Musk gives details on SpaceX Mars plans
An initial Red Dragon mission in 2018, where a version of the company’s Dragon spacecraft would land on Mars, would be followed by two more in 2020.
SpaceX would then fly a spacecraft known as the Mars Colonial Transporter in 2022, which would eventually be used to send humans to Mars.
Musk said that SpaceX would have to “get lucky” in order to start flying humans to Mars in 2024, as he said earlier this month.
“This is going to be mind blowing,” he said. [Washington Post]
A Delta 4 Heavy launched a National Reconnaissance Office payload Saturday. The rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 1:51 p.m. Eastern Saturday on a mission designated NROL-37. Late Saturday, ULA and others declared the launch a success. No official details about the payload, named USA 268, have been released, although outside observers believe it is a signals intelligence satellite. The launch had been scheduled for Thursday but was postponed by weather. [SpaceNews]
China launched a Beidou navigation satellite Sunday. A Long March 3C rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 11:30 a.m. Eastern Sunday and placed the Beidou G7 satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit. China has now launched 23 Beidou satellites as it works to expand its satellite navigation system from its current regional coverage to full global coverage by 2020. [gbtimes]
The Luxembourg government plans to take a 49 percent stake in Planetary Resources’ European operations. The announcement, made this morning, is part of a broader effort by Luxembourg to take a leading role in the emerging space resources field. The government announced earlier this month it had set aside 200 million euros for this effort, which would include company investments. The value of this deal was not immediately known. [SpaceNews]
NASA signed a cooperative agreement Sunday with the United Arab Emirates’ space agency.The agreement, signed by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden during a visit to the UAE, includes NASA support for UAE’s first Mars mission, an orbiter scheduled for launch in 2020. The agreement also includes general cooperation in a wide range of science and technology areas. [The National]
NASA and JAXA are starting discussions about how to recover the science lost when the Hitomi spacecraft failed. The x-ray astronomy spacecraft, build by Japan and carrying a NASA instrument, launched in February, but failed in March because of a series of technical problems, including human error, that caused the spacecraft to spin up uncontrollably. A JAXA executive said Friday he is beginning a dialogue with NASA counterparts on next steps, but acknowledged there were no plans to fly a replacement spacecraft for the foreseeable future, given a number of other missions JAXA already has scheduled to fly through the late 2020s. A NASA official described the discussions as “positive” but said it was premature to say how they might respond to Hitomi’s failure. [SpaceNews]
ULA will launch the AEHF-5 satellite in 2018, the company disclosed Friday. ULA received a Defense Department contract modification May 31 that included $138 million for a launch, but did not disclose the payload. The launch, for the fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite, is part of ULA’s block buy contract with the Air Force. [SpaceNews]
The CEO of German satellite manufacturer OHB says he doesn’t expect much drama at the next ESA ministerial meeting in December. Marco Fuchs, who is also president of the industry group Eurospace, said most of the major issues, including development of the Ariane 6 launch vehicle, have already been decided, and he expects no major new programs to emerge from that meeting. Fuchs also said that with Airbus Safran Launchers owning 74 percent of Arianespace, there need to be clearer protections for minority shareholders like OHB, which owns 8.3 percent of the launch services provider. [SpaceNews]
Some satellite observers are concerned China’s Tiangong-1 module could make an uncontrolled reentry. The experimental lab module, launched in 2011 and visited by Chinese crews in 2012 and 2013, has apparently reached the end of its life and its orbit is decaying, although Chinese officials have not confirmed the module’s mission is over. The lack of comment from China have led some to suggest that China no longer has control over the module, which would result in a uncontrolled reentry, but others note that the module does not appear to be tumbling, and that China may be waiting until the spacecraft’s orbit decays enough to perform a controlled reentry maneuver. [SPACE.com]
More than a third of humanity can no longer see the Milky Way at night. A new atlas of scattered artificial light compiled by astronomers finds that more than 80 percent of the world’s population suffers from some degree of light pollution, including 99 percent of the population of the U.S. and Western Europe. The light pollution washes out the Milky Way and dimmer stars, which some argue severs a connection to the night sky that had lasted for millennia. “It is the first time in human history that we have lost the direct contact with the night sky,” said one researcher involved in the study. [New York Times]