Two out of four ain't bad: It's been a weekend of mixed emotions for rocket fanciers

Also: Scotland edges closer to launch, and ad astra Gerald 'Jerry' Carr

In brief An impressive sequence of launches at the end of August was marred first by ULA's Delta IV Heavy preferring life on the ground just three seconds before lift-off and then SpaceX deciding the weekend weather looked a bit iffy for its next batch of Starlink satellites.

The Delta IV Heavy, carrying a spacecraft for the US National Reconnaissance Office, had already seen one launch scrubbed on Thursday. The latest attempt, on 29 August, was aborted in spectacular style as the engines fired up.

Three seconds before the rocket was due to leave the ground, an automated system noted an anomaly and shut things down.

"Cause appears to be in the ground system," ULA CEO and cowboy hat aficionado Tory Bruno tweeted. He went on to explain that the fault had occurred in a ground system that helped set the engines up for ignition. "When you routinely launch one of a kind, billion $ payloads, you don't take chances," he added drily.

While it will take at least seven days to recycle things for the mighty Delta IV, SpaceX's Starlink could launch on 3 September after a weather-based scrub on Sunday.

The launch as planned would have set up an impressive double for SpaceX on Sunday, but the company elected to stand down the Starlink mission due to "inclement weather during pre-flight operations" and instead send up the second Argentinian SAOCOM (Satélite Argentino de Observación Con Microondas) spacecraft into polar orbit. The mission was SpaceX's first polar orbit launch from the Cape.

The weather continued looking poor, with just a 40 per cent of chance of cooperation, but the company persevered and got SAOCOM-1B (along with two secondary payloads – Tyvak-0172 and PlanetiQ's GNOMES-1) off from SLC-40 at 23:18 UTC on Sunday 30 August.

It was the fourth flight for that particular Falcon 9, which had seen both Starlink and Dragon action previously. The booster performed the never-less-than-impressive landing trick at the company's Florida Landing Zone 1.

The final launch of the long weekend saw newcomers Rocket Lab successfully return to flight at 03:05 UTC on 31 August with flight 14 of its Electron booster in a mission for Capella Space dubbed "I Can't Believe It's Not Optical". The success came less than two months after the failure to reach orbit of flight 13.

Vertical launching from Scotland

The dream of tossing the silver caber to orbit took a step closer to reality as development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) applied for consent to build Space Hub Sutherland from the Scottish Land Court.

While planning approval has already been given, consent is needed since the facility will be on grazing land, meaning crofters with livestock would need to move their animals during the periods around launches. Twelve microsatellite launches a year are planned.

The infrastructure needed will also require 13 acres of the 2,464-acre site and as well as construction, the application also requests consent for operations and, eventually, decommissioning of the facility on the A' Mhòine peninsula.

Construction is set to start in 2021, and the first launch could take place before the end of 2022.

RIP Gerald Carr

Gerald Carr, commander of Skylab 4, died on 26 August aged 88.

Selected in 1966, Carr took on CAPCOM duties during Apollo 8 and the eventful Apollo 12 launch. While the truncation of the Apollo programme meant he missed out on the opportunity to go to the Moon, he spent 84 days in orbit as part of the final crew to visit the Skylab space station.

The mission, which launched on 16 November 1973, saw Carr and fellow rookies Ed Gibson and Bill Pogue conduct a full programme of science including four EVAs (one of which had Carr clambering about outside the workshop for seven hours on Christmas day.)

While Carr never flew in space again, and retired from NASA in 1977, he went on to found a company that worked on crew systems for the ISS and worked to train engineers in the effect of weightlessness on human interactions with hardware.

"NASA and the nation have lost a pioneer of long duration spaceflight," said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. ®

Similar topics

Narrower topics

Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading
  • FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data
    Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

    The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

    In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

    The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

    Continue reading
  • Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China
    Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

    The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

    In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

    The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

    Continue reading
  • SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?
    High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

    SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

    SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

    Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022