UFO Buster Radio News – 396: Starship Nose Section Stacking, The Sun – Up Close, and UAE Headed to MARS
SpaceX stacks Starship nose section for the first time in months
SpaceX has stacked a Starship nosecone section to its full height for the first time in almost a year, featuring an upgraded design that could soon support an ambitious series of flight tests.
Back in August 2019, SpaceX first began stacking the nose section of Starship Mk1 – the first full-scale prototype of any kind. It became clear a few months later that Starship Mk1 was more of a rough proof of concept than a full-fidelity test article, but it still became the first (and only, so far) Starship to reach its full ~50m (~160 ft) height. After serving as a centerpiece during CEO Elon Musk’s September 2019 Starship presentation, SpaceX removed the nose and attempted to test the Mk1 tank section itself, ultimately destroying the ship.
Now eight months distant from Mk1’s demise, SpaceX’s Starship R&D program has entered the prototype mass-production phase. Since January 2020, SpaceX has built five upgraded Starship tank sections (and tested three to destruction), built and tested four stout test tanks, and completed at least 4-5 new nosecone prototypes. For the first time since nosecone production began several months ago, one of the noses has finally been stacked to its full height atop five steel rings.
NASA and ESA to reveal closest images ever taken of the sun
NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are releasing new images of the sun Thursday morning, bringing humans closer to our host star than ever before. The photos are the first captured by the Solar Orbiter, which launched earlier this year.
After launching on February 9, Solar Orbiter made its first close pass of the sun in mid-June, despite the team facing setbacks due to the coronavirus pandemic. As it passed the sun, it turned on all 10 of its instruments together for the first time, the agencies said in a statement.
The agencies said the new photos are the closest ever taken of the sun. They will be released Thursday morning at 8 a.m. EDT.
“The first images are exceeding our expectations,” Daniel Müller, Solar Orbiter Project Scientist at ESA, said in a statement. “We can already see hints of very interesting phenomena that we have not been able to observe in detail before. The 10 instruments on board Solar Orbiter work beautifully, and together provide a holistic view of the Sun and the solar wind. This makes us confident that Solar Orbiter will help us answer profound open questions about the Sun.”
During its first orbit, Solar Orbiter got within 47 million miles of the star’s surface — about half the distance between the sun and the Earth. ESA said the satellite will eventually get much closer to the sun.
Now that it has completed its first pass, the spacecraft is slowly adjusting its orbit. In late 2021, it will get as close as 26 million miles from the sun’s surface — closer than the planet Mercury — to observe the first proper view of the star’s poles.
The images aren’t the only new footage we have of the sun. In June, NASA released a 10-year time-lapse video of the star, captured by the agency’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).
SDO gathered 425 million high-resolution images of the sun — 20 million gigabytes of data — over the course of a decade. It took a new picture of the sun every .75 seconds, leading to the spectacular composite video.
SDO Video Link: https://youtu.be/l3QQQu7QLoM
UAE MARS MISSION: LAUNCH TIME, MISSION GOALS AND UNDERSTANDING THE MARTIAN CLIMATE
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is sending a spacecraft to take measurements of Mars’ climate and atmosphere, and help scientists understand the planet’s warm, wet and possibly habitable past. The Arab World’s first mission to Mars will be the first to capture a full picture of the Martian atmosphere in order to uncover clues about ancient life on Mars.
The Emirates Mars Mission’s Hope Probe is taking off from the Tanegashima Space Center, located on a remote island in southwestern Japan, on Thursday at 4:43 p.m. (EST).
The probe will reach Mars’ orbit in about seven months, traveling 308 million miles in space to its destination. Once there, the spacecraft will spend an entire Martian year (or the equivalent of 687 days) orbiting the Red Planet and collecting data on the Martian climate and atmosphere.
It will take the Hope Probe 55 days to complete one orbit around Mars, observing the Martian atmosphere from a distance of 20,000 kilometers.
Bruce Jakosky, Professor of Geological Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder and Associate Director for Science for the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), and a member of the science team for the mission, is hoping to find answers for questions that past missions to the Red Planet have built on.
“We are sending a lot of spacecraft to Mars, the Martian environment system is a very complicated one and it’s one that can’t be explored with a single spacecraft,” Jakosky tells Inverse. “The Emirates Mars Mission builds on all the missions that have come before it.”
Although Mars is a dry, desolate world today, scientists believe that it was once a warm, wet planet that may have hosted life. In order to help unlock clues about Mars’ past, scientists need to understand the process by which the Red Planet lost its atmosphere over millions of years through a process known as atmospheric escape.
“Something significant happened to Mars’ climate and changed it,” Jakosky says. “We see evidence that loss to space has been a significant process but we don’t know how the process worked.”
“Something like 50% of all missions to Mars to date have failed – it’s a huge challenge for a young nation to undertake a mission like this,” Omran Sharaf, mission lead, said in a statement. “But we have already – before we even launch the mission – learned so much and accomplished so much in taking on that challenge. It has truly transformed The Emirates’ capability in space systems engineering, science and research and had enormous positive impacts on our science community in general.”
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