Inside Space - August 12th, 2019

Inside Space (Aug 12th, 2019)

Vector suspends operations / Linkspace test launch / Crew Dragon dress rehearsal

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Welcome one and all to a new edition of Inside Space. Today we bring you stories about a successful test launch by China's Linkspace, the Crew Dragon dress rehearsal test and new 3D maps of our near universe.  

1. Rocket company Vector has suspended operations due to financial difficulties. "In response to a significant change in financing, Vector Launch Inc (Vector) announced today that it is undertaking a pause of operations," the company said in a statement. "A core team is evaluating options on completing the development of the company's Vector-R small launch vehicle." A company spokesman told SpaceNews that CEO Jim Cantrell has been replaced by John Garvey – the pair founded Vector in 2016. In October 2018, Vector said it had raised a total of $100 million to develop rockets to launch small satellites. It has performed suborbital test flights but has not yet reached orbit. The U.S. Air Force recently awarded Vector a $3.4-million launch contract. – SPACE NEWS

2. An 8.1-meter-tall rocket developed by China's Linkspace performed a vertical landing after flying to an altitude of 300 meters during a launch test on Friday. According to Chinese media, the RLV-T5 is powered by five engines that use ethanol and liquid oxygen. The company plans to fly the RLV-T5 to an altitude of 1 kilometer in a forthcoming test and will later use a larger version of the rocket that will reach an altitude of around 100 km. The test rockets will help Linkspace develop the NewLine-1 orbital launcher, which will be able to carry 200 kilograms to sun-synchronous orbit (SSO). Whereas private Chinese companies Landspace, OneSpace and iSpace use solid propellants to power their rockets, Linkspace has chosen to develop a liquid propellant launcher. – SPACENEWS

3. The two SpaceX astronauts that will fly in the first crewed orbital flight of the Crew Dragon recently completed a dress rehearsal test. During the exercise, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley tried on the new SpaceX spacesuits and went through the protocols they will have to follow before boarding the Crew Dragon for the Demo-2 mission, which is tentatively planned for November 15. However, the date of the launch is "under review," NASA said last month. The mission was delayed following the explosion that destroyed a Crew Dragon capsule during a test in April. – TESLARATI

4. A nuclear reactor that may one day provide power for outposts in other planets could be ready for a space test in 2022. There are no concrete plans to send the Kilopower experimental fission reactor into orbit yet, said project leader Patrick McClure, at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. But the Kilopower passed some ground tests in 2017 and 2018 and will be ready to fly into space in about three years, McClure said – if NASA and the DOE decide to perform an orbital test. The Kilopower is designed to provide Mars settlers with energy to purify their water, generate oxygen, charge up rovers and heat habitats. – SPACE

5. Astronomer Brent Tully, from the University of Hawaiʻi, has released 3D maps depicting the changes that our part of the universe has experienced since the Big Bang. The maps, which are called Cosmicflows, show the motions of thousands of galaxies across hundreds of millions of light-years. The red regions indicate the locations of dense galaxy clusters, the lines show the movement of individual galaxies in response to the pull from those clusters, and the gray shapes show areas where there is little matter.– NBC

6. Astronomers recently observed the black hole at the heart of the Milky Way growing 75 percent brighter before going back to normal levels. The unusual brightening took place on May 13 and was captured in a time-lapse video. "The black hole is always variable, but this was the brightest we've seen in the infrared so far. It was probably even brighter before we started observing that night!" tweeted UCLA astronomer Tuan Do. Since black holes are not known to emit radiation, the flash could be a sign that something was caught by Sgr A*. – SCIENCE ALERT

7. NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan will conduct a 6.5-hour spacewalk on August 21 to install a docking port at the International Space Station to receive the new Boeing and SpaceX crew ships. A SpaceX Dragon Cargo delivered the Boeing-built docking port to the ISS last month. The IDA-3 docking system features lasers and sensors that will allow the crew ships to automatically dock with the ISS. – NASA

8. The Perseid meteor shower will peak tonight. The brightness of the near-full moon may spoil the show for many but worry not because NASA All Sky Fireball Network will release pictures and videos of some of the Perseids in the coming days. The Perseids originate from 109P/Swift-Tuttle, a comet that visits our part of the solar system every 133 years. The showers occur when Earth moves through the comet's trail. – NASA

9. The controversial Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) may be built in Spain instead of atop the Mauna Kea mountain in Hawaii, a site that locals consider sacred. Construction of the observatory has been delayed this summer due to a string of protests. The project's director, Ed Stone, said that his team has applied for a permit to build the observatory on the island of La Palma, in the Canary Islands. "We continue to follow the process to allow for TMT to be constructed at the ‘plan B’ site in (Spain) should it not be possible to build in Hawaii," he said. Protest leader Kealoha Pisciotta said that building the telescope in the Canary Islands would be "a win for everyone." – AP

10. Image of the Day. NASA astronaut Kristina Koch tweeted a picture of New York as seen from the International Space Station. "Good morning, NYC! Looks like it was a great weekend to be in Central Park," she wrote. 

Written and curated by Eduardo Garcia in New York. Eduardo is a graduate of the Columbia Journalism School M.A. Science program and writes regularly for the New York Times Climate Fwd: newsletter. In one of his previous lives, Eduardo worked as a Reuters correspondent in Latin America for nearly a decade. 

Editor:  David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology).

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