China just launched a 'reusable experimental spacecraft' into orbit

China launched an experimental reusable spacecraft into orbit on Friday (Sept. 4), with few details about what the spacecraft will do. A report from Chinese state media’s Xinhua said the launch was successful and that a Long March 2F rocket sent the spacecraft into orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert,…

Sea Level Mission Will Also Act as a Precision Thermometer in Space

To get the best measurements of Earth’s atmosphere, you sometimes have to leave it. This November, the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft will do just that. When a satellite by the name of Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich launches this November, its primary focus will be to monitor sea level rise with extreme precision. But an instrument aboard…

Trump signs Space Policy Directive-5 on space cybersecurity

The United States now has a cybersecurity policy for its space systems. President Donald Trump today (Sept. 4) signed Space Policy Directive-5 (SPD-5), establishing a set of principles designed to protect the nation’s valuable space assets from a burgeoning variety of cyber threats. “From communications to weather monitoring, Americans rely on capabilities provided by space…

The same black hole can collide with its kin multiple times, lopsided merger suggests

For black holes, a collision doesn’t have to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, new research suggests. On April 12, 2019, scientists detected a new black-hole merger using a trio of gravitational-wave detectors. Astrophysicists have spotted such events before, but something about the signals was different this time: the two black holes that collided were incredibly unevenly…

White House issues cybersecurity space policy

WASHINGTON — The White House released a new space policy directive Sept. 4 intended to improve cybersecurity of space systems. Space Policy Directive (SPD) 5 is billed as the first comprehensive government policy related to cybersecurity for satellites and related systems, and outlines a set of best practices, but not firm requirements, that agencies and…

See Mars rendezvous with the moon this Labor Day weekend

Every once in a while, something will appear in the sky that will attract the attention of even those who normally don’t bother looking up. It’s likely to be that way in the late-night hours of Saturday night/early Sunday morning (Sept. 5-6) when the waning gibbous moon, 86% illuminated, will appear in very close proximity…

Hilary Swank takes us to Mars in Netflix's 'Away' and tensions run high (review)

Netflix Mars mission series 'Away' lifts off with nods to NASA history

In a show that is primarily set aboard a fictional spacecraft flying through simulated space, there is a scene in the new Netflix Mars mission series, “Away,” that looks particularly close to the real thing — and that is because it is. Towards the end of the one the 10 episodes that began streaming Friday…

Rocket limbo complicating NASA's Europa Clipper mission

NASA’s highly anticipated mission to the Jupiter ocean moon Europa needs a rocket — and soon, the project’s planners say. The Europa Clipper probe is scheduled to launch in 2024 to study the Jovian satellite, which harbors a huge sea of liquid water beneath its icy shell. Clipper will assess the habitability of that buried…

'Venus: Death of a Planet': New 'Cloud Cities' documentary series imagines humans on the hellish world

Venus is the once and future twin of Earth. There could be life there now. The cloud-shrouded planet’s hellish conditions calibrate climate change on Earth. Humans could someday build floating cities in Venus’ atmosphere and perhaps even terraform the entire planet.  That’s the surprising through-line of a new documentary series streaming on MagellanTV, composed of…

Don't ignore Venus — Earth's twin hides surprising opportunities (op-ed)

The planet Venus is fascinating, terrifying, ironic, beautiful, deadly and — just possibly — alive with organisms.  In many ways, Venus shows us an Earth that could have been; the twin that grew up in a different environment. As one of the few other rocky worlds in our solar system with a thick atmosphere and…

China carries out secretive launch of ‘reusable experimental spacecraft’

HELSINKI — China launched an experimental reusable spacecraft Friday following months of low-key preparations at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. A Long March 2F launch vehicle delivered the spacecraft into orbit following launch at an unspecified time.  Chinese state media Xinhua reported mission success just under three hours after the opening of the launch window…

Rocket Lab launches first Photon satellite

WASHINGTON — Rocket Lab announced Sept. 3 that it has placed its first Photon satellite into orbit, demonstrating the spacecraft’s technologies and the company’s ability to provide end-to-end space solutions. The satellite, called “First Light,” was launched as the kick stage of the Electron rocket that placed Capella Space’s Sequoia radar imaging satellite into orbit…

Rocket Lab has launched its 1st homegrown Photon satellite

Rocket Lab isn’t just a launch provider anymore. The California-based company now has a spacecraft in Earth orbit — the first of its Photon satellite line, which is designed to tote customer payloads to a variety of destinations, including the moon and Venus. The Photon spacecraft, named “First Light,” rode to orbit atop Rocket Lab’s…

NASA satellites track California wildfire's smoke plumes and burn scars from space

Eight people are dead and thousands more affected by ongoing wildfires in California, which also forced the closure of the state’s oldest park — Big Basin Redwoods State Park — for the season. NASA is marshaling its resources and satellites to help the state deal with the lightning-induced natural disaster. Scientists have created maps and…

'Raised By Wolves' brings Ridley Scott's new sci-fi vision to HBO Max (review)

SpaceX launches Starship SN6 prototype test flight on heels of Starlink mission

A gleaming SpaceX Starship prototype launched into the sky above southern Texas Thursday (Sept. 3) in a brief uncrewed test flight of a rocket designed for eventual trips to the moon and Mars.  The cylindrical Starship SN6 vehicle, which looks much like a grain silo with a rocket engine, rose high into the air above…

Study raises new concerns about lack of governing norms in space

WASHINGTON — Commercial and government activities in space keep growing and yet nations are making little progress in establishing rules and norms of behavior, says the Center for Strategic and International Studies in a new report released Sept. 3. The report looks at three key governance issues that CSIS analyst Kaitlyn Johnson contends need more…

Scientists spot a triple-star system shredding its planet-forming disk in a cosmic first

Groups of stars can tear their planet-forming disk to shreds, leaving behind warped, misaligned rings, scientists find in a breakthrough study.  Solar systems like ours generally form with their planets all orbiting in the same, flat plane. But, as an international team of scientists has found in a new study, this isn’t always the case. …

In photos: SpaceX's SN5 Starship prototype soars on 1st test flight

On Aug. 4, 2020, SpaceX’s SN5 Starship prototype took a short, uncrewed hop that could end up leading to humanity’s next giant leap. SN5 flew about 500 feet (150 meters) above SpaceX’s South Texas facilities, near the village of Boca Chica. It was the first-ever test flight for a full-size prototype of the company’s Mars-colonizing…