The U.S. military command recently signed an agreement with SpaceX and XArc to allow them to study the use of space launch vehicles to transport supplies for emergency purposes. On Wednesday, October 7, the commander ofU.S. Transportation Command, Army Gen. Stephen Lyons, announced the news of the agreement at a National Defense Transportation Association virtual conference. “Think about moving the equivalent of aC-17 payload anywhere on the globe in less than an hour,” Lyons stated at the conference. For those who don’t know, the C-17 is a very large military cargo plane that can even transport a 70-ton main battle tank. The U.S military transportation command formed a joint venture with Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX and Exploration ArchitectureCorporation (XArc) by signing the cooperative research and development agreement, calledCRADA.
As per this agreement, SpaceX and XArc will study the concepts for rapid transportation in space. However, there are differences between space and airlift. Space transportation depends on the weight and volume of the payload and has some restrictions in launching and recovery operations, compared to Airlift. According to the U.S. TRANSCOM Deputy CommanderVice Adm. Dee Mewbourne, “As industry advances to overcome these challenges and decrease costs, a space transportation capability to put a crucial cargo quickly on target at considerable distances makes it an attractive alternative.” Under the agreement, two participants will have to volunteer time and resources to help the government study “use cases” for their technology and concepts of employing space as a mode of transportation.
In one case, it could be building a space transportation surge capability like similar to the current Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF)emergency preparedness program. In that program, civilian airlines commit to augmenting DoD airlift capability during emergencies. “I had no sense for how fast SpaceX was moving, but I’ve received their update and I can tell you they are moving very rapidly in this area,” Lyons said. In 2018, Former commander of Air MobilityCommand Gen. Carlton Everhart talked about the possibility of using SpaceX vehicles to transport military cargo. In last year, SpaceX President and Chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell said in a defense industrial conference, that the company had a discussion with the U.S Army about using SpaceX’s Starship vehicle for point-to-point transportation and delivering cargo around the world within a few minutes.
Billionaire entrepreneur, Elon Musk’s electric car, which he launched on the top of a rocket two years ago, just took a trip around Mars. It is for the first time that an electric car that was rocketed in space just flew past Mars. In February 2018, private aerospace rocket company SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk launched his old Tesla Roadster electric sports car on a Falcon Heavy rocket. On the driver seat of Musk’s Tesla car, a spacesuit-wearing dummy named “Starman” was placed to give a more realistic feel. SpaceX officials twitted, “Starman, last seen leaving Earth, mode its first close approach with Mars today-within 0.05 astronomical units, or under 5 million miles, of the Red Planet.
” Apart from the “Starman”, which was sitting on the seat with his hands on the driver wheel, the car also carried a Hot Wheels model to space. Inside the car’s storage deck, there is a copy of two sci-fi novels: “Foundation” by Isaac Asimov and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams, along with a towel and a sign with “Don’t Panic” written on it. The Tesla car has an in-built speaker, which played the song “Space Oddity” by David Bowie after Falcon super heavy lifted off with the car. After crossing the orbit, the Falcon superheavy’s second stage did not leave any fuel to propel it. Since then, the rocket was floating in space with Musk’s old red-colored Tesla car stacked on its payload adapter.
Jonathan McDowell, who is an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, first independently calculated that Musk’sTesla car along with Starman just passed Mars. As per McDowell, “It’s a rocket stage with a hood ornament.” According to McDowell’s calculations, the tesla car made its first close approach in the Martian Orbit at about 2:25 p.m. ET on Wednesday, October 7. On its way, the car passed approximately a 7.4million kilometers (4.6 million miles) from the red planet. On Thursday, October 8, McDowell wrote on his Twitter post, “I know many of you have an interest in the Falcon Heavy 001 second stage, which continues orbiting the Sun with a sports car bolted to its payload adapter.” The Tesla launch mission was originally planned to take place in a circular orbit between Mars and the sun. However, a change of plan occurred and the mission ended up on an elliptical path in which it passed Martian orbit and now heading towards the Asteroid Belt.
The car completes an orbit every 557 days. The car’s trajectory previously passed the Martian orbit, although, at that time, the planet was much far away from the point where Sharman intersected its path. Tesla car, which is attached to Falcon Heavy’ssecond stage, does not contain any kind of transmission device to send signals back to earth, thus McDowell did the path calculated using the previous data, which it left before launching into space. He also included the gravitational data that NASA uses to steer its space probes. As per McDowell, “It’s a pretty confident extrapolation because we understand gravity pretty well.” He also added “The only thing that could throw you off is what we call outgassing: If there was leftover fuel, or if the paint job on the Tesla carriage came off, that acts as a little rocket that pushes it forward.
But that won’t change it much.” From the car’s trajectory, Starman might not get a clear view of the red surface of Mars as it is still much far away from the planet. Although according to McDowell’s math, at that distance the planet will appear as one-tenth the size of the moon as seen from Earth. “If you were doing a flyby mission that would be considered a failure. It would be too far to get decent pictures; you could see that [Mars] was round.” McDowell said. But, he added, “it’s interesting that it comes that close.” On November 5, the car’s trajectory will cross around the Earth. Thus, the Tesla car will pass close to Earth, within 52 million kilometers (32 million miles), and eventually set its track on Venus and mercury.
Shortly after that, three researchers from the University of Toronto did a calculation and ultimately reached a conclusion that the tesla roadster would make its way by drifting through space until it crashes into Earth, Venus, or the sun expected in the next 10 million years. Let us move to our last segment now where we will discuss news from China. China has a batch of 18 new astronauts for its upcoming Space station launch.
As per the China Manned Space Agency’s announced on Thursday October 1, the third group of astronauts, which includes 17 men and 1 woman has been selected for the nation’s space station launch. According to the Chinese agency, the batch of 18 new astronauts will be divided into three groups, where two groups will have 7members in each and the last group will contain the remaining four people. Among them, seven, who will operate the mission as spacecraft pilots are chosen from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. Another group of seven people will play the role of spaceflight engineers.
They are selected from different fields like aeronautics researchers, astronautics researchers, etc. The last four people of the team will be mission payload specialists. Some of these people were involved in space science or some piloted China’s previous space program. Therefore, with this plan, all the members are now in charge in their own position. The Chinese government is planning to launch the first full-fledged crewed space station in 2021. A report from China Daily points out some facts about the selection process.
Previously the Chinese space agency recruited astronauts by two selection rounds. At that time they had 21 astronauts, among them, 11 astronauts were present during six Chinese space missions. The third class selection process began in April 2018, in which the final group was formed by cutting off 2500 applicants. The government will make the first step by putting the space station’s core module into orbit with its Long March 5B launch. In the next step, other components and astronauts will be ferried to the core module to assemble the station. The multi-module space station is known asTiangong. Chinese also called it “Heavenly Palace” which includes three components. First, a core module would be attached to between two space labs. As per the Academy of Space Technology in China, It could weight more than 90 metric tons. The academy also said that they are expecting a fully-operational space station to be completed in 2022. Moreover, it will be used for further 15 years.