The Weekly Space Recap: September 10 – September 16, 2023

Is Firefly the #2 Behind SpaceX September 14, 2023

firefly aerospace liftoff
Credit: Firefly Aerospace

Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket recently achieved a responsive launch record, lifting off from Vandenberg Space Force Base just 27 hours after receiving the order from the U.S. Space Force for a mission named Victus Nox.

This quick response marks a significant shift in the nation’s ability to deter adversary aggression and rapidly deliver capabilities to warfighters.

The Victus Nox mission, which began in September 2022 with contracts awarded to Firefly and Millennium Space Systems, aims to perform space domain awareness operations, monitoring the orbital environment for the Space Force.

The mission showcased the United States‘ capability to swiftly place assets in orbit when needed.

During the “hot standby” phase, Firefly and Millennium had 60 hours to prepare the satellite for launch once they received the alert.

They transported the space vehicle 165 miles from Millennium’s facility to Vandenberg, tested, fueled, and mated it to the rocket’s payload adapter in under 58 hours, much faster than traditional timelines.

Upon receiving the launch order, the teams had only 24 hours to update the rocket’s trajectory and guidance software, encapsulate the satellite, prepare the payload, and get the rocket ready for launch.

They successfully met this challenge, launching 27 hours after the Space Force’s order.

Firefly’s CEO, Bill Weber, highlighted the company’s commitment to national security and the goal of setting a new standard for rapid launch operations, completing missions in a matter of hours rather than weeks or months.

The previous responsive-launch record for a U.S. national security mission was 21 days, set in June 2021.

Victus Nox’s success demonstrates the capabilities of the Space Safari Program Office in responding to urgent on-orbit needs.

Firefly’s Alpha rocket, despite previous setbacks, has shown its potential in this achievement.

NASA’s Report on Aliens – September 14, 2023

UFOs and potential alien life have been in the headlines recently.

NASA released a report on unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP), which encompasses UFOs, and Mexico’s lawmakers heard testimony about alleged extraterrestrial life, including two “alien corpses.”

However, these claims have been met with skepticism.

aliens
Credit: NASA

Jaime Maussan, a well-known UFO personality with a history of hoaxing alien remains, displayed the alleged alien bodies, which resembled stereotypical depictions of aliens.

Despite Maussan’s credibility issues, the story gained widespread attention and was even brought up during NASA’s UAP report briefing.

During the NASA briefing, BBC News Digital journalist Sam Cabral asked if NASA had been in touch with Mexican authorities regarding the alien mummies.

NASA’s UAP study team chair, David Spergel, emphasized that if there was evidence of alien remains, it should be made publicly available for scientific study.

Dan Evans, assistant deputy associate administrator for research at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, emphasized the goal of NASA’s UAP study team to move away from sensationalism and pseudoscience towards science and sanity through data and research.

Maussan has a history of presenting fake alien remains, and this latest hoax is not the first instance. In 2015, he organized an event displaying a blurry photograph that was later revealed to depict the remains of an Indigenous American child.

The recent analysis of the “alien mummies” suggests they may have been assembled from various mammal parts, such as llamas.

Overall, while UFOs and potential alien life continue to capture public interest, scientific skepticism remains crucial in evaluating such claims.

SpaceX Takes Another Step to Completing Starship – September 15, 2023

starship engine test fire
Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX recently conducted successful “cold engine” tests of its Starship rocket engines in conditions simulating lunar-like temperatures.

This is part of their preparation for a planned human moon landing mission, known as Artemis 3, scheduled for 2025 or 2026.

The tests aimed to demonstrate that the Raptor engines can restart in space after leaving Earth, ensuring the safe transport of astronauts to the lunar surface.

The Starship system, intended for deep-space missions, has encountered challenges in previous launches, including control issues and a debris shower.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversaw an investigation of these mishaps, identifying corrective actions.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has indicated plans for another launch soon, with the FAA potentially granting a license for a new launch attempt in October.

NASA officials expressed confidence in SpaceX’s progress toward the Artemis 3 mission, citing the successful engine tests as a positive step.

However, they also mentioned that NASA is prepared to proceed with Artemis 3 even if Starship is not ready by 2025 or 2026, potentially deferring the moon landing to a later mission.

Artemis 3 is part of NASA’s broader Artemis program, involving international partners and aiming to return humans to the moon.

SpaceX is one of the companies tasked with lunar missions, alongside Blue Origin, which won eligibility to bid for missions after Artemis 4 in 2023.

Initially, SpaceX was the sole company chosen for Artemis 3 and 4, but a competitive process led to the inclusion of other vendors.

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