Alaska-based researchers collaborate with NASA

ANCHORAGE (KTUU)- When Brendan Babb signed up for a course in Genetic Algorithms at UAA back in 2004, he was doing it just for fun. A data …

ANCHORAGE (KTUU)- When Brendan Babb signed up for a course in Genetic Algorithms at UAA back in 2004, he was doing it just for fun. A data scientist and computer programmer by trade, Babb had no idea that his chance meeting with Professor Frank Moore would lead to an eventual collaboration with NASA.

In late 2018 and early 2019, the university received two separate patents for work done towards improving image decompression. During the research process, NASA was involved in determining the new method of decompression useful for opening images that had been transmitted back to Earth from the Mars rover. Babb says the process allows scientists to open these compressed files with up to 7 percent more clarity than methods used in the past.

“It’s great for science… but if I did the eye doctor thing… better? better? it’d be hard for you to tell the difference,” he said.

According to Babb, the patents will work on both images from past rovers, and anything sent back by the all-new rover which is set to launch next summer. While his spontaneous decision to attend the genetic algorithms course at UAA resulted in scientific advances, he believes that innovation can take place anywhere in the state.

“There’s a lot of people in Alaska that have patents and inventions and a lot of that frontier attitude of just figuring out how to solve problems … You don’t know where it’s going to take you… “

Copyright 2019 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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You Can Watch Rocket Lab Launch 6 Satellites Into Orbit Friday. Here’s How.

The final two cubesats aboard Electron are technology-demonstration … They will serve as an “on-orbit testbed for emerging technologies in 2019,” Air …

A Rocket Lab Electron booster will launch a quartet of satellites into orbit Friday (Aug. 16) and you can watch it all live online.

The Electron rocket is scheduled to loft the four satellites at 8:57 a.m. EDT (1257 GMT) from Rocket Lab’s launch site on the Māhia Peninsula in New Zealand, where the local time at liftoff will be 12:57 a.m. on Saturday.

“This will be another beautiful night launch at LC-1!” Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said in a Twitter update, referring to the company’s Launch Complex 1. “Should be visible for miles as it ascends to orbit against the night sky.”

You can watch the Rocket Lab launch on Space.com here courtesy of Rocket Lab. You can also watch the launch directly from Rocket Lab’s livestream website here. The webcast will begin about 15 minutes before launch time.

Related: Rocket Lab’s Wild Plan to Catch Falling Booster in Mid-Air

Friday’s launch will be Rocket Lab’s eighth mission and bears the whimsical name “Look Ma, No Hands.” (The Huntington Beach, California-based company has picked wild names for all its launches.)

On this mission, the Electron will launch the first cubesat for the French company UnseenLabs, which aims to build a constellation of small satellites to provide maritime surveillance of Earth’s oceans.

Rocket Lab will also launch the BlackSky Global-4 Earth-imaging satellite, the second such satellite launched by Rocket Lab for Black Sky this year. (An Electron launched BlackSky’s Global-3 in June.)

The final two cubesats aboard Electron are technology-demonstration spacecraft built by the U.S. Air Force Space Command’s Pearl White program. They will serve as an “on-orbit testbed for emerging technologies in 2019,” Air Force officials said in a statement. The launch of the BlackSky satellite and Air Force cubesats were arranged by the space rideshare company Spaceflight.

“The demonstration will test new technologies including propulsion, power, communications and drag capabilities for potential applications on future spacecraft,” Air Force officials said. The two satellites were built by Tiger Innovations Inc. in Herndon, Virginia and should last about a year in orbit, they added.

Rocket Lab’s Electron booster is a two-stage rocket that stands 57 feet tall (15 meters). It is designed to haul payloads of up to 500 lbs. (227 kilograms) to orbit for each mission, which Rocket Lab markets at $5 million per flight.

On “Look Ma, No Hands,” Rocket Lab will carry an advanced data recorder called “Brutus” to collect data on the Electron’s first stage as it falls back to Earth after separating from the second stage. Rocket Lab will use the data collected by “Brutus” to aid its new project to reuse Electron boosters on multiple flights.

Rocket Lab announced its reusable Electron booster project last week at the 2019 Small Satellite Conference in Logan, Utah. Under the plan, Rocket Lab is developing a mid-air recovery system to catch Electron first-stage boosters as they fall back to Earth under a parachute. The boosters will then be refurbished and flown again on a future flight.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that six satellites were riding aboard Rocket Lab’s “Look Ma, No Hands” mission. The mission is actually carrying four satellites.

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom and Facebook.

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SpaceX Starhopper set for epic next test jump as early as Friday

if you enjoyed seeing SpaceX’s Starship prototype Jump 20 meters (65 feet) into the air a month, and then you’re in for a treat once it shoots for a new …

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Elon Musk’s Starship hopper prototype hopes to reach a height of 200 meters off the ground.

if you enjoyed seeing SpaceX’s Starship prototype Jump 20 meters (65 feet) into the air a month, and then you’re in for a treat once it shoots for a new 200-meter (650-feet) goal. The launch attempt could occur as soon as Friday, Aug. 16.

The Shiny stainless steel prototype is powered with a single Raptor engine also is nicknamed”Starhopper.” It is designed to make short”hops” to test takeoffs and landings. SpaceX is also working on two separate Starship orbital prototypes which will aim to reach Earth orbit.

Starship is SpaceX spacecraft. It’s supposed to Service Earth orbit, but also travel around the moon as well as land on the moon or Mars one day. It’s an integral part of founder Elon Musk’s vision of making our species interplanetary.

On Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a flight-restriction notice to get Starhopper’s Texas evaluation site for Aug. 16-18 at certain times. This falls in line with Elon Musk saying on Twitter the jump would hopefully happen this weekend. The potential jump window opens at noon PT on Friday.

Starhopping

SpaceX Starhopper blasts off at a smoky cloud of glory

SpaceX simplified: A fast guide to Elon Musk’s space business

As for witnessing the jump live online for yourself, you have a few potential choices. SpaceX itself broadcast a jump attempt which didn’t get off the ground in late July. Keep tabs on your SpaceX Twitter account for a possible webcast link.

Tim Dodd, the space specialist and YouTube teacher known as Everyday Astronaut, will probably be stationed close to keep an eye on things. Practice his YouTube page for a live feed and clever comment.

Spadre.com Runs a continuing live view of the Starship facility from a distance. It Doesn’t always have the clearest view, but it’s worth a peek.

Delays are common when it comes to spacecraft testing, but in the end goes As intended, then SpaceX will feel pretty confident about moving ahead With its own orbital Starships. That would be a fantastic thing since Musk has suggested Starship could go to the moon as soon as 2021. Time is short. Let us get hopping.

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SpaceX’s next Starhopper flight needs more analysis for FAA go-ahead, says Elon Musk

According to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the company’s next major Starhopper flight test is still awaiting FAA approval due to a need for more hazard …

According to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the company’s next major Starhopper flight test is still awaiting FAA approval due to a need for more hazard analysis, presumably required because Starhopper will be traveling much higher than before.

On August 9th, SpaceX completed a routine wet dress rehearsal (WDR) with Starhopper, loading the vehicle with propellant and fluids and replicating a launch countdown up to the point of Raptor ignition. Starhopper remains untethered in a sign that SpaceX doesn’t have plans for a static fire test before the low-fidelity rocket prototype’s next flight milestone. Originally scheduled for August 12th, that milestone – a 200m (650 ft) hop test – has been indefinitely delayed as SpaceX awaits an updated permit from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Good conversation with head of FAA Space. Need a bit more hazard analysis & should be clear to fly soon.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 15, 2019

The oddity of the apparent difficulty SpaceX is having with the FAA’s experimental permit process is deepened by the fact that Starhopper is already permitted by the FAA and demonstrated its first successful flight just a few weeks ago, on July 25th. On top of the fact that the local Boca Chica and Brownsville, Texas airspace tends to be extremely quiet, it’s unclear what exactly is holding up SpaceX, the FAA, or both in what should otherwise be a relatively streamlined process.

Starhopper stands at SpaceX’s Boca Chica test facilities on August 1st, 2019. (NASASpaceflight – bocachicagal)

A few weeks ago, after one false start on July 24th, Starhopper performed its first untethered flight ever on July 25th, successfully demonstrating its integrated steel propellant tanks, avionics, software, and Raptor propulsion over the course of 20 or so seconds of flight. Starhopper’s inaugural flight was delayed at least several weeks by a major bug with SpaceX’s next-gen Raptor engine, described by Elon Musk as a problem with a certain frequency of vibration (i.e. mechanical resonance).

Drone cam pic.twitter.com/gVdMrMgUZq

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 26, 2019

According to Musk, said resonance failure mode was effectively solved with unspecified modifications made to the sixth Raptor engine produce (Raptor SN06). That engine became the first to successfully pass SpaceX’s regime of pre-hop static fires in McGregor, Texas around July 10th and was shipped south to Boca Chica and installed on Starhopper scarcely 24 hours later.

Assuming those vibration issues have been completely quashed, Musk has also stated that SpaceX is aiming to produce as many as two Raptor engines per day by the end of 2019. It’s believed that all engines preceding SN06 (SN01-05) were either damaged or destroyed during testing, be that a result of intentional testing-to-destruction or anomalous behavior during certain test regimes. It should be noted that full-scale Raptor is still undoubtedly in development and hardware failure during developmental testing is more predictable and valuable than it might seem. As long as the program can handle it, ‘hardware-rich’ development (i.e. moving fast and breaking things) can be equally – if not more – valuable than an extremely cautious get-it-right-the-first-time approach.

Raptor liberated its oxygen turbine stator (appears to be mechanical, not metal combustion failure), so we need to update the design & replace some parts. Production is ramping exponentially, though. SN6 almost done. Aiming for an engine every 12 hours by end of year.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 24, 2019

Regardless, once SpaceX’s propulsion engineering team is confident that the more major bugs that plagued early Raptor engines have been alleviated, they will likely give the go-ahead for the engine manufacturing team to begin ramping production rates. Musk believes that SpaceX could be ready for the first test flights of either or both of the company’s orbital Mk1 and Mk1 Starship prototypes as early as mid-September, milestones that will eventually require three sea-level Raptor engines and up to three vacuum Raptor engines per rocket.

Meanwhile, although SpaceX has yet to begin assembling the first Super Heavy booster(s), said boosters will require dozens of Raptor engines each for their first flights. Musk says that SpaceX will start out with something like 20 Raptor engines per booster to minimize losses and disruption in the event of a catastrophic failure, eventually expanding to as many as 35 engines per booster as confidence grows.

For now, Starhopper’s next flight test was scheduled from August 16th through the 18th but has since been tentatively rescheduled to Aug. 19-21. Starhopper will remain grounded until the FAA is satisfied with SpaceX’s updated hazard analyses for the rocket’s 200m flight test.

Check out Teslarati’s newsletters for prompt updates, on-the-ground perspectives, and unique glimpses of SpaceX’s rocket launch and recovery processes.

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Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser Space Plane Could Launch Astronauts One Day

In 2016, NASA selected the space plane, along with SpaceX and Orbital ATK spacecraft, to carry cargo missions to the space station by 2024. Lindsey …

ATLANTA — Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser space plane is preparing to carry cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) by the spring of 2021. But that isn’t stopping the company from continuing to prepare for human missions aboard the launch vehicle.

Steve Lindsey, a former astronaut and vice president of space exploration systems for Sierra Nevada, told Space.com that the two versions of the vehicle, one for carrying cargo and the other for ferrying people, are not that different.

Originally, Sierra Nevada planned to use Dream Chaser to shuttle human passengers to the ISS, but the company missed out on the 2014 contract award for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which went instead to SpaceX and Boeing. In 2016, NASA selected the space plane, along with SpaceX and Orbital ATK spacecraft, to carrycargo missions to the space station by 2024. Lindsey said Dream Chaser should fly in 2021.

“We’re continuing to work on the crewed program,” he said.

Related: Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser Aces Glide Test Flight (Gallery)

Based on a modified Soviet design,Dream Chaser has half the wingspan of the Learjet 45, a small business aircraft. Like the space shuttle, Dream Chaser would be lifted into space onboard a rocket — in the Dream Chaser’s case, a Vulcan Centaur rocket — then land on the ground. But while NASA’s space shuttle was tied to specific landing zones, Dream Chaser should be capable of landing on major runways that can handle typical large passenger airplanes. That flexibility, along with the plane’s use of nontoxic fuel should allow Dream Chaser to land on runways around the world.

Dream Chaser’s 2021 mission will be the first ofat least six orbiting flights made to the ISS, delivering equipment and supplies to the space station and returning experiments and other cargo back to Earth.

An artist's impression of the Dream Chaser space plane docked at the International Space Station.

An artist’s impression of the Dream Chaser space plane docked at the International Space Station.

(Image credit: Sierra Nevada Corp.)

While the company is “laser-focused” on the cargo missions, Lindsey said that it is continuing to develop the passenger vehicle, too. Cargo and passenger versions of the spacecraft are approximately 85% the same, with the passenger version requiring different tests, including escape capabilities in the event of an emergency, Lindsey said.

Although NASA contracts are helping to develop Dream Chaser, the vehicle isn’t solely tied to the space agency. That means the space plane won’t be completely grounded if NASA decides to stop working with Sierra Nevada. The company is looking at a variety of commercial companies interested in using Dream Chaser.

“We didn’t get into this just to provide service to the space station,” Lindsey said.

In addition to flights to and from the ISS, Dream Chaser can also provide transportation into low Earth orbit (LEO), a region from 99 to 1,200 miles (160 to 2,000 kilometers) above the planet’s surface. There, the unique microgravity environment, in which objects experience a constant state of free fall, allows for a variety of scientific experiments that can’t be performed on Earth.

When experiments are carried to the ISS, which is also in LEO, they must remain there until the next cargo ship arrives, which can be several months. Dream Chaser can shorten that time frame, which is useful for experiments that require briefer stints in microgravity, Lindsey said. The space plane can carry experiments to LEO for short- or long-duration missions.

Dream Chaser may one day soar beyond the ISS, too. Lindsey said that the vehicle is being built to integrate with other potential facilities being considered as successors to the orbiting laboratory, though he declined to name specifics. The ISS is funded through at least 2024, though apush to keep the station in orbit longerdied last year. And in a news briefing on Wednesday (Aug. 14), Sierra Nevada officials said the company is also open to using Dream Chaser for NASA’s Lunar Gateway and potentially even space tourism flights.

Follow Nola on Facebook and on Twitter at @NolaTRedd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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