Hawthorne, Jan 17 (AP/UNB) — SpaceX said Wednesday that it will build test versions of its Mars spaceship in south Texas instead of the Port of Los Angeles in another blow to the local economy that comes days after the company announced massive layoffs.
The decision was made to streamline operations, the Hawthorne, California-based company said in a statement.
SpaceX won approval last year to lease 19 acres at the port's Terminal Island. It planned to erect a new facility to do work on the interplanetary spacecraft, now called Starship, and its launch vehicle, the Super Heavy, which would be the largest rocket ever built.
The port facility would have allowed the giant craft to be barged or shipped to launch sites. It could have added about 700 jobs to the area.
SpaceX now won't proceed with that option.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted that development of Starship will continue in Hawthorne but prototypes will be built in south Texas. The company has a launch facility in Boca Chica near Brownsville, where one prototype of the spacecraft already has been assembled.
"We are building the Starship prototypes locally at our launch site in Texas, as their size makes them very difficult to transport," Musk said.
SpaceX will continue using its existing port facilities to recover its reusable Falcon rockets and Dragon spacecraft, which arrive by water.
Southern California officials have talked about luring high-tech operations to boost the waterfront and create a "Silicon Harbor."
"While we are disappointed that SpaceX will not be expanding their operations at the Port of Los Angeles, we are pleased that they will continue their recovery operations here," port spokesman Phillip Sanfield said. "Our ongoing work with SpaceX and other advanced technology companies is important to our efforts to advance the port through innovation and new technologies."
Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino said he felt crushed by the decision, but "I feel confident that other innovators will see the huge value they get in San Pedro."
Last Friday, SpaceX announced it would lay off 10 percent of its roughly 6,000 workers, most of them at its Hawthorne headquarters. The company said it needs to become leaner to accomplish ambitious and costly projects such as the Starship and Starlink, which would create a constellation of satellites to provide space-based broadband internet service.
Development costs for those two projects have been estimated at up to $10 billion each.
Tehran, Jan 16 (AP/UNB) — An Iranian satellite-carrying rocket blasted off into space Tuesday, but scientists failed to put the device into orbit in a launch criticized by the United States as helping the Islamic Republic further develop its ballistic missile program.
After the launch, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeated his allegation that Iran's space program could help it develop a missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon to the mainland U.S., criticism that comes amid the Trump administration's maximalist approach against Tehran after withdrawing from the nuclear deal.
Iran, which long has said it does not seek nuclear weapons, maintains its satellite launches and rocket tests do not have a military component. Tehran also says they don't violate a United Nations resolution that only "called upon" it not to conduct such tests.
The rocket carrying the Payam satellite failed to reach the "necessary speed" in the third stage of its launch, Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said.
Jahromi said the rocket had successfully passed its first and second stages before developing problems in the third. That suggests something went wrong after the rocket pushed the satellite out of the Earth's atmosphere. He did not elaborate on what caused the failure, but promised that Iranian scientists would continue their work.
Iran had said that it plans to send two nonmilitary satellites, Payam and Doosti, into orbit. The Payam, which means "message" in Farsi, was an imagery satellite that Iranian officials said would help with farming and other activities.
It's unclear how the failure of the Payam will affect the launch timing for the Doosti, which means "friendship." Jahromi wrote on Twitter that "Doosti is waiting for orbit," without elaborating.
Tuesday's launch took place at Imam Khomeini Space Center in Iran's Semnan province, a facility under the control of the country's Defense Ministry, Jahromi said. Satellite images published last week and first reported by CNN showed activity at the launch site. Given the facility's launching corridor, the satellite likely fell in the Indian Ocean.
Iranian state television aired footage of its reporter narrating the launch of the Simorgh rocket, shouting over its roar that it sent "a message of the pride, self-confidence and willpower of Iranian youth to the world!"
The TV footage shows the rocket becoming just a pinpoint of light in the darkened sky and not the moment of its failure.
The Simorgh, meaning "phoenix" in Farsi, has been used in previous satellite launches. It is larger than an earlier model known as the Safir, or "ambassador," that Iran previously used to launch satellites.
Ahmad Motamedi, the chancellor of Tehran Amirkabir University of Technology, which designed the satellite, told the semi-official Mehr news agency that Jahromi already has ordered them to design another satellite.
"Now, we have earned plenty of experience and we will be able to make a new satellite quicker," he said.
Over the past decade, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit and in 2013 launched a monkey into space.
Iran usually displays space achievements in February during the anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution. This year will mark the 40th anniversary of the revolution amid Iran facing increasing pressure from the U.S. under the administration of President Donald Trump.
Pompeo has said that Iran's plans for sending satellites into orbit demonstrate the country's defiance of a U.N. Security Council resolution that calls on Iran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Pompeo alleged in a statement Tuesday that the vehicle that Iran tried to put into orbit uses technology that is "virtually identical and interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles." He said the U.S. is working with its partners "to counter the entire range of the Islamic Republic's threats, including its missile program, which threatens Europe and the Middle East."
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promptly slammed Iran over the launch, accusing Tehran of lying and alleging that the "innocent satellite" was actually "the first stage of an intercontinental missile" Iran is developing in violation of international agreements.
Iran denies wanting nuclear weapons. A 2015 nuclear deal it struck with world powers limited its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
However, Trump pulled America out of the deal in May. While United Nations inspectors say Iran has honored the deal up to this point, the country has threatened to resume higher enrichment.
On Tuesday, Iranian state television aired footage of nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi apparently from a previous interview warning Tehran could raise the its enrichment of uranium "instantly."
"In a matter of four days we (are able) to start," he said.
Chongqing, Jan 15 (Xinhua/UNB) - One of the cotton seeds carried to the moon by China's Chang'e-4 probe is the first ever to sprout on the moon, according to scientists of a mini biosphere experiment on Tuesday.
After making the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon, China's Chang'e-4 mission pioneered the first mini biosphere experiment on the moon.
Professor Xie Gengxin, of Chongqing University and chief designer of the experiment, said a canister installed on the lander of the Chang'e-4 probe contained the seeds of cotton, rapeseed, potato, and arabidopsis, as well as eggs of the fruit fly and some yeast, to form a simple mini biosphere.
Images sent by the probe showed that a cotton sprout had started to grow, though no other plants were found growing.
The cylinder canister, made from special aluminum alloy materials, is 198 mm tall, with a diameter of 173 mm and a weight of 2.6 kg. It also holds water, soil, air, two small cameras, and a heat control system, said Xie.
More than 170 pictures have been taken by the cameras and sent back to Earth, according to the team.
Why were these species chosen?
Xie said potatoes could be a major source of food for future space travelers. The growth period of Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard, is short and easy to observe. Yeast could play a role in regulating carbon dioxide and oxygen in the mini biosphere, and the fruit fly would be the consumer of the photosynthesis process.
Researchers used biological technology to render the seeds and eggs dormant during the two months when the probe went through the final checks in the launch center and journey of more than 20 days through space.
After Chang'e-4 landed on the far side of the moon on Jan. 3, the ground control center instructed the probe to water the plants to start the growing process. A tube directs natural light on the surface of the moon into the canister to allow the plants to grow.
Moscow, Jan 15 (Xinhua/UNB) -- NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has accepted an invitation to make a working visit to Russia in the next several months, Russian space agency Roscosmos said Tuesday on its website.
According to a statement by Roscosmos, Bridenstine and Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin on Monday held a telephone conversation that focused on "further cooperation on space exploration and a possible meeting."
They agreed to continue working together on the International Space Station and lunar projects, as well as other missions to explore deep space, added the statement.
NASA earlier sent an official letter to Roscosmos and revoked an invitation for Rogozin to visit its headquarters, a decision Bridenstine said was made due to pressure from U.S. senators.
Rogozin on Jan. 10 said in response that NASA has fallen victim to the struggle between President Donald Trump's administration and U.S. Congress.
However, according to Rogozin, NASA defends its cooperation with Russia because it "understands perfectly well that the creation of a lunar orbital platform is the most complicated problem," which cannot be solved by it alone.
Los Angeles, Jan 12 (AP/UNB) — A SpaceX rocket delivered 10 satellites to low-Earth orbit on Friday, completing a two-year campaign by Iridium Communications Inc. to replace its original fleet with a new generation of mobile communication technology and added global aircraft tracking capability.
The Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 7:31 a.m. and arced over the Pacific west of Los Angeles. The previously used first stage was recovered again with a bullseye landing on a "droneship" in the ocean while the upper stage continued on to orbit.
The eighth and final launch of the $3 billion Iridium NEXT project completed delivery of 75 new satellites to orbit for the McLean, Virginia, company. Sixty-six will be operational and nine will serve as in-orbit spares. Six other satellites remain on the ground as spares.
All 10 newly launched satellites communicated with Iridium's network operations center and were being readied for testing, the company said.
Iridium has been moving its new satellites into positions that were held by the old ones, which are lowered until they burn up in the atmosphere. So far, 60 new satellites are in operation.
The first Iridium satellites were launched in the 1990s to offer voice, data, fax and paging services to customers with Iridium handheld telephones and pagers.
Among new capabilities enabled by the fleet upgrade is Iridium Certus, described as a broadband solution for purposes ranging from life-safety services to command-and-control of unmanned aircraft systems and tracking.
The Iridium NEXT satellites also carry a system by Aireon LLC for space-based air traffic surveillance over 100 percent of the globe.
The Aireon system collects what is known as Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast data automatically and in real time, even from remote areas over the world's oceans.
"Today we passed a major milestone on our journey to revolutionize air traffic surveillance and are just weeks away from a fully operational system," Don Thoma, CEO of Aireon, said in a statement. "Now that the launches are complete, final integration and testing of the recently launched payloads can commence, after which the world's first, real-time, truly global view of air traffic will be a reality."
Aireon said it is already processing more than 13 billion ADS-B messages per month.
Another difference with the new satellites is of note to skywatchers: no "Iridium flares." The new satellites do not reflect sunlight the way the old ones did.