# The Orbital Index

Issue No. 173 | Jun 22, 2022

🚀 🌍 🛰

 ¶SpaceX in the news.  SpaceX conducted three perfect Falcon 9 launches and first stage recoveries in just 36 hours—the fastest three launch sequence ever by a commercial launch company. The first delivered 53 Starlink v1.5 sats to LEO from KSC—the constellation is now >2,400 strong in orbit. This was followed by a Vandenberg launch of SARah-1, a SAR surveillance satellite for the German military. Finally, a backup Globalstar-15 FM15 communications satellite with undisclosed secondary payloads from a defense customer was launched back in Florida.The booster flying the weekend’s Starlink mission was their fleet’s life-leader, completing its 13th launch and landing. This flight also hit a 100 orbital-class booster reflight milestone. After the two following launches, SpaceX is now at 102 reflights, 126 landings, and 164 total launches.A group of SpaceX employees published an open letter asking that the company address Musk’s increasing Twitter activity and questionable content, more clearly define its “no asshole” policy, and hold leadership more accountable. Company president and COO Gwynne Shotwell responded with a company-wide email stating that five employees had been fired for the “overreaching activism” of the letter and for the way it was sent to all employees at the company. (We stand by our previously stated option that the corporate culture at SpaceX needs to change, while also acknowledging that this may not have been an acceptable use of company resources, and that this may not have been the best response from SpaceX leadership.)With the FAA environmental review out of the way, Musk tweeted that Starship will be ready to conduct an orbital test next month. Inputting that prediction into the Elon time converter gives a more reasonable sounding estimate of August-November.And to make all this happen, the company recently closed $1.68 billion in additional funding—marginally less than it was planning—at a ~$125 billion valuation.
 The Falcon 9 carrying a Globalstar-15 FM15 communications satellite... and undisclosed secondary defense payloads launched from Cape Canaveral. Photo credit: Julia Bergeron.
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 ¶Type I Civilization by 2371? In 1964, Russian astronomer Nikolai Kardashev categorized civilizations into three types based on their ability to capture and use energy (paper). Type I civilizations can capture the energy received by an entire planet (~1017 Watts for Earth), Type II civilizations are able to capture the energy output of a single star (Sol generates ~4 × 1026 W), and Type III civilizations capture energy equivalent to their local galaxy (ours is ~5 × 1036 W). Carl Sagan adapted the Kardashev scale to be continuous and calculated that we were a Type 0.7 civilization in 1973—more recently that’s been updated to 0.73. You can, of course, use other scales for measuring human development, such as the UN Human Development Index (education, life expectancy, and per capita income), Sagan’s own Information Mastery (although Earth’s data production appears to be growing significantly faster than Sagan hypothesized), the Global Peace Index, and sadly, historic global atmospheric carbon levels. A new analysis takes the Kardashev scale and estimates when our planet might actually reach the Type I milestone (paper), while controlling for continued avoidance of the great filter (given current trends, perhaps this is a species’s ability to drastically alter the climate of its home planet). Taking into account fossil, nuclear, and renewable energy production, along with limitations from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (as opposed to the largely unsustainable energy consumption growth of the past 200 years) the authors estimate that we’ll consume an Earth-worth of energy sometime around 2371. What about Type II? It’s all incredibly speculative, but we might harvest energy using Dyson spheres, and later black hole accretion discs and jets, and/or matter-antimatter annihilation. “As an approximation to the more familiar, it can be estimated that to obtain 1×1026 W [Type II], the water mass contained in approximately 14,700 typical backyard swimming pools, typically 20,000 gallons each, would need to be annihilated every second, assuming 100% efficiency in converting mass to captured energy.” 💧💥
 ¶(Short) Papers. New Horizon data appear to show cryovolcanic slushy-ice-water volcanoes on Pluto which resurface large areas over time, leaving regions younger than their surroundings (paper). Picture a slow moving “slushy icy-water mix or even possibly a solid flow like glaciers.”Meanwhile, lava flows interacting with sulfur dioxide frost on Jupiter’s moon Io may create dunes (paper).Titan has similar dunes, but made of frozen hydrocarbons, left by an almost-Earth-like seasonal liquid transport cycle (paper).Not only is Europa’s subsurface ocean an intriguing site to look for extraterrestrial life, but based on its ice shell it “may be less of a barrier and more of a dynamic system – and site of potential habitability in its own right.” This data comes from ice-penetrating radar scans of Europa-like features in Greenland, finding abundant water pockets in the ice itself (paper). Hubble confirmed that comet C/2014 “Bernardinelli-Bernstein” has the largest cometary nucleus ever seen, at 130 km across (paper). The object that killed the dinosaurs was probably only ~10 km across. Worry not, C/2014’s closest approach to the Sun is 1.6 billion km.Speaking of which, shards of the dinosaur-killing asteroid may have been found at the fascinating Tanis site in North Dakota.Meanwhile, the 200-meter-wide comet 323P/SOHO circles the Sun every four years, getting as close as 5 million km from the surface. On its 2021 approach, the comet had multiple house-sized chunks blown off of it, probably due to superheating and its likely-YORP-induced half-hour rotation period (the fastest of any known comet).On Earth, life may have evolved as early as 300 million years after the planet formed (paper). It’s kind of hard to imagine that life could show up on Earth basically as soon as it could possibly exist, and yet wouldn’t have evolved somewhere else too.However, humanity will need to survive 300,000 years before we should expect to detect a signal from another communicating extraterrestrial intelligent civilization (CETI). This is the best case scenario according to a recent paper. The pessimistic case is 50 million years. We’ll keep looking, though… unless China has already detected aliens.
 XKCD #2569
 ¶News in brief. With the ISS back on track for Russian support through 2024, Rogozin is now directing his threats towards forcibly taking over control of eROSITA, the German x-ray telescope aboard Spektr-RG ● ESA broke ground on a new deep-space antenna to support ongoing exploration missions—their fourth in Australia ● With OFT-2 out of the way, new crewmembers have been assigned to the upcoming Starliner CFT-1 ● Momentus’ first Vigoride tug mission, launched on Transporter 5, is struggling, with solar array and comms failures, and only two of the nine customer satellites onboard having been deployed ● ESA and NASA are collaborating on Lunar Pathfinder, with a NASA CLPS mission in ~2025 scheduled to launch the lunar farside communications satellite for ESA—the beginning of its Moonlight lunar communications network ● Artemis I’s fourth WDR attempt aborted at T-29 seconds on Monday due to a LH2 leak in the boosters quick disconnect—second stage testing was completed on Tuesday ● Now dependent on SpaceX for launch and likely mutually fearful of Project Kuiper, OneWeb and Starlink have stopped their bickering over spectrum ● Cygnus aborted it first ISS reboost test this week, shutting down engines just 5 seconds into a 5+ minute burn—a next attempt is planned for the 25th ● Before that, the docked Progress 81 capsule had to boost the station to avoid a piece of debris generated by recent Russian ASAT testing that could have come within 0.8 km ● South Korea successfully launched its Nuri rocket with several satellites ● Stratolaunch’s enormous Roc hypersonic-launch-test-platform climbed to its highest altitude yet, 8,200 m, on its seventh test flight from the Mojave Air and Space Port (landing video). 🛫🛫🛬🛬
 Stratolaunch’s Roc on its record breaking flight.
 ¶Jobs. Neuralink is hiring a Senior Mechanical Engineer to work on hardware solutions for brain-computer interface devices (including surgical robotics, automation, microfabrication, and more) in Fremont, CA.
 ¶Etc. Cats always land with their feet down… but what if there is no down?A lovely thread from Dr. Phil (a comm/nav engineer on the Shuttle before he became a physicist) on the exceptionally complex process to keep Florida rain from soaking into the thermal protection tiles on the Space Shuttle, which would have added many tons to its takeoff weight.Percy appears to have picked up a pet rock. Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) announced that their 3.5 kg, 3U CanX-7 cubesat which launched in 2016 has successfully deorbited via deployable drag sail. The four part, 4-square-meter sail allowed the satellite, initially in a 700 km orbit, to deborbit in 5 years, when it would have taken about 175 years without the additional drag. The CHIME radio telescope sifts through close to a petabyte of data per day as it searches for extragalactic fast radio bursts (FRBs). When detected, it now releases a notification in the Virtual Observatory Event (VOEvent) format which anyone can subscribe to in order to quickly point their own telescopes. You can also subscribe to the SuperNova Early Warning System (detecting the neutrinos that herald a supernova), Chirp for gravitational wave event alerts, and of course space weather alerts from NOAA.
 Detailed in a recent paper, Perseverance caught some of the most intense dust activity ever witnessed on Mars—hundreds of dust devils and the first video of wind gusts lifting a Martian dust cloud. Below is a video of dust devils in Jezero Crater taken on July 20, 2021. The unusual quantity of dust devils at Jezero may be due to the roughness of the crater’s surface, making it easier for wind to lift dust.

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