SpaceX launches hefty rocket with 24 satellites

The Defense Department mission is expected to provide data for the certification of the Falcon Heavy for future national security launches. (AFP)
Updated 25 June 2019
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SpaceX launches hefty rocket with 24 satellites

  • It was the first flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket ordered by the military
  • SpaceX said it was expected for the new core booster to miss the ocean platform

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: SpaceX launched its heftiest rocket with 24 research satellites Tuesday, a middle-of-the-night rideshare featuring a deep space atomic clock, solar sail, a clean and green rocket fuel testbed, and even human ashes.
It was the third flight of a Falcon Heavy rocket, but the first ordered up by the military.
The Defense Department mission, dubbed STP-2 for Space Test Program, is expected to provide data to certify the Falcon Heavy — and reused boosters — for future national security launches. It marked the military’s first ride on a recycled rocket.
Both side boosters landed back at Cape Canaveral several minutes after liftoff, just as they did after launching in April. But the new core booster missed an ocean platform, not unexpected for this especially difficult mission, SpaceX noted.
NASA signed up for a spot on the rocket, along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Planetary Society and Celestis Inc., which offers memorial flights into space.
An astronaut who flew on NASA’s first space station back in the 1970s, Skylab’s Bill Pogue, had a bit of his ashes on board, along with more than 150 other deceased people. Pogue died in 2014.
SpaceX said the mission was one of its most challenging launches. The satellites needed to be placed in three different orbits, requiring multiple upper-stage engine firings. It was going to take several hours to release them all.
The Deep Space Atomic Clock by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a technology demo aimed at self-flying spacecraft. Barely the size of a toaster oven, the clock is meant to help spacecraft navigate by themselves when far from Earth. NASA also was testing a clean and green alternative to toxic rocket and satellite fuel.
The Planetary Society’s LightSail crowd-funded spacecraft will attempt to become the first orbiting spacecraft to be propelled solely by sunlight. It’s the society’s third crack at solar sailing: The first was lost in a Russian rocket failure in 2005, while the second had a successful test flight in 2015.
“Hey @elonmusk et al, thanks for the ride!,” tweeted Bill Nye, the society’s chief executive officer.
The Air Force Research Laboratory had space weather experiments aboard, while NOAA had six small atmospheric experimental satellites for weather forecasting.
The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket in use today. Each first-stage booster has nine engines, for a total of 27 firing simultaneously at liftoff from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
The first Falcon Heavy launch was in February 2018. That test flight put SpaceX founder Musk’s red Tesla convertible into an orbit stretching past Mars.


Cliff divers leap from Beirut landmark in international tour

Updated 16 July 2019
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Cliff divers leap from Beirut landmark in international tour

  • The competition was the fifth of this year’s Red Bull Cliff Diving Series that began its 11th season in April
  • Raouche Rock has featured on the back of postcards, on stamps, in family photographs and many Arabic songs and films

BEIRUT: Cliff divers used to competing in isolated spots have been leaping into the Mediterranean in bustling Beirut, the first time the Lebanese capital’s landmark Raouche Rock has hosted an international contest.
The towering rock, also known as Pigeons Rock, is an enduring symbol of a city where many other landmarks were destroyed by the 1975-90 civil war.
“Normally when we have cliffs like this, it is in the middle of nowhere. I have never been to a place with an amazing cliff right in the city center,” said Gary Hunt, a Briton who won the men’s competition on Sunday.
The competition was the fifth of this year’s Red Bull Cliff Diving Series that began its 11th season in April on El Nido island in the Philippines and winds up in Bilbao, Spain in September.
Hunt became the first diver in the series history to receive a perfect 10 score from each of the five judges at Sunday’s competition.
In the women’s contest, Australia’s Rhiannan Iffland, 27, scored her sixth consecutive win of this series.
“It doesn’t matter how many times you perform a dive. You still get up there 22 meters (72 feet) high and you still have all these negative emotions,” said Iffland, who has been diving since she was nine.
“To overcome that fear is something that I cannot express.”
Raouche Rock has featured on the back of postcards, on stamps, in family photographs and many Arabic songs and films.
Daring Lebanese have leapt from the rock for generations. Some have also committed suicide from it.
Hundreds of spectators watched the competition, which ended on Sunday, from the adjacent rocks and promenade.
’Young again’
Among them was 63-year-old fisherman Mohamed Itani, who said he had jumped off the cliff 36 times over the years for fun. “It is beautiful,” said Itani as he watched the divers. “It makes me feel young again.”
Judges mark the divers on their take-off and entry to the water and number of twists, somersaults and position in the air.
Hunt, 35, said he used to count to three just before he jumped but now just takes two breaths: one when he lifts his arms up and one when he leaps.
“There are three seconds in that air where you are just in total control. Your brain and your body decide what you do and you are completely free,” he said.
Itani described a similar feeling. “You’re like an eagle in the air,” he said.