SpaceX Has Apparently Tweaked Its Giant BFR Rocket Design. And It Looks Awesome! - Canadanewsmedia
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SpaceX Has Apparently Tweaked Its Giant BFR Rocket Design. And It Looks Awesome!

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SpaceX’s giant Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) has a sleek new look for an audacious private passenger flight around the moon. If an early rendering is anything to go by, the BFR is going to have some wild fins.

Late last night (Sept. 13), SpaceX announced that it has signed a deal to launch a private passenger flight around the moon with its new BFR megarocket sometime in the future. Details are scant — SpaceX will unveil more on Monday (Sept. 17) during a live webcast — but the private spaceflight company did unveil a new artist's concept of a BFR passenger rocket around the moon. [The BFR in Images: SpaceX's Giant Spaceship for Mars & Beyond]

Does that new BFR art look sci-fi? Yes. But is it actually a new version of SpaceX's BFR? Also, apparently, yes.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk suggested as much Thursday night. When asked if the SpaceX artist's rendering was a new version of the BFR, he replied with a straightforward "Yes."

Taken at face value, the new BFR art suggests SpaceX has made some slight changes to the huge, crewed spaceship.

First, there's the obvious. Take a look at those awesome fins!

The new rendering shows the BFR spaceship with three large fins, giving it a vaguely shuttle-like profile. There is also a hint of a darker-colored heat shield along its belly, but again, it's unclear. Both elements would be a departure from earlier designs shown by Musk at International Astronautical Congress meetings in 2016 and 2017. (It was at the 2017 meeting that Musk dubbed the spacecraft the "BFR." It was called the Interplanetary Transport System before that.) In both of those cases, the BFR had only the slightest hint of two fins, swept far back.

Then, there are the engines.

The new rendering shows the BFR crewed spacecraft with seven engines (presumably, SpaceX's new Raptors) firing as it rounds the moon. Musk's presentation in 2017 showed a BFR with a total of six Raptor engines, two of which were sea-level engines and the other four reserved for use in the vacuum of space. So, the rendering suggests a new BFR version with seven engines capable of firing in a vacuum.

But what about the booster? The earlier BFR designs shown by Musk in 2016 and 2017 used a massive reusable booster to launch the crewed spaceship into orbit and then return to Earth for later reuse like SpaceX's Falcon 9 first stages in use today.

In 2016, that BFR booster was gigantic — 40 feet wide (12 meters) — and powered by 42 Raptor engines. By 2017, SpaceX had scaled the booster down a bit. In that new design, the booster was 30 feet (9 m) wide and powered by 31 Raptor engines.

For comparison, the first stage of SpaceX's workhorse Falcon 9 rocket is 12 feet wide (3.7 m) and powered by nine of the company's Merlin engines. SpaceX's heavy-lift Falcon Heavy rocket includes two Falcon 9 first stages around a core booster, each of which uses nine Merlin engines, for a total of 27 engines.

But has the new BFR spaceship's booster changed since last year? It's not clear, and we'll have to wait until Monday to find out.

Just as a refresher, SpaceX's BFR system (the name can also mean the "Big F—— Rocket") as laid out by Musk in 2017 was defined as the following:

  • It would be a fully reusable, two-stage system that would feature a crewed spacecraft and booster.
  • Together, the booster and spacecraft would stand 348 feet (106 m) tall.
  • The BFR's crewed spaceship would stand 157.5 feet (48 m) tall.
  • The crewed spaceship would feature 40 cabins and likely carry up to 100 passengers on trips to Mars.
  • The crewed spaceship would be capable of supersonic retropropulsion landings much like Falcon 9 rockets today.
  • The BFR will be able to launch 150 tons to low Earth orbit, which would make it more powerful than NASA's Saturn V moon rocket.
  • The BFR is designed to foster Mars colonization but could fly point to point around Earth, to the moon and to other parts of the solar system.
  • The first uncrewed spaceship tests could begin in 2019, with a potential uncrewed flight to Mars in 2022 and a crewed flight in 2024.

We'll have to wait until SpaceX's big reveal on Monday to find out how much of the BFR design has really changed.

And then there's the mystery question: Exactly who is SpaceX's private passenger for the BFR flight around the moon? In February 2017, Musk announced that SpaceX would fly two passengers on a private trip around the moon using its Falcon Heavy rocket and Dragon spacecraft. But earlier this year, Musk said the Falcon Heavy would not fly crewed Dragon flights, with SpaceX shifting instead to its BFR development for deep-space voyages.

Musk has released one tantalizing morsel as a possible clue: Late Thursday, he posted an emoji of a Japanese flag on Twitter in response to a question about who was flying the mission. (The actual tongue-in-cheek question asked if Musk was the passenger. The billionaire did not address it directly.)

So, what do you think about SpaceX's BFR lunar flight plan? We'll find out more Monday, when Musk unveils new details in a webcast at 9 p.m. EDT (0100 GMT on Sept. 18). You can watch the SpaceX moon shot webcast live here, courtesy of SpaceX.

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

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Nasa telescope discovers two new planets

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Nasa telescope discovers two new planets

ORLANDO: A planet-hunting orbital telescope designed to detect worlds beyond our solar system discovered two distant planets this week five months after its launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, officials said on Thursday.

Nasa’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, better known as TESS, made an early discovery of “super-Earth” and “hot Earth” planets in solar systems at least 49 light-years away, marking the satellite´s first discovery since its April launch.

TESS is on a two-year, $337 million mission to expand astronomers´ known catalog of so-called exoplanets, worlds circling distant stars. While the two planets are too hot to support life, TESS Deputy Science Director Sara Seager expects many more such discoveries.

“We will have to wait and see what else TESS discovers,” Seager told Reuters. “We do know that planets are out there, littering the night sky, just waiting to be found. “TESS is designed to build on the work of its predecessor, the Kepler space telescope, which discovered the bulk of some 3,700 exoplanets documented during the past 20 years and is running out of fuel.

NASA expects to pinpoint thousands more previously unknown worlds, perhaps hundreds of them Earth-sized or “super-Earth” sized – no larger than twice as big as our home planet. Those are believed the most likely to feature rocky surfaces or oceans and are thus considered the best candidates for life to evolve. Scientists have said they hope TESS will ultimately help catalog at least 100 more rocky exoplanets for further study in what has become one of astronomy´s newest fields of exploration.

MIT researchers on Wednesday announced the discovery of Pi Mensae c, a “super-earth” planet 60 light-years away orbiting its sun every 6.3 days. The discovery of LHS 3844 b, a “hot-earth” planet 49 light-years away that orbits its sun every 11 hours, was announced on Thursday. Pi Mensae c could have a solid surface or be a water world as the composition of such planets is a mixed bag, Martin Spill, NASA´s program scientist for TESS, said in a phone interview. The two newest planets, which still need to be reviewed by other researchers, offer the chance for follow-up study, officials said.

“That, of course, is TESS´ entire purpose – to find those planets around those brightest nearby stars to do this really detailed characterization,” Spill said. With four special cameras, TESS uses a detection method called transit photometry, which looks for periodic dips in the visible light of stars caused by planets passing, or transiting, in front of them.

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Kounotori 7 cargo resupply mission on its way to ISS

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The Kounotori 7 spacecraft is launched by Japan’s H-IIB rocket. Liftoff took place at 17:52 GMT Sept. 22, 2018. Photo Credit: JAXA

Japan’s seventh cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan on Saturday. It’s mission? To send more than six metric tons of cargo, including supplies to for the crew, new batteries as well as various experiments.

HTV-7, or Kounotori 7 (Kounotori means “white stork” in Japanese), was launched atop an H-IIB rocket at 1:52 p.m. EDT Sept. 22 (17:52 GMT / 2:52 a.m. local time Sept. 23), 2018. The cargo vessel is scheduled to arrive at the ISS on Sept. 27.

The flight was initially targeted for a 6:32 p.m. EDT Sept. 10 (22:32 GMT / 7:32 a.m. local time Sept. 11) launch, however adverse weather, including strong winds caused by a typhoon near Guam, forced the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to put the launch on hold and to reschedule the liftoff. Guam hosts the main ground tracking station necessary to maintain communications between flight controllers and the launch vehicle.

HTV-7 at the Second Spacecraft Test and Assembly Building located at Tanegashima Space Center in Japan.

HTV-7 at the Second Spacecraft Test and Assembly Building located at Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. Photo Credit: JAXA.

After another examination of the weather, the launch was rescheduled to 4:59 p.m. EDT Sept. 14 (20:59 GMT / 5:59 a.m. local time Sept. 15), but this time the flight was scrubbed about two hours before the ignition of the H-IIB’s engines because of an issue with the rocket’s propulsion system. This required a postponement of about a week to allow time for engineers to identify and solve the problem.

JAXA then set Sept. 21 EDT (Sept. 22 local time) as the new launch date and when it seemed that all the obstacles in the way of a successful liftoff were cleared, adverse weather once again forced the agency to delay the flight by another 24 hours.

Countdown and launch


Finally, the H-IIB was rolled out to the launch pad some 15 hours before the planned liftoff. After several hours of inspections and fueling, the countdown entered its terminal phase about an hour before ignition.

At around T-minus minutes, control of the mission was handed to computers and the launch vehicle was switched to internal power. Five seconds before liftoff, the rocket’s first stage ignited its two LE-7A engines. At T-minus zero, the quartet of A3 Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB) came to life and the H-IIB began a short vertical ascent powered by six engines overall.

After completing its vertical ascent, the rocket performed a pitch and roll maneuver and turned southeast to line up with the 51.6-degree orbital inclination of the ISS.

The initial stage of the flight lasted nearly two minutes and concluded with the separation of the SRBs. With the quartet jettisoned, the H-IIB continued its mission powered by the core stage alone.

Payload fairing separation occurred nearly four minutes into flight and the core stage finished its job at about six minutes into flight.

Next, the second stage took control of the mission, igniting its single LE-5B engine to begin the task of inserting the HTV-7 craft into its initial orbit some 186 miles (300 kilometers) in altitude. The deployment of the spacecraft took place approximately 15 minutes after liftoff.

HTV-7 is now in the process of catching up with the International Space Station. It will take about five days to reach the station’s vicinity where it is expected to be captured around 7:54 a.m. EDT (11:54 GMT) Sept. 27 by the station’s 57.7-foot (17.6-meter) long robotic Canadarm2 that will be operated by two Expedition 56 astronauts, Drew Feustel and Serena Aunon-Chancellor of NASA.

The spacecraft is expected to be installed to the Earth-facing port of the station’s Harmony module. It will remain berthed to the ISS until mid-November 2018.

The Exposed Pallet with six lithium-ion batteries installed. Image Credit: JAXA

The Exposed Pallet with six lithium-ion batteries installed. Image Credit: JAXA

The payload


HTV-7 was presented to the media on July 28, 2018, during a press briefing at the Tanegashima Space Center. According to JAXA, the spacecraft is loaded with about 6.2 metric tons of supplies, fresh food, water, spare parts and experiments.

Developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the 23,100-pound (10,500-kilogram) HTV-7 spacecraft is about 33 feet (10 meters) long and 14.4 feet (4.4 meters) in diameter. The vessel consists of two logistic carriers—the Pressurized Logistics Carrier (PLC) and the Unpressurized Logistics Carrier (ULC), which also includes the Exposed Pallet, as well as an Avionics Module and a Propulsion Module.

The ULC of HTV-7 is occupied by six new battery Orbital Replacement Units (ORUs) consisting of new lithium-ion battery cells weighing some 1.9 metric tons. The ORUs are slated to replace the station’s current nickel-hydrogen batteries. HTV vessels are capable of delivering six ORUs at a time.

Two spacewalks are planned to replace the old nickel-hydrogen batteries with the new lithium-ion units. They were originally scheduled for September 20 and 26, but because of the delay of HTV-7’s arrival to ISS, they have been subsequently postponed. New dates for the EVAs are expected to be announced by NASA soon.

Besides crucial supplies for the astronauts aboard the station, the cargo of HTV-7’s PLC (about 4.3 metric tons) includes two EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments for Space Station (EXPRESS) Racks, namely EXPRESS Rack 9B and 10B. These are multipurpose payload rack systems that store and support research aboard the space station and enable quick, simple integration of multiple payloads.

For JAXA, an essential payload inside the PLC is the HTV Small Re-entry Capsule (HSRC). This cone-shaped container, with dimensions of 2 feet by 2.7 feet (0.61 meters by 0.82 meters), is designed to demonstrate re-entry technology and cargo recovery from the space station. After the departure of the freighter from the outpost this fall, HSRC is expected to separate from the spacecraft’s hatch for a parachute-assisted splashdown off the coast of Japan and before being recovered.

The HTV Small Re-entry Capsule. Photo Credit: JAXA

The HTV Small Re-entry Capsule. Photo Credit: JAXA

The PLC also contains ESA’s Life Support Rack (LSR), which includes equipment for a demonstration test of an “effective life support system” that produces oxygen from water using electrolysis. Another payload is the Life Sciences Glovebox (LSG), which will be the second large-scale glovebox for scientific experiments on the ISS and is expected to be installed in the Kibo module.

Other payloads inside PLC include the Loop Heat Pipe Radiator (LHPR) technology demonstration system, the JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD) and three CubeSats named SPATIUM-I, RSP-00 and STARS-Me, which were developed jointly by universities in Japan and Singapore.

On the list of experiments being transported by HTV-7 are a new sample holder for the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (JAXA-ELF), a protein crystal growth experiment at low temperatures (JAXA LT PCG) and an investigation that looks at the effect of microgravity on bone marrow (MARROW).

The H-IIB rocket that was used for Saturday’s launch is a two-stage launch vehicle derived from the H-II rocket of the 1990s. Standing just slightly taller than both rockets in the H-II family at 183.7 feet (57 meters), it uses liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellant to power its two LE-7A first stage engines and single LE-5B second stage engine.

Additionally, four strap-on solid-fueled boosters are utilized for the first two minutes of flight. The rocket was designed to send Kounotori spacecraft into orbit and has been used exclusively for that purpose since its first launch in 2009 with HTV-1.

HTV-7 is Japan’s fifth orbital mission in 2018. The country’s next launch is slated for October 29, 2018, when an H-IIA rocket is planned to orbit several satellites, including CubeSats, for Japan and other countries.

Video courtesy of Space Videos

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Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski’s generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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The lunar gateway: a short cut to Mars?

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  1. The lunar gateway: a short cut to Mars?  The Guardian
  2. Full coverage



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