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NASA Conducts Trial of the Starship Docking System NASA Trials the Latest Starship Docking Technology

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NASA Tests the New Starship Docking System

The Apollo Program delivered 12 American astronauts to the surface of the Moon. But that program ended in 1972, and since then, no human beings have visited. However, the Artemis program is set to change that narrative. Instead of just visiting the Moon, Artemis aims to establish a longer-term presence on the lunar surface. This ambitious goal requires more complexity than the Apollo missions did. Astronauts will need to transfer between vehicles in order to navigate the lunar environment effectively.

One crucial component of this intricate process is a reliable spacecraft docking system. When Artemis astronauts embark on their journey from Earth, they will be aboard the four-seat Orion spacecraft. Orion will transport them to lunar orbit, where two astronauts will transfer into the Starship HLS while the remaining two will stay aboard Orion. The Starship HLS will then ferry them to the Moon’s surface. In the future, the Lunar Gateway will be stationed in orbit around the Moon, facilitating the transfer of astronauts from Orion to the Gateway and eventually to the Starship HLS.

These intricate transfers between spacecraft pose significant challenges and risks. The docking system that will enable these maneuvers is SpaceX’s Starship HLS docking system, which is based on the successful Dragon 2 docking system. The Dragon 2 system has been instrumental in enabling the Dragon 2 spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) for crew and equipment transfers since 2020.

NASA, in collaboration with SpaceX, has been diligently testing the new Starship HLS docking system. A recent ten-day testing session at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, involved over 200 different docking scenarios with varying speeds and angles. The data from these extensive tests will inform ongoing computer simulations of the docking system and guide future testing and design iterations.

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The Starship HLS docking system features both an active and a passive mode, with one spacecraft designated as the chaser and the other as the target during docking. The recent testing phase focused on demonstrating the soft capture procedure, wherein the chaser extends its soft capture system while the target spacecraft’s system remains retracted. This method allows the chaser to take the lead in ensuring a successful docking through the use of latches and other mechanisms.

One key requirement for the HLS is redundancy in crew egress/ingress, which the soft capture procedure appears to address effectively. SpaceX has already achieved significant milestones in the development of the Starship HLS, including power generation, communications, guidance and navigation, propulsion, life support, and space environments protection.

While the focus often lies on the spectacular rocket launches, the successful execution of missions like Artemis hinges on various critical components beyond the launch vehicles. NASA underscores the importance of the Human Landing System program within the Artemis mission, highlighting its role in advancing science, utilizing lunar resources, and leveraging lunar knowledge for future Mars missions. Though docking systems may not always capture the limelight, they play a pivotal role in mission success.

Against the backdrop of challenges and delays faced by the Artemis program, any progress in advancing the Starship HLS docking system is welcome news. Initially slated for a 2025 launch, Artemis is now facing a delay of at least a year, with additional launches by SpaceX required before the mission can proceed. Amidst these challenges, advancements in crucial technologies like the docking system signify strides towards achieving the ambitious goals of the Artemis program.

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Tragic accident claims life of outgoing Cal Poly SLO student during outdoor excursion

urlhttps3A2F2Fcalifornia times brightspot.s3.amazonaws.com2F6c2F752Fd171515e4655b41c0f0789d8107d2Fkenneth one

Tragedy struck the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo community as outgoing outdoor enthusiast and mechanical engineering student Kenneth Taylor fell to his death during a hiking trip to Big Sur. The 21-year-old junior from Richland, Wash. had been eagerly looking forward to the annual “Make Waves” Film Festival, an event he had helped plan as a member of the local Surfrider Foundation chapter.

Known for his passion for the outdoors, Taylor was a key figure in the school’s Alpine Club and a trip leader for the Poly Escapes program, which provided outdoor training and trip-planning services for students. His love for snow sports and rock climbing was evident to all who knew him.

In a campus-wide email, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo University President Jeffrey D. Armstrong confirmed Taylor’s passing, expressing the university’s full support for his family and friends during this difficult time.

Two men, one in a Santa hat with fake beard, pose for a picture.

Kenneth Taylor, right, was known as one half of “Kenneth squared,” a nickname he shared with friend and fellow Cal Poly SLO student Kenneth Bevens, left.

(Courtesy of Kenneth Bevens)

Authorities were alerted to the incident when the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department requested assistance in locating an overdue hiker at Salmon Creek Falls and the Pacific Coast Highway. San Luis Obispo County deputies later discovered Taylor’s body at the base of a 12-story waterfall, ruling the death as non-suspicious.

Heartbroken by the loss, Taylor’s close friend Kenneth Bevens struggled to come to terms with the news. The two had formed a strong bond over their shared love for the outdoors and photography, often being referred to as “Kenneth squared” due to their similar interests and hobbies.

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Bevens fondly remembered their time together and the plans they had for the future, emphasizing Taylor’s positive and helpful nature.

As the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo community mourns the loss of a bright and passionate student, Kenneth Taylor’s memory and legacy continue to live on through those who knew and cherished him.

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