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SpaceX Starship Program Hits Warp Speed – Motley Fool

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SpaceX’s SN8 Starship prototype space rocket blew up. So did the SN9. So did the SN10 (eventually).

Cue SN11.

On Monday, the latest iteration of Elon Musk’s prototype for a fully reusable rocketship completed its second “static fire” test (turning the engines on full blast to ensure they work, but keeping the rocket securely tied down so it doesn’t go anywhere). With that out of the way, all systems are go for SN11 to attempt a launch — probably sometime this weekend — to 10 kilometers altitude, followed by a landing back at its home base. 

If it succeeds, then things will start to get interesting in a hurry.

If at first you do succeed, take the win

You see, SpaceX initially thought it would take about 20 tries to work out all the kinks on the Starship before attempting an actual orbital flight of the rocket. But as NASASpaceflight.com reported last week, the successful landing of the SN10 prototype (it blew up only after landing safely) appears to have advanced SpaceX’s schedule faster than you might expect — and significantly diminished rival space companies’ chances of catching up to SpaceX.

If SN11 works as planned, SpaceX intends to skip right past test flights SN12, -13, and -14, and move ahead to missions SN15, SN16, and SN17 (which will feature an upgraded design, possibly equipped with a heat shield to test the rocket’s ability to reenter the atmosphere from space). Then it might skip ahead again, eschewing missions SN18 and SN19 and advancing straight to SN20.

More interesting still, SpaceX also plans to begin testing its “Super Heavy” booster, which will lift future Starships to space. The first two boosters will be designated BN1 and BN2. (SpaceX doesn’t appear to anticipate as many complications with the booster, so it won’t require as many test flights for it.)

And then we’ll finally see SpaceX put the two parts together. As early as July 1, 2021, SpaceX will make its first orbital launch attempt with Starship. It will try to send SN20 into space atop Super Heavy booster rocket BN3 — and then attempt to land both SN20 and BN3 back on Earth.

Voila: Fully reusable spaceship.

What it means for investors

For those who haven’t been following the SpaceX story closely, it’s probably worth pointing out that SpaceX already has two working rockets — Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy — each partially reusable (their first stages land back on Earth), each capable of reaching orbital speeds.

Starship, and its accompanying Super Heavy booster, are entirely different beasts, and rockets an order of magnitude more advanced than the Falcon. They’re designed so that a Super Heavy booster can put a Starship full of fuel into orbit. Then a second Super Heavy booster can put a second Starship full of astronauts into orbit.

The “tanker” Starship would then refuel the “transport” Starship, giving it enough fuel to travel to the moon, or to Mars, or another destination, land there, and then lift off again and return to Earth.

Voila: Fully reusable interplanetary spaceship.

What comes next

Not to belabor the point, but SpaceX is making gigantic strides with Starship. Just promising a working, fully reusable spaceship program after just 20 tries was aggressive enough. But if SpaceX is really planning to skip test flights SN12, -13, -14, -18, and -19, too, then it’s basically accelerated its flight test program by 25%.

And suffice it to say that this puts SpaceX way ahead of what any other space company on the planet has accomplished, or is even contemplating at this point. If SpaceX succeeds in launching a Super Heavy/Starship combo to orbit in July — or indeed, any time this year — the company will be so far ahead of its rivals that it’s hard to imagine how anyone can compete with it on either capability or cost.

The reason: SpaceX’s reusable rockets can be flown for not much more than the cost of their fuel and refurbishment. They’re therefore much cheaper to launch than ordinary “expendable” rockets, which must be built from scratch for each new mission.

That being said, a word of caution: Although Elon Musk has confirmed he would like to launch an orbital mission in July, he’s also warned that a final, “operational” version of this new space launch system (presumably, one fully certified as safe for human spaceflight) might not be ready until 2023. 

Space companies such as United Launch Alliance, Arianespace, and Roscosmos still have a couple years to hurry and try and catch up to SpaceX — but the clock is ticking.

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Britain in talks with 6 firms about building gigafactories for EV batteries

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Britain is in talks with six companies about building gigafactories to produce batteries for electric vehicles (EV), the Financial Times reported on Wednesday, citing people briefed on the discussions.

Car makers Ford Motor Co and Nissan Motor Co Ltd, conglomerates LG Corp and Samsung, and start-ups Britishvolt and InoBat Auto are in talks with the British government or local authorities about locations for potential factories and financial support, the report added .

 

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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EBay to sell South Korean unit for about $3.6 billion to Shinsegae, Naver

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EBay will sell its South Korean business to retailer Shinsegae Group and e-commerce firm Naver for about 4 trillion won ($3.6 billion), local newspapers reported on Wednesday.

EBay Korea is the country’s third-largest e-commerce firm with market share of about 12.8% in 2020, according to Euromonitor. It operates the platforms Gmarket, Auction and G9.

Shinsegae, Naver and eBay Korea declined to comment.

Lotte Shopping had also been in the running, the Korea Economic Daily and other newspapers said, citing unnamed investment banking sources.

South Korea represents the world’s fourth largest e-commerce market. Driven by the coronavirus pandemic, e-commerce has soared to account for 35.8% of the retail market in 2020 compared with 28.6% in 2019, according to Euromonitor data.

Shinsegae and Naver formed a retail and e-commerce partnership in March by taking stakes worth 250 billion won in each other’s affiliates.

($1 = 1,117.7000 won)

 

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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Canada launches long-awaited auction of 5G spectrum

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Canada is set to begin a hotly anticipated auction of the mobile telecommunications bandwidth necessary for 5G rollout, one that was delayed more than a year by the pandemic.

The 3,500 MHz is a spectrum companies need to provide 5G, which requires more bandwidth to expand internet capabilities.The auction, initially scheduled for June 2020, is expected to take several weeks with Canadian government selling off 1,504 licenses in 172 service areas.

Smaller operators are going into the auction complaining that recent regulatory rulings have further tilted the scales in the favour of the country’s three biggest telecoms companies – BCE, Telus and Rogers Communications Inc – which together control around 90% of the market as a share of revenue.

Canadian mobile and internet consumers, meanwhile, have complained for years that their bills are among the world’s steepest. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has threatened to take action if the providers did not cut bills by 25%.

The last auction of the 600 MHz spectrum raised C$3.5 billion ($2.87 billion) for the government.

The companies have defended themselves, saying the prices they charge are falling.

Some 23 bidders including regional players such as Cogeco and Quebec’s Videotron are participating in the process. Shaw Communications did not apply to participate due to a $16 billion takeover bid from Rogers. Lawmakers and analysts have warned that market concentration will intensify if that acquisition proceeds.

In May, after Canada‘s telecoms regulator issued a ruling largely in favour of the big three on pricing for smaller companies’ access to broadband networks, internet service provider TekSavvy Inc withdrew from the auction, citing the decision.

Some experts say the government has been trying to level the playing field with its decision to set aside a proportion of spectrum in certain areas for smaller companies.

Gregory Taylor, a spectrum expert and associate professor at the University of Calgary, said he was pleased the government was auctioning off smaller geographic areas of coverage.

In previous auctions where the license covered whole provinces, “small providers could not participate because they could not hope to cover the range that was required in the license,” Taylor said.

Smaller geographic areas mean they have a better chance of fulfilling the requirements for the license, such as providing service to 90% of the population within five years of the issuance date.

The auction has no scheduled end date, although the federal ministry in charge of the spectrum auction has said winners would be announced within five days of bidding completion.

($1 = 1.2181 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by David Gregorio)

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