SpaceX capsule back on Earth, paves way for new manned US flights

An unmanned capsule of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft is seen as it was lifted out of the ocean and loaded on the recovery ship, after splashing down into the Atlantic Ocean, about 200 miles off the Florida coast, US. (NASA via Reuters)
Updated 08 March 2019
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SpaceX capsule back on Earth, paves way for new manned US flights

  • Musk’s SpaceX capped the first orbital test mission in NASA’s long-delayed quest to resume human space flight from US soil later this year
  • After a 6-day mission on the orbital outpost, Crew Dragon autonomously detached and sped back to earth reaching hypersonic speeds

WASHINGTON: SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule completed its NASA demonstration mission Friday with a successful splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean, paving the way for the resumption of manned space flights from the US.
After hours of suspense, the Crew Dragon touched down in the Atlantic Ocean at 8:45 am some 230 miles (370 kilometers) off the coast of the US state of Florida.
The capsule brought its “crew” of one test dummy back to Earth in the same way that American astronauts returned to the planet in the Apollo era in the 1960s and 1970s, before the 1981-2011 Space Shuttle Program.


NASA TV footage showed the capsule gently drifting into the ocean, its decent slowed by its four main orange and white parachutes, which folded into the water around it as boats sped toward the site.
“Good splashdown of Dragon confirmed!” the SpaceX Twitter account tweeted.
“Beautiful parachute deployment,” said Benji Reed, the director of crew mission management at SpaceX. “I’m still shaking.”

An unmanned capsule of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft descends down into the Atlantic Ocean, after a short-term stay on the International Space Station, about 200 miles off the Florida coast, US. (NASA via Reuters)

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine hailed the splashdown, saying it “marked another milestone in a new era of human spaceflight.”
Launched on Saturday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Dragon docked at ISS the following day before successfully undocking Friday some 250 miles over Sudan.
On NASA TV, it looked like a slow-motion ballet, even though the two craft were actually orbiting Earth at 17,500 miles per hour.
The re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere tested the vehicle’s heat shield for the first time, and SpaceX founder Elon Musk had previously said that the phase was “probably my biggest concern.”
“You see the light from the atmosphere as it heats up,” astronaut Bob Behnken said of re-entry. “You see some orange light flickering.”
While Dragon’s crew member was a dummy named Ripley this time, the mission sets the stage for a manned flight, which will see two US astronauts — one of them Behnken — book a return trip to the ISS sometime before the end of the year, according to NASA.
Boeing is also in on the project to resume manned space flight from US soil after an eight year hiatus.

“It won’t be long before our astronaut colleagues are aboard Crew Dragon and Boeing Starliner vehicles, and we can’t wait,” US astronaut Anne McClain said on behalf of the ISS crew after the capsule left the station.
NASA and the administration of President Donald Trump have spent all week extolling the historic nature of the mission.
It represents the first private space mission to the ISS, as well as the first time a space vessel capable of carrying people was launched by the US in eight years.
Dragon also marks a return to a “vintage” format: it is the first US capsule since the pioneering Apollo program.
Capsules have no wings and fall to the earth, their descent slowed only by parachutes — much like the Russian Soyuz craft, which lands in the steppes of Kazakhstan.

SpaceX’s swanky new crew capsule undocks from the International Space Station. The Dragon capsule pulled away from the orbiting lab early Friday, a test dummy named Ripley its lone occupant. (NASA TV via AP)

The last generation of US spacecraft, the Space Shuttles, landed like airplanes. Shuttles took American astronauts to space from 1981 to 2011, but their cost proved prohibitive, while two of the original four craft had catastrophic accidents, killing 14 crew members.
After the program was retired, the US government, under then president Barack Obama, turned toward SpaceX and Boeing to develop a new way to ferry its crews, paying the firms for their transport services.
Due to about three years of development delays, the switch has come to fruition under Trump.
“I realize I’ve been holding my breath for five years. Not exactly time to fully exhale, but another big milestone behind us,” said Lori Garver, the former deputy administrator of NASA who took part in awarding the initial contracts to SpaceX.
For now, Russia will continue to be the only country taking humans to the ISS.
Space station astronauts have been stuck riding Russian rockets since NASA’s shuttles retired eight years ago. NASA is counting on SpaceX and Boeing to start launching astronauts this year. SpaceX — which has been delivering station cargo for years — is shooting for summer.
The launch systems are aimed at ending US reliance on Russian Soyuz rockets for $80 million-per-seat rides to the $100 billion orbital research laboratory, which flies about 250 miles (400 km) above earth.


Samsung receives reports of Galaxy Fold screen problems, says to investigate

Updated 18 April 2019
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Samsung receives reports of Galaxy Fold screen problems, says to investigate

  • Some tech reviewers of the Galaxy Fold said the phone malfunctioned after only a day or two of use
  • The splashy $1,980 phone resembles a conventional smartphone but opens like a book to reveal a second display

NEW YORK/SEOUL: South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. said it has received “a few” reports of damage to the main display of samples of its upcoming foldable smartphone and that it will investigate.
Some tech reviewers of the Galaxy Fold, a splashy $1,980 phone that opens into a tablet and that goes on sale in the United States on April 26, said the phone malfunctioned after only a day or two of use.
“We will thoroughly inspect these units in person to determine the cause of the matter,” Samsung said in a statement, noting that a limited number of early Galaxy Fold samples were provided to media for review.
The problem seems to be related to the unit’s screen either cracking or flickering, according to Twitter posts by technology journalists from Bloomberg, The Verge and CNBC who received the phone this week for review purposes.
Samsung, which has advertised the phone as “the future,” said removing a protective layer of its main display might cause damage, and that it will clearly inform customers such.
The company said it has closed pre-orders for the Galaxy Fold due to “high demand.” It told Reuters there is no change to its release schedule following the malfunction reports.
The South Korean company’s Galaxy Fold resembles a conventional smartphone but opens like a book to reveal a second display the size of a small tablet at 7.3 inches (18.5 cm).
Although Galaxy Fold and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd’s Mate X foldable phones are not expected to be big sellers, the new designs were hailed as framing the future of smartphones this year in a field that has seen few surprises since Apple Inc. introduced the screen slab iPhone in 2007.
The problems with the new phone drew comparisons to Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 phone in 2016. Battery and design flaws in the Note 7 led to some units catching fire or exploding, forcing Samsung to recall and cancel sales of the phone. The recall wiped out nearly all of the profit in Samsung’s mobile division in the third quarter of 2016.
Samsung has said it plans to churn out at least 1 million foldable Galaxy Fold handsets globally, compared with its total estimated 300 million mobile phones it produces annually.
Reviewers of the new Galaxy Fold said they did not know what the problem was and Samsung did not provide answers.
Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman tweeted: “The screen on my Galaxy Fold review unit is completely broken and unusable just two days in. Hard to know if this is widespread or not.”
According to Gurman’s tweets, he removed a plastic layer on the screen that was not meant to be removed and the phone malfunctioned afterwards.
Dieter Bohn, executive editor of The Verge, said that a “small bulge” appeared on the crease of the phone screen, which appeared to be something pressing from underneath the screen. Bohn said Samsung replaced his test phone but did not offer a reason for the problem.
“It is very troubling,” Bohn told Reuters, adding that he did not remove the plastic screen cover.
Steve Kovach, tech editor at CNBC.com tweeted a video of half of his phone’s screen flickering after using it for just a day.