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Electron launch fails

Saturday, 15 May 2021 10:53
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Electron launch May 2021

WASHINGTON — A Rocket Lab Electron rocket failed to reach orbit May 15 when its second stage engine shut down seconds after ignition, the second launch failure in less than a year for the company.

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Beijing (AFP) May 15, 2021
China's probe to Mars touched down on the Red Planet early Saturday to deploy its Zhurong rover, state media reported, a triumph for Beijing's increasingly bold space ambitions and a history-making feat for a nation on its first-ever Martian mission. The lander carrying Zhurong completed the treacherous descent through the Martian atmosphere using a parachute to navigate the "seven minutes o
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Beijing (AFP) May 15, 2021
China's probe to Mars touched down on the Red Planet Saturday to deploy its Zhurong rover, during a busy time for Martian exploration. China, the US and hitherto space minnows the UAE have sent probes to the treacherous planet, where failure to land safely is more frequent than success. China's Tianwen-1 probe successfully launched last July and entered Mars' orbit in February - a major
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An engineering camera view of Mars as Tianwen-1 enters orbit, months ahead of the Zhurong rover landing attempt.

HELSINKI — China succeeded with its first planetary landing attempt Friday, safely setting down the solar powered Zhurong rover on the surface of Mars.

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TAMPA, Fla. — Telesat could start a spectrum auction to help fund its $5 billion Lightspeed low Earth orbit constellation “in a couple of months” if Canada’s government approves its proposal, according to CEO Dan Goldberg.

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WASHINGTON — SpaceX has disclosed details for the first orbital test flight of its next-generation Starship launch system, but the company is still far short of the regulatory approvals needed for the mission.

SpaceX filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission May 13 for special temporary authority for communications required to support a Starship test launch from the company’s Boca Chica, Texas, test site.

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California's Vandenberg Air Force Base will be renamed as a U.S. Space Force Base on Friday.

The name will be changed to Vandenberg Space Force Base during an afternoon ceremony on the parade field at the sprawling base on the state's Central Coast, which tests ballistic missiles and conducts orbital launches for defense, science and commercial purposes.

The Space Force was created as the sixth uniformed military branch in 2019 during the administration of former President Donald Trump. Personnel assigned to the Air Force Space Command were reassigned to the Space Force, ending its Air Force lineage.

"Redesignating Air Force installations as Space Force installations is critical to establishing a distinct culture and identity for the Space Force," a base statement said.

Vandenberg's host unit, the 30th Space Wing, will be redesignated Space Launch Delta 30, under Space Operations Command.

Vandenberg was originally established in 1941 as Camp Cooke, an Army garrison for tank, infantry and artillery training.

Its geographical location made it ideal for missile tests and launches into polar orbit. During the Cold War, it was redesignated as Cooke Air Force Base and then Vandenberg in honor of Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, the second chief of staff of the Air Force.

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China's "Zhurong" rover, part of its ambitious space programme to send a probe to Mars, is set to attempt the challeng
China's "Zhurong" rover, part of its ambitious space programme to send a probe to Mars, is set to attempt the challenging landing in the next five days

China's "Zhurong" rover, part of its ambitious space programme to send a probe to Mars, is set to attempt the challenging landing on the Red Planet in the next five days, Beijing's space agency said Friday.

The tricky touchdown, if successful, would come a few months behind America's latest probe to Mars, as Beijing presses ahead with its increasingly bold space ambitions.

"Based on current flight conditions, the Tianwen-1 probe intends to choose an opportunity to land ... in the period from early morning Saturday to Wednesday Beijing time," the China National Space Administration said in an online statement.

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Using cell phones as space weather vanes
Magnetometers have turned cell phones into compasses, which are sensitive to geomagnetic storms. Credit: Larry O’Hanlon

Your smartphone may be able to sense space weather and even get a little disoriented by it, according to researchers, who tested how geomagnetic storms affect the magnetic sensors in cell phones. The new research suggests that apps being developed to use cell phone magnetometers to pinpoint locations could be susceptible to space weather errors. On the other hand, millions of phones sensing changes in Earth's magnetic field could potentially create a vast observatory to help scientists understand these geomagnetic storms.

Cell phone magnetometer chips are being explored as a backup for GPS, which uses satellite signals to triangulate location and thus is often inaccurate or unavailable in places where signals can't penetrate, such as inside large buildings or underground.

"Smartphone magnetometers are being commercially explored for applications as diverse as locating customers in shopping malls for targeted advertising, to precision needle-guided surgery," wrote Sten Odenwald, of NASA's Space Science Education Consortium at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, in Space Weather.

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Where do meteorites come from? We tracked hundreds of fireballs streaking through the sky to find out
A meteorite fragment recently found in the Cotswolds town of Winchcombe. Researchers at Curtin University worked with collaborators in the UK to help recover this rare carbonaceous meteorite. Credit: Curtin University

If asked where meteorites come from, you might reply "from comets." But according to our new research, which tracked hundreds of fireballs on their journey through the Australian skies, you would be wrong.

In fact, it is very likely that all meteorites—space rocks that make it all the way to Earth—come not from icy comets but from rocky asteroids. Our new study found that even those meteorites with trajectories that look like they arrived from much farther afield are in fact from asteroids that simply got knocked into strange orbits.

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Tiangong: China may gain a monopoly on space stations—here's what to expect
Artist’s impression of Tiangong. Credit: Alejo Miranda/Shutterstock

China launched Tianhe-1, the first and main module of a permanent orbiting space station called Tiangong (Heavenly Palace 天 宫), on April 29. Two additional science modules (Wentian and Mengtian) will follow in 2022 in a series of missions that will complete the station and allow it to start operations.

While the station is not China's first—the country has already launched two—the is new. It replicates the International Space Station (ISS), from which China was excluded.

There are many reasons for China to invest in this costly and technologically challenging project. One is to conduct scientific research and make medical, environmental and technological discoveries. But there are also other possible motivations, such as commercial gains and prestige.

That said, Tiangong does not aim to compete with the ISS. The Chinese station will be smaller and similar in design and size to the former Soviet Mir station, meaning it will have limited capacity for astronauts (three versus six on ISS).

Week in images: 10 - 14 May 2021

Friday, 14 May 2021 12:16
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A Copernicus Sentinel-2 image over Qeshm Island – the largest island in Iran.

Week in images: 10 - 14 May 2021

Discover our week through the lens

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Staring into space: Physicists predict neutron stars may be bigger than previously imagined
A composite image of the supernova 1E0102.2-7219 contains X-rays from Chandra (blue and purple), visible light data from VLT’s MUSE instrument (bright red), and additional data from Hubble (dark red and green). A neutron star, the ultra dense core of a massive star that collapses and undergoes a supernova explosion, is found at its center. Credit: NASA

When a massive star dies, first there is a supernova explosion.

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Gaia might even be able to detect the gravitational wave background of the universe
Credit: NASA

The Gaia spacecraft is an impressive feat of engineering. Its primary mission is to map the position and motion of more than a billion stars in our galaxy, creating the most comprehensive map of the Milky Way thus far. Gaia collects such a large amount of precision data that it can make discoveries well beyond its main mission. For example, by looking at the spectra of stars, astronomers can measure the mass of individual stars to within 25% accuracy. From the motion of stars, astronomers can measure the distribution of dark matter in the Milky Way. Gaia can also discover exoplanets when they pass in front of a star. But one of the more surprising uses is that Gaia could help us detect cosmic gravitational waves.

A new study shows how this can be done. The work is based on an earlier study done using very (VLBI), whereby measure the position and apparent motion of quasars. Quasars are bright radio sources billions of light-years away. Because quasars are so far away, they act like fixed points in the sky.

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Extrasolar Object Interceptor would be able to chase down the next Oumuamua or Borisov and actually return a sample
Artist’s depiction of the Extrasolar Object Interceptor. Credit: Christopher Morrison

What if we had the ability to chase down interstellar objects passing through our solar system, like 'Oumuamua or Comet Borisov? Such a spacecraft would need to be ready to go at a moment's notice, with the capacity to increase speed and change direction quickly.

That's the idea behind a new mission concept called the Extrasolar Object Interceptor and Sample Return spacecraft. It has received exploratory funding from NASA through its Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.

"Bringing back samples from these objects could fundamentally change our view of the universe and our place in it," says Christopher Morrison, an engineer from the Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation-Tech (USNC-Tech) who submitted the proposal to NIAC.

The concept Morrison and his team propose is a radioisotope-electric-propulsion spacecraft that relies on Chargeable Atomic Battery (CAB) technology, a that USNC has been developing for commercial use. The batteries are compact and possess one million times the energy density of state-of-the-art chemical batteries—as well as fossil fuels.

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