On this week's episode, we go deep and cover some major Orbital news from Earth's space industry - catching you up on what's new in Space.
Lightsail2 now using propulsion thanks to Solar Pressure
SpaceX had a successful CRS18 launch followed up by a docking of the Dragon spacecraft on ISS to resupply the 6 crew members onboard with supplies and experiments.
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Hope you have a great week, stay safe, and spread love and science!
Alex G. Orphanos
Lightsail2 had a successful deployment July 23rd solar sail deployment - something the entire team at the Planetary Society should be proud of! Big shout out to SpaceX for having the Falcon Heavy created to send it into orbit.
This is the first time this has ever been done - that solar pressure powered a spacecraft. Testing on how well this technique can work is underway, but already it’s been shown that solar pressure raised the orbit of a cubesat without any additional power, thrusters, or mass used to do so
This will be a huge opportunity as a fuel source for cubesats. If you haven’t ever seen a cubesat, if you’re watching on Youtube you can see this but for everyone else listening, I am holding a cube that can fit in my hand. This would be a 1U, or 1 U Cubesat. These can be stacked to create larger spacecraft, but provide a cheap and efficient way of launching spacecraft. Since weight is everything when launching into space, the lighter the payload the better. With this small size comes the issue of in space propulsion. You can’t pack alot of fuel into something this small. So, it might limit what you could do farther than low earth orbit. NASA already sent one to Mars. Without more fuel this means most cubesat missions will be short. But with a solar sail, you could potentially have long duration missions with small spacecraft. It will take a long time to go anywhere, it’s not a very quick fuel source, but you can enable a cubesat to do a whole lot more with solar power.
But the big advantage is with larger spacecraft. Being able to coast on the pressure of the sun would allow for more efficient missions. If they get good enough they could help propel from star to star. Again, very slow, but possible if you get enough speed going initially.You can see some early interviews with Carl Sagan if you want to have your mind blown about the possibilities of solar sails.
The other thing is fuel cost - fuel is expensive, both in how much it is worth, and how much weight it takes up. A solar sail provides a cost efficient way to travel space.
SpaceX had a successful CRS18 launch on July 25th, 2019 followed up by a docking of the Dragon spacecraft on ISS to resupply the 6 crew members onboard with supplies and experiments.
One of the payloads on board is the precursor to 3D printing organs - . Apparently, Earths gravity has a major impact on 3d printing organs and prevents us from going farther. They will be testing it in microgravity to see if it creates better organs in 3D. If we look back to when the first plastic parts were 3d printed in orbit, it was found that they objects printed in orbit had better adhesion and strength properties. They were better parts in certain ways. Will organic material be better? We’ll find out! You can find out more about this science mission and the others that came onboard thanks to the CRS-18 mission and SpaceX’s Dragon capsule.
This was first dragon capsule to launch on 3 missions - hat trick
SpaceX broadcast was really next level - and NASA’s live broadcast for CRS-18 had some really great moments and they are trying difference formats! I remember seeing four different broadcasters who would share time leading up to launch sharing information about weather, the payloads, breaking down the launch profille, etc.
Payloads on board the ISS now thanks to CRS-18 include a bio 3-D printer that will start 3-D printing cardiac tissue in orbit to see if zero gravity creates better conditions for the layers to bond while printing
While a future where we can print a heart as it organ replacement in space is many years away at this point, this bio printer will allow for testing of techniques early on that will make it help advance the ability to actually print a fully functioning organ replacement. Some of these techniques will try to 3Dprint open cylinders that would represent blood vessels, hollow cavities similar to those found in human organs like the heart. The bioprinter is called the BioFactory Facility, or BFF. Kind of convenient for the future when you call up your BFF because you need a new liver and your BFF starts making you a new liver in space. Anyways, the BFF bioprinter will use three basic materials to create organic parts - cells, proteins, and nutrients. BFF’s stated mission is to push the limits of what can be bioprinted in microgravity.
The ISS is also sending up slime to the international space station for its continuing education efforts. They’ll show what slime acts like in orbit. If you haven’t seen their videos of water in orbit where they actually I think play ping-pong with a bottle of water. There’s a link in this weeks episode you can check it out. My favorite astronaut for this type of inspirational educational content has been Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.
Another major payload on board is the international docking adapter 3, or IDA-3. It is the new standard for spacecraft docking with the ISS including human rated spacecraft like SpaceX’s crew dragon, NASA’s Orion, and Boeing’s Starliner CST– 100. The major upgrade of the IDA would allow for a future procedure, if I recall properly, that would use a laser guided docking procedure to allow for safe, guided docking to the ISS. This will be crucial for when regular docking of crewed spacecraft becomes a more regular thing. This should allow higher human traffic to and from the ISS.
IDA-1 was lost on CRS-7 on June 28, 2015. But a few months later SpaceX launched the IDA – 2 on July of 2016 for CRS-9 and it was installed in August of the same year. And - the Demo 1 or DM-1 dragon capsule that launched in March of this year docked with the ISS on March 3rd using IDA-2. Now, the international space station has major upgrade capability for the future of human travel to low earth orbit.
SpaceX also had a successful 20m hop of the Starship water tank, a link to that is in the episodes description and at todayinspace.net.
Elon said that as soon as next week we could see another, higher hop, and a SpaceX Starship update will come which should reveal some new developments. Elon musk stated that yes, an update was coming which would include a detailed review of the first orbital Starship, explaining the pros & cons of each design decision.
We’ll update you on that in the future after the event
India’s launch to the moon was successful - and they are on the long, controlled, underpowered journey to the Moon. To be more specific, the way that India’s Moon lander, rover, and orbiter combo will get to the moon for the Chadrayaan-2 mission will take longer than the Apollo 11 mission and apollo program architecture. Why is that? Well, India’s rocket the GSLV MK-III that launed Chandrayann-2 is not as powerful as the Saturn V. Meaning, the GSLV MK-III can’t lift heavy payloads as high and as fast as the Saturn V could. This doesn’t mean you can’t get to the moon tho. This just means India’s second mission to the Moon will take a lot longer. More orbits around Earth to raise your orbit and increase speed enough to slingshot to the Moon and lower into orbit there. Very exciting times for India and I wish the team goodluck on the next stage of their mission putting that orbiter in place and delivering the lander and rover to the surface of the Moon.
That completes this week’s episode and this portion of Orbital News. I thank you for joining us for another episode of today in space. A space science podcast with a focus on the scientific mindset, spreading love and spreading science. Don’t forget to subscribe to us on Apple podcasts, Spotify, and stitcher (pretty much anywhere you get your podcasts these days) Leave us a 5 star review there if you love us - it goes a long way to getting the podcast to more people. Thank you for everyone on iTunes who done that already! If you’d like to get the visual portion of the podcast, subscribe to us on Youtube and find clips of the podcast there too. We’re also on instagram and twitter @todayinspacepod - follow us there!