Blue Origin’s lawsuit against NASA and SpaceX was again delayed as the DOJ struggled to add page numbers to 1,700 case-related documents before deadline

starship moon human landing system
An illustration of SpaceX Starship human lander.

  • Blue Origin’s lawsuit against the US government and SpaceX was again delayed over technical issues.
  • Dept. of Justice lawyers on Friday asked for a four-day extension to paginate about 1,700 documents.
  • Delays in the case could affect the timeline for NASA’s planned Artemis moon missions.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A deadline in Blue Origin’s lawsuit against the US government and SpaceX was postponed again on Friday, as the government struggled to add page numbers to the “extremely voluminous” case documents.

A week ago, on August 27, the Department of Justice had asked for a one-week extension, saying it was having difficulty getting 7GB of case documents into a format that could be shared with the parties. The documents were to be transferred to DVDs.

On Friday, the DOJ filed another extension request, saying a new issue had cropped up with about 1,700 case documents, which now topped out at more than 16GB.

“The record is fully complete, arranged in tabs and subtabs, and fully indexed,” DOJ lawyers wrote in an extension request on Friday. “However, the process of applying page numbering to each page of the record is taking longer than anticipated, and will not be completed by the deadline.”

The DOJ asked to delay its administrative deadline for the documents by four days, giving government staff the long Labor Day weekend to complete their pagination. In the meantime, the DOJ said would send un-paginated DVDs of the documents to the parties as place-holders.

Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.
Blue Origin CEO Jeff Bezos and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

Blue Origin, a space-tech company founded by Jeff Bezos, last month sued the US government after NASA awarded a rival company, SpaceX, a sole contract to build a moon-lander for NASA’s planned Artemis moon missions. NASA had said it planned to choose two companies but only chose one.

Delays in the lawsuit may further push back work on SpaceX’s contract. The work under that $2.9 billion contract had been put on hold in April, then restarted, then put on hold again.

NASA paused work SpaceX’s contract while the US Court of Federal Claims case moves forward, initially setting a restart date of November 1. Delays in the case could push the work stoppage back further.

Last week, DOJ attorneys proposed a new restart date of November 8, but it was unclear from the court filings if that date had been approved by NASA or the parties.

Adobe recently told Insider it was working directly with the DOJ to help with the government’s PDF issues.

“Adobe Acrobat supports combining most large files, but we regret that it created these challenges for the DOJ,” the company said in an emailed statement. “We’re engaging with them directly to support their unique needs so they are able to maintain the quality and integrity of the original content.”

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Blue Origin’s lawsuit against the US government is being delayed for a week, partly because the DOJ had trouble converting documents into PDFs

Jeff Bezos looks into distance in front of Blue Origin rocket
Jeff Bezos.

  • Blue Origin’s lawsuit against the US government and SpaceX has been delayed over PDF problems.
  • Department of Justice attorneys said the administrative record included more than 7GB of documents.
  • Uploading large batches “brings additional opportunity for the system to crash,” DOJ lawyers said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The route to the moon has been temporarily blocked by a stack of troublesome PDFs.

A federal judge on Friday granted a week-long extension in the lawsuit brought by Blue Origin against SpaceX and the US government.

This occurred, in part, because PDFs and other related documents were too large for the court system to handle.

More than 7GB of data were part of the administrative record in the case, the government said in a filing in US Court of Federal Claims on Friday. It said it would have to transfer the documents to DVDs instead of uploading them to the court’s filing system.

“Good cause exists to grant this motion,” attorneys from the Department of Justice wrote. “The administrative record in this case is extraordinarily voluminous, consisting of hundreds of individual documents and over seven gigabytes of data.”

Both Blue Origin and SpaceX agreed to the extension, the government’s filing said.

In its request for more time, the government said it was having difficulty with the data and documents for a few reasons. Part of the difficulty was that the US Court of Federal Claims, like other courts, limited the size of files that can be uploaded to its online system to 50 MB.

But it wasn’t just the size of the data that would be an issue, the government said.

In their request, the DOJ attorneys said the documents included hundreds of PDFs, along with many other types of files that would be difficult to convert to PDFs. But even if they were able to convert them all into PDFs, they’d then have to upload “several hundred” separate documents to the court system.

Another solution was to combine the individual documents into batches of 50 MB PDFs using Adobe Acrobat software, the DOJ said. That would reduce the number of uploads, but each of those larger uploads “brings additional opportunity for the system to crash,” DOJ lawyers said.

“Thus, although Acrobat allows the user to split a PDF into smaller files of a specified size, it cannot combine several hundred files at one time without crashing,” the DOJ said. “We have tried several different ways to create 50-megabyte files for more efficient filing, all without success thus far.”

Insider reached out to Adobe for comment.

In asking for an extension to file, DOJ attorneys also sought to extend the pause on NASA’s moon-lander contract with SpaceX. The work under that $2.9 billion contract had been put on hold in April, then restarted, then put on hold again.

The original schedule, filed on August 19, had marked November 1 as the end of the current pause. Friday’s revised schedule omitted the date altogether, although DOJ attorneys had included a proposed November 8 restart in their proposed new schedule.

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Elon Musk says SpaceX’s moon lander will probably be ready before 2024, as NASA pays $300 million toward Artemis contract

An illustration of the SpaceX Starship human lander design on the moon.
An illustration of the SpaceX Starship human lander.

  • SpaceX founder Elon Musk said his company’s lunar lander is expected to be ready before 2024.
  • “Probably sooner,” Musk said on Twitter, when asked about the company’s design timeline.
  • NASA awarded SpaceX a $2.89 billion contract to help the agency return humans to the moon.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk on Saturday said he expects to have the Starship human lander ready for a moon mission before 2024.

“Probably sooner,” Musk said on Twitter when asked about the company’s design timeline.

NASA has said 2024 was the “most ambitious date possible” for a return to the moon.

Musk’s estimate marked the latest in a series of upbeat predictions from the billionaire, who has often said he’ll use his fortune to make life “multiplanetary.”

Last week, when it was revealed that NASA was behind schedule on spacesuit development, and that they might not be ready until 2025, Musk said: “SpaceX could do it if need be.”

SpaceX in April won a $2.89 billion NASA contract to design and build a lunar lander. The company’s proposal won over two rival bidders, including a team led by Blue Origin, a private space company founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

Blue Origin protested, and the contract was suspended pending a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

On July 30, the GAO denied Blue Origin’s protest. The same day, Musk’s SpaceX was handed another $300 million to move its project along, according to records first reported by CNBC’s Michael Sheetz on Twitter on Saturday. The tweet by Sheetz started a thread that led to Musk’s prediction that SpaceX’s lander would be ready before 2024.

NASA on July 30 said the GAO’s decision allowed SpaceX and the agency to nail down a timeline for the first crewed mission to the moon in more than 50 years. NASA has said it hopes to test crewed Artemis flights by 2023, with an initial moon landing in 2024.

In its Artemis overview, the agency said “2024 is not an arbitrary date. It is the most ambitious date possible, and our success at the Moon, and later, at Mars, will be grounded in our national goals and robust capabilities.”

That would be followed by “sustainable lunar exploration in the mid to late 2020s,” the agency said.

The founders of Blue Origin and SpaceX have traded barbs over designs and contracts. Musk last week mocked a photo of a prototype of Blue Moon, the rival company’s moon lander.

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NASA wants paid volunteers to spend a year living in a 3D-printed Martian habitat in Texas, where they will carry out spacewalks and research using VR tech

NASA/JPL
An artist’s rendering of astronauts and human habitats on Mars.

NASA is looking for applicants to spend a whole year pretending they live on Mars.

The 1,700 square-foot Martian surface is located inside the Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas.

These types of simulations are called analog missions. Insider’s Alyssa Pagano reported on the challenges of an eight-month analog mission in 2018.

For the newly announced mission, applications opened on Friday for four people to live on Mars Dune Alpha, a 3D-printed habitat. The US agency is planning three such experiments, with the first one due to begin next fall.’

The paid volunteers will take part in a simulated Martian exploration mission, complete with “spacewalks.” They will only have limited contact with their families and friends back home, and will have to learn to cope with restricted resources and equipment failures.

The news comes as the space agency prepares to eventually transport astronauts to the Red Planet as part of NASA’s Artemis program. That mission aims to set up a station on the moon and eventually send humans to Mars.

Lead scientist Grace Douglas said in a press release: “The analog is critical for testing solutions to meet the complex needs of living on the Martian surface.”

She added: “Simulations on Earth will help us understand and counter the physical and mental challenges astronauts will face before they go.”

Applicants will need to hold a master’s degree in engineering, maths, or computer science and have at least two years of pilot experience.

The agency also specifies that only US citizens or permanent residents qualify for the experiment. They have to be aged between 30-35 and in good physical health and must not be prone to motion sickness.

Sky News reported that Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield said the mission would mean “incredible freedom” in a “year away from the demands of your normal life.”

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NASA tells lawmakers that it wants to see moon landings occur annually for 12 straight years

blood moon australia
People watch the “Super Blood Moon” rise over the Pacific Ocean at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia on May 26.

  • NASA wants to go to the moon every year for a dozen years.
  • Administrator Bill Nelson on Wednesday outlined the agency’s plans during a House committee meeting.
  • “There needs to be a landing each year for a dozen years,” Nelson said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

NASA wants to go to the moon every year for a dozen years.

Agency Administrator Bill Nelson on Wednesday said the $2.9 billion contract awarded to SpaceX for the Artemis program marked the beginning of what would be a series of ambitious projects to return often to the moon.

“There are different plans – what was awarded was just for one demonstration,” Nelson told the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. “There needs to be a landing each year for a dozen years. So there are many more awards to come, if you all decide it’s in the interest of the United States to appropriate that money.”

The committee hearing was on NASA’s 2022 budget request for $24.8 billion, a 6.6% increase over its 2021 budget.

The budget hearing came as the agency deals with the fallout from awarding the SpaceX contract. Three bidders submitted proposals for the project. NASA had been expected to award contracts to two bidders. But the sole contract went to SpaceX.

Some experts and onlookers questioned the decision to award an important contract to a single partner. One of the bidders, Blue Origin, a space exploration company founded by Jeff Bezos, challenged the award. The project is now in a black-out period, paused while the Government Accountability Office studies NASA’s process.

The agency had requested $3.4 billion for the competition, but was handed $850 million in appropriations instead. Still, Nelson in his prepared remarks praised the “collaborative approach” of the public-private Artemis program.

He said: “By taking a collaborative approach in working with industry and international partners while leveraging NASA’s proven technical expertise and capabilities, we will return American astronauts to the Moon’s surface once again, this time to explore new areas for longer periods of time.”

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CEO Elon Musk says SpaceX is building a Raptor rocket engine every 48 hours, disputing claims of a ‘bottleneck’ for the Artemis moon mission boosters

SpaceX Falcon Rocket Florida
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifting off on a resupply mission to the International Space Station.

  • CEO Elon Musk said SpaceX’s making Raptor rockets at a rate of about “one every 48 hours.”
  • The Raptor rockets will power the Starship, expected to be the next moon landing.
  • Musk on Friday again trolled Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ space exploration company.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on Saturday said his company had the capability to produce a Raptor rocket engine every 48 hours.

“Raptor production is approaching one every 48 hours,” Musk said on Twitter.

The interplanetary transport engines, announced in 2016 and capable of generating 500,000 pounds of thrust, are key to SpaceX’s plans to help NASA return to the moon, then head further out to Mars.

The Raptor’s “insane power” is expected to power SpaceX’s Starship, which is set to be the next moon lander.

NASA in April chose SpaceX as its sole partner for the Artemis moon program. But the contracted work was put on hold in late April pending a Government Accountability Office review after a protest from another bidder, led by Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ space exploration company.

SpaceX’s Starship vehicle will be powered in its booster stage by 29 Raptor engines, Musk said in another tweet on Saturday. That will rise to “32 later this year, along with thrust increase per engine. Aiming for >7500 ton thrust long-term.”

Musk’s Twitter comment came after Tim Dodd, who runs the YouTube channel Everyday Astronaut, questioned whether the rocket production was in a “bit of a bottleneck.”

Some in the industry and government have expressed concern about SpaceX’s prototypes exploding during test flights. Those concerns were echoed last week by Blue Origin on Twitter.

“The Human Landing System program needs competition, not the delay of starting over. The National Team has an open architecture, deep experience, massive self-funded investments and a safe, low-risk design to return to the Moon. Let’s go,” the company said.

Musk on Friday replied to Blue Origin, which had a higher bid price for the Artemis contract than SpaceX.

“For the low, low price of … ?” Musk wrote on Twitter.

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SpaceX’s high-flying Starship prototype has finally landed successfully – a big step towards Elon Musk’s reusable mega-rocket

spacex starship sn15 landing success happy elon musk
The SN15 prototype stuck the landing (left), a big step towards becoming the reusable rocket Elon Musk (right) wants it to be.

On Wednesday, SpaceX sent the latest prototype of its mega-rocket system roaring six miles above Texas, its fifth such launch since December.

SpaceX is no stranger to Starship launches, but unlike the last four attempts, this prototype landed smoothly, without blowing up during its first 15 minutes back on Earth. A previous prototype exploded 10 minutes after landing, after a fire burning around its skirt wouldn’t go out. But this time, the fire at the prototype’s feet appeared to be extinguished.

“Starship landing nominal!” Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder, CEO, and chief engineer, declared on Twitter.

This version of the spaceship, called Starship serial No. 15, or SN15, followed the same trajectory as its predecessors. The 16-story rocket lifted off from SpaceX’s launch facilities in Boca Chica, Texas. As it approached the peak of its flight, the vehicle shut off two of its three truck-sized Raptor engines. It hovered at roughly 33,000 feet before cutting the final engine, then tipped sideways and plunged back to Earth. As it neared the ground, the engines reignited to flip the rocket upright, and then it lowered itself to the landing pad.

As of Wednesday afternoon, SN15 was still sitting upright and intact on the landing pad.

A final version of this mega-spaceship is set to become NASA’s next moon lander – the vehicle that could put boots on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.

starship moon human landing system
An illustration of SpaceX’s Starship as a lander carrying NASA astronauts to the moon.

Musk has an ambitious vision for the launch system. The prototypes his company is launching are meant to be the upper stage of a two-part system. Eventually, a roughly 23-story booster called Super Heavy would heave the spaceship toward orbit. Musk wants this system to carry humans into low-Earth orbit, to the moon, and even to Mars, then return to Earth to do it again. The smooth landing of SN15 gets Starship a big step closer to being the reusable vehicle Musk wants.

“It’s a tough vehicle because we’re trying to crack this nut of a fully and rapidly reusable rocket,” Musk said in a NASA press conference on April 23. “Somebody’s got to do this. And if you have rapid and complete reusability, then that is the gateway to the heavens.”

SpaceX is building a booster that could carry Starship to orbit

The SN15 was the second of the five high-flying Starships SpaceX has launched that touched down in one piece – at least initially. The other was SN10, which landed in one piece in early March but blew up 10 minutes later. The first two Starship prototypes that soared to a high altitudes, SN8 and SN9, both slammed into the landing pad at high speeds and exploded immediately. Another, SN11, exploded in midair as it relit its engines for landing.

starship prototype explosions collage spacex boca chica spadre
From left to right: The SN8, SN9, and SN10 explosions.

SpaceX began assembling its first prototype of the Super Heavy booster – the other part of the Starship system – at its Texas facilities in mid-March. Musk said this version of Super Heavy is just for production testing, though the next prototype should fly.

To grasp the size of this launch system, look for the person standing on the lift in this photo Musk shared on Twitter. Starship, not pictured, would sit on top of that booster.

In addition to landing astronauts on the moon, Musk wants the Starship-Super Heavy system to power hypersonic travel on Earth. Ultimately, he has said, he plans to build 1,000 Starships that would carry people and cargo to Mars in order to establish a self-sustaining settlement.

Making Starship-Super Heavy reusable could slash the cost of reaching space by “a factor of 100 or more,” according to Musk. Its enormous size would allow it to carry large payloads to space, including tens of thousands of Starlink internet satellites that SpaceX plans to put into orbit.

In short, this is the launch system on which SpaceX is staking its future. But there are several hurdles to clear before it can reach space.

Environmental reviews could slow Starship’s journey to orbit

spacex starship super heavy spaceship booster rocket launch boca chica south texas illustration
An illustration of SpaceX’s planned 39-story Starship rocket system launching from Boca Chica, Texas.

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has already booked tickets for himself and eight others for a week-long Starship flight around the moon in 2023. The group is set to become the spaceship’s first passengers. After that, NASA hopes that Starship will return astronauts to the moon in 2024. But a report from the agency’s Office of the Inspector General suggested it’s “highly unlikely” NASA will meet that deadline.

In addition to successfully landing Starship prototypes, SpaceX will need to integrate the Super Heavy booster with the spaceship, learn to launch the two parts together, and show it can land the booster in one piece.

The company will also need to rocket a Starship into orbit to test its ability to reenter Earth’s atmosphere. That will require a new type of launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration, which involves many regulatory hurdles, including a thorough environmental assessment. Depending on the findings of that assessment, it’s possible SpaceX may need to conduct a new environmental impact statement, which could take up to three years.

Complicating matters is a leaked FAA draft document obtained by Insider that revealed SpaceX’s plans to dig natural gas wells and build gas-fired power plants in Boca Chica. Such plans could prolong SpaceX’s environmental review process.

Still, Musk maintains that Starship could fly its first people in “a couple years.” He has also said he is “highly confident” that SpaceX will launch an uncrewed Starship to Mars in 2024, followed by a crewed mission in 2026.

“I tend to be somewhat optimistic with respect to schedules. I feel I should acknowledge this,” he said in the NASA briefing. “So take that with a grain of salt. But I think it’s not out of the question that it could fly people in a couple years.”

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Watch SpaceX launch its newest Starship prototype. The last 4 exploded.

elon musk starship thumb 4x3
Elon Musk (center) wants Starships to fly to Mars. But so far the only prototype to land successfully (left) exploded 10 minutes later (right).

Update: The SN15 prototype flew and landed successfully on Wednesday. Read more in our story.

SpaceX is about to launch its fifth high-flying Starship prototype on Wednesday afternoon. The spaceship is ready to lift off from the company’s Texas rocket facilities.

Known as Starship Serial No. 15, or SN15, the vehicle is the latest in a series of prototypes that SpaceX is launching up to 6 miles above Boca Chica, Texas. Eventually, a version of this Starship mega-spaceship is expected to become NASA’s next moon lander, which would put boots on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.

The plan for the SN15 flight calls for the rocket to shut off its three truck-sized Raptor engines one by one as it approaches the peak of its flight. Then the spaceship should tip sideways and plunge back to Earth, using four wing flaps to control its fall. As it nears the ground, SN15 should reignite its engines to flip itself upright and gently lower to the landing pad.

That last step is where its four predecessors have failed.

starship prototype explosions collage spacex boca chica spadre
The SN8, SN9, and SN10 explosions.

The first two prototypes that soared to high altitudes, SN8 and SN9, slammed into the landing pad at high speeds and exploded immediately. The third, SN10, landed in one piece but blew up 10 minutes later. The fourth, SN11, exploded in midair as it relit its engines for landing.

Watch Starship’s flight live

SpaceX is set to stream live from the launchpad and from cameras inside the rocket’s skirt, where the engines are, starting at 5:20 p.m. CT.

A few rocket enthusiasts and fans of the company are also broadcasting live from Boca Chica.

The NASASpaceflight’s video stream offers knowledgeable broadcasters and multiple quality camera views.

The commentators on the feed keep track of preparations at the SpaceX facilities that indicate progress toward liftoff – things like clearing the launchpad, activity in the tank farm next to SN15, and the loading of liquid propellant into the rocket.

LabPadre, meanwhile, offers six unique views of the Starship launch site. That YouTube channel is run by Louis Balderas, who lives across the bay from Boca Chica. Below is its main 4K-resolution feed.

For a more distant view of the launch site – broadcast from the top of a resort in South Padre Island, about 6 miles away – check out SPadre’s 24-hour live feed.

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued an airspace-closure notice for the Boca Chica area to make way for launch on Wednesday. A Cameron County judge has also issued local road closures. Both closures end at 8 p.m. CT, so SpaceX must launch by then.

Airspace and road closures are both required for launch. But they can change day to day depending on SpaceX’s plans and FAA procedure. If SN15 does not fly on Wednesday, further closures indicate that SpaceX could try again on Thursday or Friday.

A series of Starship explosions

For SpaceX, explosions during rocket development are par for the course.

“They use a different development philosophy than the government does, which is: Fly. If something goes wrong, they try to fix it. Fly again. If something else goes wrong, they try to fix that,” John Logsdon, founder of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute and a former member of the NASA Advisory Council, told Insider. “People have complimented SpaceX on how quickly they move.”

But, Logsdon added, “the fact that they’ve had these early development-program problems means that there will have to be a record of success before anybody except an extreme risk-taker is willing to get aboard.”

Success may be even more critical now that NASA has chosen Starship to land its next astronauts on the moon.

The agency announced earlier this month that it is working with SpaceX to turn Starship into a lunar lander as part of NASA’s Artemis program. NASA hopes to land its first crewed Starship on the lunar surface in 2024, though a recent report from the NASA Office of the Inspector General suggested it’s “highly unlikely” the agency will meet that deadline.

starship moon human landing system
Illustration of SpaceX Starship human lander design that will carry NASA astronauts to the Moon’s surface during the Artemis mission.

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, recently predicted that Starship could fly its first humans “in a couple years.”

His goals for the launch system extend far beyond the lunar surface. Musk has said he plans to build 1,000 Starships to carry people and cargo to Mars. Ultimately, he hopes to establish a settlement there.

For now, though, SpaceX is trying to land the prototypes without blowing them up.

“Obviously we need to, like, not be making craters,” Musk said in a NASA press conference last month, referring to the explosions. “We’ve got some work to do, but we’re making rapid progress.”

This post has been updated with new information. It was originally published April 19.

Read the original article on Business Insider

SpaceX is preparing to launch its newest Starship prototype on Wednesday. The last 4 exploded.

elon musk starship thumb 4x3
Elon Musk (center) wants Starships to fly to Mars. But so far the only prototype to land successfully (left) exploded 10 minutes later (right).

SpaceX is getting ready to launch its fifth high-flying Starship prototype. The spaceship could lift off from the company’s Texas rocket facilities on Wednesday afternoon.

Known as Starship Serial No. 15, or SN15, the vehicle is the latest in a series of Starship prototypes that SpaceX is launching up to 6 miles above Boca Chica, Texas. Eventually, a version of this mega-spaceship is expected to become NASA’s next moon lander, which would put boots on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.

The plan for the SN15 flight calls for the rocket to shut off its three truck-sized Raptor engines one by one as it approaches the peak of its flight. Then the spaceship should tip sideways and plunge back to Earth, using four wing flaps to control its fall. As it nears the ground, SN15 should reignite its engines to flip itself upright and gently lower to the landing pad.

That last step is where its four predecessors have failed. The first two prototypes that soared to high altitudes, SN8 and SN9, slammed into the landing pad at high speeds and exploded immediately. The third, SN10, landed in one piece but blew up 10 minutes later. The fourth, SN11, exploded in midair as it relit its engines for landing.

starship prototype explosions collage spacex boca chica spadre
The SN8, SN9, and SN10 explosions.

For SpaceX, explosions during rocket development are par for the course.

“They use a different development philosophy than the government does, which is: Fly. If something goes wrong, they try to fix it. Fly again. If something else goes wrong, they try to fix that,” John Logsdon, founder of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute and a former member of the NASA Advisory Council, told Insider. “People have complimented SpaceX on how quickly they move.”

But, Logsdon added, “the fact that they’ve had these early development-program problems means that there will have to be a record of success before anybody except an extreme risk-taker is willing to get aboard.”

Success may be even more critical now that NASA has chosen Starship to land its next astronauts on the moon.

The agency announced earlier this month that it is working with SpaceX to turn Starship into a lunar lander as part of NASA’s Artemis program. NASA hopes to land its first crewed Starship on the lunar surface in 2024, though a recent report from the NASA Office of the Inspector General suggested it’s “highly unlikely” the agency will meet that deadline.

starship moon human landing system
SpaceX’s Starship human lander would carry NASA astronauts to the moon’s surface.

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, recently predicted that Starship could fly its first humans “in a couple years.”

His goals for the launch system extend far beyond the lunar surface. Musk has said he plans to build 1,000 Starships to carry people and cargo to Mars. Ultimately, he hopes to establish a settlement there.

For now, though, SpaceX is trying to land the prototypes without blowing them up.

“Obviously we need to, like, not be making craters,” Musk said in a NASA press conference last month, referring to the explosions. “We’ve got some work to do, but we’re making rapid progress.”

How to watch Starship’s flight live

During the test flight, SpaceX is likely to stream live from the launchpad and from cameras inside the rocket’s skirt, where the engines are. During past Starship flights, the up-close cameras have provided stunning footage, like this clip of SN9.

SpaceX’s live feed of the SN15 launch will be embedded here once it becomes available. A few rocket enthusiasts and fans of the company also broadcast live from Boca Chica.

We recommend starting with NASASpaceflight’s video stream, given the broadcasters’ knowledge and multiple quality camera views.

The commentators on the feed keep track of preparations at the SpaceX facilities that indicate progress toward liftoff – things like clearing the launchpad, activity in the tank farm next to SN15, and the loading of liquid propellant into the rocket.

LabPadre, a YouTube channel from Louis Balderas, who lives across the bay from Boca Chica, offers six unique views of the Starship launch site. Below is the channel’s main 4K-resolution feed.

For a more distant view of the launch site – broadcast from the top of a resort in South Padre Island, about 6 miles away – check out SPadre’s 24-hour live feed.

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued an airspace-closure notice for the area to make way for launch on Wednesday. A Cameron County judge has also issued local road closures. Both closures end at 8 p.m. CT, so SpaceX must launch by then.

Airspace and road closures are both required for launch. But they can change day to day depending on SpaceX’s plans and FAA procedure. If SN15 does not fly on Wednesday, further closures indicate that SpaceX could try again on Thursday or Friday.

This post has been updated with new information. It was originally published April 19.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Former Senator Bill Nelson is officially NASA’s new administrator. His goals: support climate research and put astronauts on the moon.

bill nelson nasa administrator confirmation hearing senator
Former Senator Bill Nelson appears before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, April 21, 2021, in Washington DC.

NASA has a new leader, but he does not plan to shake things up.

Instead, Bill Nelson is keeping his eyes on the same prizes as his predecessor, Jim Bridenstine: sending astronauts to the moon and Mars.

Nelson, a three-term US Senator from Florida who flew into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986, was sworn in as the new NASA Administrator on Monday.

His plan is mainly to keep the ball rolling. During confirmation hearings, Nelson told Congress that he wants to see NASA achieve its most ambitious goal – sending astronauts to the lunar surface and, eventually, to Mars. He also advocated a renewed focus on climate-change research, which has historically been a big part of NASA’s directive but was deprioritized under the Trump administration.

bill nelson nasa administrator swear in
Former Senator Bill Nelson is sworn in as NASA Administrator, as his wife, Grace Nelson, holds their family Bible, and his daughter, Nan Ellen Nelson watches, May 3, 2021.

“The space program needs constancy of purpose,” Nelson said in a written testimony to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. For continuity, he added, he plans to work with Bridenstine and “seek his advice.”

That consistency may give NASA a break from the whiplash it often gets with new administrations. President George W. Bush first asked NASA to pursue a return to the moon in 2005. Five years later, President Barack Obama shifted the focus to Mars. The Trump administration shifted back to the moon, with a tight deadline: to return astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024. That’s four years earlier than NASA was previously planning.

“If you ask me what is my vision for the future of NASA, it is to continue for us to explore the heavens with humans and with machines,” Nelson told the Senate committee, of which he was previously a member, during a confirmation hearing on April 21. “There is a lot of excitement.”

Sending astronauts back to the moon and on to Mars

starship moon human landing system
An illustration of SpaceX’s Starship as a lander carrying NASA astronauts to the moon.

NASA still hopes to land astronauts on the moon by 2024 – a feat nobody has accomplished since 1972. Nelson is on board, even though the timeline may be too ambitious. NASA’s Office of the Inspector General recently determined a 2024 landing is “highly unlikely.”

“I think you may be pleased that we’re gonna see that timetable try to be adhered to, but recognize that, with some sobering reality, that space is hard,” Nelson told the Senate committee.

NASA’s plan is to launch an astronaut crew inside an Orion spaceship, using the mega-rocket the agency is currently developing, called the Space Launch System. Once in lunar orbit, Orion would rendezvous with a lander. Two of the astronauts would move into that vehicle then land on the moon’s surface.

NASA recently awarded the contract for that lander to SpaceX. Elon Musk’s rocket company intends to convert its planned Starship mega-spaceship into a lunar lander. But NASA was expected to pick two contractors instead of one, so the decision prompted SpaceX’s competitors – Dynetics and Blue Origin – to file complaints. While things are being sorted out, NASA asked SpaceX to pause work on the project.

NASA cited a lack of funding from Congress when it decided to award one single contract, and promised there would be a follow-on competition. Nelson stood by that statement, vowing that there will be competitions for contracts to send the first astronauts to Mars.

“Competition is always better than sole sourcing, because you can get the efficiencies and you get a lower price,” he told the Senate committee.

NASA aims to launch its first Mars-bound astronaut mission in the 2030s.

‘You can’t mitigate climate change unless you can measure it’

earth clouds planet space amazon rainforest
Clouds over the Amazon rainforest, as seen from space, January 30, 2015.

During his hearing, Nelson defended a White House request to budget $2.3 billion for NASA’s Earth-science programs. That would constitute a roughly 15% increase from the agency’s 2020 Earth-science budget.

“It’s a very important increase. You can’t mitigate climate change unless you can measure it, and that’s NASA’s expertise,” Nelson said. “Understanding our planet gives us the means to better protect it.”

Nelson vocally opposed the Trump administration’s decision to cancel NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System – a $10-million-per-year program that gathers data on how carbon moves around the planet. Congress subsequently reinstated the program.

“When I flew on the space shuttle, any time that was not scheduled with experiments or flight activities – which was not often – I would make my way to the spacecraft window to look at our home, our planet,” Nelson wrote in his testimony. “I was struck by how fragile it looked with its thin atmosphere. Combating climate change cannot succeed without robust observations, data, and research.”

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