UFO Buster Radio News – 414: SpaceX SN8 12-Mile High Club, Space Force is Making Moves, and SpaceShipTwo to New Mexico
SpaceX gearing up for 12-mile-high test flight with prototype of Mars-colonizing Starship
Prototype ‘should be done in about a week,’ Elon Musk said.
The next big leap for SpaceX’s Mars-colonizing Starship spacecraft appears to be right around the corner.
Two full-size Starship prototypes, known as SN5 and SN6, recently performed 500-foot-high (150 meters) test hops at SpaceX’s South Texas facilities, near the village of Boca Chica. And the next vehicle in line is nearly ready to soar much higher, company founder and CEO Elon Musk said.
“SN8 Starship with flaps & nosecone should be done in about a week. Then static fire, checkouts, static fire, fly to 60,000 ft [18,300 m] & back,” Musk said via Twitter on Saturday (Sept. 12).
Static fires are routine engine tests conducted while a vehicle is tethered to the ground. The engines that will be tested in this case are SpaceX’s next-generation Raptors — likely three of them, to get the SN8 up so high. SN5 and SN6 sported only a single Raptor, and those vehicles didn’t have nosecones or control-improving body flaps, either. (SN7 was a test tank that SpaceX intentionally burst during a pressure trial this past June, in case you were wondering.)
SpaceX is iterating toward a final version of Starship that will feature six Raptors and, Musk has said, be capable of carrying up to 100 people to the moon, Mars and other distant destinations.
The 165-foot-tall (50 m) Starship will launch from Earth atop a gigantic rocket known as Super Heavy, which will be powered by about 30 Raptors of its own. The Starship vehicle will be powerful enough to blast itself off the moon and Mars, whose gravitational pulls are much weaker than that of our planet, Musk has said.
Space Force Chief: U.S. Doesn’t Want War in Space, Must be Prepared for It
The United States doesn’t want to engage in warfare in space, but like in all domains, the U.S. military must be prepared for such a conflict, and that’ll take a lot of preparation and change, Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. Raymond, said.
He said the U.S. does not want to get into a conflict that begins or extends into space.
“We want to deter that from happening. However, if deterrence fails, a war that begins or extends into space will be fought over great distances at tremendous speeds,” Raymond said.
The chief of the newly-created Space Force spoke during a presentation that was part of the 2020 Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference, held this year virtually as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since establishment, we’ve been in the business of slashing bureaucracy, delegating authority and enhancing accountability at every crossroad,” Raymond said. “My opinion: big organizations are slow. We must move at speed to outpace the threats that we face.”
The general said the Space Force, in an effort to reduce bureaucracy, implemented a large-scale reorganization that involved removing two echelons of command, including a numbered Air Force and an O-6-level command.
“We’ve also reduced the size of our planned staff at the Pentagon,” Raymond said. “Back when we started, the Pentagon staff was going to be over 1,000 people. That was the initial plan. We’ve slashed that by 40%. We’re shortening the distance between decision makers and you, the experts, conducting our mission.”
Space Force is working with Norway, for instance, to host American payloads on Norwegian space launches. That combined effort, he said, will save the U.S. about $900 million and also put those capabilities into space sooner. The U.S. is also working with the Japanese to put U.S. capabilities into Japanese satellites.
“These efforts improve our capabilities, and they strengthen our partnerships between our great nations,” he said.
Virgin Galactic to launch its 1st suborbital spaceflight from Spaceport America in October: report
Virgin Galactic will fly to space again next month, if all goes according to plan.
The space tourism company’s latest SpaceShipTwo vehicle, known as VSS Unity, has made two crewed test flights to suborbital space, first in December 2018 and then again in February 2019.
Virgin Galactic is now preparing for its next suborbital test flight, which could launch as soon as Oct. 22, CNBC reported, citing documents filed last week with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.
“Virgin Galactic said last month that the second test spaceflight will then have four ‘mission specialists’ inside the cabin,” Sheetz added. “If both test flights succeed, Virgin Galactic expects to fly founder Sir Richard Branson in the first quarter of 2021.”
A spokesperson for Virgin added that the Oct. 22 date is meant to mark the beginning of a flight window, so it is possible the flight will take place shortly thereafter, Sheetz wrote. Virgin also plans four-hour test flights of SpaceShipTwo’s carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, on Oct. 1 and Oct. 7.
The next spaceflight, whenever it takes place, will be the first to fly from Virgin Galactic’s commercial hub at Spaceport America in New Mexico.
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