demand that safety officials stop the flight. And so they did..
But the rocket itself, according to the same investigation, was sound—so the company moved on to a test delivery. “It’s really the next logical step,” says Peter Beck, Rocket Lab’s founder.
Beck seems uncannily logical about the risks his young company is taking. When asked about his feelings about launching actual stuff on “Still Testing,” he replied that doing so certainly involved extra actual tasks. “I’m not sure if you can become extra nervous or extra excited,” he said. That sentiment fits with the launches’ pragmatic names. And those fit with New Zealanders’ general pragmatic streak, says Beck (he cites some of the country’s names for flowing water: “River One,” “River Two,” “River Three”).
For their part, Planet and Spire are here for that no-nonsense-ness. Planet already has around 200 satellites in orbit, so adding one to its flock of so-called “Doves” would be good but not critical. Besides, says Mike Safyan, Planet’s director of launch, “we picked one we wouldn’t miss too much”: a sat named Pioneer. It’s a double meaning, says Safyan. First, it’s an homage to NASA’s old missions, on whose shoulders they stand.
Second meaning: They are pioneers. “There is this New Space wave that Planet is very much at the forefront of and Rocket Lab is very much at the forefront of,” says Safyan.
This is what the forefront looks like, by the way: You can book space on an Electron rocket online—just click the size of your smallsat!—the same basic way you’d book a bunk on Airbnb.
Spire, too, is into it. Jenny Barna met Peter Beck before she had her current job, as the director of launch at Spire, whose satellites aim to keep track of aeronautical and nautical-nautical traffic, as well as weather. Back in her days at SSL, which makes spacecraft and communications systems, a coworker invited her to a presentation Beck was giving on-site. She listened to Beck describe Rocket Lab’s technology, and his vision for a vehicle that provided frequent, affordable launches just for little guys—in an industry that caters to huge sats, and makes smallsats second-class passengers—and she was intrigued. “I remember sitting there thinking how lucky I am to be working at this industry at this time,” she says. And after she moved to Spire, she led the company to sign on as one of Rocket Lab’s first customers. It’s currently contracted for up to 12 launches.
That’s a lot! But Spire has to launch a lot. The company wants access to space every month, so they can produce their satellites in small batches, send them up, iterate, and launch the next generation. So far, counting today, Spire has launched 541 satellites. They’ve done it on the rockets of Russia (Soyuz and Dnepr), Japan (H-IIB), and India (PSLV), and the rockets of the US’s Orbital (Antares) and ULA (Atlas V). And now, they’ll ride with Rocket Lab, picking on a rocket of their own satellites’ size.
But that doesn’t mean they’ll ever only use Rocket Lab. Or Orbital. Or ULA. They plan to keep their eggs distributed—partly because even when it’s not just a test, rockets still blow up, the eggs breaking along with them. “It’s just part of the industry,” says Barna.
When Barna spoke of “Still Testing” a few days before the initial launch window, she was straight-up about the possibility that this particular rocket wouldn’t carry the eggs safely to space. “We know that a million things have to go perfectly for this to be successful,” she said. “We hope they make history.”
They did, and deployed the three-satellite payload into orbit. And pending analysis of this seemingly successful test, Rocket Lab will skip its planned third test and jump straight into official operations, in early 2018. “We’ve got a lot of customers that need to get on orbit,” says Beck.
Suggestion for the third flight’s name: “This Is Not a Test.”
1UPDATE 12:08 AM EST 1/21/2018: This story has been updated to include new satellites Rocket Lab launched recently.
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The International Space Station is getting some more supplies.
Aerospace company Orbital ATK said Friday that it plans to launch a rocket on Saturday that will help carry cargo to the International Space Station.
Orbital’s Antares rocket is expected to launch at 7:37 am ET from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va. It will be Orbital’s eighth cargo-delivery mission to the International Space Station as part of the company’s contract with NASA.
The rocket will send aloft the cargo-carrying Cygnus spacecraft, which is expected to reach the space station on Nov. 13. The spacecraft will bring 7,400 pounds of supplies and scientific equipment, including a high-school student science experiment for studying how peanut plants grow in space.
— Orbital ATK (@OrbitalATK) November 10, 2017
The Cygnus spacecraft will remain at the International Space Station for one month, during which the cargo will help researchers conduct studies on how space’s microgravity affects the E.coli bacteria’s resistance to antibiotics. Another research experiment will test new technologies to allow for faster communications between people in space and on earth, according to NASA.
After debarking from the space station in December, the Cygnus spacecraft will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, thus disposing of several tons of trash, NASA said.
People can watch a live broadcast of the rocket launch from NASA’s online video streaming website.
Orbital isn’t the only aerospace company helping NASA send cargo to the International Space Station. The Elon Musk-led SpaceX also has a NASA contract, and in August, it launched a Falcon 9 rocket to help bring 6,400 pounds of equipment, including a Hewlett Packard Enterprise hpe supercomputer, to the space station.
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SpaceX believes that the explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket earlier this month was caused by a breach of the helium system within the second stage of the rocket. The company may start launching again as early as November of this year.