UFO Buster Radio News – 404: Calcium From The Stars, Richard Branson Where Are You?, and After The Hop.
Will Richard Branson ever be Richard Branson again?
Richard Branson loves a challenge. The Virgin Group founder has built a reputation, and his more than $4 billion fortune, on the back of his willingness to take bold risks and venture into new areas of business.
“Virgin loves to take on seemingly insurmountable problems, and try to overcome them,” he said in 2018.
But these days, Branson’s business empire is facing what could be its biggest challenge yet.
Many of Virgin Group’s companies are in the travel industry — airlines, trains, hotels, cruises, holiday planning — which is being clobbered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Virgin Atlantic last week filed for US bankruptcy protection as part of a $1.5 billion recapitalization plan to maintain solvency in the midst of its worst economic downturn ever. The airline’s operations are continuing, though it doesn’t expect to be profitable again until 2022. Sister company Virgin Australia is also undergoing a restructuring under new owner, Bain Capital.
Virgin Galactic has been a Wall Street success story this year despite the fact that it is not yet profitable. Galactic plans to make Branson himself the first non-crew member on a company space flight early next year — a risky bet but one that, if successful, could attract other passengers and unleash huge opportunities for the business of space travel.
“It’s obviously a very bold move, but you have to respect the skin in the game Branson is putting in, by being the first person to do it,” Ark Invest analyst Sam Korus said.
Virgin Galactic isn’t expected to be heavily affected by the pandemic, because the extremely wealthy customers it seeks are less likely to be hurt by the economic crisis, said Ark Invest’s Korus.
“Space is a super exciting area right now, a lot of things that people thought were impossible are being proven possible,” Korus said. “Obviously there is still a huge amount of risk involved, but if [Branson’s] flight is successful in the first quarter of next year, this concept of space tourism is unlocked and de-risked.”
Galactic has also been working to parlay its rocket technology into an air travel business that shuttles people between cities at record speeds, an area of business that could also have huge earning potential. Korus has predicted such an industry could eventually grow to roughly $300 billion in annual revenue.
The Calcium in Your Teeth Comes from Exploding Stars
Carl Sagan once said we’re made of “star stuff.” Turns out he was right.
For thousands of years, scientists and natural historians have pondered the origin of the universe’s many elements. Now, researchers have unraveled the origin of calcium, the element responsible for our rickety bones and chattering teeth. A new study says half of the calcium in the universe likely came from exploding stars.
In the study, published in The Astrophysical Journal, researchers from 15 different countries worked together to study a single supernova, SN 2019ehk. Last year, amateur astronomer Joel Shepherd spotted the calcium-rich supernova roughly 55 million light-years away in the star-forming galaxy Messier 100, rattling the astronomical community. Just 10 hours after Shepherd’s discovery, telescopes around the world trained their lenses on the cosmic explosion.
“These events are so few in number that we have never known what produced calcium-rich supernovae,” astrophysicist Wynn Jacobson-Galan, of Northwestern University, said in a statement. “By observing what this star did in its final month before it reached its critical, tumultuous end, we peered into a place previously unexplored, opening new avenues of study within transient science.”
SpaceX’s next Starship starts to take shape as Elon Musk talks next steps
Almost immediately after Starship SN5 took to the sky on a 150m (500 ft) hop debut, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was talking about the company’s next near-term goals for the next-generation launch vehicle’s test program.
As far as basic rocketry goes, SpaceX’s 150m Starship hop has functionally proven that the company’s exotic, rule-of-thumb-breaking approach to Starship production and assembly can be feasibly refined into something capable of producing extraordinarily cheap orbital-class rockets.
It’s this last bit where CEO Elon Musk’s recent comments and recent activity at SpaceX’s Starship factory come in. According to Musk, SpaceX intends to perform at least several more smaller hops (a la SN5) “to smooth out [the] launch process.” It’s unclear which prototype(s) will be involved in that series of hops but after SpaceX is satisfied with the state of launch operations, the plan is to “go high altitude with body flaps.” Based on past comments, it’s safe to assume that Musk is referring to a plan to launch a Starship to 20 km (~12 mi
After reaching 20 km, Starship would orient itself belly down – a bit like a skydiver – and quite literally fall its way to ~1 km altitude before attempting an aggressive Raptor-powered pitch-over maneuver and last-second landing. By using Earth’s atmosphere much like a skydiver trying to slow down, Starship will theoretically be able to dramatically reduce the amount of propellant it needs to land.
Episode Image – SpaceX began stacking Starship SN8 on August 5th. (NASASpaceflight – bocachicagal)
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