SpaceX’s Starship SN10 Successfully Lands After Amazing Flight. Dismantles Itself Spectacularly.

Two earlier flights of the Starship rocket crashed spectacularly. This one returned to the ground in one piece, then blew up.

SpaceX Lands Starship Rocket for the First Time

SpaceX successfully launched and landed its Starship rocket prototype on Wednesday, an important milestone for the company’s founder, Elon Musk, and his hope to one day send humans to Mars and beyond.

Five, four, three, two, one, ignition. We have liftoff. Acknowledge software. FC2 please prepare for Section 35, OAC, SE1 and LVN. SpaceX Lands Starship Rocket for the First Time. SpaceX successfully launched and landed its Starship rocket prototype on Wednesday, an important milestone for the company’s founder, Elon Musk, and his hope to one day send humans to Mars and beyond.

Two spectacular flights, two spectacular crash landings. The third time was almost the charm.

On Wednesday, SpaceX launched another high-altitude flight of Starship, a huge next-generation spacecraft that Elon Musk, the founder and chief executive of the private rocket company, dreams of sending to Mars. It returned to the ground and set down in one piece, but then lit up in another fiery blast minutes after the landing.

As the sun set over the test site in Boca Chica, Tex., close to Brownsville, the latest prototype, designated SN10, lifted off, its stainless steel exterior gaining a purple hue as it ascended toward an altitude of just over six miles, well below the orbital heights that SpaceX one day intends to achieve.

It was the second launch attempt of the day. Three hours earlier, liftoff was aborted with just a fraction of a second left in the countdown. The engines had already ignited but were then shut off when the computer on board the Starship detected too much thrust from one of the engines. The engineers decided that the problem was not significant, adjusted the software, refueled the rocket and tried again.

At about 6:15 p.m. Eastern time, the three engines ignited again, and this time they stayed on. The rocket rose into the Texas sky, and, by design, the engines shut down one by one as the rocket approached an altitude of six miles.

“Very nice, very nice,” said John Insprucker, a SpaceX engineer narrating the company’s webcast.

SpaceX’s Starship prototype launched and landed in one piece on Wednesday in Boca Chica, Tex., but exploded shortly after setting back down at its test site.
SpaceX’s Starship prototype launched and landed in one piece on Wednesday in Boca Chica, Tex., but exploded shortly after setting back down at its test site.Credit…SpaceX, via Associated Press

The Starship then tipped over to a horizontal position, in essence belly flopping through the atmosphere in a controlled fall back toward the ground. The rocket then fired its engines again to flip back into a vertical position and slowed down to a gentle landing.

As the smoke cleared, SN10 was still standing, but tilted. Mr. Insprucker declared the test a success. While earlier flights to this altitude had ended in fiery crashes, this time the rocket landed in one piece. But the landing legs appeared to fail, leaving the rocket standing but leaning at the landing pad.

“The key point of today’s test flight was to gather the data on controlling the vehicle while re-entering,” Mr. Insprucker said on the webcast. “And we were successful in doing so.”

A few minutes later, after SpaceX began its recovery operations of the vehicle and had concluded its video feed, video cameras operated by the website NASA Spaceflight captured an explosion that sent the rocket on an unplanned second hop, disintegrating in flames.

The SN10 prototype burst into flames and exploded soon after landing.
The SN10 prototype burst into flames and exploded soon after landing.Credit…NASASpaceflight

A leak in a propellant tank may have caused the explosion.

The previous test, on Feb. 2, occurred after a skirmish between SpaceX and the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates rocket launches. The F.A.A. said that the earlier December launch had occurred without the agency’s approval. SpaceX had requested a waiver to conduct that flight even though it had not shown that a pressure wave that could be generated by an explosion during the test would not pose a danger to the public. The F.A.A. denied the request. SpaceX launched anyway.

After an investigation, the F.A.A. allowed SpaceX to go forward with the February launch. When that flight ended in another crash, the agency again asked for an investigation, which appears to have proceeded with less difficulty. The agency granted approval for the test on Wednesday.

Spectators who gathered at Isla Blanca Park on South Padre Island, Texas, for the test flight in February got a fiery, explosive finale.
Spectators who gathered at Isla Blanca Park on South Padre Island, Texas, for the test flight in February got a fiery, explosive finale.Credit…Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald, via Associated Press

Mr. Musk’s company has become successful in the launch business, and it is now one of the world’s most valuable privately held companies. Its Falcon 9 rockets have become a dominant workhorse for sending satellites to orbit. It routinely transports cargo to the International Space Station, and lifted NASA astronauts there twice in 2020, with more trips planned this year.

However, many are skeptical about Mr. Musk’s assertion that the company is just a few years from sending a Starship to Mars, saying he has repeatedly set timelines for SpaceX that proved far too optimistic in how quickly they have come to pass.

In 2019, when he provided an update on the development of Starship, he said a high-altitude test would occur within months and that orbital flights could occur early in 2020.

Instead, several catastrophic failures happened because of faulty welding. When the propellant tanks stopped rupturing, two of the prototypes made short successful flights last year. Those earlier Starship prototypes resembled spray paint cans with their labels removed, rising nearly 500 feet using a single rocket engine before setting back down at the Texas test site.

In a video released on Tuesday night, Mr. Musk said Starship would be ready to launch people to orbit and beyond by 2023. He made the remarks in a video released by Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese entrepreneur who is helping to financially underwrite the development of Starship. Mr. Maezawa intends to fly on an approximately weeklong trip around the moon and back to Earth.

In the Tuesday video, Mr. Maezawa announced that he wanted to bring eight passengers on the lunar voyage, and invited applications from people wishing to go. On Wednesday, he said more than 100,000 people have already expressed interest.

‘God of Chaos’ asteroid to pass by Earth this week

The rock will be visible on Friday at around 8:15 p.m. ET

The asteroid Apophis, nicknamed the “God of Chaos,” will pass by Earth on Friday.

Named for the Egyptian deity and scientifically known as 99942 Apophis, the more-than 1,000-foot-wide space rock will skate past the blue marble at around 8:15 p.m. ET traveling at a distance of about 10 million miles away, according to NASA.

The Near-Earth Object (NEO), made of both rock and metal, will then continue on a path around the sun.

However, while interested spectators can watch through their telescopes or using a live feed with images of the asteroid using the European-based Virtual Telescope Project at 00:00 UTC, scientists are monitoring Apophis’ diameter, velocity and other factors. 

They’ll use planetary radar — although no longer having access to Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory radio telescope — as a kind of sonogram to detect the asteroid’s shape, orbit and whether or not there are boulders on its surface, according to

Some believe there’s a chance Earth’s gravity will be strong enough to scatter boulders or stretch the rock, the site reported.

The asteroid, which was first discovered in 2004, will make another trip near Earth in April 2029. Apophis is projected to hurl by Earth while just about 19,000 miles away, according to The Planetary Society. It’s a distance that’s around 90% closer to Earth than the moon.

However, while researchers originally said there was a close to 3% chance of collision in 2029, additional data gathered over the years has shown it will not hit the Earth in either 2029 or during its return visit in 2036.

In addition, odds for its approach in 2068 are small, but Friday will help present experts with a clearer prediction of future events.

The University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy’s Dave Tholen said in a statement last year that observations made with the Subaru telescope showed the Yarkovsky acceleration of Apophis — an effect caused by solar heating resulting in a slight orbit change — and that the asteroid was drifting away from a purely gravitational orbit, which was “enough to keep the 2068 impact scenario in play.”

Nevertheless, astronomers are not fortunetellers — they won’t be able to read the asteroid’s future over long periods of time without uncertainty.

That said, more than 100 asteroids have come closer to the Earth than the Moon in the past year, reported Tuesday.

UK doorbell cameras and dashcams capture meteor on video

The blaze tore through the night sky within seconds

Residents of the U.K. were surprised over the weekend when a slow-moving meteor blazed across the night sky.

Videos posted to social media taken from doorbells and dashcams across Britain show the fireball just before 10 p.m. on Sunday.

A video from UK Meteor Network now has more than 100,000 views on YouTube.

“Was so clear,” Twitter user @JillHemingway wrote on Twitter alongside her own footage from Yorkshire.

Another user, @Lafford_MK, shared his nine-second video from his doorbell in the town of Milton Keynes.

@gingerssnap wrote to her followers: “Anyone else see the #meteor burn up over the UK just before 10pm tonight? I first thought it was a bright star or plane, then it got bigger & faster, then a huge flash lit up the sky & it burst into a massive tail of orange sparks trailing behind like a giant firework! So cool!”

The falling object flashed flight as it began to burn up and break down.

The meteor is likely to have been a small piece of a comet or asteroid entering the planet’s atmosphere, U.K. Meteor Network co-founder Richard Kacerek told The New York Times, noting that some pieces of it were believed to have survived the fall.

Some witnesses reported hearing a sonic boom or rumbling

Scientists from the UK Fireball Alliance (UKFall) agreed and told Yahoo News that the bright light was speeding at around 30,000 miles per hour.

Hundreds of people took to the internet with eyewitness reports of the incident.

In general, meteors are common, though less than 5% make it to the ground, according to NASA.

The Planetary Science Institute reports that approximately 500 meteorites make it to the Earth’s surface annually, but less than 10 are found.

More than 50,000 meteorites have been found on Earth, most from asteroids, they report.

Prof. Brian Greene Shows You How to Time Travel!

Prof. Brian Greene, author of “The Elegant Universe” will show you the right way to time travel as he joins Faith in a discussion of the underlying science of time travel and clears up some time travel myths like, is it ok to interact with your younger self while time traveling? (Turns out, it’s OKAY.)

Acclaimed physicist Brian Greene reveals a mind-boggling reality beneath the surface of our everyday world.

“The Fabric of the Cosmos,” a four-hour series based on the book by renowned physicist and author Brian Greene, takes us to the frontiers of physics to see how scientists are piecing together the most complete picture yet of space, time, and the universe. With each step, audiences will discover that just beneath the surface of our everyday experience lies a world we’d hardly recognize—a startling world far stranger and more wondrous than anyone expected.

Brian Greene is going to let you in on a secret: We’ve all been deceived. Our perceptions of time and space have led us astray. Much of what we thought we knew about our universe—that the past has already happened and the future is yet to be, that space is just an empty void, that our universe is the only universe that exists—just might be wrong.

Interweaving provocative theories, experiments, and stories with crystal-clear explanations and imaginative metaphors like those that defined the groundbreaking and highly acclaimed series “The Elegant Universe,” “The Fabric of the Cosmos” aims to be the most compelling, visual, and comprehensive picture of modern physics ever seen on television.

Did a 2036 Time Traveller really come back for this old IBM? | John Titor

A person named “John Titor” started posting on the Internet one day, claiming to be from the future and predicting the end of the world. Then he suddenly disappeared, never to be heard from again.


This is our planet’s bleak future: a second Civil War splinters America into five factions, leaving the new capital based in Omaha. World War III breaks out in 2015, starting with Russia and the U.S. trading nukes and ending with three billion dead. Then, to top it all off, a computer bug delivers where Y2K sputtered, destroying our world as we know it. That is, unless an audacious time traveler successfully traverses the space-time continuum to change the course of future history.

In late 2000, that person signed onto the Internet.

A poster going by the screennames “TimeTravel_0” and “John Titor” on a variety of message boards, beginning with the forum at the Time Travel Institute, claimed he was a soldier sent from 2036, the year the computer virus wiped the world. His mission was to head back to 1975 in order to snatch-and-grab an IBM 5100 computer, which had the necessary equipment to fight the future virus. (His detour to the year 2000 was simply to get a little R&R while visiting his three-year-old self, ignoring every fabric-of-time paradox rule from time-travel stories.) Over the next four months, Titor responded to every question other posters had, describing future events in poetically-phrased ways, always submitted with a general disclaimer that alternate realities do exist, so his reality may not be our own. In between dire urgings to learn first aid and stop eating beef—Mad Cow was a serious threat in his reality—Titor provided a number of technical specs regarding how time travel worked, with overly complex algorithms and grainy, hard-to-make-out photos of his actual machine. (Which, yes, of course, was an automobile: a 1987 Chevy Suburban.) He even showed off his cool futuristic military insignia.

On March 24, 2001, Titor offered his final piece of advice (“Bring a gas can with you when the car dies on the side of the road”), signed off forever, and returned home. He was never heard from again.


IN 2003, TITOR FAN Oliver Williams—some may want to put “fan” in quotation marks, simply because of the numerous unsubstantiated theories that Williams himself is/was Titor—launched, which tracks Titor’s predictions and offers a compendium of all of his 151 posts. In 2004, members of George Mason University threw together a multimedia rock opera based on Titor. A summary of the tale at garnered over 103,000 hits in 2011. And, according to IMDB, a feature-length film about Titor is in the pipeline. What seemingly should have been dismissed as a four-month hoax, the work of some nerd killing time at his boring temp job, somehow turned into a phenomenon.

Since the beginning of the mysterious posts, Art Bell’s popular late-night radio program “Coast to Coast AM,” a nationally-syndicated show that covers pretty much everything that’d fit comfortably into an episode of The X-Files, has been the go-to place for all things Titor. George Noory, who replaced Bell in 2003, has continued carrying the torch, devoting entire episodes to the ongoing mystery, fielding inane questions from callers and somehow answering with a straight face. (Examples: “Is there any way that Titor could be a godsend, sent as an angel, to warn us?” and “Do you think there’s any possibility he was a space alien? I’ll hang up and listen.”) In 2006, a lawyer named Lawrence Haber, who claimed to represent Kay Titor, a woman alleging to be John’s mother, contacted Noory. An interview followed between Noory and Kay—with Haber acting as a phone go-between—and it ended up answering, well, pretty much nothing at all.

After that episode, the show intermittently tracked Titor’s proposed timeline, looking at current events like tea leaves, possible harbingers of a nuclear armageddon. But as the false predictions piled up—while many of Titor’s descriptions are vague enough to be considered “not yet disproved,” he did also claim there would be no Olympic Games after 2004—the search for Titor shifted from “Is this real?” to “Who deceived us?”

IN 2003, THE JOHN Titor Foundation, a for-profit Limited Liability Corporation, self-published John Titor: A Time Traveler’s Tale, which is essentially a bound copy of the message board posts. (Used copies of this are currently going for $130 a pop on Amazon.) The Italian investigative TV show Voyager took up the case in 2008, hiring a private eye to locate the folks behind the LLC, and a search led back to the aforementioned Lawrence Haber, who was listed as the company’s CEO. An investigation by amateur sleuth John Hughston, who also goes by the name “Razimus,” uncovered a mysterious P.O. Box in Celebration, Florida, belonging to the LLC. A group of friends with some downtime between gigs at their production company checked out the P.O. Box themselves but found nothing worthwhile. At some point, was created, offering some kind of nonsensical secret code to digital passersby. And just a week ago, Hughston released another video—this one 40 minutes long—in which he names Haber’s brother, Morey, as his prime suspect by using a side-by-side analysis of phrase-usage, which, to be kind, is not exactly a slam dunk.

(Weirder side note: In 2004, a computer engineer named Marlin Pohlman filed a patent for a time travel machine that “back-engineered” concepts in the Titor posts. This started another round of speculation that Pohlman, himself, was the original Titor poster. Last March, he was arrested for drugging and sexually assaulting four women.)

The search for Titor, then, has become more convoluted than Oliver Stone taking on the 9/11 conspiracy. A new piece of information comes out, a tech-savvy kid with some time to kill sees it, decides to give the puzzle a shot, and on and on it goes, the cycle never reaching an end. The trail burns hot, the trail goes cold, but the trail never disappears. There have been countless blog posts and armchair investigations—a Google search for “John Titor solution” bounces back with 325,000 results—but nothing’s come close to finding a worthwhile solution. An itch in the back of the throat remains, unscratched.

But why?


American Airlines not denying possible UFO spotting, says: ‘Talk to the FBI’

Pilot said it “looked like a cruise missile type of thing”

Pilot described ‘long cylindrical object’ moving over the top of the plane, according to radio transmission

An American Airlines passenger jet traveling from Cincinnati to Phoenix encountered an apparent UFO over northeastern New Mexico Sunday afternoon. 

The pilot on flight 2292 radioed around 1:00 p.m. CST and said that the unidentified object was flying right on top of them, according to a transmission recorded by Steve Douglass on his blog, Deep Black Horizon. American Airlines verified to Fox News that the transmission is from flight 2292.

“Do you have any targets up here? We just had something go right over the top of us,” the pilot said in the radio transmission. 

“I hate to say this but it looked like a long cylindrical object that almost looked like a cruise missile type of thing moving really fast. It went right over the top of us.”

American Airlines confirmed that the radio transmission is authentic, but did not give any further comment on the possible alien encounter. 

“Following a debrief with our Flight Crew and additional information received, we can confirm this radio transmission was from American Airlines Flight 2292 on Feb. 21,” an American Airlines spokesperson told Fox News in a statement. “For any additional questions on this, we encourage you to reach out to the FBI.”

The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. 

Flight 2292 was around 37,000 feet at the time of the sighting, and Albuquerque Center did not respond because local air traffic interfered, according to Douglass. The flight went on to land in Phoenix, Arizona. 

New Mexico is home to White Sands Missile Range, which is located in the southern part of the state and is described as the Department of Defense’s “largest, fully-instrumented, open air range.” 

Scott Stearns, the chief of public affairs at White Sands Missile Range, said the range was not testing anything on Sunday and also noted the distance between the missile range and northeastern New Mexico, which is about 400 miles. 

“We have no idea what it could have been or if anything similar has been sighted in that area before,” Stearns said in a statement to Fox News. 

Thousands of UFO sightings are reported each year, but encounters by pilots have received increased attention recently. 

In February 2018, two pilots separately encounter an object beaming light at roughly 50,000 feet in eastern Arizona, the Arizona Republic reported

Between 2014 and 2015, Navy pilots encountered numerous UFOs traveling at hypersonic speeds up to 30,000 feet in the air, the New York Times reported

China’s Mars craft enters parking orbit before landing rover

China says its Tianwen-1 spacecraft has entered a temporary parking orbit around Mars in anticipation of landing a rover on the red planet in the coming months.

FILE - This file image made available by the China National Space Administration on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, shows the Tianwen-1 probe en route to Mars. China said on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, that its Tianwen-1 spacecraft has entered a temporary pa
Image IconThe Associated PressFILE – This file image made available by the China National Space Administration on Wednesday…Read More

BEIJING — China says its Tianwen-1 spacecraft has entered a temporary parking orbit around Mars in anticipation of landing a rover on the red planet in the coming months.

That follows the landing of the U.S. Perseverance rover last Thursday near an ancient river delta in Jezero Crater to search for signs of ancient microscopic life.

A successful bid to land Tianwen-1 would make China only the second country after the U.S. to place a spacecraft on Mars. China’s solar-powered vehicle, about the size of a golf cart, will collect data on underground water and look for evidence that the planet may have once harbored microscopic life.

Tianwen, the title of an ancient poem, means “Quest for Heavenly Truth.”

Landing a spacecraft on Mars is notoriously tricky. About a dozen orbiters missed the mark. In 2011, a Mars-bound Chinese orbiter that was part of a Russian mission didn’t make it out of Earth orbit.

China’s attempt will involve a parachute, rocket firings and airbags. Its proposed landing site is a vast, rock-strewn plain called Utopia Planitia, where the U.S. Viking 2 lander touched down in 1976.

Tianwen-1’s arrival at Mars on Feb. 10 was preceded by that of an orbiter from the United Arab Emirates. All three of the latest missions were launched in July to take advantage of the close alignment between Earth and Mars that happens only once every two years.

Tianwen-1 represents the most ambitious mission yet for China’s secretive, military-linked space program that first put an astronaut in orbit around Earth in 2003 and last year brought moon rocks back to Earth for the first time since the 1970s. China was also the first country to land a spacecraft on the little-explored far side of the moon in 2019.

China is also building a permanent space station and planning a crewed lunar mission and a possible permanent research base on the moon, though no dates have yet been proposed.

On Monday, a massive Long March-5B Y2 rocket was moved into place at the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Hainan province for assembly and testing before it launches the space station’s core module, christened Tianhe. Launch is scheduled for the first half of this year, the first of 11 missions slated over the next two years for the station’s construction.

China is not a participant in the International Space Station, partly at the insistence of the United States.

The space program is a source of enormous national pride in China and Tianwen-1 has attracted a particularly strong following among the public. Tourists flocked to tropical Hainan island to watch the launch, while others visit mock Mars colonies in desert sites with white domes, airlocks and spacesuits.

The Hope Spacecraft reaches Mars! Overview of the Emirates Mars Mission

What is the Hope Spacecraft? How did it enter orbit around the Red planet? What will it study at Mars? In this video, we discuss the Emirates Mars Mission. Also names Al-amal, or Hope spacecraft, this is a Mars orbiter that is run by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) space agency.

The original idea for the mission came about in 2013, and launched from Japan in 2020. The spacecraft will study Mars’ global climate, looking at weather patterns and how the different layers of the atmosphere interact with one another. The Hope spacecraft is also the first interplanetary mission from an Arab nation. In addition to the specifications of the spacecraft, the video also looks into the orbit that Hope will be in as it monitors Mars. In addition, we talk about why it is hard for a spacecraft to enter orbit around another planet.

More specifically, we look at the Escape Velocity for a planet. On February 9th, 2020, the Hope spacecraft successfully entered orbit about Mars by performing a Mars Orbit injection maneuver, which slowed the spacecraft.

NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover Provides Front-Row Seat to Landing, First Audio Recording of Red Planet

New video from NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover chronicles major milestones during the final minutes of its entry, descent, and landing (EDL) on the Red Planet on Feb. 18 as the spacecraft plummeted, parachuted, and rocketed toward the surface of Mars. A microphone on the rover also has provided the first audio recording of sounds from Mars.

From the moment of parachute inflation, the camera system covers the entirety of the descent process, showing some of the rover’s intense ride to Mars’ Jezero Crater. The footage from high-definition cameras aboard the spacecraft starts 7 miles (11 kilometers) above the surface, showing the supersonic deployment of the most massive parachute ever sent to another world, and ends with the rover’s touchdown in the crater.

A microphone attached to the rover did not collect usable data during the descent, but the commercial off-the-shelf device survived the highly dynamic descent to the surface and obtained sounds from Jezero Crater on Feb. 20. About 10 seconds into the 60-second recording, a Martian breeze is audible for a few seconds, as are mechanical sounds of the rover operating on the surface.

“For those who wonder how you land on Mars – or why it is so difficult – or how cool it would be to do so – you need look no further,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “Perseverance is just getting started, and already has provided some of the most iconic visuals in space exploration history. It reinforces the remarkable level of engineering and precision that is required to build and fly a vehicle to the Red Planet.” NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance mission captured thrilling footage of its rover landing in Mars’ Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021. The real footage in this video was captured by several cameras that are part of the rover’s entry, descent, and landing suite. The views include a camera looking down from the spacecraft’s descent stage (a kind of rocket-powered jet pack that helps fly the rover to its landing site), a camera on the rover looking up at the descent stage, a camera on the top of the aeroshell (a capsule protecting the rover) looking up at that parachute, and a camera on the bottom of the rover looking down at the Martian surface. The audio embedded in the video comes from the mission control call-outs during entry, descent, and landing.Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Also released Monday was the mission’s first panorama of the rover’s landing location, taken by the two Navigation Cameras located on its mast. The six-wheeled robotic astrobiologist, the fifth rover the agency has landed on Mars, currently is undergoing an extensive checkout of all its systems and instruments.

“This video of Perseverance’s descent is the closest you can get to landing on Mars without putting on a pressure suit,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science. “It should become mandatory viewing for young women and men who not only want to explore other worlds and build the spacecraft that will take them there, but also want to be part of the diverse teams achieving all the audacious goals in our future.”

The world’s most intimate view of a Mars landing begins about 230 seconds after the spacecraft entered the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere at 12,500 mph (20,100 kph). The video opens in black, with the camera lens still covered within the parachute compartment. Within less than a second, the spacecraft’s parachute deploys and transforms from a compressed 18-by-26 inch (46-by-66 centimeter) cylinder of nylon, Technora, and Kevlar into a fully inflated 70.5-foot-wide (21.5-meter-wide) canopy – the largest ever sent to Mars. The tens of thousands of pounds of force that the parachute generates in such a short period stresses both the parachute and the vehicle.

“Now we finally have a front-row view to what we call ‘the seven minutes of terror’ while landing on Mars,” said Michael Watkins, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which manages the mission for the agency. “From the explosive opening of the parachute to the landing rockets’ plume sending dust and debris flying at touchdown, it’s absolutely awe-inspiring.”

The video also captures the heat shield dropping away after protecting Perseverance from scorching temperatures during its entry into the Martian atmosphere. The downward view from the rover sways gently like a pendulum as the descent stage, with Perseverance attached, hangs from the back shell and parachute. The Martian landscape quickly pitches as the descent stage – the rover’s free-flying “jetpack,” which decelerates using rocket engines and then lowers the rover on cables to the surface – breaks free, its eight thrusters engaging to put distance between it and the now-discarded back shell and the parachute.

Then, 80 seconds and 7,000 feet (2,130 meters) later, the cameras capture the descent stage performing the sky crane maneuver over the landing site – the plume of its rocket engines kicking up dust and small rocks that have likely been in place for billions of years. 

“We put the EDL camera system onto the spacecraft not only for the opportunity to gain a better understanding of our spacecraft’s performance during entry, descent, and landing, but also because we wanted to take the public along for the ride of a lifetime – landing on the surface of Mars,” said Dave Gruel, lead engineer for Mars 2020 Perseverance’s EDL camera and microphone subsystem at JPL. “We know the public is fascinated with Mars exploration, so we added the EDL Cam microphone to the vehicle because we hoped it could enhance the experience, especially for visually-impaired space fans, and engage and inspire people around the world.”

The footage ends with Perseverance’s aluminum wheels making contact with the surface at 1.61 mph (2.6 kph), and then pyrotechnically fired blades sever the cables connecting it to the still-hovering descent stage. The descent stage then climbs and accelerates away in the preplanned flyaway maneuver.

“If this were an old Western movie, I’d say the descent stage was our hero riding slowly into the setting Sun, but the heroes are actually back here on Earth,” said Matt Wallace, Mars 2020 Perseverance deputy project manager at JPL. “I’ve been waiting 25 years for the opportunity to see a spacecraft land on Mars. It was worth the wait. Being able to share this with the world is a great moment for our team.”

Five commercial off-the-shelf cameras located on three different spacecraft components collected the imagery. Two cameras on the back shell, which encapsulated the rover on its journey, took pictures of the parachute inflating. A camera on the descent stage provided a downward view – including the top of the rover – while two on the rover chassis offered both upward and downward perspectives.

The rover team continues its initial inspection of Perseverance’s systems and its immediate surroundings. Monday, the team will check out five of the rover’s seven instruments and take the first weather observations with the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer instrument. In the coming days, a 360-degree panorama of Jezero by the Mastcam-Z should be transmitted down, providing the highest resolution look at the road ahead.

More About the Mission

A key objective of Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith.

Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.

For more about Perseverance:


For more information about NASA’s Mars missions, go to:

To see more images from today’s news release, go to:

To see images as they come down from the rover and vote on the favorite of the week, go to:



Air Bell

According to a new study by an international team of researchers, the Earth’s entire atmosphere vibrates much like a ringing bell — a low-pitched fundamental tone alongside higher-pitched “overtones.”

The discovery could help scientists better predict weather patterns and understand the makeup of our atmosphere.

“This finally resolves a longstanding and classic issue in atmospheric science, but it also opens a new avenue of research to understand both the processes that excite the waves and the processes that act to damp the waves,” co-author Kevin Hamilton, a professor at the International Pacific Research Center at the University of Hawaii, said in a statement.

Atmo Reso

The atmospheric resonances were first proposed at the beginning of the 19th century by French physicist Pierre-Simon Laplace, whose dynamic theory of ocean tides has since allowed scientists to predict deformations in a planet’s atmosphere.

The tones, according to Hamilton and his collaborators, are created by massive pressure waves that travel around the globe. Each wave corresponds to each of these different resonant frequencies.

“Our identification of so many modes in real data shows that the atmosphere is indeed ringing like a bell,” Hamilton said.

Wave Modes

The new study includes a detailed analysis of pressure observations spanning 38 years. The researchers found dozens of separate waves circling the Earth in a checkerboard pattern.

“For these rapidly moving wave modes, our observed frequencies and global patterns match those theoretically predicted very well,” lead author Takatoshi Sakazaki, assistant professor at the Kyoto University Graduate School of Science, said in the statement. “It is exciting to see the vision of Laplace and other pioneering physicists so completely validated after two centuries.”

Mars Madness: A closer look at Jezero Crater, Perseverance’s landing site

Jezero Crater once could have been a prime location for martian microbial mats. And Perseverance aims to find out if any Martian fossils were left behind.

Jezero Crater

Mars’ Jezero Crater was once home to a river delta. That history, and the potential for finding signs of ancient alien life, pushed NASA to pick Jezero as the landing site for its Perseverance rover.NASA/JPL-CaltechBillions of years ago, an enormous space rock struck Mars and excavated a 750-mile-wide (1,200 kilometers) crater now called the Isidis impact basin. But the cosmos wasn’t done yet. Another smaller strike inside the basin later produced an embedded crater that’s since been dubbed Jezero Crater. The overlapping pair of impacts uniquely changed the rocks in the region, helping to create a special landscape that scientists think may have once been friendly to life. 

In just a few short weeks, NASA’s Perseverance rover will begin to survey the area “in person.” 

Jezero Crater: A varied landscape

Based on spacecraft imagery, researchers think Jezero Crater was once home to a lush river delta. Deltas form as rivers drop sediment into relatively placid, larger bodies of water — like lakes and oceans. And that process of deposition creates a number of varied environments.about:blankabout:blank

When Mars was still young and wet, and life was likely just taking hold on Earth, Jezero Crater was home to a 1,600-foot-deep (500 m) lake. Scientists think a network of rivers probably fed into this site, making it a prime place for life to have evolved on the Red Planet. 

And that’s why NASA chose to explore it. The idea of a persistent wetland on Mars was enough to convince astronomers to select Jezero Crater as the landing site for NASA’s Perseverance rover, as well as its companion the Ingenuity helicopter

Jezero Crater — named after the small town of Jezero, Bosnia — spans roughly 28 miles (45 kilometers), giving the rover plenty of room to roam. (More than a decade ago, the International Astronomical Union, the organization responsible for naming planetary bodies, decided to name a number of scientifically important Mars craters after small towns around Earth.)

Perseverance is a nearly car-sized rover that’s designed to characterize Mars’ geology and study its ancient climate. Along the way, it will hunt for signs of ancient alien life — specifically, microbial life — and collect soil and rock samples that will eventually be sent back to Earth for further study at world-class laboratories.  

And Jezero Crater provides the perfect place for Perseverance to pick up an array of promising samples.about:blankabout:blank


NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover will land in this ancient river delta inside Jezero Crater.NASA/MSSS/USGS

A long path to landing at Jezero

In 1976, NASA’s twin Viking landers touched down on Mars within just a few months of each other. They didn’t have wheels to roam the surface, yet the missions still changed how astronomers looked at Mars. 

The Viking landers found clear signs of river valleys, wet weather, and erosion. Plus, a soil experiment on Viking even found tentative evidence of microbial life. Scientists later determined that was a false detection, but taken together, the Viking missions’ discoveries served to build excitement for better understanding Mars’ ancient climate. And that excitement help spur further exploration.

In the decades since, NASA has sent a handful of rovers to Mars to build on those findings. And each one has been more sophisticated than the last. 

The latest robotic roamer before Perseverance, NASA’s Curiosity rover, landed in 2012 with the goal if determining “if Mars was ever able to support microbial life.” The robot traversed more than a dozen miles within Gale Crater, a former lakebed, providing new insights into Mars’ ancient climate, current geology, and watery past. 

That’s helped whet astronomers’ appetites for exploring other ancient sites on Mars that once held water. So, in preparation for Perseverance’s trip, astronomers considered some 60 candidate landing sites over the course of several years. Different groups of researchers had their own ideas about which location was best, and the landing site debate was often contentious. But as it played out, it became increasingly clear Jezero Crater has once been a vast wetland. about:blankabout:blank


Mars’ Jezero Crater is the future landing site for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover.NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/JHU-APL

A flowing river delta

In 2015, research published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets showed that now-dry Jezero Crater was home to water twice in Mars’ past. 

The scientists used satellite observations to conduct what geologists call a “source to sink” analysis, where they trace a variety of minerals in the martian watershed back to their original source upstream. For example, clays, which form in the presence of water, seem to have been picked up from surrounding areas and dropped into the crater lake by flowing water. 

Interestingly, the team’s analysis showed the Jezero Crater served an active watershed during two separate time periods before the water dried up around 3.5 billion years ago, upping the chances of martian life once gaining a foothold. The water was likely so high at one point that it spilled over the crater walls. A number of papers since then have backed up those findings. 

Astronomers now envision Jezero Crater as a dynamic system, with water flowing both in and out over long periods of time in the past. NASA would love to sample the rocks at the center of the delta, where the water would’ve been the deepest. The muddy deposits there could preserve a record of organic matter, the way similar rocks do on Earth. And perhaps the most intriguing possibility is that Jezero Crater may have once been home to microbial mats, like pond scum forming at a lake’s edge. Certain minerals could’ve preserved that pond scum, forming what scientists call stromatolites — a kind of layered rock that’s essentially a fossil.

The Perseverance rover will keep a careful eye out for this kind of Mars fossil deposits. And — as it pokes, prods, and samples the soil — the rocks in Jezero Crater should offer new clues about whether life once existed in the early, wet days on Mars. 

‘Touchdown confirmed!’ Perseverance landing marks new dawn for Mars science

A sky crane gently lowered Perseverance to a safe landing before crashing itself at a far remove. NASA/JPL-CALTECH

‘Touchdown confirmed!’ Perseverance landing marks new dawn for Mars science

It’s a new day on Mars. NASA’s $2.7 billion Perseverance rover has successfully landed in Jezero crater, alighting just 35 meters away from hazardous boulders it had identified during descent. At about 3:55 p.m. EST, confirmation came back of the rover safely touching its wheels down, resulting in exuberant but socially distanced applause from double-masked engineers at the mission’s control room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

“Touchdown confirmed,” said Swati Mohan, the JPL engineer narrating the landing attempt. “Perseverance is safely on the surface of Mars!” Soon after, a camera returned the first image, showing dust, rocks, and the shadow of the rover looming over the black-and-white martian surface.

The rover landed some 2 kilometers southeast of Jezero’s fossilized delta, locating a safe flat spot, tilting only 1.2°, amid a field of hazards (a map in the control room showed spots of safe green swarmed by dangerous red). “We did successfully find that parking lot, and have a safe rover on the ground,” said Allen Chen, the head of the rover’s landing team at JPL. The region is informally dubbed “Canyon de Chelly,” after a national monument in Navajo tribal lands.

The rover’s descent was as dramatic as it was choreographed. Plunging through the martian atmosphere while experiencing temperatures of up to 1300°C, the rover deployed a parachute as big as a basketball court as it approached its 7-kilometer-wide landing zone, the most precisely targeted of any NASA Mars lander. After identifying a safe haven free of dunes and boulders, the rover and its sky crane—a sort of rocket-propelled hovercraft—detached from the parachute.

The sky crane, falling at a walking pace, unspooled the rover to the surface with nylon cords. Finally, moments before touchdown, the rover deployed its six cleated aluminum wheels. The sky crane cut the cords and flew off to crash a safe distance away. The news, relayed by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter with an 11-minute delay, was greeted with cheers by those in JPL’s control room. Mars had a new martian.

The touchdown marks NASA’s ninth successful landing on the martian surface out of 10 tries. The Soviet Union is the first and only other nation to have performed the feat, in 1971, when its Mars 3 lander survived for 2 minutes. China, whose Tianwen-1 arrived at Mars a week ago, will attempt to put a rover and lander on the surface in several months.

Perseverance’s landing is likely to ensure additional attempts: NASA and the European Space Agency have begun to develop the two multibillion-dollar missions, which could launch in 2026 or 2028, needed to collect the samples gathered by Perseverance. If the samples make it to Earth a few years after that, researchers will analyze them for signs of life that could be preserved in fossilized microbial mats or, more likely, a lumpy distribution of organic molecules. Other minerals could capture the frozen imprint of the martian magnetic field as it failed, which allowed the ancient atmosphere—and, presumably, the warm climate—to escape to space.

Jezero crater is a great place to look for those clues: It holds a playground of habitable environments. Some 3.8 billion years ago, a thicker and warmer martian atmosphere allowed water to flow on the surface: One river penetrated Jezero, creating a delta of sediments and filling the crater nearly to the rim with water. Life could have found a niche in delta deposits, ancient shorelines, or hydrothermal springs exposed in the crater wall—all of which the rover should reach in its first 2 years of operation as it climbs up from the crater floor. It’s a “4-billion-year window into planetary evolution,” says Katie Stack Morgan, the mission’s deputy project scientist at JPL.

Perseverance’s first picture, taken through a transparent lens cap from underneath the rover, shows it avoided hazardous boulders. NASA/JPL-CALTECH

But first the rover rests. Today is Sol 0, as one martian day is called. Perseverance will sit still after the landing, peering through transparent dust covers on its cameras to assess its location and erecting its high-gain antenna, used for direct communication to Earth. And then it will take a nap, using its radioactive thermoelectric generator to recharge its batteries, says Jennifer Trosper, the mission’s deputy project manager at JPL. “The rover’s had a long day.”

Over the next few days, the rover will raise its mast 2 meters above the surface and its main cameras will fix on the Sun, orienting the rover. The team will begin to image the landing site and the rover itself, checking the health of its instruments. By early next week, any video or audio captured during the rover’s landing should be relayed to Earth, the first time any Mars landing has been captured in such detail.

Each martian sol is half an hour longer than 1 day on Earth. To maximize the robot’s operations during daylight hours, the rover team will operate on “Mars time” for the first few months. Eventually, that will cause team members to experience a sort of perpetual jet lag, with team members sleeping during the day and working at night. And, unlike the similar schedule used for Curiosity—Perseverance’s predecessor that landed in 2012—engineers and scientists will largely work from home because of social distancing guidelines. Trosper, a veteran of several rover missions, is ready for the upheaval to her schedule: “I finally purchased a sleep mask,” she says. (She already had earplugs.)

Over the next month, the rover will remain in a commissioning phase. Its five-jointed, 2-meter-long robotic arm, which carries the rover’s rotary-percussive coring drill and several of its most sensitive cameras, will be extended and put through “calisthenics.” And a second robotic arm—this one inside the rover’s gut and designed to manipulate its cache of 43 stored ultraclean sample tubes—will be run through its paces. Sometime after that, it will conduct a first 5-meter test drive.

Illustration of the Perseverance Rover decelerating into the Martian Atmosphere

The first order of business after the monthlong commissioning phase will be loosing the 1.8-kilogram Ingenuity helicopter, currently attached to the rover’s belly. The pint-size Ingenuity is a technology demonstration, a bid to fly a rotor-powered vehicle on another planet for the first time. Perseverance will drive to flat terrain and drop Ingenuity to the surface. The helicopter will then furiously spin its rotors to ascend in the thin martian air. Four additional flights could follow, with the copter expected to have a total of 30 days to demonstrate its chops. “It will be truly a Wright brothers moment, but on another planet,” says MiMi Aung, Ingenuity’s project manager at JPL.

After that, Perseverance’s science campaign, which includes an international team of 450 researchers, can begin in earnest. The rover will travel at a swift pace compared with Curiosity, capable of driving 200 meters per day thanks to improved automation and upgraded wheels. By the end of its 2-year primary mission, the team aims to collect at least 20 rock samples. The team has already scouted several possible routes, and the first drilling is likely to come this summer, says Ken Farley, the mission’s project scientist and a geologist at the California Institute of Technology.

The rover landed near a divide between two geological units on the lakebed targeted by the mission. One, the “mafic floor unit,” is potentially volcanic, believed to sit below the lakebed, marking an eruption that occurred before the water arrived. Such rocks contain trace radioactive elements that decay at a certain rate, so lab scientists on Earth could date the eruption and bracket the age of the lake.

The other rocks are rich in olivine and carbonate, potentially formed by ash deposited onto the crater after the water vanished. If the ash is also volcanic, those dates could constrain the lake’s demise. Put together, the two dates would tell a reliable story of the formation of the lake and delta and this wetter period in Mars’s history.

But the geology of each layer— inferred from orbit—is deeply uncertain, with scientists not even agreeing on the order in which they were deposited. That’s why, Farley says, the team is likely to target this boundary. “This is a great place to be because one of the things that scientists love to do is look to see how two different geologic units come together.”

After exploring that interface, the cliffs of Jezero’s fossilized delta will then loom; the fine-grained clay-bearing mudstones buried there would be a natural target. “The delta,” Farley says, “is what brought us to this location in the first place—a spectacular piece of geology.” On Earth, such clays blanket living things and preserve them as fossils. In similar clays at Gale crater, the Curiosity rover—which remains operational—detected traces of complex organic compounds that resembled kerogen, the feedstock of oil. But it could not determine whether the compounds were produced by ancient life or deposited by meteorites.

A new 7 minutes of terror: See the nail-biting Mars landing stages of NASA’s Perseverance rover in this video

There’s a rocket-powered sky crane involved.

NASA’s Perseverance rover is only a few days away from its daring seven-minute landing on Mars, where it will touch down on the most challenging terrain ever targeted by a Red Planet mission. 

On Feb. 18, the car-size Perseverance — the heart of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission — will attempt to land inside the 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater. The entry, descent and landing (EDL) phase of a Mars mission is often referred to as “seven minutes of terror,” because the sequence is so harrowing and happens faster than radio signals can reach Earth from Mars. That means the spacecraft is on its own once it enters the Martian atmosphere — and a gripping new video from NASA shows how the rover will pull off such an amazing feat. 

“Space always has a way of throwing us curveballs and surprising us,” Swati Mohan, Mars 2020 guidance, navigation and control operations lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, says in the video. “There are many things that have to go right to get Perseverance on to the ground safely.”

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover landing: Everything you need to know

Diagram of the key steps in the Mars 2020 mission's entry, descent and landing sequence of Feb. 18, 2021.
A diagram of the key steps in the Mars 2020 mission’s entry, descent and landing sequence of Feb. 18, 2021. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The EDL phase begins when the spacecraft reaches the top of the Martian atmosphere and ends with a rocket-powered sky crane lowering Perseverance safely to the surface of the Red Planet. The entire EDL sequence takes roughly seven minutes, during which many crucial steps must take place. The stakes are very high on Thursday for Mars 2020, which will hunt for signs of ancient life and collect samples for humanity’s first interplanetary sample-return campaign

“There is a lot counting on this,” Al Chen of JPL, Mars 2020 entry, descent and landing lead, says in the video. “This is the first leg of our sample return relay race — there is a lot of work on the line.”

Shortly before reaching the Red Planet, Perseverance will shed its cruise stage, which helped fly the rover to Mars over the last 6.5 months. The next big milestone is atmospheric entry, when the rover will barrel into the Martian skies at about 12,100 mph (19,500 kph). 

The vehicle is equipped with a heat shield that will protect the rover from the intense heat generated during its initial descent and also help slow the spacecraft down. At about 7 miles (11 kilometers) above the surface, the spacecraft will deploy its 70.5-foot-wide (21.5 meters) supersonic parachute — the largest ever sent to another planet, according to the video. 

Soon after, the heat shield will separate and drop away from the spacecraft, exposing Perseverance to the Martian atmosphere for the first time and jumpstarting the vehicle’s Terrain-Relative Navigation system, which is a new autopilot technology that will help guide the rover to a safe landing on Mars. 

“Perseverance will be the first mission to use Terrain-Relative Navigation,” Mohan says in the video. “While it’s descending on the parachute, it will actually be taking images of the surface of Mars and determining where to go based on what it sees. This is finally like landing with your eyes open — having this new technology really allows Perseverance to land in much more challenging terrain than Curiosity, or any previous Mars mission, could.” 

Perseverance’s EDL sequence is very similar to that of NASA’s Curiosity rover, which landed in 2012. However, Perseverance is slightly bigger and equipped with more advanced scientific instruments, including new technology that will help guide the spacecraft through its difficult landing. 

Scientists believe an 820-foot-deep (250 m) lake filled Jezero Crater about 3.9 billion to 3.5 billion years ago. The area also has a prominent river delta, where water once flowed through and deposited lots of sediment. While this landing site offers geologically rich terrain, the rocks, craters and cliffs make it a very challenging place for Perseverance to land. 

“The science team identified Jezero Crater as basically an ancient lake bed and one of the most promising places to look for evidence of ancient microbial life, and to collect samples for future return to Earth,” JPL’s Matt Smith, flight director for Mars 2020 cruise operations, says in the video. “The problem is, it is a much more hazardous place to land.” 

During the final minute before Perseverance lands on the Red Planet, the mission’s sky-crane descent stage will fire up eight retrorockets, or Mars landing engines. Then, the sky crane will lower the rover safely to the ground on three nylon cables. Once the rover has made landfall, it will cut the cables connecting it to the descent stage, which will then fly off and crash-land safely away from Perseverance. 

“Surviving that seven minutes is really just the beginning for Perseverance,” Chen says in the video. “Its job — being the first leg of sample-return; to go look for those signs of past life on Mars — all that can’t start until we get Perseverance safely to the ground, and then that’s when the real mission begins.” 

Scientists Are Pretty Sure They Found a Portal to the Fifth Dimension

In a new study, scientists say they can explain dark matter by positing a particle that links to a fifth dimension.

Photo credit: Xuanyu Han - Getty Images
Photo credit: Xuanyu Han – Getty Images
  • Dark matter could be the result of fermions pushed into a warped fifth dimension.
  • This theory builds on an idea first stated in 1999, but is unique in its findings.
  • Dark matter makes up 75 percent of matter but has never been observed … yet.

While the “warped extra dimension” (WED) is a trademark of a popular physics model first introduced in 1999, this research, published in The European Physical Journal C, is the first to cohesively use the theory to explain the long-lasting dark matter problem within particle physics.

Our knowledge of the physical universe relies on the idea of dark matter, which takes up the vast majority of matter in the universe. Dark matter is a kind of pinch hitter that helps scientists explain how gravity works, because a lot of features would dissolve or fall apart without an “x factor” of dark matter. Even so, dark matter doesn’t disrupt the particles we do see and “feel,” meaning it must have other special properties as well.

“[T]here are still some questions which do not have an answer within the [standard model of physics],” the scientists, from Spain and Germany, explain in their study. “One of the most significant examples is the so-called hierarchy problem, the question why the Higgs boson is much lighter than the characteristic scale of gravity. [The standard model of physics] cannot accommodate some other observed phenomena. One of the most striking examples is the existence of dark matter.”

The new study seeks to explain the presence of dark matter using a WED model. The scientists studied fermion masses, which they believe could be communicated into the fifth dimension through portals, creating dark matter relics and “fermionic dark matter” within the fifth dimension.

Could dimension-traveling fermions explain at least some of the dark matter scientists have so far not been able to observe? “We know that there is no viable [dark matter] candidate in the [standard model of physics],” the scientists say, “so already this fact asks for the presence of new physics.”

Basically, a key piece of mathematics creates bulk masses of fermions that are manifested in the so-called fifth dimensional warped space. This pocket “dark sector” is one possible way to explain the huge amount of dark matter that, so far, has eluded detection using any traditional measurements designed for the standard model of physics. Fermions jammed through a portal to a warped fifth dimension could be “acting as” dark matter.

How would we observe this kind of dark matter in order to verify it? To date, this is the holdup on many different theories of dark matter. But all it would take to identify fermionic dark matter in a warped fifth dimension would be the right kind of gravitational wave detector, something growing in prevalence around the world. Indeed, the answer to the dark matter conundrum could be just around the corner.

British military’s space campaign picks up steam with ‘Skynet’ upgrade

The British military wants to replace its existing ground station for the Skynet program, pictured here, with new equipment. (Photo by Paul Bennett)

LONDON – Viasat is upgrading Skynet satellite communications capabilities to enable the British military to comply with the latest integrated waveform requirement known as IW Phase 2, the company said on Feb. 8.

The deal was signed in the second quarter of 2020 but the UK arm of the Carlsbad, California-based communications company has only now been able to announce that it is undertaking the upgrade to ultra-high-frequency satellite communications network control stations in the Skynet system.

The upgrade is one in a spate of military-related space announcements in the last few days, which have seen the Ministry of Defence name its first Space Command boss and Lockheed Martin tie up with a rocket supplier for its first vertical launch from a UK spaceport.

The satellite communications contract was awarded by Airbus Defence and Space, the current private finance initiative operator of the Skynet satellites and associated ground control stations.

Airbus operates a clutch of Skynet 4 and 5 satellites and is building another spacecraft known as Skynet 6A.

The Airbus deal to operate Skynet nears its end, and the winner of a competition to operate the ground control stations beyond 2022 is expected soon.

Viasat is supplying its visual integrated satellite communications information, operation and networking software platform, known as Vision, to meet the IW Phase2 requirement.

Britain and its allies are in the process of switching to the new integrated waveform software in order to retain interoperability with U.S. military upgrades.

Last August, Viasat announced it had successfully used Vision in the upgrade of NATO satellite control stations to comply with the new requirement.

Viasat is not a newcomer to Skynet’s supply chain. Airbus has been using earlier versions of the company’s integrated waveform technology in the system since 2012.

Officials hope the upgrade will enhance mission situation awareness and operational insights on the communication system.

Steve Beeching, Viasat UK’s managing director said the upgrade is key to expanding Skynet capabilities.

“With Vision, the network operators will gain more assured, reliable, real-time communications capabilities to reconfigure UHF satellite networks to meet new tactical profiles—as battlefield and warfighter requirements dynamically expand and contract,” Beeching said.

The improved capabilities come at a time of increasing focus on military space by the British. Last year the British government acquired a stake in failed satellite constellation operator OneWeb as part of a deal to revive the operation.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson signaled space as a sector to watch when he announced in a speech last November that the government was intending to raise defense spending by an extra £16.5 billion, or $23 billion, over four years.

In total the British say they are going to raise spending in the defense sector by £24.1 billion over the period.

Space budgets are likely to be a major beneficiary, although details will likely have to await publication of a government integrated review of defense, security, foreign policy and overseas develop policy targeted for the spring.

A defense white paper about defense equipment plans is expected immediately following the review.

Conventional weapon programs are expected to be victims of cuts to make room for investments in space, cyber and other new technologies.

Defense space activities continue to progress here even without spending plan details being public.

Last week the MoD named Air Commodore Paul Godfrey as the first commander of the new UK Space Command.

Godfrey, soon to be promoted to Air Vice-Marshal, is no stranger to the U.S. military. His previous position saw him responsible for the planning and employment of coalition air and space power across the Middle East within the U.S. Air Force Combined Air and Space Operations Center.

Based at RAF High Wycombe, Space Command will be a joint command, staffed from all three arms of the military, the civil service and industry. It brings together under a single two-star military commander: space operations, space workforce generation and space capabilities.

Some of those capabilities may be enhanced by an announcement Feb. 8 that Lockheed Martin UK has contracted ABL Space Systems to launch a rocket from the Shetland Space Centre being created on Britain’s most northerly island.

ABL’s new RS1 rocket is set to become the first ever vehicle to vertically launch small satellites from the UK.

If the Lockheed Martin-led work, known as the UK Pathfinder Launch program, goes to plan, lift-off of the rocket from the Shetland island of Unst is set for next year.

Once the RS1 is in orbit the rocket will release a small launch orbital maneuvering tug built by Reading, southern England-based Moog.

The tug can deploy up to six miniaturized cube satellites. Two of the cubesats deployed will be Lockheed Martin’s own technology demonstration spacecraft.

The RS1 is currently in the final stages of development and a maiden launch is planned for the second quarter of this year from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.21