Saturday July 20, 2019
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SpaceX Launches Second Supersized ‘Falcon’ Heavy Rocket, For the First Time Lands all Three Boosters

“Three for three boosters today on Falcon Heavy, what an amazing accomplishment”

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Horie said his company's low-cost MOMO-3 rocket is the way to create a competitive space business in Japan. VOA

SpaceX launched its second supersized rocket and for the first time landed all three boosters Thursday, a year after sending up a sports car on the initial test flight.

The new and improved Falcon Heavy thundered into the early evening sky with a communication satellite called Arabsat, the rocket’s first paying customer. The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket in use today, with 27 engines firing at liftoff — nine per booster.

Eight minutes after liftoff, SpaceX landed two of the first-stage boosters back at Cape Canaveral, side by side, just like it did for the rocket’s debut last year. The core booster landed two minutes later on an ocean platform hundreds of miles offshore. That’s the only part of the first mission that missed.

“What an amazing day,” a SpaceX flight commentator exclaimed. “Three for three boosters today on Falcon Heavy, what an amazing accomplishment.”

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Eight minutes after liftoff, SpaceX lands two of the first-stage boosters side by side at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., April 11, 2019. VOA

Launch from Apollo pad

The Falcon Heavy soared from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, using the same pad that shot Apollo astronauts to the moon a half-century ago and later space shuttle crews.

Prime viewing spots were packed with tourists and locals eager to catch not just the launch but the rare and dramatic return of twin boosters, accompanied by sonic booms. The roads were also jammed for Wednesday night’s launch attempt, which was scuttled by high wind.

Because this was an upgraded version of the rocket with unproven changes, SpaceX chief Elon Musk cautioned in advance things might go wrong. But everything went exceedingly well. SpaceX employees at company headquarters in Southern California cheered every launch milestone and especially the three touchdowns.

“The Falcons have landed,” Musk said in a tweet that included pictures of all three boosters.

Tesla Roadster still in orbit

Musk put his own Tesla convertible on last year’s demo. The red Roadster, with a mannequin, dubbed Starman, likely still at the wheel, remains in a solar orbit stretching just past Mars.

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SpaceX typically launches Falcon 9 rockets. The Falcon Heavy is essentially three of those single rockets strapped together. VOA

The Roadster is thought to be on the other side of the sun from us right now, about three-quarters of the way around its first solar orbit, said Jon Giorgini, a senior analyst at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

A couple dozen ground telescopes kept tabs on the car during its first several days in space, but it gradually faded from view as it headed out toward the orbit of Mars, Giorgini added.

The Roadster could still look much the same as it did for the Feb. 6, 2018, launch, just not as shiny with perhaps some chips and flakes from the extreme temperature swings, according to Giorgini. It will take decades if not centuries for solar radiation to cause it to decompose, he said.

Air Force mission next

SpaceX plans to launch its next Falcon Heavy later this year on a mission for the U.S. Air Force. The boosters for that flight may be recycled from this one.

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NASA’s Saturn V rockets, used for the Apollo moon shots, are the all-time launch leaders so far in size and might. Pixabay

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine last month suggested possibly using a Falcon Heavy, and another company’s big rocket, to get the space agency’s Orion capsule around the moon, minus a crew, in 2020. But the preferred method remains NASA’s own Space Launch System mega rocket, if it can be ready by then.

Bridenstine said everything is on the space table as NASA strives to meet the White House’s goal of landing astronauts back on the moon by 2024. NASA’s Saturn V rockets, used for the Apollo moon shots, are the all-time launch leaders so far in size and might.

ALSO READ: Israeli Spacecraft Crashes Before it Could Land on Moon

SpaceX typically launches Falcon 9 rockets. The Falcon Heavy is essentially three of those single rockets strapped together.

Until SpaceX came along, boosters were discarded in the ocean after satellite launches. The company is intent on driving down launch costs by recycling rocket parts. (VOA)

Next Story

Incredible Full Moon Falls on 50th Anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 11

The partial lunar eclipse will occur during the full moon beginning Tuesday night

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The moon is seen during a lunar eclipse known as the "Super Blood Wolf Moon," in Manaus, Brazil, Jan. 21, 2019. VOA

The last lunar eclipse of the year will take place this week, allowing stargazers from large swathes of the globe to catch a glimpse of the celestial phenomena.

The partial lunar eclipse will occur during the full moon beginning Tuesday night, and will be visible in South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. The only region that will miss out on viewing the eclipse entirely is North America.

A lunar eclipse occurs when there is an alignment of the moon, the sun and the Earth. It can only happen during a full moon, because that is the only time the moon can be directly opposite of the sun in Earth’s sky.

The upcoming alignment will result in a partial lunar eclipse because the moon will be slightly askew from a direct line with Earth’s shadow.

Full Moon, Anniversary, NASA
The last lunar eclipse of the year will take place this week, allowing stargazers from large swathes of the globe to catch a glimpse of the celestial phenomena. Pixabay

This lunar eclipse will come two weeks after a total eclipse of the sun was visible over South America. This follows a typical astronomical pattern of lunar eclipses occurring within two weeks of a solar eclipse.

The last lunar eclipse took place in January 2019 and was visible from both Americas as well as parts of Europe and Africa. The next lunar eclipse will not take place until next year, however all four eclipses in 2020 will only be penumbral eclipses, which are much weaker than partial or full eclipses.

During penumbral eclipses, the moon passes through the weakest shadow cast by Earth and often does not visibly darken to the naked eye.

There won’t be another total lunar eclipse until May 2021.

Also Read- India Aborts Launch of Spacecraft Intended to Land on Far Side of Moon

Apollo anniversary

Tuesday’s lunar eclipse will be seen by stargazers at different times around the globe. Viewers in South America will be the first to see Earth’s shadow touch the moon’s surface when the moon is rising in the sky around sunset July 16, while watchers in Asia and Australia will see the moon in eclipse as it sets around sunrise July 17.

Interestingly, this celestial event falls on the anniversary of another lunar happening: July 16 is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 rocket launch, which first landed humans on the moon. (VOA)