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SpaceX's Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort Test Will Now Launch No Earlier Than Jan. 11 – Space.com

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SpaceX will now launch a major in-flight abort system test of its Crew Dragon spacecraft for astronauts no earlier than Jan. 11, a week later than previously announced.

The uncrewed test flight, called an In-Flight Abort Test, will test a vital safety system designed to protect astronauts during a launch emergency. It was initially expected to liftoff sometime this month, but NASA announced last week that the mission would launch no earlier than Jan. 4. That target has since slipped another week. 

NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than Jan. 11, 2020, for a critical In-Flight Abort Test of the Crew Dragon spacecraft from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, pending U.S. Air Force Eastern Range approval,” NASA officials wrote in an update Wednesday (Jan. 18). NASA did not give a reason for the date change. 

Video: Watch SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Abort System in Close-Up Action

SpaceX fired a Crew Dragon’s escape engines in preparation for a milestone test. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX’s In-Flight Abort test flight, called IFA for short, will launch a Crew Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket and intentionally trigger the spacecraft’s launch abort system in mid-flight. That system, a network of eight SuperDraco abort engines, will pull the Crew Dragon free of its Falcon 9 booster to simulate an emergency escape and parachute back to Earth. 

The abort system is vital to safeguard astronauts during launch. In October 2018, the launch abort system on a Russian Soyuz rocket carried NASA astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin to safety when their booster failed during flight

“The demonstration of Crew Dragon’s launch escape system is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and is one of the final major tests for the company before NASA astronauts will fly aboard the spacecraft,” NASA officials wrote. 

Related: Emergency Launch Abort Systems of SpaceX and Boeing Explained

During the upcoming test,  SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying an uncrewed Crew Dragon, then activate the capsule’s launch abort system in mid-flight. If all goes well, the Crew Dragon will fire its SuperDraco engines to rip the capsule free of the Falcon 9, deploy parachutes and splash down in the Atlantic Ocean. 

“The In-Flight Abort Test follows a series of static fire engine tests of the spacecraft conducted Nov. 13 near SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida,” NASA officials wrote. “SpaceX will also conduct a static fire test of its Falcon 9 rocket ahead of the In-Flight Abort Test.”

SpaceX is one of two commercial companies (Boeing is the other) building private space taxis to fly NASA astronauts to and from the space station. The company launched its first uncrewed Crew Dragon test flight to the station in March of this year, but the spacecraft used on that flight was destroyed during a failed ground-based abort system test in April. 

SpaceX has since identified the cause of that failure and made corrections that led to a series of successful abort system ground tests in recent months. 

Boeing, meanwhile, is making progress on its own spacecraft, a capsule called Starliner that launches on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Last month, the company successfully performed a pad abort test of its Starliner capsule. 

Today (Dec. 20), Boeing launched its first uncrewed Starliner flight to the International Space Station. However, about 15 minutes after liftoff, the spacecraft experienced an “anomaly” that prevented it from entering the correct orbit. Rather than spending a week at the space station as planned, Starliner will spend about 48 hours in orbit before returning to Earth via a parachute-assisted landing at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The mishap could delay Boeing’s plans to launch a crewed flight test, which is currently scheduled to take place in mid-2020. 

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom and Facebook.

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Oldest human footprints in North America found in New Mexico – CTV News

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WASHINGTON —
Fossilized footprints discovered in New Mexico indicate that early humans were walking across North America around 23,000 years ago, researchers reported Thursday.

The first footprints were found in a dry lake bed in White Sands National Park in 2009. Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey recently analyzed seeds stuck in the footprints to determine their approximate age, ranging from around 22,800 and 21,130 years ago.

The findings may shed light on a mystery that has long intrigued scientists: When did people first arrive in the Americas, after dispersing from Africa and Asia?

Most scientists believe ancient migration came by way of a now-submerged land bridge that connected Asia to Alaska. Based on various evidence — including stone tools, fossil bones and genetic analysis — other researchers have offered a range of possible dates for human arrival in the Americas, from 13,000 to 26,000 years ago or more.

The current study provides a more solid baseline for when humans definitely were in North America, although they could have arrived even earlier, the authors say. Fossil footprints are more indisputable and direct evidence than “cultural artifacts, modified bones, or other more conventional fossils,” they wrote in the journal Science, which published the study Thursday.

“What we present here is evidence of a firm time and location,” they said.

Based on the size of the footprints, researchers believe that at least some were made by children and teenagers who lived during the last ice age.

David Bustos, the park’s resource program manager, spotted the first footprints in ancient wetlands in 2009. He and others found more in the park over the years.

“We knew they were old, but we had no way to date the prints before we discovered some with (seeds) on top,” he said Thursday.

Made of fine silt and clay, the footprints are fragile, so the researchers had to work quickly to gather samples, Bustos said.

“The only way we can save them is to record them — to take a lot of photos and make 3D models,” he said.

Earlier excavations in White Sands National Park have uncovered fossilized tracks left by a saber-toothed cat, dire wolf, Columbian mammoth and other ice age animals.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Inspiration4 Lift Off: SpaceX Launches World’s First All-Citizen Mission in Earth’s Orbit – Illinoisnewstoday.com

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Tampa, Florida (WFLA) — SpaceX made history on Wednesday night when it launched the world’s first all-civil mission to get going from the Space Coast, Florida.

The Inspiration4 mission took off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center around 8:03 pm on Wednesday. The four crew members on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft were launched onto a reusable Falcon 9 rocket and later separated from the spacecraft and landed on the drone.

The mission’s five-hour launch window began at 8:02 EST. The window was very large, as the crew was sent to orbit the Earth rather than the International Space Station, and therefore did not have such strict time constraints.

The crew is set to travel 350 miles above the surface of the Earth, about 100 miles higher than the International Space Station.

“This is important and historic, because it’s the best time humans have been in orbit since the Hubble Space Telescope mission,” said Benjireed, SpaceX’s manned spaceflight director.

(Photo provided by SpaceX)

The crew will spend three days in orbit to participate in research experiments on human health and performance. We hope that the results of our research will apply not only to future space flight, but also to human health here on Earth.

Inspiration4’s main goal is to provide and inspire support for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They want to raise $ 200 million for St. Jude in a three-day mission.

According to SpaceX, each of the four members of the crew was chosen to represent the pillars of a mission of prosperity, generosity, hope and leadership. The Inspiration 4 crew and the pillars they represent are:

  • leadership: 38 years old Jared Isaacman – Founder and CEO of Shift4Payments
  • Hope: 29-year-old Haley Arseno – Doctor assistants and childhood cancer survivors treated with St. Jude
  • Generosity: 41 years old Chris Sembroski – Lockheed Martin US Air Force veteran and aerospace employee
  • prosperity: 51 years old Dr. Cyan Proctor – Entrepreneurs, educators, trained pilots, and the active voice of the space exploration community

SpaceX trained all four crew members as commercial astronauts on Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft. The crew was trained in orbital mechanics, microgravity, weightlessness, other stress tests, emergency preparedness, and spacesuit training.

The mission was funded by Isaacman in a private transaction with SpaceX. Isaacman has also invested $ 100 million towards a funding target for the St. Jude mission.

Inspiration4 Lift Off: SpaceX Launches World’s First All-Citizen Mission in Earth’s Orbit

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'Flying' microchips could ride the wind to track air pollution – Yahoo Movies Canada

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Researchers have created a winged microchip around the size of a sand grain that may be the smallest flying device yet made, Vice has reported. They’re designed to be carried around by the wind and could be used in numerous applications including disease and air pollution tracking, according to a paper published by Nature. At the same time, they could be made from biodegradable materials to prevent environmental contamination. 

The design of the flyers was inspired by spinning seeds from cottonwood and other trees. Those fall slowly by spinning like helicopters so they can be picked up by the wind and spread a long distance from the tree, increasing the range of the species. 

The team from Northwest University ran with that idea but made it better, and smaller. “We think we’ve beaten biology… we’ve been able to build structures that fall in a more stable trajectory at slower terminal velocities than equivalent seeds,” said lead Professor John A. Rogers. “The other thing… was that we were able to make these helicopter flyer structures that are much smaller than seeds you would see in the natural world.”  

They’re not so small that the aerodynamics starts to break down, though. “All of the advantages of the helicopter design begin to disappear below a certain length scale, so we pushed it all the way, as far as you can go or as physics would allow,” Rogers told Vice. “Below that size scale, everything looks and falls like a sphere.”

The devices are also large enough to carry electronics, sensors and power sources. The team tested multiple versions that could carry payloads like antenna so that they could wireless communicate with a smartphone or each other. Other sensors could monitor things like air acidity, water quality and solar radiation. 

The flyers are still concepts right now and not ready to deploy into the atmosphere, but the team plans to expand their findings with different designs. Key to that is the use of biodegradable materials so they wouldn’t persist in the environment. 

“We don’t think about these devices… as a permanent monitoring componentry but rather temporary ones that are addressing a particular need that’s of finite time duration,” Rogers said. “That’s the way that we’re envisioning things currently: you monitor for a month and then the devices die out, dissolve, and disappear, and maybe you have to redeploy them.”

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