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What we know about why SpaceX’s Starship rocket failed



A the beautiful machine came to a gruesome end on April 20 when SpaceX’s sleek, 40-story silver Starship rocket engulfed itself in an orange-and-white fireball just four minutes after launch and 39 km (24 miles) over the Gulf of Mexico. coast of Texas. Judging by the first voyages, it was ugly.

Much virtual ink was shed in the days that followed, both applauding the launch and condemning its failure. “Congratulations @SpaceX on the first comprehensive flight test of Starship!” tweeted NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Every great achievement in history has required a certain level of calculated risk, because with great risk comes great reward. Looking forward to everything SpaceX learns through to the next flight test and beyond.”

I also chimed in, calling the explosion “no big deal” in my analysis for TIME, pointing to serial accidents and explosions as an inevitable part of the rocket design business. I argued that this flight-and-fail approach helps identify problems long before a new missile delivers a payload or crew, making the missile more reliable and, more importantly, safer.

The rest of the twitterverse wasn’t as optimistic. “It was not a calculated risk. It was hasty. It was careless.” countered Twitter user @iwriteforme.

“Ridiculously inappropriate ignorant glee”, tweeted @clarecastle in response to media reports in the UK echoing Nelson’s positive opinion.

But was the starship explosion a “lucky mishap” like some dubbed it or a failure, period, the causes of the incident have yet to be ascertained. That question will need to be answered soon if SpaceX hopes to launch another starship anywhere near “a few months” from SpaceX founder and boss Elon Musk. promised on twitter immediately after the aborted flight.

read more: Inside the SpaceX spacecraft, the most massive rocket ever built

Musk’s tweet barely made it to the public before the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced he temporarily stopped the entire fleet of starships. “The anomaly occurred during the ascent and prior to the separation of the steps, resulting in the loss of the vehicle,” the statement said. “The return to flight of the Starship/Super Heavy craft is based on the fact that the FAA has determined that any system, process, or procedure involved in the accident does not affect public safety.”

Removing this FAA hurdle would require SpaceX to take a deep dive into the telemetry that came in from the starship during its brief flight. This is clear: out of 33 rocket first-stage engines, flight video shows that at least eight did not fire. IN Test “static fire” February 9.during which the engines were fired with the rocket fixed on the ground, 31 out of 33 worked as planned.

“The team turned off 1 engine just before the start and 1 stopped itself, so a total of 31 engines started working. But there are enough engines to go into orbit!” Musk said via twitter about the static fire test at that time.

This may be true when 31 engines are running, not just 25. If the starship’s engines had been working as planned last week, the first stage would have separated and crashed to the ground at the three-minute moment of flight, leaving nine engines. at the second stage, launch the rest of the spacecraft into space. Instead, it was at that moment that the rocket began an uncontrollable somersault that lasted a full—and excruciating—minute. At the end of that minute, the rocket exploded.

The explosion itself was not an accident. In a message shortly after the end of the flight SpaceX announced that his “flight termination system” (FTS) – essentially a self-destruct mechanism to prevent danger to people or structures on the ground – destroyed both stages of the rocket. The company did not say if the FTS was activated automatically due to an uncontrolled fall or manually from the ground. Starship is far from the only one equipped with FTS. Indeed, the FAA requires all missiles to have such a system before allowing them to fly.

The loss of the rocket itself was not the only evil done that day. The launch pad was badly damaged. pieces of concrete the size of a bowling ball broke off and shattered from the power of the burning engines. ace NY once, Texas Public RadioAnd other In Port Isabel, Texas, a city six miles from SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch site, buildings were reported to shake, at least one window was broken, and a cloud of sandy debris hit residents and their homes.

“It was really awful,” said Port Isabel resident Sharon Almaguer. once. Other SpaceX launches from Boca Chica caused some uproar in the city, but “it was on a whole different level,” Almaguer added.

read more: Is space flight good for the environment? No

SpaceX isn’t pretending that solutions to all of the April 20 issues are coming anytime soon, and action reports and repairs like the one the company faced are usually slow and painstaking chores. “I’m looking forward to the results of the investigation into the SpaceX incident, or at least what changes they will make to the next attempt,” says Scott Pace, a professor at the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. “Why is Starship not [second stage] separately, as planned? Why did several engines fail during the acceleration phase? What will be done to reduce damage to the launch pad on future missions?”

All good questions, and there are others. After all, the rocket’s second stage hasn’t even had a chance to fly, so it’s not yet possible to know if it has hidden design flaws that will only be discovered in subsequent tests after the first stage’s problems. stage completed. And if 25 engines can do as much damage as they did Port Isabel, what happens when a full set of 33 successfully ignite in tandem, especially since even with some of the engines burned out, Starship still flew on April 20? the most powerful rocket ever launched?

For now, SpaceX is keeping its head down, trying to fix its problems, make repairs, and meet the demands of the Federal Aviation Administration, which has full control over future Starship flights. Many continue to believe that the company has what it takes and that Starship has a great future.

“It was a test flight,” says astrophysicist Pascal Ehrenfreund, a professor at the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. “During the development of a disruptive launcher, failures are expected. Investigations will show when the next test flight will be possible. There will definitely be another test flight and hopefully Starship becomes a commercial reality.”

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New sub-variant of COVID Arcturus coronavirus now in Los Angeles



Los Angeles County has identified its first cases of a new sub-variant of the Omicron coronavirus dubbed Arcturus, a strain closely monitored by global health authorities, as it has been linked to rising cases in India.

The sub-variant, officially designated XBB.1.16, has also gained attention following anecdotal reports linking it to what was a rare symptom of COVID-19: pink eye.

However, it remains unclear whether this symptom is more pronounced in Arcturus than in earlier strains of Omicron. The latter subvariant has not been shown to cause more severe disease.

However, it is possible that Arcturus is even more contagious than dominant strain of coronavirus in the US XBB.1.5. While this is likely not enough to cause a new spike in cases, any spike in transmission increases the risk to vulnerable individuals – and raises the value of protective measures, health officials say.

“When we hear reports that ‘the pandemic is over’ or that ‘COVID-19 has become endemic’, it seems that people no longer need to be aware of its impact or take any steps to protect themselves and others,” Los -Angeles. Barbara Ferrer, director of public health for the county, said at a briefing on Thursday. “The very fact that we are seeing new strains with possible other symptoms should remind us that COVID continues to evolve.”

It is unclear how many cases of Arcturus have appeared in California. At least three have been identified in Los Angeles County, Ferrer said.

Since Arcturus is a sub-variant of Omicron, Ferrer said it is likely that current vaccines and therapeutics will be effective against this strain.

However, she said in an interview: “With any new mutation that crowds out what is already there…they will probably be able to transmit the infection more easily. So you could see the bump.”

Unofficial nickname Arcturus is Latin and comes from the Greek word arcturos, what does a bear watcher or watcher mean. This is also the name fourth brightest star in the night sky.

It is now believed to be the second most common strain of coronavirus circulating in the country, accounting for approximately 7.2% of cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is well above its estimated share of 2.1% for the week ended April 1.

Meanwhile, XBB.1.5 accounted for roughly 78% of new cases nationwide in the week ending Saturday.

In the US Southwest, including California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, and the Pacific Territories, Arcturus accounted for approximately 9.8% of cases, up from approximately 2.6% in the week ended April 1.

“This is worth looking at. It has been in circulation for several months now.” Maria van Kerkhovethe World Health Organization’s technical lead on COVID-19 said recently.

Indian authorities say Arcturus has begun replacing older versions of the coronavirus.

“Based on early reports in India and over 20 countries, it doesn’t look like more people are being proportionally sent to the hospital. But it causes an increase in cases,” the doctor said. Peter Chin-Hong, infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco. Since US incidence rates are at a relatively low level, “if you give a little more benefit to a particular sub-option, it will increase the number of cases.”

There are also unconfirmed reports of pink eyeor conjunctivitis in people infected with coronavirus in India, especially children.

Prior to Arcturus, pink eye was a symptom of 1% to 3% of coronavirus cases, according to Chin-Hong and Ferrer.

If left untreated, conjunctivitis can go beyond just pain and itching and damage the cornea, Ferrer says.

“It’s always been a side effect [of COVID-19]albeit very rarely,” she said. “If left untreated, it can lead to even more damage to people’s eyes. If you have conjunctivitis – for whatever reason – it needs to be treated.”

Pink eye can be caused by other viruses and bacteria. According to the National Eye Institute, “this is one of most common eye problems for both children and adults.”

“Just because you have conjunctivitis doesn’t necessarily mean you have COVID. You should go and get tested, especially if you have any other symptoms,” Ferrer said.

According to National Eye Institutepeople who are around a person with conjunctivitis should wash their hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Always wash your hands before touching your eyes and after touching a person with conjunctivitis or anything they have used.

“Do not share personal items that have been used by a person with conjunctivitis, including pillows, towels, cosmetics or glasses,” the institute said in a statement.

People with conjunctivitis who wear contact lenses should check with their eye doctor about how to clean, store, and change lenses. They should also throw away any lenses, solutions, and cases they used when they had conjunctivitis. The same goes for face or eye makeup, as well as makeup brushes or sponges.

Coronavirus cases are relatively stable at lower levels in California. As of Thursday, there were no signs of rising levels of coronavirus in Los Angeles County sewage or officially reported cases of coronavirus.

“But it’s always possible: I expect that if we do see an increase, I hope it will be relatively small,” Ferrer said.

Over the past week, Los Angeles County has reported 44 deaths from COVID-19.

“Compared to other periods of the pandemic, we are seeing a much lower number of deaths,” Ferrer said on Thursday. “However, these deaths are not insignificant. And COVID continues to be one of the leading causes of death in Los Angeles County and across the country.”

In general, people at higher risk of dying are older and not up to date on their COVID-19 immunizations and revaccinations or have not been treated with COVID drugs, experts say.

Only 42% of Los Angeles County seniors have received the updated vaccine since it became available in September.

While many believe that the time when hospitals were overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients is over, any spike in cases could still lead to more hospitalizations, highlighting the importance of keeping vaccines up to date (especially for the elderly) and seeking therapeutic services. COVID medicines, such as paxlovid and molnupiravir, which are provided free of charge if you become infected.

Evidence that the updated COVID-19 vaccine saves lives and reduces the risk of hospitalization continues to accumulate. According to data for the 90-day period ending March 27, Los Angeles County residents who received a refresher booster were half as likely to die compared to people who were vaccinated but did not receive a refresher booster.

The chance of death in people who received updated boosters was about one-tenth less than that of unvaccinated residents of Los Angeles County. Immunity from a past infection does not, by itself, provide as much protection as vaccines.

“This data illustrates the very real protection offered by a bivalent amplifier, even against the newer options that are circulating now,” Ferrer said.

She also urged infected residents to take anti-COVID medications such as Paxlovid when prescribed, even if they do not feel seriously ill.

“Paxlovid has a really good track record in reducing severe disease. And the only thing you don’t want to do is wait until you develop a severe illness before taking it if you’re in the high-risk category,” Ferrer said.

Research shows that vaccination another Paxlovid also reduce the risk of prolonged COVID.

Chin-Hong said he suspects the rise in cases of the latter sub-option was a factor in prompting federal officials this week to give another booster dose for the elderly and immunocompromised.

“I don’t think we’ll ever see something like ‘regular spike’ in quotes again. But we will see these little bumps. And I feel that XBB.1.16 can cause a small jump in our cases, a small jump in hospitalizations, ”he said. “But right now we’re so low that when you’re this low, you can only go one way, up.”

Los Angeles County COVID-19 vaccination clinics began offering additional updated doses on Thursday.

Americans who need help accessing an updated vaccine, COVID therapeutics, or other COVID-19 related resources can call (833) 540-0473 seven days a week from 8:00 am to 8:30 pm.

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Lost 2nd century Roman fort discovered in Scotland



Archaeologists have unearthed the foundations of a “lost” second-century Roman fortress in western Scotland, part of an ill-fated attempt to extend imperial control across Britain.

The fort was one of 41 fortifications built along the Antonine Wall, a fortification mostly made up of earthen and timber ramparts that is said to have stretched for about 40 miles (65 kilometers) across Scotland at its narrowest point. Historical environment of Scotland (will open in a new tab) (HES), government agency.

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