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Mégantic reserve marking International Dark Sky Week – Sherbrooke Record

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From April 19 to the 26, the Mont-Mégantic dark-sky preserve is encouraging people across the region to reconnect with the night by looking to the skies and the ASTROLab Facebook page in celebration of International Dark Sky Week. The week was created in 2003 by the International Dark sky Association (IDA), as a way of promoting the importance of natural night and drawing attention to the issue of light pollution.
The ASTROLab scientific education team from Mont-Mégantic Provincial Park has been sharing their knowledge and wonder live every day since the start of confinement period for the COVID-19 pandemic, but over this coming week, the activities and presentations will highlight the value of the starry night’s sky.
On the agenda are; a live quiz on the night’s sky; A citizen science project that draws on a mobile phone application to evaluate the quality of the darkness of the sky at a person’s own home; a kid-friendly presentation on constellations, a presentation on the Mont-Mégantic dark-sky preserve; and a presentation on the ways different telescopes work.
“Right now, a lot of people have time at home so it is a good time to reconnect with the starry sky,” said Sébastien Giguère, scientific coordinator at the ASTROLab. “One can watch the real stars, or learn more about them by taking advantage of the many resources and activities online. Astronomy is a source of wonder accessible to all during this difficult period.”
More information on the week’s activities is available at facebook.com/montmegantic

Published in the Monday, April 20 edition of The Record.

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SpaceX's Starship rocket prototype explodes on Texas test pad – Windsor Star

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A prototype of SpaceX’s upcoming heavy-lift rocket, Starship, exploded on Friday during ground tests in south Texas as Elon Musk’s space company pursued an aggressive development schedule to fly the launch vehicle for the first time.

The testing explosion was unrelated to SpaceX’s upcoming launch of two NASA astronauts from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center using a different rocket system, the Falcon 9 with the Crew Dragon capsule fixed on top.

A prototype vanished in an explosive fireball at SpaceX’s Boca Chica test site on Friday, as seen in a livestream recorded by the website NASA Spaceflight. There was no immediate indication of injuries. SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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What Time Is the SpaceX Launch? How to Watch – The New York Times

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On Saturday, for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttles in July 2011, NASA astronauts are scheduled to blast off from American soil on an American rocket to the International Space Station. In contrast to astronaut launches in the past when NASA ran the show, this time a private company, SpaceX, will be in charge of mission control. The company, founded by Elon Musk, built the Falcon 9 rocket and the capsule, Crew Dragon, which the two astronauts will travel in.

The mission is scheduled to lift off at 3:22 p.m. Eastern time from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Coverage of the launch on NASA Television will begin at 11 a.m. The Times will provide live video of the launch.

The first attempt to launch, on Wednesday, was called off about 15 minutes before it was to occur because the weather wasn’t playing nice. SpaceX’s launch directors deemed the risk of lightning and other weather hazards too high to allow the astronauts to lift off safely.

The weather officers said that they expected conditions to clear up about 10 minutes after the scheduled launch time. But in order for the capsule to catch the space station at the right moment the next day, the launch had to go off at the precise time of 4:33 p.m. Eastern time.

Credit…Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

Not the most promising. Weather forecasts currently give a 50 percent chance of favorable conditions at the launch site. The next opportunity on Sunday is slightly better, with a 60 percent chance of favorable conditions.

Lifting off in bad weather can be catastrophic to rockets. During the countdown, about 10 members of the 45th Weather Squadron, part of the United States Space Force, keep a close eye on conditions to see if they fall within predetermined launch criteria. If the weather conditions violate the criteria, SpaceX’s launch director will call off the launch.

The launch has to occur at a precise moment to allow the Crew Dragon to meet up with the space station, and there is no leeway for delays.

For the safety of the crew, the launch team also has to consider weather and ocean conditions just off the coast, where the capsule would splash down if there were an emergency on the launchpad or farther away in the Atlantic if a problem occurred on the way to orbit.

Credit…John Raoux/Associated Press

The astronauts are Robert L. Behnken and Douglas G. Hurley, who have been friends and colleagues since both were selected by NASA to be astronauts in 2000.

They both have backgrounds as military test pilots and have each flown twice previously on space shuttle missions, although this is the first time they have worked together on a mission. Mr. Hurley flew on the space shuttle’s final mission in 2011.

In 2015, they were among the astronauts chosen to work with Boeing and SpaceX on the commercial space vehicles that the companies were developing. In 2018, they were assigned to the first SpaceX flight.

SpaceX has never taken people to space before. Its Crew Dragon is a gumdrop-shaped capsule — an upgraded version of SpaceX’s original Dragon capsule, which has been used many times to carry cargo, but not people, to the space station.

Crew Dragon has space for up to seven people but will have only four seats for NASA missions. If this launch succeeds, it will ferry four astronauts to the space station later in the year.

The Crew Dragon is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station 19 hours after launch on Sunday, at about 10:30 a.m. Eastern time. During their trip, the astronauts will test to test how the spacecraft flies and verify that the systems are performing as designed. Unless something goes wrong, the Crew Dragon’s computers usually handle all of the maneuvering and docking procedures.

The astronauts also said they planned to test out the capsule’s toilet.

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SpaceX’s Starship SN4 launch vehicle prototype explodes after static engine fire test – TechCrunch

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SpaceX had just conducted yet another static fire test of the Raptor engine in its Starship SN4 prototype launch vehicle on Friday when the test vehicle exploded on the test stand in Boca Chica, Texas. This was the fourth static fire test of this engine on this prototype, so it’s unclear what went wrong versus other static fire attempts.

This was a test in the development of Starship, a new spacecraft that SpaceX has been developing in Boca Chica. Eventually, the company hopes to use it to replace its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rocket, but Starship is still very early in its development phase, whereas those vehicles are flight-proven, multiple times over.

SpaceX had just secured FAA approval to fly its Starship prototype for short, suborbital test flights. The goal was to fly this SN4 prototype for short distances following static fire testing, but that clearly won’t be possible now, as the vehicle appears to have been completely destroyed in the explosion following Friday’s test, as you can see below in the stream from NASASpaceflight.com.

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The explosion occurred around 1:49 PM local time in Texas, roughly two minutes after it had completed its engine test fire. We’ve reached out to SpaceX to find out more about the cause of today’s incident, and whether anyone was hurt in the explosion. SpaceX typically takes plenty of safety precautions when running these tests, including ensuring the area is well clear of any personnel or other individuals.

This isn’t the first time one of SpaceX’s Starship prototypes has met a catastrophic end; a couple of previous test vehicles succumbed to pressure testing while being put through their paces. This is why space companies test frequently and stress test vehicles during development — to ensure that the final operational vehicles are incredibly safe and reliable when they need to be.

SpaceX is already working on additional prototypes, including assembling SN5 nearby in Boca Chica, so it’s likely to resume its testing program quickly once it can clear the test stand and move in the newest prototype. This is a completely separate endeavor from SpaceX’s work on the Commercial Crew program, so that historic first test launch with astronauts on board should proceed either Saturday or Sunday as planned, depending on weather.

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