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Starship prototype rocket blows up on test pad

Starship SN4, the latest in a series of prototypes for SpaceX’s super-rocket, exploded in a huge fireball today just after a static-fire test at the company’s South Texas facility.

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These landers made the list for lunar missions

Blue Moon lander
An artist’s conception shows Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lander, equipped with an ascent module built by Lockheed Martin. (Blue Origin Illustration via NASA)

NASA has selected teams led by Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX to develop lunar landing systems capable of putting astronauts on the moon by as early as 2024.

“We want to be able to go to the moon, but we want to be a customer,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters today during a teleconference. “We want to drive down the costs, we want to increase the access, we want to have our partners have customers that are not just us, so they compete on cost and innovation, and just bring capabilities that we’ve never had before.”

Fixed-price contracts totaling $967 million will go to the three corporate teams over the next 10 months to flesh out their proposals for lunar landing systems that would carry astronauts to and from the lunar surface.

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SpaceX provides preview of Starship’s capabilities

SpaceX provided details about the expected capabilities of its fully reusable Starship super-heavy-lift launch system in a payload users guide that was issued online today.

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SpaceX’s Starship prototype blows up on pad

A prototype for SpaceX’s Starship super-rocket was destroyed tonight during a pressure test on its pad at the company’s South Texas facility.

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Report: SpaceX seeking to raise $250 million

SpaceX Starship nosecone
SpaceX workers build a nose cone for a Starship prototype spaceship in Texas. (Elon Musk via Twitter)

SpaceX is seeking to bring in about $250 million in new investment during a funding round that’s still underway, amid a burst of activity related to the company’s Starlink satellites and Starship super-rocket, CNBC reports.

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Billionaire quits moonshot matchmaking TV show

Yusaku Maezawa
Japanese billionaire space enthusiast Yusaku Maezawa has broken up with AbemaTV, which was working on a reality-TV dating show focusing on his planned trip around the moon. (Yusaku Maezawa via Twitter)

It’s not you, it’s me: That’s basically what Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is saying about his decision to end participation in a reality-TV matchmaking show that would have traced the selection of a woman contestant to accompany him on a trip around the moon.

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Reality-TV dating game offers moon trip as prize

Yusaku Maezawa
Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa tweeted a casting call for a woman to go on a round-the-moon trip with him, for a streaming-video documentary. (Yusaku Maezawa via Twitter)

What do you get when you cross “The Bachelor” with “Survivor,” and then throw in a round-the-moon trip? You might get the reality-TV project that Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has signed on for.

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SpaceX’s Starship prototype rocket blows its top

Clouds of vapor erupt from SpaceX’s Starship Mk1 prototype rocket in Texas. (LabPadre via YouTube)

SpaceX’s prototype for a Starship meant for trips to the moon and Mars suffered an eruption today on its South Texas launch pad, putting a dent in SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s ambitious schedule for flight tests.

Clouds of vapor issued explosively from the 165-foot-tall rocket’s top during a pressurization test, apparently because of a rupture in one of the craft’s cryogenic propellant tanks. The Starship Mk1’s top bulkhead was blown away by the blast.

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NASA adds 5 companies to moon delivery list

Blue Moon lander
Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lander is designed for deliveries to the moon. (Blue Origin Illustration)

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture is among five companies that have just been cleared to deliver payloads to the moon for NASA. So is Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which is offering its Starship super-rocket for lunar trips.

Sierra Nevada Corp., Ceres Robotics and Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems round out today’s list, joining nine other commercial teams that were put into NASA’s “catalog” for lunar delivery services a year ago. NASA has already picked two of those teams, headed by Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines, to put science experiments on the moon in 2021.

The next delivery orders in what NASA calls the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, or CLPS, are likely to call for payloads to be launched by 2022, said Steve Clarke, deputy associate administrator for exploration in NASA’s science mission directorate. One payload that’s certain to be on the list is NASA’s VIPER rover, which is destined to look for signs of water near the moon’s south pole in late 2022.

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Elon Musk lays out fast and furious plan for Starship

Starship and Falcon 1
SpaceX’s Starship Mk1 prototype stands alongside a first stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 1 rocket, which had its first successful orbital launch in 2008. If you look closely at this picture from SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility, you can see people to the left of the Starship rocket. (SpaceX via Twitter)

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk set a revved-up timeline tonight for testing and building a fleet of Starship rocket ships that he says would eventually take people on trips to the moon, Mars and other deep-space destinations.

Standing in front of SpaceX’s newly constructed Starship Mk1 prototype at the company’s South Texas facility, Musk said he expected the first 12-mile-high test flight to take place in a month or two.

His timeline called for building up to four more versions of the super-rocket and conducting the first orbital launch within six months. The next version, dubbed Starship Mk2, is already taking shape at SpaceX’s Florida facilities.

The first crewed orbital mission could take place as early as next year, Musk said.

In the past, even Musk has acknowledged that his timelines tend to be overly optimistic, but tonight he suggested that’s a feature, not a bug.

“If the schedule’s long, it’s wrong,” he told a crowd of journalists, employees and fans. “If it’s tight, it’s right.”

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