Round up SpaceX gets wet, digging for the victory with Mars InSight and a change of the ISS guard awaits missile enthusiasts in this week’s space news summary.
SpaceX sprays after the launch of Starlink
SpaceX’s delayed Starlink mission finally took off from Cape Air Force Station’s SLC-40 launch pad last week, taking off at 15:05 UTC on February 17, marking the fourth flight of the B1056 booster.
Unfortunately, it also had to be the last for that particular Falcon 9 first stage.
The launch itself went off without a hitch, with the stages separating at two minutes, 35 seconds and the fairing enclosing the 60 Starlink satellites was thrown away three minutes and 10 seconds after take-off.
The company’s social media orifice cheerfully confirmed that the Starlink satellites were successfully deployed, but remained speechless regarding the fate of the repeater.
Successful deployment of 60 Starlink satellites confirmed! pic.twitter.com/bKBtI5UZEB
– SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 17, 2020
Nowadays, those who watched live streaming had been treated with a somewhat unusual event. Less than nine minutes after launch, the return booster missed the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which was stationed in the Atlantic. The splashes of water hinted that the booster had just finished watering.
Attempts to capture the fairing halves were also not very successful.
The accident is a reminder of the technical challenge of a vertical landing on a barge in the ocean. A challenge that will have to be overcome by a company with a business model that would really like the first steps to obtain more than four flights.
A Russian switcheroo and a delayed checkout for the Demo-2 astros
NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman has revealed that the first mission of the SpaceX crew at the International Space Station (ISS) would have been longer than expected after the Johnson Space Center showed the shots of the lucky nautical during the EVA training .
Yup, @DJSnM , @Astro_Doug is @AstroBehnken they are trained for a long lasting mission like #ISS team members. This is a change from the original plan to perform a minimum duration test flight, led by @NASA needs ISS staff.
– Garrett Reisman (@astro_g_dogg) February 23, 2020
The images raised more than a couple of eyebrows since the planned minimum duration flight should not have required such shenanigans. Driven, according to Reisman, “NASA needs ISS personnel”, it is clear that the Crew Dragon gang will keep the company of ISS residents longer than expected.
This is not a bad thing, and it came in the week when the Russian space agency Roscosmos announced that it was exchanging the two RSA crew members who accompanied NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy to the ISS on April 9. The commander and flight engineer slots will now be taken by Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Wagner because of what the agency called “Medical Reasons”.
The situation is unusual, but not unheard of.
Everything is getting a little tight in terms of ISS crew. After the expedition 62 crew returns to Earth, Cassidy and friends will be left alone on the ISS until the arrival of the first commercial crew vehicle or the next Soyuz (scheduled for October).
The trio will have their hands full only by maintaining the operational complex so that the extra hands provided by SpaceX will be welcome.
Mars InSight celebrates a year in which he failed to dig to the surface by crushing the mole
Engineers are planning to use the scoop on NASA’s InSight lander to boost the “mole” hit on the recalcitrant Martian surface.
The 40 cm long “mole” is part of the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) and would have had to dig up to five meters into the planet to measure heat from the inside. However, it continued to retreat from its hole.
Scientists reduced the problems to an unusually thick duricrust (cemented soil) under the mole rather than the expected loose sand-like soil. Attempts to lock the mole in place using the scoop (and thus avoiding the tether at the top) met with limited initial success before the mole reappeared, probably due to the ground falling into the hole.
My robotic mole had a hard time staying underground, so I’ll try something we never thought we would do: give it a push with the robotic arm while hammering. This will take several weeks, such as the @NASAJPL/@DLR_en the team works for #SaveTheMole.
Other: https://t.co/ees9hdF9vo pic.twitter.com/w42KXBe18o
– NASA InSight (@NASAInSight) February 21, 2020
With few options left, the team will attempt to push the mole’s rear cap, trying not to damage the fragile cable that binds the mole to InSight. Another option would be to try filling the hole around the tool to give it some friction to work against.
As the first anniversary of the first failure approaches, time is running out for the tool and, at this point, engineers are willing to take more risks in hopes of freeing up some science before the InSight mission ends. ®
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