Spaceflight is hard, and sometimes things don’t go to plan. But by looking at past missions and learning from their mistakes, we can make future missions all the better. The year 2019 had a few major “lessons learned” for entities all around the world.
From difficulties landing on the moon, to a few rocket explosions, engineers definitely had some new things to think about for the next time.
Iran rocket failures
Iran experienced its fair share of rocket failures in 2019. In January, the third stage of a rocket called Simorgh did not reach its “necessary speed” to successfully heft the Payam satellite into its planned orbit, Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi told AP News.
In February, satellite images from company DigitalGlobe showed an Iranian satellite called Doosti (“Friendship” in Persian) likely launched, but multiple sources suggested it did not make it safely to orbit. Then in August, more satellite imagery from Planet showed a rocket that had apparently exploded on the pad, in footage that was first shared exclusively with NPR.
China rocket & satellite failure
Chinese private firm OneSpace fails with first orbital launch attempt https://t.co/XkzyrfxFlY pic.twitter.com/w4ZWUOdWASMarch 27, 2019
This nation had an extraordinarily productive late 2019, when (among many other milestones) it successfully launched two rockets in three hours from different launch sites – and two rockets in six hours from the same launch area. But there were some mistakes along the way.
Chinese private company OneSpace had a launch failure in March 2019 that was later attributed to a gyroscope issue. In May, a Long March 4C rocket from the Chinese government failed during launch, due to an issue with the rocket’s third stage. An August launch of a Long March 3B rocket appeared to go well at first, but then its main payload — the Chinasat 18 satellite — failed to communicate with Earth.
Israel’s moon crash
In April of this year, Israel aimed for the moon with a novel lander called Beresheet built by the private group SpaceIL. The probe, which launched Feb. 21 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, was poised to become the first privately built moon lander to softly set down on the lunar surface. But when it arrived at the moon on April 11, something went wrong.
Instead of landing safely on the moon’s Sea of Serenity, Beresheet missed its landing burn and crashed into the lunar surface instead. Despite the failure, SpaceIL has vowed to build a new Beresheet and return to the moon in the mid-2020s.
SpaceX Crew Dragon abort explosion
BREAKING: #SpaceX Crew Dragon suffered an anomaly during test fire today, according to 45th Space Wing. Smoke could be seen on the beaches.”On April 20, an anomaly occurred at Cape Canaveral AFS during Dragon 2 static test fire. Anomaly was contained and no injuries.” pic.twitter.com/If5rdeGRXOApril 20, 2019
An engine test of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which will eventually bring astronauts to the International Space Station, did not go to plan on April 20. Local media reports and images showed a huge plume of smoke emanating from the test site.
“Earlier today, SpaceX conducted a series of engine tests on a Crew Dragon test vehicle on our test stand at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral, Florida,” a company spokesperson told Space.com in a statement. “The initial tests completed successfully, but the final test resulted in an anomaly on the test stand.” A leaky valve and faulty component were later found to be the causes of the fire.
SpaceX has since fixed the problem and performed a series of successful ground tests of Crew Dragon’s abort system. The company will launch an uncrewed In-Flight Abort test flight no earlier than Jan. 11, and aims to begin flying people to the space station in 2020.
Arianespace Vega failure
French company Arianespace experienced a major anomaly in July when its Vega rocket, carrying the United Arab Emirates’ FalconEye1 satellite, failed to get the rocket or the satellite safely into space. In September, the European Space Agency said that the Z23 motor – which powers the second stage of the rocket – was the cause.
“The commission identified the anomaly’s most likely cause as a thermo-structural failure in the forward dome area of the Z23 motor,” ESA wrote In a statement. Vega will most likely return to flight in 2020 once corrective action is taken to stop the failure from happening again, the agency added.
India’s moon crash
On Sept. 6, the India Chandrayaan-2 moon lander Vikram made a descent to the moon — then stopped communicating with Earth.
The Indian Space Research Organisation spent more than two months trying to find the little lander, before determining that it had indeed crashed on the surface. The suspected cause is an issue with the braking thrusters, which were supposed to slow down Vikram during its last few feet before soft-landing. Vikram instead “hard landed” within view of its landing site.
A stuck “mole” on Mars
The InSight Mars lander experienced a number of issues trying to get its drill deep enough into the Martian surface to look at heat flow on the Red Planet.
During several attempts, the “mole” got stuck because the regolith (soil) was harder than expected. At one point, the mole even popped out of the hole. Engineers eventually hit upon the idea of using a robotic arm to pin the drill against the soil during penetration.
As of late December, the mole is moving under the surface again.
Exos Aerospace rocket crash
An Exos Aerospace suborbital sounding rocket (which flies into the upper atmosphere) failed during a launch attempt on Oct. 26. The Suborbital Autonomous Rocket with GuidancE (SARGE) rocket’s mission ended after the launch attempt at Spaceport America in New Mexico.
The problem was later traced to the failure of a part underneath the nose cone; the nose cone fell back into the rocket and the rocket’s trajectory veered beyond recovery.
SpaceX’s Starship prototype pops
Starship Mk1 had an anomaly in November, blowing its top during a cryogenic pressure test at SpaceX’s facilities near the South Texas village of Boca Chica.
SpaceX plans to move to more advanced prototypes of Starship rather than repairing and retesting this particular one, CEO Elon Musk said in a tweet. These prototypes are forming part of the testing program for Starship, which is expected to bring astronauts into deep space (including Mars) in the coming years.
SpaceX was already building a second Starship prototype, the Mk2, in Florida. After the Mk1 anomaly, the company decided to put its resources behind the construction of a third new prototype, the Mk3, at its Boca Chica test site.
Boeing Starliner in wrong orbit
Like SpaceX, Boeing has a NASA contract to fly eventually fly astronauts on trips to the International Space Station. To do that, Boeing has built a new space capsule, called the CST-100 Starliner, which is designed to launch into orbit on an Atlas V rocket, dock itself at the station and return to Earth to make a land-based landing with parachutes and airbags.
On Dec. 20, Boeing launched the first Starliner test flight to the International Space Station, but the uncrewed mission never made it to its destination. A mission clock error caused the Starliner to think it was in a later part of its mission, leading the spacecraft to use propellant it vitally needed for the trip to the station. In the end, Starliner’s clock error and a communications issue forced Boeing to abandon hopes of reaching the space station. The planned eight-day mission was cut to just three, with Starliner returning to Earth and landing successfully.
While Starliner successfully launched and landed, its failure to reach the space station has NASA and Boeing discussing whether another uncrewed test flight will be required before astronauts can start flying on the spacecraft in 2020.
NASA's Perseverance rover deploys wind sensor on Mars – Space.com
NASA’s Perseverance rover continues to get up to speed on the Red Planet.
Since Perseverance’s picture-perfect landing on Feb. 18, the rover team has been methodically checking out its seven science instruments and various subsystems. For example, Perseverance just deployed its wind sensor, as before-and-after photos captured by the six-wheeled robot’s navigation cameras show.
The wind sensor is part of Perseverance’s weather station, which is called the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA). The instrument will monitor air temperature, humidity, radiation, dust and wind at Perseverance’s landing site, the floor of Jezero Crater, a 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) hole in the ground that harbored a deep lake and a river delta in the ancient past.
Live updates: NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover mission
Congrats to the MEDA team! Look what just deployed!! The wind sensor! @estrellasycafe You must be so stoked! Find more photos at: https://t.co/MTE3cqSBDd #mars2020 pic.twitter.com/FiGbSTvqYnMarch 1, 2021
Perseverance, the heart of NASA’s $2.7 billion Mars 2020 mission, will hunt for signs of life inside Jezero and collect and cache samples for future return to Earth. But that main science work won’t start immediately after the rover gets up and running; Perseverance’s first big job will be to find an airfield where its little helicopter buddy can take off.
That helicopter, a 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) craft named Ingenuity, journeyed to Mars on Perseverance’s belly. Ingenuity will deploy at the airfield and try to make the first-ever rotorcraft flights on a world beyond Earth, demonstrating technology that could pave the way for a whole new Mars exploration strategy.
Ingenuity’s flights will likely take place this spring, with science and sampling work commencing in earnest in the summer, mission team members have said.
But Perseverance’s early days on Mars are far from boring. The rover team has already posted more than 6,300 of the rover’s Jezero photos, many of them spectacular high-resolution shots taken with Perseverance’s Mastcam-Z camera system. You can find them here. Happy sightseeing!
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.
Humans Have Started To Dump Trash On The Martian Surface: Report – Mashable India
NASA’s Perseverance rover successfully touched down on Mars at the end-February after a 203-day journey traversing 293 million miles (472 million kilometres). Ever since its landing, a lot of new images and videos have surfaced online, giving us a look into the rover’s new home on the Martian surface. On the Martian surface, the ESA-Roscosmos Trace Gas Orbiter also cruised over the landing area of the Perseverance rover a few days after its touch down and managed to get pictures of the rover.
As reported by BGR, in the image shared by ESA, you can see where the rover is placed on the Martian surface as well as all the junk that dropped down as the Perseverance rover landing on Mars. The report states that the rover’s landing on Mars was a very complex event that required a range of machinery and heavy-duty equipment. The images shared by ESA mages show the rover, the descent stage, the parachute, back shell, and a heat shield, all of the equipment that helped the rover during its landing on Mars.
“There it is! And there’s the garbage! The ExoMars orbiter that snapped the image didn’t just provide a birds-eye view of the rover after landing, but also provided NASA with additional information and tracking data when the rover was coming in for its landing,” states the BGR report.
The image of NASA’s Perseverance rover on the martian surface was released by the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), part of the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars program, on February 25. The tweet shared by the agency states that “there you are Nasa Persevere! I finally got the chance to take a photo of you in your new home”.
Fly me to the Moon: Japan billionaire offers space seats – Space Daily
It’s the sort of chance that comes along just once in a blue Moon: a Japanese billionaire is throwing open a private lunar expedition to eight people from around the world.
Yusaku Maezawa, an online fashion tycoon, was announced in 2018 as the first man to book a spot aboard the lunar spaceship being developed by SpaceX.
Maezawa, who paid an undisclosed sum for the trip expected to launch in 2023 at the earliest, originally said he planned to invite six to eight artists to join him on the voyage around the Moon.
But on Wednesday, in a video posted on his Twitter account, he revealed a broader application process.
“I’m inviting you to join me on this mission. Eight of you from all around the world,” he said.
“I have bought all the seats, so it will be a private ride,” he added.
Maezawa, 45, said his initial plan of inviting artists had “evolved” because he came to believe that “every single person who is doing something creative could be called an artist.”
The Japanese entrepreneur said applicants would need to fulfil just two criteria: being ready to “push the envelope” creatively, and being willing to help other crew members do the same.
In all, he said around 10 to 12 people will be on board the spaceship, which is expected to loop around the Moon before returning to Earth.
The application timeline for spots on the trip calls for would-be space travellers to pre-register by March 14, with initial screening carried out by March 21.
No deadlines are given for the next stages — an “assignment” and an online interview — but final interviews and medical checkups are currently scheduled for late May 2021, according to Maezawa’s website.
– Musk ‘highly confident’ –
Maezawa and his band of astronauts will become the first lunar voyagers since the last US Apollo mission in 1972 — if SpaceX can pull the trip off.
Last month, a prototype of its Starship crashed in a fireball as it tried to land upright after a test flight, the second such accident, after the last prototype of the Starship met a similar fate in December.
But the company hopes the reusable, 394-foot (120-metre) rocket system will one day carry crew and cargo to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
“I’m highly confident that we will have reached orbit many times with Starship before 2023 and that it will be safe enough for human transport by 2023. It’s looking very promising,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk said in Maezawa’s video posted Wednesday.
The mission will be the first private space flight beyond Earth’s orbit, Musk said.
Because it will not land on the Moon, but loop behind it, “we expect people will go further than any human has ever gone from planet Earth,” he added.
Maezawa, known for his eccentric comments and extravagant lifestyle including a penchant for pricey art, was last year valued around $1.9 billion, making him one of Japan’s richest people.
He made his fortune as founder of online fashion store Zozo, which he sold to Yahoo! Japan in 2019.
Maezawa has previously made headlines with an online ad for a girlfriend to join him on his SpaceX flight — only to abruptly cancel the hunt, despite attracting nearly 30,000 applicants.
US space agency NASA is intending to land astronauts on the Moon, including the first woman, in 2024.
One of the goals of its Artemis III voyage is to bring back a total of 85 kilograms (187 pounds) of lunar samples — more than the average 64 kilograms brought back by Apollo missions between 1969 and 1972.
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Cancer survivor to join first all-private spaceflight on SpaceX’s Dragon
Washington DC (UPI) Feb 24, 2021
A physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital will join the first all-private space mission in a fundraising effort for the Memphis-based charitable facility.
The mission, called Inspiration4, is scheduled for launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida as early as October for four private citizens. They plan to orbit the Earth for several days aboard a Crew Dragon capsule built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Hayley Arceneaux, 29, survived bone cancer through treatment at the h … read more
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