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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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Recipe is different – but Saturn's moon Titan has ingredients for life – Western News

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Steve Gribben/Johns Hopkins APL

An artist’s rendering shows a Dragonfly quadcopter landing on the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan, unfolding its rotors and lifting off again to survey the landscape and atmosphere.

Catherine Neish is counting the days until her space launch. While the Western planetary geologist isn’t space-suiting up for her own interstellar voyage, she is playing a key role in an international mission – dispatching a robotic drone to Saturn’s moon Titan – set to blast-off in 2027.

For nearly two decades, the global space sector has focused a majority of its funds and research on Mars, in search of the building blocks of life. And yet, there are dynamic worlds like Saturn’s moon Titan, which may actually have more going on biologically than the Red Planet.

In a recent study published by Astronomy and Astrophysics, Neish – a member of Western’s Institute for Earth and Space Exploration (Western Space) – and her collaborators at the European Space Agency (ESA) used advanced imaging technology to investigate Titan. They found when impact craters are formed on Saturn’s largest moon, it exposes relatively fresh ‘water ice’ from Titan’s icy crust.

On Titan, atmospheric processes bury the ice under a layer of sand-like organic material. In Titan’s dry equatorial regions, the sand piles up; but at higher, wetter latitudes, surface streams erode the sand away.

It is difficult to assess what lies beneath Titan’s hazy atmosphere – unless of course, you have a multi-million dollar Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer like ESA’s, which collected both light visible to humans and infrared light of slightly longer wavelengths during NASA’s Cassini mission.

“It’s wild. There’s no other place like Titan in the solar system. There’s more sand on Titan per area than anywhere else.” said Neish.

Titan has weather. It’s not unlike the Earth in that way. It’s just that the ingredients are all wrong. It has methane rain and streams cutting through the surface and organic sand getting blown around. It’s still very active, just like it is here on Earth.” ~ Catherine Neish, Western Space

These findings could prove beneficial in discovering ancient ecosystems frozen in the bottoms of impact craters and will also prove invaluable when preparing data analysis and monitoring techniques for the forthcoming Dragonfly drone mission to Titan.

As interest in Titan and other planetary bodies grow, Neish feels the global space sector is ready to start looking beyond Mars for the existence of life – even if the Red Planet remains the prime destination for NASA, the Canadian Space Agency and blockbuster movie producers in Hollywood.

“I think more and more, we’re seeing a false equivalency between life and Mars. The recent findings about Venus and all the new things we’re learning about it once being an ocean world is another game-changer,” said Neish. “Finally, people are saying, ‘In our search for life in the universe, we really need to focus on a lot more places, and not just Mars.’ And that includes NASA sending the Dragonfly mission to Titan.”

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Related:

Dragonfly project will soar across Saturn moon, July 2019

Western research sets eyes on Saturn’s larges moon, February 2018

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SpaceX aborts Starlink launch due to ground-sensor reading – Space.com

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SpaceX aborted the launch of a batch of Starlink internet satellites 18 seconds before blastoff due to an anomalous ground-sensor reading this morning (Oct. 1) at the launchpad in Florida.

The company has not yet announced when the next launch opportunity for the rocket will occur. SpaceX has a second Falcon 9 rocket on a neighboring launchpad that is preparing to launch a new GPS satellite on Friday morning (Oct. 2).

“The purpose of countdown is to help us catch potential issues prior to flight,” Siva Bharadvaj, a spacecraft operator at SpaceX, said after announcing the abort. “There’s a thousand ways that a launch can go wrong and only one way it can go right.”

Related: SpaceX’s Starlink satellite megaconstellation launches in photos

Twin SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets seen at Kennedy Space Center before a Starlink launch abort on Oct. 1, 2020. (Image credit: SpaceX)

Despite the ground-sensor reading, Bharadvaj said, the rocket seemed to be in fine condition. “Overall, the vehicle does appear to be in good health,” he said.

Whenever it does launch, this mission will deliver the 13th batch of about 60 Starlink satellites into orbit to join SpaceX’s growing megaconstellation that is designed to provide internet services, particularly in remote areas that are not currently well connected.

Before this morning’s abort, the launch had been delayed by two weeks by bad weather.

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Hashtag Trending – EMS use SpaceX’s Starlink; Cross-platform messaging on Facebook; Talking COVID-19 via social media – IT World Canada

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Washington emergency responders are the first to use SpaceX’s Starlink internet, Facebook will be launching cross-platform messaging on Instagram and Messenger, and why social media should be used more to inform young people about Covid-19 in Canada.

It’s all the tech news that’s popular right now. Welcome to Hashtag Trending! It’s Thursday, October 1 and I’m your host Baneet Braich.

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Washington emergency responders first to use SpaceX’s Starlink internet in the field: ‘It’s amazing’ from technology

Washington emergency responders are the first to use SpaceX’s Starlink internet and they say the results are a huge success. Washington’s state military began using Starlink in early August to bring internet service to areas damaged by wildfires. Washington state’s emergency telecommunications leader Richard Hall told CNBC, “I have spent the better part of four or five hours with some satellite equipment trying to get a good [connection]. So, to me, it’s amazing,” Starlink internet has been developed to deliver high-speed internet to anywhere on the planet. The full Starlink network is planned to have about 12,000 satellites flying in low Earth orbit which is much closer to the surface than traditional satellites.

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Facebook is launching cross-platform messaging on Instagram and Messenger. Facebook will now integrate various messaging platforms where users on messenger and Instagram to message one another app to app. Instagram will also get a major change in its DM system, which will get more features taken from Messenger. With the cross-platform features, users will also search for profiles across both apps simultaneously. Instagram will get updates like vanishing messages, selfie stickers, custom emoji, chat colours, new ways to block unwanted messages, and Messenger’s Watch Together feature, which lets users collectivity watch videos with friends during a video call.

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The second wave of Covid-19 is largely attributed to younger people. A Toronto Star article about the benefits platforms like TikTok could have on delivering important information about COVID is trending on Twitter. Dr. Naheed Dosani was an early adopter of TikTok to inform younger audiences about Covid-19. His early videos quickly went viral, reaching more than 100,000 people. However, he says social media apps can be better used to effectively communicate with young people. I can’t understand why public health messaging hasn’t prioritized these (social media) platforms for COVID-19 education,” Dosani said. He suggests involving clinicians that use the platforms or influencers and celebrities to get out the proper messaging could be highly effective in convincing younger audiences with bite-sized information. [Twitter thread]

That’s all the tech news that’s trending right now. Hashtag Trending is a part of the ITWC Podcast network. Add us to your Alexa Flash Briefing or your Google Home daily briefing. I’m Baneet Braich, thanks for listening.


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