The Lyrid meteor shower may have peaked over the UK yesterday but that doesn’t mean you can’t spot another celestial display passing overhead tonight.
A string of satellites known as Starlink are passing over the UK all this week, creating a mesmerising string of moving lights in the night sky.
The satellites come from SpaceX, the private space company founded by Elon Musk, and are designed to beam down an internet signal to the entire planet. At the moment there are 300 Starlink satellites in place but SpaceX aim to eventually have 12,000 orbiting the planet.
The satellites will be passing above the UK tonight and will move across the sky from west to east.
The Starlink satellites will pass over the UK at 9.34pm this evening and the passage across the sky will last for about six minutes.
Viewing conditions for the satellites are good at the moment thanks to a dark New Moon in the sky and a lack of cloud cover.
While you can’t always see the Starlink satellites (there are different ‘trains’ of the satellites, some brighter than others) that clearly, this evening’s viewing should be ideal.
‘Initially the spacing of the satellites and their proximity to the planet’s surface mean they look like a “string of bright pearls” in the night sky, making them very easy to spot,’ Malika Andress from the National Space Centre wrote in a recent blog post. ‘But over time they distance themselves from each other and move further into space, making them less obvious to the casual observer.’
‘When we can see them, we call them flares (like the famous Iridium flares you can see from the Iridium communication satellites). This happens when you on the Earth, the satellite and the Sun are positioned in such a way as the Sun is reflected off the satellite and towards you.
‘As a result, many of the passes will be ‘invisible’ to us, even if they are directly overhead. This is also why they suddenly appear and just as suddenly disappear – as soon as the angle is wrong, you can no longer see the reflected light.’
Each Starlink satellite is about the size of a car and move in a very distinct line across the night sky.
SpaceX is sending them up in batches of 60, with the most recent launch taking place in mid-March. The National Space Centre in Leicester said each batch was deployed to an orbit about 180 miles above Earth and had moved to about 340 miles away.
People have reported seeing the satellites all across the country in London, Manchester and Leeds as well as across Europe.
Make sure you’re outside (or near a window) and looking up at 9.34 this evening. Look for the Plough constellation if you need to orientate yourself as the satellites should pass in front of it as they make their way across the heavens.
If you want to follow the movements of the satellites in real-time as they move around the world, you can do so with the Satflare online tracker right here.
SpaceX's Starship rocket prototype explodes on Texas test pad – Windsor Star
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.
We apologize, but this video has failed to load.
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.
What Time Is the SpaceX Launch? How to Watch – The New York Times
When is the launch, and how can I watch it?
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.
How’s the weather looking today?
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.
Who is blasting off?
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.
What are they flying in?
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.
SpaceX Postpones Launch of Two NASA Astronauts
The Crew Dragon launch is now scheduled for Saturday at 3:22 p.m. Eastern time.
When will the astronauts arrive at the space station?
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
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.
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.
OnePlus inadvertently disables ‘X-Ray’ filter with an update sent to its global phones – The Verge
SpaceX's Starship rocket prototype explodes on Texas test pad – Windsor Star
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