Space

An artist’s conception shows Orbex’s Prime rocket lifting off. (Orbex Illustration) Lockheed Martin is in line to receive $31 million in grants from the UK Space Agency to establish Britain’s first spaceport on Scotland’s north coast, and to develop a new made-in-Britain system for deploying small satellites in orbit. The British government announced the grants today, only hours after and support the rise of horizontal-launch spaceports in other British locales. In addition to Lockheed Martin’s grants, another $7 million will be awarded to London-based to support the development of its Prime rocket for launch from the Sutherland spaceport. The is designed to be fueled by bio-propane and will deliver payloads of up to 330 pounds to low Earth orbit. Today’s grants were announced in conjunction with this week’s Farnborough International Airshow, which is taking place southwest of London. It’s not surprising that Lockheed Martin will benefit from the British grants. The U.S.-based company is a prominent member of the consortium supporting Sutherland’s bid. Lockheed Martin has been tasked not only with establishing vertical-launch operations at the Sutherland spaceport, but also with developing a rocket-powered upper stage that’s capable of deploying up to six small satellites in separate orbits. The work on the upper stage, known as an orbital maneuvering vehicle, will be done at a facility in the English city of Reading. “Lockheed Martin will apply its 50 years of experience in small satellite engineering, launch services and ground operations, as well as a network of U.K.-based and international teammates, to deliver new technologies, new capabilities and new economic opportunities,” Patrick Wood, Lockheed Martin’s U.K. country executive for space, said in a statement. British and U.S. governmental agencies have been working on a that would establish a legal and technical framework for U.S. space launch vehicles to operate from launch sites in Britain. “Attracting U.S. operators to the U.K. will enhance our capabilities and boost the whole market,” the UK Space Agency said in today’s statement. British companies already produce nearly half of the world’s small satellites and a quarter of the world’s telecommunications satellites. The British government says the commercial space sector could contribute as much as $5 billion to the country’s economy over the next decade. In its earlier announcement, the UK Space Agency said it would award £2.5 million ($3.3 million) to a consortium known as Highlands and Islands Enterprise to help get the Sutherland spaceport into operation in the early 2020s. Another £2 million would be made available for the development of horizontal-launch spaceports in England’s , at on Scotland’s west coast, and in in Wales.
July 16, 2018
An artist’s impression shows the spaceport at Scotland’s Sutherland site. (Courtesy of Perfect Circle PV) The British government has selected a spot in Sutherland, on the A’Mhoine Peninsula in the Scottish Highlands, as the site of the country’s first spaceport. In a news release timed to coincide with the opening of this week’s Farnborough International Airshow, the government said it would provide initial funding of £2.5 million ($3.3 million) to Highlands and Islands Enterprise to develop the vertical-launch site in Sutherland, with an aim of seeing the first liftoff in the early 2020s. Sutherland was chosen for the United Kingdom’s first vertical launch site after an assessment of several proposed spaceport sites in Scotland as well as Wales and England’s Cornwall region. The UK Space Agency determined that the spot on Scotland’s north coast was the best place to target highly sought-after satellite orbits with vertically launched rockets. Three other proposed horizontal-launch sites will be eligible for grants from a newly established £2 million ($2.7 million) fund to promote suborbital space flights, satellite launches and spaceplane operations, the government said. Those sites are Newquay in Cornwall, Glasgow Prestwick in Scotland, and Snowdonia in Wales. “The space sector is an important player in the U.K.’s economy and our recent Space Industry Act has unlocked the potential for hundreds of new jobs and billions of revenue for British business across the country,” Britain’s secretary of state for transport, Chris Grayling, said in today’s news release. British officials estimates that the commercial space sector will be worth a potential $5 billion to the country’s economy over the next decade. The United Kingdom already has a thriving satellite industry, fueled in part by potential spaceport customers such as San Francisco-based Spire Global. “In Spire, Scotland already sports Europe’s most advanced and prolific satellite manufacturing capability, and with a spaceport right next door, enabling clockwork-like launches, we can finally get our space sector supply chain to be truly integrated,” Spire CEO Peter Platzer said. The government said additional grants from its £50 million ($66 million) UK Spaceflight Program fund would be announced during the Farnborough Airshow. Sutherland isn’t likely to be Europe’s only spaceport, and it may not be its first: Last week, with operations beginning as early as 2020.
July 15, 2018
An artist’s conception shows a passenger looking out the window of Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spaceship. (Blue Origin Illustration) Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ space venture, , is playing down reports that a suborbital space trip on its New Shepard rocket ship could cost $200,000 to $300,000. “We have not set ticket pricing and have had no serious discussions inside of Blue on this topic,” Brett Griffin, a member of Blue Origin’s media team, told GeekWire in an email. “We will begin selling tickets sometime after our first human flights and are focused on developing New Shepard.” Blue Origin has flown eight uncrewed flight tests of the , which consists of a reusable booster that flies itself back to a landing and a crew capsule that floats back down at the end of a parachute. Further uncrewed flight tests reaching as high as 100 kilometers, the internationally recognized boundary of space, are expected in the months ahead. Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith told GeekWire in April that the company is aiming to start flying people by the end of this year. Those people won’t be commercial customers, however. “We will fly Blue Origin astronauts before we fly commercial passengers and haven’t done any real work on passenger selection or the ticket sale process,” Griffin said. Blue Origin does, however, offer an for would-be passengers, and it recently for an astronaut experience manager. (The ad was not that long ago, which could mean the position is filled. Or not.) They company has former NASA astronauts on its staff, and in private conversations, they tend to say they’d love to have first crack at flying on New Shepard. There have also been rumblings that Blue Origin employees would get an early chance to fly. Last year, one newly hired employee went so far as to tell a newspaper reporter that . (The company pooh-poohed that report.) , claiming that the price tag for a flight could be set in the range of $200,000 to $300,000, was attributed to two unnamed Blue Origin employees who were said to have knowledge of the pricing plan. For what it’s worth, those figures are in the same range as the price tag advertised by , which is also testing a suborbital spaceship for passenger flights. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that the future price tag is a topic of conversation at the Blue Origin’s headquarters in Kent, Wash., particularly if there’s now an astronaut experience manager on the case. But today’s statement suggests that it’s too way too early to write a check. “We will fly passengers when we are ready,” Griffin said. “We have a flight test schedule, and schedules of those types always have uncertainties and contingencies. Anyone predicting dates is guessing.”
July 13, 2018
Technicians check out the Crew Dragon capsule in Florida after the completion of thermal vacuum and acoustic testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio. (SpaceX via Instagram) After months of testing, a SpaceX Dragon capsule that’s designed to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station has arrived in Florida, marking a significant step toward this summer’s scheduled test launch. Even though the vehicle is called a “Crew Dragon,” this Dragon won’t carry crew on its first flight. Instead, it’s due to make an uncrewed practice run to the space station during what’s known as , or DM-1. Before this week’s shipment to Florida, the Dragon underwent . Today SpaceX showed off a picture of the Crew Dragon, which is a redesigned, beefed-up version of its robotic cargo-carrying Dragon, via and . NASA’s current schedule calls for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to launch the DM-1 mission next month from Kennedy Space Center. However, that schedule is dependent not only on the pace of preparations, but also on the timetable for station arrivals and departures. After several weeks, the Crew Dragon would unhook from the station and descend back down to Earth, still uncrewed, for a Pacific splashdown and recovery. SpaceX will follow up on DM-1 with an in-flight abort test, and eventually with a crewed demonstration flight to the space station, . Meanwhile, Boeing is moving ahead with work on its own space taxi, the CST-100 Starliner. The first three Starliner spacecraft are undergoing a variety of tests in preparation for this year’s first uncrewed flight to the space station. A crewed flight will follow, and NASA has the option of . It’s not yet clear whether the Dragon or the Starliner will fly astronauts to the station first. Those spacefliers will be in a position to claim by the shuttle Atlantis’ crew for the next crew to be launched from U.S. soil. After the crewed demonstration flights, NASA will have to certify the Dragon and the Starliner for regular trips to and from the space station. This week, the Government Accountability Office saying that certification may not come until the end of 2019 or perhaps even 2020 — which is significantly later than NASA had anticipated. The GAO recommended that NASA come up with a contingency plan for ensuring there’d be a U.S. presence on the space station even if the space taxis aren’t certified on time. Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft is currently the only means approved for sending spacefliers to the space station. NASA’s access to Soyuz seats is currently due to.
July 13, 2018
In this artistic rendering, a blazar is accelerating protons that produce pions, which produce neutrinos and gamma rays. One neutrino’s path is represented by a blue line passing through Antarctica, while a gamma ray’s path is shown in pink. (IceCube / NASA Illustration) An array of detectors buried under a half-mile-wide stretch of Antarctic ice has traced the path of a single neutrino back to a supermassive black hole in a faraway galaxy, shedding light on a century-old cosmic ray mystery in the process. The discovery, revealed today in a trio of research papers published by the journal Science and The Astrophysical Journal, marks a milestone for the at the National Science Foundation’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. Live video: It also marks a milestone for an observational frontier known as multi-messenger astronomy, which takes advantage of multiple observatories looking at the sky in different ways. Thanks to IceCube’s alert, more than a dozen telescopes were able to triangulate on the neutrino’s source. “No one telescope could have done this by themselves,” said IceCube lead scientist Francis Halzen, a physics professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The source of the high-energy neutrino detected last Sept. 22 appears to be a giant elliptical galaxy with a rapidly spinning black hole at its center, 3.7 billion light-years from Earth. Such a galaxy is known as a blazar, and its signature feature is a pair of jets that spew radiation and subatomic particles along the axis of the black hole’s rotation. One of the blazar’s jets just happens to be pointed directly at Earth. Astronomers have known about the blazar, known as TXS 0506+056, for years. But before IceCube came on the scene, they had no way of associating it or any other source with cosmic rays. Cosmic rays are high-energy particles that reach Earth from space, and most of them carry an electrical charge. Such particles can be deflected by magnetic fields, or blocked by interactions with intervening matter. That makes it impossible to trace the particles’ paths to their source. Neutrinos are different: They don’t carry an electrical charge, have virtually no mass, and interact so weakly with other types of matter that they typically pass right through anything that gets in their way — including stars and planets. That means they travel in a straight line from their source. On rare occasions, a high-energy neutrino makes a direct hit on an atomic nucleus, setting off a subatomic chain reaction. It’s exactly that type of reaction that the $279 million IceCube Neutrino Observatory is designed to detect. The heart of the observatory is a three-dimensional array with thousands of light sensors, spread across a cubic kilometer of crystal-clear Antarctic ice deep beneath the surface. When a neutrino hits a nucleus, it triggers a characteristic flash of blue light that points in the direction of the neutrino’s origin. On Sept. 22, IceCube picked up on a strong flash and determined that it was sparked by a neutrino with an energy of about 300 trillion electron volts. That’s almost 50 times as energetic as the proton beams circulating in Europe’s Large Hadron Collider. Within a minute, an alert went out to other astronomers to focus their telescopes on the patch of sky associated with the neutrino source in the constellation Orion. The IceCube Neutrino Observatory is buried at depths between 1.5 and 2.5 kilometers below the South Pole. The only visible equipment is the IceCube Lab, which hosts the computers that collect data from over 5,000 light sensors in the ice. In this artistic rendering, which incorporates a photo of the Ice Cube Lab, neutrino event IC170922 is shown in the ice below Antarctica’s surface. (IceCube Collaboration / NSF) Over the days that followed, the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope and the MAGIC Telescope in the Canary Islands detected a strong gamma-ray burst coming from TXS 0506+056. Other instruments, including the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and the NuSTAR X-ray telescope, picked up strong signals in multiple wavelengths from the same source. And when IceCube’s scientists looked back through their archives, they found evidence of another flare that apparently emanated from TXS 0506+056 in December 2014. “All the pieces fit together,” Albrecht Karle, a senior IceCube scientist from UW-Madison, said today in a news release. “The neutrino flare in our archival data became independent confirmation. Together with observations from the other observatories, it is compelling evidence for this blazar to be a source of extremely energetic neutrinos, and thus high-energy cosmic rays.” This star chart shows the location of the neutrino source, TXS 0506+056, as a blue set of crosshairs in the constellation Orion. The blazar is too distant and faint to be seen with the naked eye. (IceCube / NASA) For more than a century, astronomers have speculated that cosmic rays emanated from violent phenomena such as supernovae, black holes and colliding galaxies. Now they have more than speculation to go on. “It is interesting that there was a general consensus in the astrophysics community that blazars were unlikely to be sources of cosmic rays, and here we are,” Halzen said. “Now, we have identified at least one source that produces high-energy cosmic rays because it produces cosmic neutrinos.” Like last year’s , IceCube’s findings demonstrate the power of multi-messenger astronomy. “The era of multi-messenger astrophysics is here,” NSF Director France Cordova said in a statement. “Each messenger — from electromagnetic radiation, gravitational waves and now neutrinos — gives us a more complete understanding of the universe, and important new insights into the most powerful objects and events in the sky.” Cordova said “such breakthroughs are only possible through a long-term commitment to fundamental research and investment in superb research facilities.” “Multimessenger Observations of a Flaring Blazar Coincident With High-Energy Neutrino IceCube-170922A” and “Neutrino Emission From the Direction of the Blazar TXS 0506+056 Prior to the IceCube-170922A Alert,” are freely available on . The paper in is titled “A Multimessenger Picture of the Flaring Blazar TSX 0506+056: Implications for High-Energy Neutrino Emission and Cosmic Ray Acceleration.”
July 12, 2018
Engineers work on New Shepard’s crew capsule at Blue Origin’s Kent factory. (Credit: Blue Origin) A new employment study indicates that roughly 3,000 people are directly employed by Washington state’s space industry, and roughly half of them are at , Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ space venture. Most of Blue Origin’s 1,500 employees work at the company’s headquarters and production facility in Kent, Wash. So Erika Wagner, Blue Origin’s payload sales director, has a good grasp on what draw space-savvy engineers to the Seattle area. “When we ask our new employees why they’re coming … I’m going to guess that about half of them tell us that Seattle is part of the reason they say yes,” Wagner said today at a . “They have other options on the table, but they’d like to live here. They want to go hiking, or they want to go boating, or they want to have access to the symphony or the opera here.” Seattle’s blend of the great outdoors and a vibrant cultural scene adds to the region’s legacy in engineering, software and aerospace, fueled by Boeing, Microsoft and more recently Amazon. Most of Blue Origin’s employees stick around: Wagner said the turnover rate amounts to less than 4 percent of the workforce annually. But what is it that motivates the ones who leave? There’s a bit of irony in Wagner’s answer to that question. “A significant percentage of them say the reason they leave is Seattle,” Wagner said. “It’s the rising cost of living, it’s the weather, it’s the traffic, it’s the whatever. It’s very much both one of our strongest assets, and one of our biggest challenges.” The Seattle area’s assets for the space industry, and its challenges, were the focus of today’s forum. Panelists for the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s forum on the space industry include EarthNow’s Kyu Hwang, Space Angels’ Joe Landon, Blue Origin’s Erika Wagner and Seattle author Sam Howe Verhovek. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle) Economic activity traced specifically to the space industry still makes up a small share of the total aerospace industry in Washington state. The set total economic impact at $1.7 billion. In comparison, the economic impact of the wider industry, ranging from rockets to passenger jets to drones, . Nevertheless, the space industry’s local impact is growing rapidly, thanks to Blue Origin and other ventures ranging from century-old and decades-old to more recent startups such as and . Joe Landon, who serves as the chief financial officer for Redmond, Wash.-based Planetary Resources and chairman of the Space Angels investment group, said Seattle’s space ventures often have to look far afield to find the talent they need. “We don’t have much home-grown talent,” Landon told the luncheon crowd. Wagner said there’s a particularly acute need for expertise in avionics, electrical engineering and computer science. “Most software engineers haven’t thought about being part of our industry,” she said. “It makes recruiting that much harder, especially when we’re competing against Silicon Valley startups for our talent pool here on the West Coast.”  For Kyu Hwang, EarthNow’s vice president for applications and customer development, technical expertise is just one part of the equation. “We also need a lot of innovation in business models,” he said. Bellevue, Wash.-based EarthNow, which plans to use a satellite constellation to beam down real-time video of our planet, . It’s still operating in semi-stealth mode, but Hwang said the venture is well into the process of enlisting traditional and not-so-traditional customers. “We really think real-time, on-demand-access, motion video … we think those three characteristics will enable Earth observation to tap into a mass market,” he said. The Seattle area’s rising profile in software engineering, data analysis and cloud computing is seen as a net plus for the future: As the space industry matures, software smarts are looming larger. That’s a big reason why SpaceX , about 1,000 miles away from its corporate headquarters in the Los Angeles area. Because of Washington state’s geography and population distribution, it’s not likely to ever play host to the spaceports that are available in other centers of the space industry, such as California, Florida and Texas. What’s more, the Evergreen State doesn’t have a NASA center to cozy up to. But Sam Howe Verhovek, a Seattle writer who’s the author of said the fact that the Pacific Northwest is off the beaten track may be a plus. “I’ve heard a couple of intriguing theories over the years, including, in a weird way, that it’s easier to fail here. It’s OK, it’s expected. It’s sort of part of a venture capital mentality,” Verhovek said at today’s forum. “You pick yourself up and dust yourself off. It’s what we do.”
July 12, 2018
News Brief: , an Israeli team that was in the now-defunct , says it will have its lander launched toward the moon in December. The lander will be a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket taking off from Florida, The plan calls for the lander to execute a series of in-space maneuvers, then touch down on the lunar surface next February to transmit imagery and measure the moon’s magnetic field. SpaceIL says about $88 million has been invested in the project to date, mostly from private donors. Here’s a sampling of tweets about today’s announcement: We have a launch and landing dates! December 2018- Launch, February 13 2019- First Israeli spacecraft lands on the moon! SpaceIL's moon mission is officially underway — SpaceIL (@TeamSpaceIL) Meet our spacecraft: small, smart and with a lot of Israeli . To the moon in December 2018! — SpaceIL (@TeamSpaceIL) Exciting news! Congrats to the whole team, including all the and VP / Head of the SpaceIL Spacecraft Program Yigal Harel. cc — American Technion Society (@TechnionUSA) I want to believe … but given the many private Moon missions I have seen announced over the past 25 years and then *all* vanish, I will believe in only when it sits on a rocket. On the pad. And the candle is lit. Sorry for having to demand this … — Daniel Fischer (@cosmos4u)
July 11, 2018
Vikram Sarabhai Space Center’s 18-meter antenna, located near Bangalore, India, can be used for deep-space communications. (VSSC Photo) Seattle-based has forged an agreement with , the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organization, to widen its spectrum of communication services for spacecraft operators. The partnership adds C-band, Ku-band and Ka-band communication capabilities to RBC Signals’ existing resources in the VHF, UHF, S, C and X radio bands. It also extends the company’s potential reach beyond Earth orbit to the moon and deep space. The pact marks another first for the three-year-old startup. “It represents our first partnership with a national program,” RBC Signals co-founder and CEO Christopher Richins told GeekWire. RBC Signals uses its own antennas as well as excess capacity from its partners’ ground stations to knit together a global communications network for its customers in the satellite industry, priced to fit a customized pay-as-you-go model. Thanks to the Antrix deal, RBC Signals’ network currently comprises more than 60 antennas at more than 40 locations. The Indian ground stations include antennas in Hassan, Bangalore and Lucknow. “At Antrix, we are excited about gaining greater utilization of our ground station investments through the innovative business model and services being provided by RBC Signals,” Shri Rakesh Sasibhushan, Antrix’s chairman and managing director, said today in a news release. Richins echoed that sentiment in his comments to GeekWire. “It demonstrates a general desire for these space assets, wherever they are, to be used more efficiently,” he said at last month’s NewSpace conference. RBC Signals’ customers range from , which is setting up a 200-satellite communications constellation in low Earth orbit, to , which is planning to put miniaturized telecom satellites in geostationary orbit. The company raised more than last year in a led by Bee Partners, and has talked about conducting a follow-on Series A round this year. Richins said his company currently has fewer than 10 employees. He emphasized that RBC Signals offers a range of service levels for satellite customers. “A company can’t afford to pay for a gilded ‘failure is not an option’ service when they’re just testing,” Richins said. “But we have the ability to provide five 9’s of reliability when the customer needs it.” Future offerings could include optical communication links as well as direct links between satellites. “We’re not a ground station company,” Richins said. “We’re a space communications company.”
July 10, 2018
Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR-22 rocket engine fires during a test at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. (NASA / DARPA Photo) A rocket engine built from spare space shuttle parts — and the team behind the engine — passed a grueling 10-day, 10-firing test that sets the stage for Boeing’s Phantom Express military space plane. “We scored a perfect 10 last week,” Jeff Haynes, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s program manager for the AR-22 engine, told reporters today during a teleconference. The hydrogen-fueled AR-22 is largely based on the RS-25 engine that was used on the space shuttle and will be used on NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System. “We’ve upgraded the ‘brain’ for this derivative mission,” using an advanced controller, Haynes said. Aerojet, Boeing and the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, set up the 240-hour test between June 26 and July 6 to see whether the AR-22 could be turned around rapidly enough for a 100-second, full-throttle firing every day. The bottom line? It can. “We had 68 minutes to spare when we finished the last test,” Haynes said. Along the way, the team had to deal with two direct lightning strikes that damaged the test facility at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Engineers also had to work out a procedure to get rid of the moisture that gathered in the engine during firings. “Trying to run the engine again without drying that out would lead to catastrophic events,” Haynes said. At first, the procedure took about 17 hours, but they eventually got the time down to as little as six hours. During the shuttle program, a similar process took days to accomplish, Haynes said. Thanks to the successful test, the Phantom Express program — also known as the Experimental Spaceplane or XS-1 — is on track for an initial demonstration flight in 2021, said Steve Johnston, director of launch at Boeing Phantom Works. Scott Wierzbanowski, DARPA’s program manager for the Experimental Spaceplane, said the two-stage launch system is being designed for 10 liftoffs in 10 days. After each launch, the reusable first-stage booster would glide to an airplane-like landing. Phantom Express should be capable of delivering 3,000 pounds of payload to low Earth orbit at a cost of less than $5 million a flight. Those performance levels represent a “sweet spot” for military as well as commercial applications, Wierzbanowski said. Boeing’s Johnston said the specifications for the Phantom Express plane are going through critical design review, leading up to the start of assembly in mid-2019. “A lot of our design philosophies and design guidelines are actually derived from the commercial airplane business,” he said. “The materials system that we’re using is actually the materials system that was originally developed for application on the all-composite 787.” The liquid-oxygen tank already has been fabricated at Boeing’s Advanced Developmental Composite Facility in the Seattle area. “It went really well. … We have some additional outfitting to do to that tank,” Johnston said. The design of the plane’s upper stage is still in flux, and the launch site for the first demonstration flight in 2021 has not yet been selected. That initial suborbital flight will test only the first-stage booster, Johnston said. DARPA is providing up to $146 million for the project, with Boeing and Aerojet kicking in an additional unspecified amount for development. Technicians inspect the AR-22 rocket engine after a hot-fire test. (Aerojet Rocketdyne Photo) Haynes said the lessons learned from the 10-day engine test could be applied not only to the Phantom Express, but also to Aerojet’s work on the RS-25 engines for the Space Launch System. For example, the SLS could benefit from a sensor-based performance-monitoring system that was tested on the AR-22, known as the Advanced Anomaly Command and Control Center, or AC3. “We actually tricked the engine to thinking it was experiencing a red-line condition, which under the shuttle program would have been an immediate shutdown of the engine,” Haynes said. “We allowed our software to throttle down the engine automatically, assess the situation and then do a stepwise recovery of the thrust profile in a matter of seconds.” Aerojet is pioneering a new generation of engineering for Phantom Express and the Space Launch System — with the aid of a new generation of engineers, Haynes said. “We have experienced engineers that really cut their teeth on the shuttle program,” he said. “And we have a large amount of new engineers now that are able to be mentored and trained through the process of this highly aggressive program that we just did through the last two weeks.” An artist’s conception shows Boeing’s Phantom Express XS-1 space plane in flight. (Boeing Illustration) Phantom Express by the numbers: Length: 100 feet Wingspan: 62 feet Weight at liftoff, fully fueled: 240,000 pounds AR-22 engine liftoff thrust: More than 375,000 pounds AR-22 propellants: Liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen Maximum speed: Mach 10 (7,600 mph) Sources: Boeing, Aerojet Rocketdyne
July 10, 2018
News Brief: A robotic Russian Progress cargo craft today was that got it to the International Space Station in less time than it takes to drive from Seattle to Spokane. Liftoff of the Progress’ Soyuz rocket from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan came at 2:51 p.m. PT. The Progress and its payload, consisting of nearly three tons’ worth of food, fuel and supplies, arrived at the orbital outpost at 6:31 p.m. PT. The fastest-ever cargo run took less than four hours, rather than the usual two days, due to a carefully planned, time-saving, two-orbit trajectory that Russia wants to use for crewed as well as uncrewed flights.
July 10, 2018