A busy week in space
February 22, 2019 5:44 PM   Subscribe

All kinds of missions are under way. Humans and our machines are working hard.

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo touched the edge of space for a second time and with an extra passenger. After circling and dropping landers on an asteroid, JAXA's Hayabusa2 landed upon its surface and shot a probe into it. NASA's OSIRIS-REx probe examined its own asteroid for "multiple, bright, point sources."

Far away from the inner solar system, NASA's New Horizons probe caught and shared even better images of Ultima Thule.

Meanwhile, SpaceX fired off a Falcon 9 rocket, which deposited several satellites in Earth orbit: PT Pasifik Satelit Nusantara's Nusantara Satu, intended to expand Indonesian broadband from geosynchronous orbit; SpaceIL's Beresheet craft, which commenced a 40-day trip to the moon; the United States Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)'s S5 satellite. Mission complete, the Falcon returned to Earth for a spicy landing upright upon the drone tug Of Course I Still Love You.

On Mars, Curiosity went into safe mode.

Looking ahead, NASA and SpaceX reps met to plan next month's Crew Dragon launch.
posted by doctornemo (28 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Ultima Thule is just fantastic and that article (last link above the fold) is written by the PI of the New Horizons project. That's good stuff.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:27 PM on February 22 [1 favorite]

Hayabusa2 has been all over the news here in Japan. People are very excited.

You'd think the Japanese would know by now not to bring random things back from space, but whatever- I guess Gojira or Gamera or someone will take care of it.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:27 PM on February 22 [3 favorites]

Hey, can we dial back on the whole Ultima Thule thing? It's a temporary nickname with some unsavoury associations. Personally, I'm going to stick with MU69.

posted by zamboni at 6:34 PM on February 22 [3 favorites]

Newsroom Tokyo 6½ min piece on Hayabusa2 (video, in English)
posted by XMLicious at 6:52 PM on February 22 [2 favorites]

Meanwhile, NASA sets date for Orion abort system test and they have taken delivery of the ESA service module and are gearing up to start connecting the LM-1 crew module up to it. (can't find any articles about progress there, but the kiddo says they're about to start hooking them up. She's busy installing & testing components on the crew module, but is of the opinion that they'll be waiting for SLS & probably well into building LM-2's crew module before SLS delivers)
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:02 PM on February 22 [1 favorite]

PBS's NOVΛ had a great episode earlier this month about the state of the art in the launch industry, “Rise of the Rockets”, covering both the private aerospace firms and NASA's SLS. Unfortunately that link probably requires a U.S. cable company login to watch.
posted by XMLicious at 8:27 PM on February 22

It's a temporary nickname with some unsavoury associations.

My first exposure to the name Ultima Thule was this(slyt) Space:(synopsis) 1999(trivia) episode(fanfare). I was young when I watched, and there is a lasting impact.
No other association to that name has the same hold on me.
posted by otherchaz at 8:45 PM on February 22 [3 favorites]

Ultima Thule, yeah, let's just call it bad ass planet killer, still in its nursery phase. What an object, it looks sculpted.
posted by Oyéah at 10:03 PM on February 22

While we are at the busy week: let's not forget the eventful launch of the EgyptSat-2 sattelite by Roscosmos. It seems that the thrid stage stopped 60km below the planned orbit, but the Fregat upper stage managed to compensate for that automatically.
posted by kmt at 10:36 PM on February 22 [1 favorite]

I hate it when we let the Nazis ruin cool names.
posted by rokusan at 11:08 PM on February 22 [2 favorites]

On the bright side, since the connotation is 'Nazi homeland,' we can just take the implication that all the Nazis should be sent to a desolate rock as far away as possible. I don't see what the problem is.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:27 PM on February 22 [2 favorites]

Does Beresheet cause a Berenstain?

I'm going, I'm going. Nice post until I came along.
posted by bryon at 12:16 AM on February 23 [2 favorites]

Hey, can we dial back on the whole "Ultima Thule" thing? It's a temporary nickname with some unsavoury associations. Personally, I'm going to stick with MU69.

Sorry, not going to let some assholes in mid-twentieth-century Germany appropriate that historical term (which makes sense in our solar system naming context) for all time.
posted by D.C. at 2:18 AM on February 23 [11 favorites]

“On the bright side, since the connotation is 'Nazi homeland,' we can just take the implication that all the Nazis should be sent to a desolate rock as far away as possible. I don't see what the problem is.”

Kaibutsu, you should read ‘The Atrocity Archives ‘ by Charles Stross.
posted by fordiebianco at 3:55 AM on February 23 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure I get this Orion abort test. They're going to test the abort system a) on a different rocket than it's going to launch on, b) on a boilerplate mockup of Orion, and c) not even test parachutes? I'm sure it will give some useful data, but why not wait until you've got a more complete system to test-- like, one that can actually get a capsule down safely?
posted by phooky at 7:26 AM on February 23

posted by misterpatrick at 8:32 AM on February 23 [1 favorite]

My only question for Ultima Thule is how did a rooftop cargo carrier get into space and where did the Subaru go that it was attached to?
posted by weed donkey at 8:47 AM on February 23 [3 favorites]

It's fantastic that Hayabusa2 is doing so well. The original Hyabusa had an extremely rocky time, people made a few films about it. There was a really good visual novel recounting it on the app store, but it seems to have become obsolescent.
posted by lucidium at 8:49 AM on February 23 [1 favorite]

What, you don't remember when Warren Buffett launched his 1976 Subaru Brat into lunar orbit to the stains of "Werewolves of London"? With a department store manikin named "Zelda" in the driver's seat and everything? He took a lot of shit for it at the time, but I thought it was cool.
posted by phooky at 9:21 AM on February 23 [4 favorites]

Falcon 9 first stage has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship, completing this booster’s third launch and landing.

[my emphasis - JiA]
Somebody is clearly a fan of Iain Banks.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:51 PM on February 23

Israel will be the fourth country to land something on the moon (not including crashes), after the US, USSR, and recently China.

SpaceIL is not just Israel's first spacecraft, it is the first time ever that a private, non-government agency has financed something like this--a private enterprise trip to the moon.

The orbits it is taking to reach the moon are pretty amazing, with successive larger and larger elliptical orbits until it reaches the moon's orbit, after which it will transfer to orbiting the moon before landing.

If they can get it to move after landing (maybe doing a hop?), they could win Google's Lunar XPRIZE. That's a goal they are being secretive about, since they really just hope they can get it to a safe landing.
posted by eye of newt at 5:28 PM on February 23

Here's a video of the SpaceIL orbits.

Landing date is April 11th. If you've ever played Lunar Lander, you know how difficult that is going to be.
posted by eye of newt at 5:44 PM on February 23

Sorry for multiple posts, but a correction: the time for a cash reward for the Google Lunar XPRIZE has past, but Google has said they'll still give anyone who meets the requirements the title of Lunar XPRIZE winner. And the actual lander is called Beresheet.
posted by eye of newt at 5:58 PM on February 23

Kaibutsu, you should read ‘The Atrocity Archives ‘ by Charles Stross.

Bah, that Stross guy is a hack. He never sends me any free signed copies of his books. At all. Zero free signed copies.

It's like he blocked me in MeMail or something.
posted by rokusan at 8:34 AM on February 26

Hey fordiebianco I cannot thank you enough for the Atrocity Archives rec. What a delight. /hat tip!
posted by the_royal_we at 6:25 PM on February 26

NASA to consider use of private rockets for first Orion lunar mission
"We have amazing capability that exists right now that we can use off the shelf."
On Wednesday morning, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine appeared before the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation to discuss how to ensure US leadership in space. He used the appearance to make what is, for the aerospace community at least, a shocking announcement about the oft-delayed first launch of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and its Orion crew capsule.

"SLS is struggling to meet its schedule," he said. "We are now understanding better how difficult this project is, and it’s going to take some additional time. I want to be really clear. I think we as an agency need to stick to our commitment. If we tell you, and others, that we’re going to launch in June of 2020 around the Moon, I think we should launch around the Moon in June of 2020. And I think it can be done. We should consider, as an agency, all options to accomplish that objective."

And with that comment, Bridenstine opened the door to launching the Exploration Mission-1—which will not carry crew but will test Orion in a deep-space environment over three weeks—on commercial rockets.


This plan will almost certainly receive significant pushback in Congress, which has long supported the SLS rocket with large budgets in excess of $2 billion a year. But on Wednesday, Bridenstine and the White House appeared to push back, saying enough was enough and that NASA could not wait forever four the big rocket to come online.
posted by XMLicious at 7:58 PM on March 13

Astropreneurs, from Singapore's ChannelNews Asia, about space industry start-ups.
posted by XMLicious at 9:46 AM on March 20

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