TIME space

Watch the SpaceX Rocket Landing in Slow Motion

The rocket tipped over due to excess lateral velocity

SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket with the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on Tuesday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, marking the sixth resupply mission for SpaceX to the International Space Station and a second chance at attempting to recover a Falcon 9 rocket. The company released this HD slow motion video on Wednesday that shows the rocket approach SpaceX’s autonomous drone barge landing platform, then tipping over after impact. SpaceX CEO and CTO Elon Musk tweeted:

TIME space

SpaceX Rocket Launches for International Space Station

The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from launch at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Apr. 14, 2015.
John Raoux—AP The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from launch at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Apr. 14, 2015.

It is packed with 4,300 pounds of supplies

SpaceX launched a cargo ship to the International Space Station Tuesday at 4:10 p.m. from Florida’s Cape Canaveral.

The Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule were scheduled for liftoff Monday, but the launch was postponed because of weather and, as creator Elon Musk put it, the fact that the “moon was in the way.”

One of the deliveries—in what MarketWatch reports as SpaceX’s sixth resupply mission—is an espresso machine for Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.

The Dragon is packed with 4,300 pounds of goods.

TIME Television

Is The Simpsons Actually Set in Australia?

How's this for fan theory?

Hold everything. The Simpsons may not set in the United States as we have all been led to believe — and Simpsons fan, astronomer, and Slate’s Bad Astronomy blogger, Phil Plait has a pretty ingenious reason why. It all has to do with how the show’s creators draw the Moon.

In the episode The Musk Who Fell to Earth, which aired on Jan. 25, SpaceX boss Elon Musk befriends Homer when he arrives in Springfield.

In one scene Musk gazes up at the night sky where a crescent Moon is shining above. But Plait noticed something peculiar about the Moon – it was facing the wrong way for a town supposedly in the U.S.A.

In the northern hemisphere, the tips of a waxing crescent moon point to the left, but in The Simpsons episode they point to the right.

The conclusion? The Simpsons must be set in the southern hemisphere. Mind blown.

[Slate]

TIME

Morning Must Reads: February 11

Capitol
Mark Wilson—Getty Images The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

Fake Newsman, Real News

Jon Stewart, the comedian turned faux newsman who transformed The Daily Show into a cultural powerhouse, is leaving the show later this year. It’s a sad day for anyone who cares about news — fake or otherwise — writes TIME’s Jim Poniewozik

Brian Williams Suspended

NBC said on Tuesday that the Nightly News anchor had been suspended as managing editor and anchor for six months without pay

Obama Honors Kayla Mueller

President pays tribute to the young American aid worker whose death while being held captive by ISIS was confirmed on Tuesday

SpaceX Launch Canceled Over High Winds

SpaceX called off its sunset launch with just 12 minutes remaining in the countdown because of gusts of 115 m.p.h. several miles up — strong enough to damage the rocket in flight. It was the private company’s second attempt in three days to launch the spacecraft

U.S. Closes Embassy in Yemen

The State Department confirmed late Tuesday that it has closed the U.S. embassy in Yemen and evacuated its staff because of the political crisis and security concerns following the takeover of much of the country by Shi’ite rebels

Yankees Slugger A-Rod Apologizes for Misconduct

Alex Rodriguez apologized to New York Yankees top executives on Tuesday, ahead of his return to professional baseball after a yearlong suspension for steroid use. The Yankees and Rodriguez issued a joint statement on Tuesday

Puerto Rico Could Soon Fine Parents of Obese Kids

Parents in Puerto Rico may soon be fined up to $800 if their children are obese, if a bill currently being debated in the legislature is implemented. Puerto Rican Senator Gilberto Rodríguez said the bill is aimed at improving children’s health

White House Stays Mum on Obama’s Gay-Marriage Views

The White House wouldn’t say definitively Tuesday whether President Barack Obama misled the country about his true feelings on gay marriage during his first presidential campaign, as his former longtime political strategist David Axelrod charges in a new book

Australia Foils ISIS-Inspired Terrorist Plot

Australian counterterrorism officials say they have foiled an imminent terrorist attack after the arrest of two men at a house in western Sydney. Police say a homemade ISIS flag was recovered, as well as a machete and a hunting knife

WWE Star Seth Rollins Apologizes for Nude-Photos Leak

WWE star Seth Rollins took to Twitter on Monday evening to apologize for nude photos that appeared on numerous of his social-media accounts and, because of automatic updates, wound up on the official WWE website

Tokyo Bars Japanese Reporter From Visiting Syria

Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs ordered a journalist to surrender his passport after learning last week that he planned to travel to Syria later this month. The action was based on a law that allows the government to take citizens’ passport if it would protect their lives

TV Rights to Top English Soccer Sold for $7.84 Billion

England’s top-flight soccer competition, already one of the richest and most-watched sports leagues in the world, is now much richer. The Premier League has auctioned off broadcast rights to its games for the equivalent of $7.84 billion

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TIME space travel

Virgin Galactic Will Resume Test Flights This Year

British billionaire Richard Branson pose
Adrian Dennis—AFP/Getty Images British billionaire Richard Branson poses in front of a model of the Virgin Galactic.

After a deadly crash last year

The space tourism company Virgin Galactic is set to resume test flights this year after a deadly crash last year, its CEO said, defying expectations that it wouldn’t be ready to take flight again until at least 2016.

“I really think we’re turning the corner,” CEO George Whitesides told the Associated Press. “We’ve gone through one of the toughest things a company can go through and we’re still standing, and now we’re really moving forward with pace.”

The company, founded by billionaire Richard Branson, is completing construction of a new shuttle after one broke apart during a test flight in October, leaving one pilot dead. The accident was the most recent in a long line of setbacks. Successful in-flight testing is one of the company’s last major obstacles to the elusive of commercial space travel.

MORE: What Richard Branson Can Learn From the Virgin Galactic Disaster

[AP]

MONEY space travel

SpaceX Wants to Send You to Mars

The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket launched by SpaceX on a cargo resupply service mission to the International Space Station (ISS), lifts off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida January 10, 2015. An unmanned Space Exploration Technologies mission blasted off on Saturday carrying cargo for the ISS, but efforts to reland the rocket on a sea platform failed, the firm said. The Dragon cargo capsule itself was successfully launched into space and is expected to dock with the space station on Monday.
Mike Brown—Reuters

Elon Musk and his reusable SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets pose a real threat to the economics of Boeing's and Lockheed's orbital satellite space launch franchise.

“I am Elon Musk, CEO/CTO of a rocket company … Zip2, PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity. Started off doing software engineering and now do aerospace & automotive …

Looking forward to your questions.”

With those words began a singular event on the Web, as Elon Musk, CEO of — as he noted — electric car company Tesla TESLA MOTORS INC. TSLA 0.04% , of solar power lessor SolarCity SOLARCITY CORP COM USD0.0001 SCTY -1.93% , and private space exploration firm SpaceX as well opened himself up for questions on Reddit earlier this month.

You can imagine what happened next.

Fans swarmed. Bedlam ensued. And over the next several hours, Elon Musk fielded every question his fans could throw at him.

Missing in action

Curiously, while Elon Musk serves as titular head of two publicly traded companies, Tesla and SolarCity, neither of those got much attention in last Tuesday’s Reddit discussion. (Indeed, Musk didn’t mention either one by name, even once). Instead, all the action surrounded the one company that Musk has not yet deigned to IPO to the public: SpaceX.

But what did he have to say about it?

Elon on … spaceplanes

“If you want to get to orbit or beyond, go with pure rockets. It is not like Von Braun and Korolev didn’t know about airplanes and they were really smart dudes.”

There’s been a lot of talk lately about spacecraft that fly into the upper atmosphere and from there release payloads into orbit. DARPA is working on one bird capable of high altitude payload delivery. Stratolaunch Systems has another. Britain’s got a third. But Elon Musk isn’t worried about these competitors at all. In fact, he seems to kind of dismiss them.

Elon on … reusable rockets

“We could make the 2nd stage of Falcon reusable. … There is no meaningful limit [to the number of times Falcon 9R could be refueled and relaunched]. We would have to replace a few parts that experience thermal stress after 40 cycles, but the rest of the engine would be fine.”

Instead of spaceplanes, Elon Musk is placing his big bet on the potential to turn the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket — which already costs less than rockets launched by the United Launch Alliance (ULA) of Lockheed Martin LOCKHEED MARTIN CORPORATION LMT -1.17% and Boeing BOEING COMPANY BA -1.56% — into a true ULA-killer.

Key to this effort will be turning Falcon 9 into a “reusable” rocket — one whose first, and potentially even its second stages can descend back to Earth after launch, and land safely for recovery, refueling, and relaunching with a new payload a few days later.

Musk thinks a reusable rocket can potentially save taxpayers $50 billion or more on the cost of satellite launches by the U.S. government. And as we now know from the Reddit discussion, Musk doesn’t see “wear and tear” on a Falcon 9 rocket being a limiting factor in those savings. While there certainly must be some shelf life on how often any single rocket can be reused before it must be replaced (obsolescence alone is probably one such factor), Musk seems to be saying that for all intents and purposes, a properly maintained reusable Falcon 9 will be indefinitely reusable.

The mission to Mars

“Goal is 100 metric tons of useful payload to the surface of Mars. This obviously requires a very big spaceship and booster system. … At first, I was thinking we would just scale up Falcon Heavy, but it looks like … [the] default plan is to have a sea level and vacuum version of Raptor, much like Merlin. … [Raptor will boast] a little over 230 metric tons (~500 klbf) of thrust per engine, but we will have a lot of them :)”

In the short term, Elon Musk and his reusable SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets pose a real threat to the economics of Boeing’s and Lockheed’s orbital satellite space launch franchise. Already, SpaceX is underpricing the competition, and if he succeeds in making Falcon 9 truly reusable, space launch prices will fall even further.

But SpaceX poses an even more existential threat to Boeing and Lockheed in the long term. That is to say, if you believe that the “long-term” future of spaceflight is to actually fly through space — as opposed to just heaving chunks of metal into orbit, there to circle the globe.

SpaceX calls this threat the “Mars Colonial Transport,” or “MCT,” a true spacecraft capable of sending 100 tons of supplies and/or 100 live human passengers, between planets. For comparison, that’s a goal already 25 times bigger than that of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, which Lockheed Martin is building for NASA. And MCT will boast new “Raptor” engines to match.

With a nine-engine configuration similar to that used on the Falcon 9, a first-stage “Raptor 9″ core would boast 4.5 million pounds of force — roughly half the 8.4 million pounds of thrust offered by the Space Launch System that Boeing is developing for NASA. A three-part configuration featuring a core, and two “core-like” booster rockets, though, would provide 50%more thrust than Boeing’s SLS.

In other words, at the same time as ULA is working out the details of its most advanced and most capable space launch system ever, SpaceX is, too. And its spaceship is both bigger and better.

The upshot: After hearing what Elon Musk had to say last week, Boeing and Lockheed Martin should be shaking in their spaceboots.

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: Google Invests in SpaceX

The investment could make SpaceX valued at $10 billion

Google invested $1 billion in SpaceX, valuing SpaceX at $10 billion or more. SpaceX, the private space transportation company backed by Elon Musk, may be what Google needs to expand into providing Internet-by-satellite to billions.

See what this might mean for both companies in today’s Know Right Now, and read more here.

TIME space

See the SpaceX Rocket Crash Land in Middle of the Ocean

SpaceX Rocket Crash
GIF by Mia Tramz for TIME

“Close but no cigar,” Elon Musk tweeted

SpaceX launched a resupply ship to the International Space Station last week, but it narrowly failed a test to securely navigate the rocket back to earth.

The company founded by Elon Musk believes that a reusable rocket could drastically reduce the costs of space transportation, and as you can see in the GIF above compiled from images that Musk tweeted, they’re very close to finalizing the technology. In the first attempt, the Falcon 9 rocket descended back to floating platform about 200 miles off the Florida coast. But it was a hard landing, and the rocket was largely wrecked.

“Close but no cigar,” Musk tweeted at the time.

 

TIME space

Watch TIME’s Jeff Kluger Talk About the History and Impact of SpaceX

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launch early Saturday was a success, despite the failed soft landing attempt of the rocket booster at sea.

See TIME’s senior science writer and editor at large, Jeff Kluger, explain the history and importance of SpaceX.

TIME space

Elon Musk Raises the Stakes — and Lowers the Rhetoric

A man known for salesmanship approaches a big launch with uncharacteristic humility

A dose of Elon Musk has always been like a shot of strong drink. You think you can handle him, think you’re impervious to him—think you can hear him go on about private missions to Mars at just $500,000 per seat or freaky sounding hyperloops that would pack people into aluminum tubes and fire them from place to place at 800 mph (1,290 k/h)—and stay skeptical and sober. Then he starts talking, the buzz hits and you’re quickly calculating how fast you could come up with 500 grand for your own Martian holiday.

Part of the reason people believe in Musk is that Musk believes so wholly in Musk—even if he’s not exactly humble about it. Here he was speaking to Wired magazine in 2008, when SpaceX got off to a stumbling start after three straight launch failures: “Optimism, pessimism, f**k that; we’re going to make it happen. As God is my bloody witness, I’m hell-bent on making it work.”

Here was Musk in 2012, after one of his Dragon spacecraft splashed down following its first successful mission to the ISS: “In terms of things that are actually launching, we are the American space program.”

And here was Musk that same year, on the people who doubt him: “I pity them. It doesn’t make any sense. They’ll be fighting on the wrong side of yesterday’s war.”

That’s why it’s been such a happy surprise to hear him describe the upcoming launch of his Falcon 9 Booster, scheduled for 6:20 AM ET Tuesday. It will be the fifth unmanned resupply run that his company, SpaceX, will make to the International Space Station (ISS), but the first that will attempt to recover the first stage booster intact. That sounds like a very small deal, but it’s a very big one—especially given the way Musk plans to go about it.

One of the reasons space travel is so bloody expensive is that it’s so bloody wasteful. Expendable boosters—as their names make plain—are one-use-only machines, discarded stage by stage as they climb, with only the payload reaching space. The Saturn V moon rocket, easily the most impressive booster ever built, was also the most breathtaking example of throwaway tech. It stood 363 ft. (110 ft.) tall at launch, but the only piece to make it home was the 9 ft. (2.7 m) pod that carried the astronauts. The rest? Junk—most of it now lying on the ocean floor.

The shuttle program tried to remedy that. The ship’s whale-like external tank was dumped in the drink but the twin solid rocket boosters separated and returned by parachute when their fuel was expended, to be recovered and re-used. The shuttle itself, of course, came home, too. But the whole idea was oversold, with promises that shuttles could be checked out, gassed up and relaunched in a matter of weeks, slashing the price-per-pound of payload dramatically. Those weeks, however, turned out to be months, and every launch cost on the order of $400 million—not exactly a low-cost trucking service.

Musk aims to do things differently. After the upcoming Falcon 9 booster takes flight, its spent first stage won’t just tumble back into the sea. Rather, it will retain enough fuel to right itself and reignite for three separate burns, slowing its plunge from 2,900 mph (4,700 k/h) to 600 mph (965 k/h) and finally just 4.5 mph (7.2 k/h). Fins arrayed around the perimeter of the rocket will control its lift and attitude, and legs will allow to land upright on a 300 ft (91 m) by 170 ft. (52 m) floating platform that has already been built and is anchored in place 200 miles (322 km) off the east coast of Florida.

There are, admittedly, about one jillion things that could go wrong with this plan. Musk claims that the booster can land within 33 ft (9.1 m) of an intended target, but with the leg span of the rocket a full 70 ft (21 m) and and platform’s mere 170 ft. width, that leaves very little margin for error. The rocket stage itself is 140 ft. (42 m) tall—about the height of a 14 story building—but because of its relatively light weight and cylindrical design, SpaceX’s own website compares trying to stabilize the stage as the equivalent of balancing “a rubber broomstick on your hand in the middle of a windstorm.”

That’s fine for the PR-minded folks who write the website and are in the business of lowering expectations so they can easily exceed them. But surely Musk—who is his own kind of windstorm—will be less reticent. Not so. He puts the likelihood of success on this first attempt at less than 50-50, and, in an interview with The New York Times, admitted that it could take a dozen flights before the new landing system will reach even 80% to 90% reliability, which sounds impressive but is still below what it will cost to keep costs as low as Musk believes he can drive them.

It’s hard to say what’s behind the candor and caution coming from a man known best for boasts and bravado. Part of it may be the humbling that Orbital Sciences—SpaceX’s main competitor—experienced when one of its rockets exploded en route to its own space station rendezvous in October. Another part, surely, was the far worse loss of Richard Branson’s SpaceShipOne shortly after, which cost the life of a pilot.

Musk is now the biggest name in the frontier field of private space travel and that—plus the realization that he’s no more immune to disaster than anyone else is—cannot help but have a sobering effect. Space seems easier when you’re the upstart, launching only the vaporware of your promises. When you start flying metal, the stakes go way up—and the rhetoric, accordingly, goes way down. Elon, welcome to the big leagues.

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