(Bloomberg) — NASA will review an engine failure last month that caused Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s Falcon 9 rocket booster to land in the sea after a satellite launch, as the U.S. agency prepares for the next crewed flight to the International Space Station in April.
One of the Falcon 9’s nine Merlin engines shut down Feb. 15 during ascent because of a hole in one of the covers, or “boots,” around the top of each engine, Benji Reed, SpaceX’s director of human spaceflight, said Monday at a NASA news conference. The hole allowed hot gas into the engine, which shut off as designed, Reed said. But that meant that the rocket had insufficient thrust during its landing burn to reach a drone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
The engine fault didn’t prevent the rocket from lifting SpaceX’s Starlink satellites into orbit. Reed said the boot was one of the oldest components on one of the company’s older Falcon 9 rockets, which are designed to fly as many as 10 times without major overhauls.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration plans to “understand that anomaly” before the April flight with astronauts, Steve Stich, the agency’s commercial crew manager, told reporters as he discussed that mission and a busy April at the space station.
“We will follow along with SpaceX’s investigation and we will look at that,” Stich said.
NASA also confirmed Monday that an April 2 test flight for Boeing Co.’s Starliner will be delayed. No new date has been set, the agency said. The delay was partly due to productivity losses from the extreme cold in Texas last month and widespread loss of power in the Houston area, NASA said.
Boeing’s first test flight with astronauts is tentatively set for September, Stich said.
NASA also provided an update on several other items at the briefing:
- SpaceX’s crewed launch scheduled for April 20 is likely to move a few days because of orbital mechanics and the space station’s positioning
- NASA plans to relocate the SpaceX Dragon now at the station to a different node so that the crew arriving next month on another Dragon vehicle can berth in the now-occupied spot
- NASA wants to return the astronauts from SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission, who are currently at the space station, before May 9
- SpaceX’s next crewed flight will be with the Dragon vehicle that the company flew in May 2020 on its first test flight with astronauts
- NASA is nearing a new arrangement with Russia’s space agency for additional seats on its Soyuz rocket, with an announcement expected this month. NASA officials said they are working to allow for Russian cosmonauts to fly aboard the Boeing and SpaceX vehicles while still using Soyuz for NASA astronauts.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
To help chart the cosmos, Western space researchers turn to crowd sourcing – CBC.ca
Western University researchers have tapped the help of hundreds of amateur and professional astronomers in an effort to make sure no meteor is unable to slip by the Earth undetected.
To do that, they’re relying on the observations taken from 450 cameras in 30 different countries manned by “enthusiastic amateur astronomers” made up of professional and citizen scientists.
That data is then sent to Western University as part of what’s called the Global Meteor Network (GMN), headed by Denis Vida.
“So we have a lot of enthusiastic amateur astronomers, citizen scientists and also professionals that build, operate and maintain these cameras,” Vida told CBC’s Chris dela Torre during Afternoon Drive. “And every night they inspect the data set and send their data to a central server here at the University of Western Ontario.”
It’s not just about observing meteors – it’s about tracking what’s left of the ones that make it to the earth’s surface too.
“So we also observe a meteorite dropping fireballs,” said Vida. “They’re quite rare over an area of let’s say the country the size of France or Spain. Could only expect two to three of those fireballs a year that drop more than, let’s say, 300 grams of meteorites on the ground.”
“So because these events are very rare, it is important to observe 24/7.”
Vida explained that when one of their cameras spot one of them, they collect the data and find its location so they can retrieve what’s left for analysis – and analysis needs to happen quickly.
“There are certain things in them, like some radionuclide to decay very quickly, but those can tell us how old the meteorite is, how long it was after it was ejected from the parent asteroid that it fell on the ground,” he said.
Vida explained that what ends up on the ground are just “several kilograms of materials” by the time they reach the earth’s surface. They aren’t hot either. They cool down on their descent.
Global push to monitor meteor showers led by Western University – CTV News London
MIDDLESEX CENTRE, ONT. —
London, Ont.’s Western University is leading a worldwide effort to monitor meteor showers and meteorite falls.
The Global Meteor Network (GMN) includes more than 450 cameras in 23 countries – hosted by amateur and professional astronomers.
The goal of the project, led by Denis Vida, a postdoctoral associate at Western, is to ensure unique or rare space events are not missed.
Vida explained in a statement, “Other astronomers can pool their resources to build a big telescope on top of a mountain where the skies are dark and clear year-round, but meteor astronomers need spatial coverage most of all.”
Meteors can occur anywhere in the world, happen close to earth and often burn up at around 100 km above the surface — so they can only be well observed from within about 300 km and need to be seen by cameras in at least two places to get the exact location.
That’s where the Global Meteor Network comes in.
In March, the network helped locate a rare portion of a meteorite that landed in Winchcombe, England on Feb. 28 and figure out where in space it originated.
“Its role in the recovery and analysis of the Winchcombe meteorite fall is proof positive that GMN works,” said Vida.
The first system to observe meteorites was installed at Western in 2017, and it continues to grow as the cost of meteor cameras has declined.
GMN also publishes the orbits of all observed meteors around the world within 24 hours of observation. The location of cameras and meteor data can be seen here.
The network also hopes to better understand flight patterns and flux capacities of meteorites, and even predict future events.
MDA gets $35.3 million contract from Canadian Space Agency for Canadarm 3 components – Times Colonist
BRAMPTON, Ont. — The Canadian Space Agency has awarded a contract worth $35.3 million to MDA Ltd. to design a key component of Canadarm 3.
The funds will be used to design Gateway External Robotics Interfaces or grapple fixtures for Canadarm 3, which is Canada’s contribution to the United States-led Lunar Gateway, a small space station that will orbit the moon.
The contract is a follow-on to the first phase of interface work awarded in August 2019. A construction phase will likely be awarded in about a year.
The first elements of Gateway will launch in 2024, with Canadarm 3 scheduled to launch two years later.
The contract is the third awarded to MDA for the multi-phase Canadarm 3 program valued at more than $1 billion.
Canadarm flew on 90 space shuttle missions after debuting in 1981. Canadarm 2 has been operating on the International Space Station for more than 20 years.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 26, 2021.
Companies in this story: (TSX:MDA)
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