back to article All change at NASA while Proton launches and India's Moon dream suffers a snag

While some at NASA may still be obsessing over past glories, other eyes remained fixed on the Moon, Mars and beyond in this week's rocket-bothering roundup. Proton: Batteries now included Russia's veteran Proton-M launcher finally left launch pad 81 of the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 15:30:57 Moscow time on 13 July. The Proton-M …

  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Is it just me?

    Or is space starting to get exciting again?

  2. Starace

    Virgin Orbit

    Am I alone in being slightly underwhelmed by their efforts?

    They strapped a missile launcher to the engine ferry point so not exactly a huge amount of work to the aircraft, and launching missiles from under aircraft wings has been a thing for a good few decades now.

    Even the X15 was launched the same way!

    It's interesting and all that but not exactly pushing the boundaries of space science is it?

    1. tony72

      Re: Virgin Orbit

      It may be boring, but maybe the same things that make them boring will also make them commercially viable, unlike, apparently, Stratolaunch. WhiteKnightTwo would have been a more interesting carrier, but I imagine Cosmic Girl is cheaper to operate, as well as having a higher load capacity.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Virgin Orbit

      Also, the days of 4-engine commercial jets appear to be ending. Airbus have already said they won't be building A380s past 2021, and Boeing have been gradually winding down their 747 production that it can only be a matter of years before they're defunct too.

    3. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Virgin Orbit

      Checking that the release mechanism works in flight is the very boring first trial for anything new you want to drop off an aircraft and always will be.

      In this case if you try it for real with a live rocket and it doesn't work, you have two options

      1) Try to land said 747 with several tonnes of 'very big bang' possibly only held up by the engineering equivalent of fingernails

      2) Point 747 into the ocean and watch it go splash from a parachute.

      Luckily as most of the problems for this launch approach were sorted out 60+ years ago I'm reasonably confident Beardies bunch should manage to get one into orbit inside the next five years.

  3. TimR


    "With its seven gold-plated mirror modules and a camera cooled to -90˚C... "

    Could someone please explain why it needs to be cooled in space?


    1. AIBailey

      Re: Question

      In space, if you're in shade the temperature is below -150 degrees C, however once you're in view of the Sun then it rises to well over 100 C.

      Those temperature swings can also be extremely rapid, so your sensitive equipment needs to be well shielded.

      I'd also guess that cooling to -90 C prevents spurious readings being generated by nearby electronics.

      1. sal II

        Re: Question

        At a Lagrange point it will always have one side constantly towards the sun, unless they introduce a spin around it's own axis, which I highly doubt will be the case.

        So the question remains why exactly -90C

        1. arctic_haze

          Re: Question

          Why -90 C? They use light-sensitive electronic components (X-ray CCDs) so they need to make the sensor cold enough to avoid spurious signal from thermal photons.

      2. TimR

        Re: Question


    2. Xiox

      Re: Question

      I'm actually involved with this project (on the science rather than hardware side). It's actually quite hard to keep cool in space due to the lack of air and convection. One side of the telescope will always be heated by the sun and the detector electronics produce heat. One of the big efforts of design for eROSITA was the heat pipe system which cools the cameras passively (search for a PhD thesis if you're interested). There are radiators on the side of the telescope away from the sun to radiate the heat into space. The CCD cameras are kept cool to prevent degradation by high energy particles.

  4. Jemma

    In other news

    Airbus have come up with a new moniker for the 737, the Splatoliner.

    You need to cool - or rather moderate the temperature of electronics and other equipment in space because of massive temperature swings between sunlit and unlit areas.

    If your rad hardened but otherwise clapped out PowerPC chip is happy running at 75°c then you need a temperature control system that can deal with the swings of temperature and keep it at that point, which also needs to be fast reacting (some things in here don't react well to icing) so with extra capacity for the quick changes between heating and cooling.

    If something is always going to be in the lee of a planetary body you just need heaters - ditto if you are sending it to the outer planets - but even then it's sensible to fit some degree of cooling - in case of unforeseen circumstances.

  5. rg287

    In the interests of completeness...

    IDA-2 was installed back in 2016 and was used by SpaceX's ill-fated Demo-1 Crew Dragon earlier this year. That capsule infamously blew itself to pieces during ground testing.

    ...following a flawless mission to the ISS.

    IDA-1 never made it to the ISS, having been destroyed with the rest of CRS-7 when one of Elon Musk's Falcon 9s failed.

    ..., having been destroyed with the rest of CRS-7 in the only launch-failure of a Falcon 9.

    1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

      Re: In the interests of completeness...

      indeed. Because, as has been stated, "space is hard."

  6. NeilPost Bronze badge

    Virgin Galactic - Ecologically Grossly Offensive

    Virgin Galactic - What’s the Carbon foot-print of Space Jollies for the super rich???

    Makes Virgin Atlantic’s offsetting jet-fuel with some bio sources stuff like pissing in the Atlantic on climate change.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What are Trump's 2024 dreams??

    Being the supreme leader of the world? Or winning at being the world's biggest arse?

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