Helmed by billionaire CEO Elon Musk, SpaceX has made a name for itself as a leading rocket launch provider. We bring you complete coverage of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket launches and landings, as well as SpaceX’s more ambitious exploration goals. That includes flying people around the Moon in the company’s Dragon capsule and starting a human colony on Mars.
Elon Musk’s company is arguing in a Texas federal court that the Justice Department’s lawsuit alleging that the company is illegally disqualifying asylees and refugees from employment is unconstitutional.
Bloomberg noted in a report last week that the company is engaged in “a handful of lawsuits by former employees” over discrimination.
The company’s Texas filing may be to ensure the case funnels through the Fifth Circuit appellate court on appeal since that court tends to push back on federal regulatory action lately, writes Space News.
In the 1980s, NASA wanted space to become a booming business — and the first six women astronauts were meant to help get it off the ground.
Musk drew on the money last October and paid it back, with interest, in November, according to The Wall Street Journal. It’s not clear why he borrowed the money. It’s an awful lot! SpaceX had $4.7 billion in cash and securities on hand at the end of last year, WSJ reports.
[The Wall Street Journal]
The Crew-7 mission successfully docked with the ISS this morning at 9:16AM PT, bringing four new crew members to the station.
Video from the docking procedure shows the capsule approaching the station while in Earth orbit, then footage from the capsule as it made its final approach. It’s perfect Sunday viewing.
The Starship launch that destroyed its launch pad and scattered detritus for miles in Boca Chica, Texas in May reportedly left biologists for the Fish and Wildlife Service in private disbelief, reported Bloomberg yesterday.
Concrete chunks had left craters a foot deep and were strewn across tidal flats, almost four acres of state park were burned, and seven bobwhite quail eggs and a collection of blue land crabs had been incinerated.
We linked to the big Ronan Farrow profile of Elon Musk in the New Yorker earlier, but this part really caught my eye: Trump-appointed former NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine decrying the government’s total reliance on SpaceX.
“At some point, with new competitors emerging, progress will be thwarted when there’s an accident, and people won’t be confident in the capabilities commercial companies have,” Bridenstine said. “I mean, we just saw this submersible going down to visit the Titanic implode. I think we have to think about the non-regulatory environment as sometimes hurting the industry more than the regulatory environment.”
The whole thing really is worth a read.
[The New Yorker]
The New York Times reports that the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, FBI, and Air Force have issued a “broad warning” to firms like SpaceX and Blue Origin saying to look out for foreign actors, like Chinese and Russian intelligence agencies, who they believe are trying to infiltrate their networks and steal data.
The report notes that in 2020, the United Launch Alliance said a Chinese firm attempted to infiltrate its supply chain, and last year the Russian military reportedly hacked into Viasat satellites.
[The New York Times]
SpaceX just tested the first stage Super Heavy booster and its new flame deflector system for protecting the launch pad from the destruction experienced during the May Starship orbital test flight.
This is in preparation for another Starship flight test. In between touting a fight with Mark Zuckerberg and promising to pay legal bills, Elon Musk has said he believes “we have ~50% probability of reaching orbital velocity, however even getting to stage separation would be a win.”
The New York Times has a deep dive into Starlink, the internet satellites deployed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX — and how they’ve become crucial to communication in war zones like Ukraine.
Just like the rest of us, it turns out military leaders are also concerned about Musk’s somewhat erratic decision making.
In Ukraine, some fears have been realized. Mr. Musk has restricted Starlink access multiple times during the war, people familiar with the situation said. At one point, he denied the Ukrainian military’s request to turn on Starlink near Crimea, the Russian-controlled territory, affecting battlefield strategy.
[The New York Times]
The US Space Force’s SLD 45 unit says a 10:20PM Falcon 9 launch and a 11:04PM Falcon Heavy one could be the quickest back-to-back Earth to orbit launches in the Eastern Range (via CNBC). The launches would beat NASA’s Gemini 11 mission in 1966 which launched two rockets one hour and 37 minutes apart.
The top telecom provider will be using Elon Musk’s network of over 3,500 low-Earth SpaceX satellites to augment coverage by the end of 2023. The “world’s first offering” bundles voice and fixed broadband service, installation, and tech support.
A Telstra exec says the company is looking for other partners, too, due to Musk’s unpredictability.
The Washington Post reports regulators have hit Elon Musk’s Boring Company with multiple complaints over careless, unpermitted work in Bastrop County, Texas.
Elon’s “Snailbrook” plans to build a private community around his SpaceX and Boring Company facilities — as well as local unease about the effects of Elon’s “move fast” ethos on the countryside — have been reported by The Wall Street Journal and the San Antonio Express-News.
From the Post:
Amy Weir, a local property owner, said Musk’s companies have “no doubt done amazing things,” but that there was no need for them to “reinvent wastewater treatment” when the city was ready to handle the job. The penalties for violating the permit were far too low, she added. “The owner of these companies spent $44 billion on Twitter, and it had no impact on his ability to continue to build these businesses,” she said.
A little over a month after Starship obliterated its launchpad and went kablooey before it reached stage separation, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that it will be ready again in about two months, pending launchpad upgrades and rocket testing.
Yesterday, SpaceX released a dramatic video recapping the first flight, if you want to watch it with synth-heavy piano music behind it.
Vice used FOIA requests to uncover some key emails between SpaceX and the FAA.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s Privacy ICAO Aircraft Address program (PIA) allows private jet owners to essentially create a dummy or “temporary” aircraft registration number that is known only to the jet’s owner and the U.S. government.
Emails obtained by Motherboard show that SpaceX enrolled Elon Musk’s private jet in this program sometime prior to August 2022, but failed to properly implement the temporary tail number, allowing the plane to continue being tracked under its real, permanent tail number.
Plus, they were sent at around the same time as Musk and Twitter were banning / unbanning @ElonJet and journalists who mentioned it. Meanwhile, the guy behind the account is just starting another tracker for Ron Desantis.
Axiom Space launched Ax-2 today, the second of four planned private missions to the space station. Of the four people on this trip (a seat reportedly costs about $55 million), mission commander Peggy Whitson is the most experienced, with three previous trips to the ISS under her belt and 665 days in space, more than any other American astronaut.
The Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to dock with the ISS on Monday morning at around 9:16AM ET.
Rejoice lovers of space internet, SpaceX’s Starlink service has abandoned plans to implement hard data caps and overage fees that had already been delayed multiple times. Users are still subject to an acceptable use policy, so play nice with your “unlimited data.”
This picture, apparently posted to a forum for Beechcraft airplane owners, claims to show the damage underneath the tower where Starship launched on Thursday.
In some video footage of the launch, you can see what’s said to be large pieces of concrete flying into the air along with Starship.
Elon Musk previously tweeted that not building in a flame diverter “could turn out to be a mistake,” but it looks like Starship dug one of its own anyway, prompting several people to say the company designed reusable rockets with single use launch mounts.
At 8:33 a.m. CT, Starship successfully lifted off from the orbital launch pad for the first time. The vehicle cleared the pad and beach as Starship climbed to an apogee of ~39 km over the Gulf of Mexico – the highest of any Starship to-date. The vehicle experienced multiple engines out during the flight test, lost altitude, and began to tumble. The flight termination system was commanded on both the booster and ship. As is standard procedure, the pad and surrounding area was cleared well in advance of the test, and we expect the road and beach near the pad to remain closed until tomorrow.
With a test like this, success comes from what we learn, and we learned a tremendous amount about the vehicle and ground systems today that will help us improve on future flights of Starship.
Thank you to our customers, Cameron County, and the wider community for the continued support and encouragement. And congratulations to the entire SpaceX team on an exciting first flight test of Starship!
But the dust didn’t stop there — the New York Times reports homes in cities miles away were covered in brown grime, supporting claims that the projections for environmental impact didn’t properly account for the power of the Super Heavy booster.
We don’t know why the first Starship test flight ended in flames, but this shot posted on Twitter by Michael Baylor provides the clearest look at the spacecraft as it started to go off the planned flight path.
On the NASASpaceflight YouTube stream, the hosts noted a report that 5 or 6 of the booster rocket engines shut down before the “rapid unscheduled disassembly” ended things entirely.
After years of waiting, the first orbital test flight for SpaceX’s Starship ended explosively after a few minutes. Now Elon Musk says in a tweet that the team “Learned a lot for next test launch in a few months.”
Another look at the Starship launch.
We know how it ended, but this is how the flight test began.
Subsequent tweets from SpaceX said, “As if the flight test was not exciting enough, Starship experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly before stage separation. Teams will continue to review data and work toward our next flight test. With a test like this, success comes from what we learn, and today’s test will help us improve Starship’s reliability as SpaceX seeks to make life multi-planetary. Congratulations to the entire SpaceX team on an exciting first integrated flight test of Starship!
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