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SpaceX launching again this week, if all goes as planned.

Starlink deployment in orbit.

SpaceX is at it again. Love it or hate it, Starlink is growing again. The company is getting ready to launch the next batch of 60 satellites into orbit in just a few days. The original launch was postponed until after the successful launch of the crew dragon Demo-2 mission for NASA.

Now that the astronauts successfully docked with the International Space Station, SpaceX turns its focus back on Starlink. This launch, originally planned to launch before the Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission, now looks promising for a launch this week.

The constellation consists of thousands of mass-produced small satellites in low Earth orbit adds up quickly. Each Falcon 9 launch gets packed full of sixty Starlink satellites. 60 satellites neatly fit in both size and mass limitations of the Falcon 9’s reusable configuration. Elon’s company delivered more than 420 satellites into orbit to date.
SpaceX now plans to loft the next batch into space Wednesday around 9:25 p.m. EDT. Visitors at the Cape Canaveral’s Complex 40 launch pad should be able to witness the launch so long as the weather holds out… and the weather is looking promising.

A one-hour launch window for the Starlink mission opening at 8:55 p.m. EDT (0055 GMT). If the launch gets scrubbed, SpaceX will cycle again for another attempt. The prior attempt at launch got scrubbed because of Tropical Storm Arthur and the associated high winds. As an additional complication for SpaceX launches, the rough seas in the recovery area where SpaceX’s drone ship waits made a landing of the Falcon 9 risky.

Worries from Astronomers: Starlink changes the night sky

November 11 at 9:56 a.m. EST, 14:56 UTC, SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Credit SpaceX.

This mission debuts a novel Starlink satellite not seen before. SpaceX, in response to concerned astronomers, includes additional features to reduce reflectivity. A new sunshade visor should help reduce the reflection of light and spoiling the night sky for astronomers.

The albedo of the spacecraft measured quite high coupled with the angle of light reflecting off the craft gave rise to visible strings of satellites streaking across the sky. The visor blocks sunlight from reaching the portions of the spacecraft, making them less visible from the ground. Additionally, SpaceX plans an adjusted flight trajectory and angle relative to the ground.

SpaceX plans Starlink service in the Northern U.S. and Canada starting in 2020. After initial market deployment in North America, Starlink rapidly expanding coverage to create truly near global coverage of the populated world by 2021.

SpaceX also focused on debris mitigation. The Starlink website claims the network is on the leading edge of on-orbit debris mitigation, meeting or exceeding all regulatory and industry standards. At the end of the satellite’s life, the onboard ion engine propulsion system slowly lowers the altitude over the course of a few months. Should the propulsion system becomes inoperable, satellites still burn up in Earth’s atmosphere within 1–5 years. (there are satellites still orbiting Earth launched in the 1960s.)

The Starlink constellation, Phase 1, first orbital shell: 72 orbits with 22 each, 1,584 satellites at 550 km altitude.

Krypton… isn’t that related to Superman?

No, Starlink’s power does not come from Superman’s homeworld. Rather it does draw energy from our sun with a single solar panel which powers the Krypton ion drive. Krypton is an inert noble gas with the symbol Kr and atomic number 36. There are other satellites and spacecraft using ion engines, but Starlink is the first-ever Krypton propelled spacecraft flown.

Starlink does have sort of a superpower. Starlink satellites have a built-in star tracker to allow the satellite to self orient. If that wasn’t cool enough, the satellites also can perform automatic collision avoidance thanks to some nifty new technology from the Department of Defense’s debris tracking system. This technology allows Starlink satellites to quickly, without the need for human intervention, avoid collisions reliably.

The US military also plans to test out Starlink for their own purposes. The United States Army signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement contract with SpaceX to test and assess Starlink’s broadband communication in military platforms. The three-year agreement with the Army will determine if the network is reliable for future military operations. The low latency of Starlink and global coverage makes Starlink an ideal option for Military communications. Even if one satellite is disabled, Starlink satellite number in the thousands once complete.

NASA Worm logo on a Falcon 9

Yes, that’s right. The classic NASA “worm” logo is back! An image of the revived NASA worm logo was released on Twitter by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine as well as press release on the website.

NASA explained that original NASA insignia is an iconic symbol widely recognized in the world. The NASA “meatball” logo as many know it by represented patriotic American colors. A red chevron wing piercing a blue sphere(Planet) with white stars, and an spacecraft orbiting. This “meatball” logo was not easy to reproduce with 1970’s technology so the Federal Design Improvement Program introduced in 1975 a new logo, the “worm.”

Some History about the logo

By the beginning of World War I, the United States lagged behind Europe in airplane technology. On March 3, 1915, Congress founded NACA as an independent government agency in response to the perception that the United States was falling behind in aeronautical technology. NACA would report directly to the President with the purpose to catch up. But technology had evolved, and once again the US was falling behind in technology. Russia launched Sputnik. The space race was being lost.

NACA logo
US NACA logo. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA)

Following the launch of Sputnik, the United States created NASA to catch up in the space race and pull ahead. In order to help spur on a wave of national enthusiasm in support of the nation’s aeronautical, a logo would be needed. The new agency set out to design a new logo and came up with various options for consideration.

Competing Sketches Center designs for the NASA seal. The winning design was submitted by James Modarelli and his Lewis team. The design actually incorrectly showed an upside-down attitude of the wing element. (NASA Headquarters Historical Reference Collection (HRC), file number 4540)

The red emblem contained on the NASA logo, has erroneously been referred to as a “slash,” “vector,” “airfoil,” “hypersonic wing design,” and even as an “alternate shape of the constellation
Andromeda.” It was based on a wooden model for an arrow-wing design.

Part of the Inspiration for the NASA logo came from a wooden Langley display model showing the radical twist and camber of a supersonic arrow-wing design. Part of the features of the design were inverted in the first seal design. (Credit NASA/NACA L-00502)

The official NASA seal was submitted with the “Meatball” .….

Read more on West East Space…

I read all the news about SpaceX’s Falcon 9 latest “failure” to land on an autonomous spaceport drone ship aka barge. I view these as trials to success. Here’s why.

1. Grasshopper Successes: The two videos below show that the early landing trials aka Grasshopper from several heights between 250m and 1,000m.

The lessons here are:

a) Pinpoint landing of a 1st stage rocket is technologically feasible.

b) This 1st stage rocket has to attain zero vertical velocity at a minimum 250m above the barge.

Video of 250m test

Video of 1,000m test

2. Falcon 9 1st stage crash landing — 1st attempt: SpaceX tells us that the failure was due to a hard landing (see video below) but at 0:03 minutes into the video one can see that the 1st stage has substantially tilted before it hit the deck i.e. the 1st stage did not tilt because it hit the deck.

The lessons here:

a) A wobble — a dynamic instability — occurs before landing.

b) The guidance systems are unable to cope with new wobble.

Video of 1st attempt

3. Falcon 9 1st stage crash landing — 2nd attempt: The video of the second attempt (below) confirms that indeed a wobble has been introduced before the stabilization fins are deployed. Further, this deployment exacerbates the wobble, and the guidance systems is unable to handle this exacerbated wobble.

The lessons here:

a) 1st stage vertical velocity needs to be zero by at least 250m above deck.

b) The stabilization fins need to be redesigned to alleviate exacerbation.

c) Like the Space Ship One’s shuttlecock approach, the 1st stage upper fins need to be deployed before the lower fins are.

d) Upgrade the landing guidance system to account for more severe wobbles.

If at a minimum, SpaceX achieves zero velocity at 250m before deployment of landing gear it will be successful. The other recommendations are good to have.

I expect SpaceX to be successful by their 3rd try.