Starlink satellite sightings spark awe and angst

A still from a video captured by Dutch satellite-watcher Marco Langbroek shows a string of Starlink satellites moving through the night sky. (Marco Langbroek via Twitter)

SpaceX’s unorthodox card-dealing launch of 60 Starlink broadband satellites has led to into an unusual viewing opportunity for skywatchers — and an occasion to wonder about the impact of such mega-constellations on the natural night sky.

After a couple of days of debate in the Twitterverse, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said steps would be taken to minimize the impact of the Starlink satellites’ shine on astronomical observations.

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Origami inspires high-tech shock absorbers

Inspired by the paper folding art of origami, a University of Washington team — including Jinkyu Yang, an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics — created a paper model of a metamaterial that uses folding creases to soften the force of an impact. (UW Photo / Kiyomi Taguchi)

Can origami protect football players and reusable rockets? Researchers have shown how the ancient art of paper-folding can soften the shock of an impact, whether it’s cracking into a helmet or touching down on a landing pad.

The technique, described today in an open-access paper published by Science Advances, takes advantage of the stress-relaxing effect of folding creases in paper and other materials.

“If you were wearing a football helmet made of this material and something hit the helmet, you’d never feel that hit on your head. By the time the energy reaches you, it’s no longer pushing. It’s pulling,” senior author Jinkyu Yang, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the University of Washington, said in a news release.

That’s not to say that future football helmets will be made of paper. But the engineering principles that Yang and his colleagues tested with paper models could well be translated into new types of shock-absorbing structures for rocket landing legs, automotive vehicles and other applications.

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SpaceX reports raising a billion dollars

Elon Musk

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk talks about the Starship super-rocket in September 2018. (SpaceX via YouTube)

On the heels of a successful 60-satellite launch, SpaceX says it has raised more than $1 billion for its Starlink satellite internet venture and its super-heavy-lift Starship rocket development effort.

The higher-than-expected investments were reported today in two amended filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. One financing round, which was opened last December, netted $486 million. The other, which opened last month, brought in $535 million. And between the two rounds, there was still $18.8 million in equity to offer, according to the filings.

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Boeing reports successful Starliner test

Starliner propulsion test

Starliner’s test service module ignites its launch abort engines and orbital maneuvering and attitude control thrusters in a low-altitude abort mode test. (Boeing Photo)

Boeing has successfully run the propulsion system for its CST-100 Starliner space taxi through the same test it failed almost a year ago, marking a significant step toward carrying astronauts to the International Space Station.

The thruster firing for Starliner’s launch abort system was part of a series of tests conducted on May 23 at the White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico. A similar test went awry last June, due to an unwanted leak of propellant. No hardware was destroyed, but the problem contributed to delays for Starliner’s first flight.

The current schedule calls for the capsule to be launched on an uncrewed flight to the space station in the August time frame, and for the first crewed flight to take place by the end of the year. Starliner is designed to be launched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. (ULA is a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture.)

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SpaceX deals out 60 Starlink internet satellites

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida with 60 Starlink satellites packed in its nose cone. (Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Photo via Twitter)

After two postponements, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket executed a mission that dealt out 60 Starlink broadband data satellites in low Earth orbit.

The rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, right on time, at 10:30 p.m. ET (7:30 p.m. PT) tonight.

A little more than an hour after launch, the flat-panel satellites — which were built at SpaceX’s development facility in Redmond, Wash. — floated away from the Falcon 9’s second stage and spread themselves out like a deck of cards.

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Maxar to build the first piece of lunar Gateway

Power and Propulsion Element

An artist’s conception shows the Gateway’s Power and Propulsion Element with its solar electric propulsion system in action. (Maxar / Business Wire Illustration)

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine today announced that the first major component for a future mini-space station in lunar orbit will be provided by Maxar Technologies, formerly known as SSL.

“The contractor that will be building that element is … drum roll … Maxar,” Bridenstine said during a talk at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, south of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. “Maxar is going to be building that for the United States of America.”

Colorado-based Maxar will build the Power and Propulsion Element, or PPE, which will house the 50-kilowatt solar electric propulsion system as well as the communications relay system for the Gateway space platform. “It will be the key component upon which we will build our lunar Gateway outpost, the cornerstone of NASA’s sustainable and reusable Artemis exploration architecture on and around the moon,” Bridenstine said in a NASA news release.

The Gateway is destined to be the staging point for astronauts heading down to the lunar surface by as early as 2024. To meet that five-year deadline, the Gateway will have only one other component by that time, known as the mini-habitation module. NASA and its international partners expect to add more modules in the years that follow, leading up to a “sustainable” lunar presence by 2028.

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AWS Ground Station is open for business

AWS Ground Station currently makes use of two satellite ground stations and plans to add 10 more later this year. (AWS Photo)

Six months after a sneak preview, Amazon Web Services has just raised the curtain on AWS Ground Station, its cloud-based system for controlling satellites and downloading satellite data.

AWS says the service is now generally available, with two ground station installations already hooked into the system and 10 more due to be added later this year.

The software platform makes it easy to connect with satellites, upload commands and bring the data down into AWS Global Infrastructure Regions. From there, the data can make its way through AWS’ ecosystem for storage, analytics and machine learning services — or go wherever a user wants to take it.

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