SpaceIL to use a Musk rocket to reach space

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By YAFIT OVADIA

Elon Musk’s SpaceX de­ployed a rocket, which has man­aged to re-en­ter the at­mos­phere three times, launch­ing 65 satel­lites into or­bit.

SpaceX’s launch is ground­break­ing since it marks the first time that a rocket, which has been de­ployed into space, re­tained the abil­ity to re-en­ter the at­mos­phere for a third time. Th­ese kinds of de­ploy­ments may pave the way for fu­ture space travel, al­low­ing peo­ple and com­pa­nies the ease with which to leave and re­turn to Earth.

SpaceIL is one of th­ese com­pa­nies set to launch a satel­lite to the moon on a fu­ture Fal­con 9 rocket.

The brand new Block 5 ver­sion of the Fal­con 9 rocket that was de­ployed into space, be­gan to re-en­ter the Earth’s air space around two-and-a-half min­utes after its take off. First, the rocket dis­en­gaged from its launcher about 85 kilo­me­ters (53 miles) above the at­mos­phere, land­ing in the Pa­cific Ocean a bit un­der five-and-ahalf min­utes later. This was the third time that a SpaceX rocket has both taken off and landed ver­ti­cally, and the 32nd land­ing of any Fal­con 9 rocket.

On Mon­day, SpaceX launched the Fal­con 9 rocket off the Cal­i­for­nia coast for the third time from Van­den­berg Air Force Base. The Fal­con 9 held a pay­load which en­cap­su­lated 65 sep­a­rate satel­lites that be­longed to com­pa­nies or re­search cen­ters, who are hop­ing to cap­i­tal­ize on and test space travel. Th­ese com­pa­nies are from over 17 dif­fer­ent coun­tries, 34 groups, and the Euro­pean Space Agency, ac­cord­ing to the NASA Space flight web­site. The Fal­con 9 rocket has suc­cess­fully com­pleted mis­sions 61 times, although in 2012, one rocket had first stage en­gine fail­ure. In 2015, a rocket dis­in­te­grated dur­ing as­cent after an oxy­gen tank broke, and an­other was de­stroyed in a pre-launch fail­ure in 2016.

Sav­ing money in one of the most ex­pen­sive en­ter­prises in the world is also a bonus – this way many com­pa­nies can es­sen­tially “car­pool” on the same space mis­sion – open­ing the doors for re­us­able space travel. Th­ese “rideshare” satel­lites – smaller satel­lites at­tached to a larger pay­load – are in de­mand among hi-tech com­pa­nies, who are look­ing to ex­pand their busi­ness ven­tures into outer space at a lesser cost due to smaller fuel con­sump­tion.

In 2017, SpaceIL’s first de­signs to send an Is­raeli satel­lite to the moon were made known. The Is­raeli com­pany was elated when SpaceX signed a con­tract to launch its space­craft.

Ac­cord­ing to SpaceIL CEO Eran Priv­man, the agree­ment is about more than just trans­porta­tion. “The fact that a se­ri­ous com­pany signs a con­tract with a group like us means that we know what we’re talk­ing about. That we’ve passed all their tests and that our craft stands up to all their re­quire­ments.”

SpaceIL was orig­i­nally founded by three engi­neers near Tel Aviv in late 2009, and en­tered as the only Is­raeli start-up in the Google Lu­nar Xprize, an in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion which promised to send the first civil­ian mis­sion to the moon. Yariv Bash, one of the founders added: “Space is the ul­ti­mate thing. It’s some­thing that is so hard to do, even to­day. In 2016, rock­ets still blow up; it’s still rocket sci­ence. This is one of the ul­ti­mate tech­no­log­i­cal-engi­neer­ing chal­lenges.”

SpaceIL was the first com­peti­tor to launch its land­ing craft, named “Spar­row,” that is able to hop over the sur­face of the moon in­stead of de­pend­ing on a sep­a­rate lu­nar rover in or­der to tra­verse the dis­tance. Other teams later adopted SpaceIL’s in­no­va­tive tech­nol­ogy. Although SpaceIL re­ceives gov­ern­ment stipends, adding to al­most 10% of the com­pany’s bud­get, the ma­jor­ity re­lies on pri­vate do­na­tions.

For the fu­ture mis­sion to the moon, the com­pany has raised the re­quired $70 mil­lion.

This space mis­sion in which the SpaceIL satel­lite was launched was orig­i­nally coined the Sun-Synch Ex­press (SSOA), and its fo­cus is on de­ploy­ing satel­lites whose or­bits are in sync with the sun. This type of near-low po­lar or­bit is unique, since it en­ables satel­lites to pass over parts of the Earth’s sur­face at lo­cal so­lar time, al­low­ing sci­en­tists to con­duct real-time ob­ser­va­tions and re­search of the ob­jects as they cir­cle the Earth. Ad­di­tion­ally, this type of or­bit is help­ful to re­searchers, since it pro­pels satel­lites to pass over the equa­tor at sep­a­rate lon­gi­tudes, and passes over both poles. This is due to the or­bital path’s steep in­cline of 90 de­grees that is ad­ja­cent to the Earth’s equa­tor.

As for the rocket’s de­sign, ac­cord­ing to the web­site, ar­stech­nica.com, the front stage (area) of the rocket is black and has been scorched from its numer­ous en­tries and ex­its from the at­mos­phere, which can reach a stag­ger­ing 1,500 de­grees Cel­sius (2,700 de­grees Fahren­heit) in the ther­mo­sphere – the hottest layer. The black in­ter­stage (mid­dle area) holds the mech­a­nism which re­leases the two stages (in­ter­stage and front stage) sep­a­rately and con­tains a thick ther­mal coat­ing. The third stage, the up­per stage, is white and stands in stark con­trast to the pre­vi­ous two black sec­tions. It com­prises the pay­load.

De­ploy­ing all the satel­lites si­mul­ta­ne­ously can prove to be a dif­fi­cult feat. Although span­ning across a wide va­ri­ety of sizes, the satel­lites were at­tached to the pay­load stack, which was cov­ered by the rocket’s nose cone dur­ing the launch. After the Fal­con 9 launched, the cone fell away and the satel­lites were eas­ily sent into or­bit. Th­ese types of mis­sions have been un­der­taken by In­dia in 2017 and Rus­sia in 2014, although this is the first time such a mis­sion has been un­der­taken by a US com­pany.

Ac­cord­ing to Fox 5 San Diego, the launch was vis­i­ble in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia skies at around 10:30 a.m. PCT.

(Wikimedia Com­mons)

THE FAL­CON 9 CRS-6 Dragon launches from Van­den­berg Air Force Base off the coast of Cal­i­for­nia on Mon­day.

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