Watch live: SpaceX to launch 60 new Starlink satellites into orbit

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch 60 more Starlink internet satellites into orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Saturday  (Oct. 24) and you can watch it live here. Liftoff is set for 11:31 p.m. EDT (1531 GMT). 
The launch will mark SpaceX’s second Starlink mission this week as the Hawthorne, California-based company builds up a megaconstellation to provide global high-speed internet service. The company launched 60 Starlink satellites on Sunday. 

SpaceX is targeting Thursday, October 22 at 12:14 p.m. EDT, 16:14 UTC, for its fifteenth Starlink mission, which will launch 60 Starlink satellites to orbit. Falcon 9 will lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. There is a backup opportunity available on Friday, October 23 at 11:53 a.m. EDT, 15:53 UTC.
Falcon 9’s first stage previously supported the GPS III Space Vehicle 03 mission in June 2020 and a Starlink mission in September 2020. Following stage separation, SpaceX will land Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. You can watch the launch webcast live starting about 15 minutes before liftoff.
Earlier this week, Ector County Independent School District in Texas announced their participation in a pilot program to help local students and their families access high-speed, low-latency internet. Similar to other rural communities, many residents of Ector County have limited to no connectivity. This issue was brought to the forefront for the school district earlier this year when COVID-19 forced school building closures and nearly two in five students did not have access to reliable high-speed internet at home. Starting in 2021, Starlink will connect up to 45 households in the community as part of the pilot program. As network capabilities continue to grow, it will then expand service to an additional 90 households in the school district.
If you would like to receive updates on Starlink news and service availability in your area, please visit starlink.com.
Delayed: SpaceX GPS satellite launch for US Space Force

Update for 9:57 p.m. EDT, Oct. 2: The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the GPS III SV04 navigation satellite for the U.S. Space Force suffered an abort just two seconds before tonight’s liftoff.  A new launch date has not yet been announced.  
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the GPS III SV04 satellite for the U.S. Space Force and Air Force  from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

SpaceX is targeting Friday, October 2, for a Falcon 9 launch of the GPS III Space Vehicle 04 mission from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The 15-minute launch window opens at 9:43 p.m. EDT, or 01:43 UTC on October 3.
Following stage separation, SpaceX will land Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. The spacecraft will deploy approximately 1 hour and 29 minutes after liftoff.
Last week, the United States Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) announced an agreement with SpaceX to launch previously flown boosters on future National Security Space Launch (NSSL) missions.
You can watch the launch webcast here, starting about 15 minutes before liftoff.

Delayed: ULA Delta IV Heavy launching NROL-44 spy satellite
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Update for Sept. 30, 11:59 p.m. EDT:  Tonight’s launch attempt was scrubbed after the rocket’s Terminal Countdown Sequencer Rack detected an issue. A new launch target has not been announced.
A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket will launch a classified spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office Wednesday night (Sept. 30). 
The mission, titled NROL-44, will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, at 11:54 p.m. EDT (0354 GMT on Oct. 1). Watch it live in the window above, courtesy of ULA.

Rocket: Delta IV HeavyMission: NROL-44 LaunchDate: Sun., Sept. 27, 2020Launch Time: 12:10 a.m. EDTLaunch Location: Space Launch Complex-37, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Mission Information: A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket will launch the NROL-44 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). Liftoff will occur from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Launch Notes: This will be 141st mission for United Launch Alliance and our 29th for the NRO. It is the 385th Delta launch since 1960, the 12th Delta IV Heavy and the 8th Heavy for the NRO.
Launch Updates: To keep up to speed with updates to the launch countdown, dial the ULA launch hotline at 1-877-852-4321 or join the conversation at www.facebook.com/ulalaunch, twitter.com/ulalaunch and instagram.com/ulalaunch; hashtags #DeltaIVHeavy #NROL44
‘ISS Live!’ Tune in to the space station
Find out what the astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station are up to by tuning in to the “ISS Live” broadcast. Hear conversations between the crew and mission controllers on Earth and watch them work inside the U.S. segment of the orbiting laboratory. When the crew is off duty, you can enjoy live views of Earth from Space. You can watch and listen in the window below, courtesy of NASA.

“Live video from the International Space Station includes internal views when the crew is on-duty and Earth views at other times. The video is accompanied by audio of conversations between the crew and Mission Control. This video is only available when the space station is in contact with the ground. During ‘loss of signal’ periods, viewers will see a blue screen.
“Since the station orbits the Earth once every 90 minutes, it experiences a sunrise or a sunset about every 45 minutes. When the station is in darkness, external camera video may appear black, but can sometimes provide spectacular views of lightning or city lights below.” 

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The Elysium effect: The coming backlash to the billionaire 'NewSpace' revolution

In the 2013 science fiction film “Elysium” starring Matt Damon, Earth’s wealthiest 0.01% move to the ultimate gated community, a luxurious orbiting space colony, leaving a poverty-stricken humanity to fend for themselves on a ravaged planet.
Interestingly, it is indeed some of today’s 0.1% who are leading the way into space to build communities beyond Earth. However, quite the opposite of the movie, their goals are of the highest order, from democratizing access to space by lowering costs, to creating new products and ideas, to helping save the planet and opening space to future generations.
Yet, given the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, social justice and green movements, even as entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson spend billions to support a human breakout into space, there is a backlash building that holds these projects as icons of extravagance — even as their work may help save the Earth. This is the “Elysium effect.”
Related: ‘Billions and Billions’: Space exploration is not just for billionaires 

As in any good social movement, there is a need for bad guys, and these guys are easy icons of evil to many. And there may be no easier target they could present than a shiny private rocketship or space station — even if it is for a good cause.
Though they have many flaws, including the accumulation of lots of money, these space pioneers are actually trying to do something good for humanity and the planet. And while they may not be the cuddliest of people, just look at their other projects and goals: Musk builds electric cars and solar power systems, Bezos wants to move polluting heavy industry off planet – even as Amazon pushes towards zero emissions, and Branson is a long time champion of social and environmental causes. 
Yet these visionaries, who author Christian Davenport called “The Space Barons” are often portrayed as rich boys with fancy toys.
Things will get worse when the next wave of terribly branded “space tourists” begin to fly. Bezos’ Blue Origin and Branson’s Virgin Galactic will charge over $200,000 for excursions to the edge of space, while newcomer Axiom Space Systems and SpaceX will offer flights to and beyond the International Space Station for a few tens of millions, and even loop the Moon for a just few hundred million more.

Prodded by the tears in our social fabric revealed by the coronavirus pandemic and the social justice movement now underway, the Elysium effect will escalate dramatically after the 2020 presidential election, as a rising “green generation” of socially active post millennials begins a long needed cultural shift towards planetary stewardship. The mood will become increasingly anti-waste, anti-greed and anti-corporate, as social agendas blend with environmental goals. 
It will not matter that throughout history it has often been the wealthy who invested in or supported major research programs, built the railroads, funded the ships that opened seas and the planes that opened the skies — their investments eventually creating the low-cost infrastructure for the rest of society to utilize. In the eyes of today’s cultural rebels, the pioneering efforts of these space revolutionaries will be seen as stereotypical of the same extreme, concentrated male wealth and power that has driven the Earth to the brink of disaster.
Of course the situation is ironic. A social movement ready to upend the social order in the name of saving the planet and its people will attack the very people investing their wealth to try and save the people and the planet.
While those in the space field understand the goal is to open space to everyone by lowering costs over time, the fact that the initial spaceflight customers aren’t “everyone” sends a bad message. And frankly, when it comes to positive messaging, the Space Barons suck. Be it Musk and his President Donald Trump-style tweeting, Branson playing the playboy, or Bezos building his billions on what some see as the backs of an underpaid Amazon workforce, they paint their own targets on themselves.

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos stands with a mockup of the company’s Blue Moon robotic lunar lander during its unveiling on May 9, 2019.  (Image credit: Blue Origin)
This wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t need to open space quickly, or if governments hadn’t blown the job over the last few decades. But we do, and they have. With the climate almost literally melting down, economies cracking under the coronavirus pandemic and people lost in a fog of disunity and pessimism, we need the space revolution to succeed, not instead of or in spite of these other challenges, but because it can help us win them all.
We need to get our best minds out there, to observe and help us understand what is happening down here, but also to develop new technologies and ways to save the planet, create new products such as medicines and to begin utilizing the resources of space to take the pressure off our home world. Governments have shown they are unable to make it efficient, and they certainly can’t take it to scale.
Look, if you’re reading this, you probably already “get it” when it comes to the importance of opening what Dr. G.K. O’Neill called “The High Frontier” (the seminal book on space settlement that converted Bezos and became one of his early products). There isn’t much time for the space community to act, and as members of a society of nerds for whom it is as patently obvious that we must open space as that there will be another “Star Trek” spinoff, we need to get much better at engaging the rest of the world in this new conversation about space.
It really is critical that these space revolutionaries not only be allowed to, but are supported in their quests. The best thing we can do is to understand and speak to the concerns of those who don’t yet understand why this is happening and what the true drivers are behind it all.
Perhaps answering the old question: “Why are we spending money in space when we have so many problems down here?” before it is asked again, might be a good start.
Related: Of course space exploration is worth the money (op-ed) 

First, the money “we” the taxpayers spend on space is relatively trivial. In fact, the U.S. Department of Defense spends the entire NASA budget every two weeks or so. Of course in the case of the billionaires leading the charge the best answer is: “It’s mainly not our money, it’s theirs.” Yes, in some cases they are taking government money to carry payloads and astronauts to space, but it is largely private money being invested, money that is and will save us billions of dollars over traditional government programs. 
So let’s talk about saving money for a moment — taxpayer money. SpaceX is carrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station for about $30 million less than the Russians were charging NASA. The agency’s old school Space Launch System megarocket has already run up over $25 billion in costs and is forecast to hit $30 billion by the time it delivers a few astronauts to the moon. (It can only deliver a few as it is not reusable.) It’s estimated that SLS will cost about $30,000/kilogram to put something there, while SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket can do so for around $10,000/kg and the upcoming Starship may cost a measly $2,000/kg!
At these prices amazing things become possible in space, things we can barely imagine, and things that may well not just help us save the Earth but make life a lot better for everyone. 
Most importantly, why the Space Barons are doing this is not what many people think. While at some point in the future space economy, if they succeed, there will be immense profits made in space, the little known fact is that the billionaires who are part of the space revolution aren’t doing space to make money — they made their money to do space. Go read their biographies. In many ways they are donating their money to build a better future. 
After all, these folks aren’t pouring their money into sports teams or fashion lines (ok, Branson does have an island). Their investment has already created tens of thousands of high tech jobs and a whole ecosystem of startups is taking off around them. It is no accident, and it is no frivolous pastime; it is their life’s dream and their legacy for humanity.
Of course, while working on their dream of opening space to all, they still have to chart their way through the economics. They may be making the downpayment on this train to space, but they’re going to have to pay for the railroad somehow. That’s where some of these early high priced private customer flights come in. Picking up a few hundred million from human payloads that pay for themselves is a good way to prime the pump. Keep in mind, economics and technology also have another characteristic — the more who fly, the lower the cost becomes. For example, while we take flying on an airline to be a normal thing to do, it was once so expensive and unusual that the people who could afford to do so had a name: “jet setters.”
This drive to bring down costs is a central theme for the space revolution. Musk has said he wants to get the price per ticket to fly to Mars down to a few hundred thousand dollars. Bezos’ focus is on funding enough space infrastructure that “two kids in a dorm room” can start a viable space company — much as having the post office, internet and fed-ex allowed kids like him to start Amazon.
Just being able to go out there, and the effects on those who go may also be profound, and well worth the cost of it all. As mentioned in the Democratic Convention, we need more people, including cultural and political leaders, to see the mother world from space and experience Frank White’s transformational “overview effect,” perhaps changing the nature of what it means to be people of Earth. This alone may be worth the price of today’s investment.

Projects like Space For Humanity are designed to help as wide a range of people as possible to experience space travel, and Branson intends to make some seats available on his SpaceShipTwo suborbital flights to those without the means to buy them. While democratizing spaceflight is their long term goal, Bezos and Musk need to do more in this arena in the short term. 
While the recent billionaire who bought a trip around the moon on SpaceX’s Starship is taking along an entourage of artists, scientists and others who would never otherwise get the chance, more needs to be done. In fact, all of these companies should announce programs to carry “regular” people into space on their flights — perhaps using a lottery system with a commitment that a set number of rides will always be available to the winners. Personally, I think this should include a lot of teachers, nominated by their students — and when safe enough, students nominated by their teachers. Talk about inspiration to excellence!
Over time, the economics will solve the problem, as spaceships begin to operate as routinely as airliners — as is the plan with SpaceX’s Starship I mentioned earlier. Already being tested in south Texas, it is possible this one breakthrough rocketship program alone will throw open the airlock to our future in space.
Far from being a way for the elite to escape a dying world, the new space revolution must also show how it will transform life on Earth and support the battle to save the planet. Early priorities should be projects with direct benefit to the people. Examples include pure fiber optics able to multiply the speed of communications, labs growing organs such as lungs in space (much harder to do on Earth) and a thousand other people-oriented possible breakthroughs. 
There are also major projects such as mining resources such as the rare earth elements we will need to move to an all electric economy, reducing carbon emissions on Earth by generating electricity in space, even an emergency backup plan to slow down global warming in case we can’t transition to net zero emissions quickly enough by placing a sunshade between us and the sun, or protecting us from asteroids so we don’t have yet another global catastrophe. Real, beneficial projects like these are already on the boards. What is needed now is better communication about how, through the lowering of costs to be gained by their investments, these billionaires really are financing what will lead to the next human renaissance.
The public also needs to be able to directly profit from what is happening. As with Virgin Galactic’s stock offering, there should be more paths to enable the non-wealthy to invest in space, so more regular people’s IRAs and retirement funds share in the equity of the frontier. This will demand more successes and increased transparency in the new space industry, and is of course a long-term investment, but startup space companies are being born all the time and while most will fail, some may well turn into the Apples and Fords of the next era.

Then there is the intangible inspiration of it all. We know space travel has magic in it. Just recall the pause in the middle of the coronavirus crisis when the SpaceX Crew Dragon launched and successfully delivered NASA astronauts to the space station, and how the world held its breath as they safely plunged back to Earth. For just a moment between the darkness of disease, partisan politics and the riots of unrest the people of Earth saw something amazing happen, something that showed what we can do when we are excellent. 
How many young minds, locked at home and witness to the darkness of hate flooding the airwaves and internet watched in awe and wonder as the fires of their hopes ignited when that rocket ship launched? How many of tomorrow’s heroes will now trace their careers to that moment?
If these rich dreamers are going to fund our future with money they have earned, I’ll take it. We need them to do it. Not for themselves, and not to abandon a wounded world, but for our children and to make sure this world survives.
“Elysium” was just a movie, “Star Trek” is a creation of the imagination. But science fiction can also help us choose between possible realities. Applying the analogy of robber barons to this generation of space pioneers is convenient, but it does not hold. These people are not perfect, but they are trying to do the right thing and I am clear that at their core they believe life is precious, and that even as we work to save the Earth today, they are putting their money down on ways to build a better tomorrow for all of us.
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Buck Rogers finally set to return to both the big and small screen: report

Legendary Entertainment is finalizing the last details to secure the screen rights to one of sci-fi’s oldest and most underused characters, Buck Rogers.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the production company behind the upcoming epic “Dune” and movies like “Pacific Rim” and “Hellboy” is visualizing a big-screen project that would pave the way for a television series and an anime series, telling tales of sci-fi action and adventure in the 25th century.Don Murphy and Susan Montford will produce through their Angry Films company, whose credits include “Transformers” and “Real Steel.”
Related: Biggest space movies to watch in 2020 
Buck Rogers has been around for a very long time. First appearing in a comic strip in the late 1920s, actor Buster Crabbe starred in the first big screen adaptation in a 12-part serial film produced in 1939 by Universal. The character even inspired the creation of Flash Gordon. But for anyone whose age begins with a “4,” it’s the 1979-1981, two-season series starring Gil Gerard and Erin Gray (who was nearly Captain Janeway) and produced by Glen A. Larson that we associate with Buck Rogers.

Every time an Earth Defence Directorate Thunderfighter was catapulted down a launch tube, it made a really cool noise. (Image credit: Universal Television)
The narration that featured at the beginning of each episode is forever etched into the memory of every forty-something sci-fi fan.
“The year is 1987, and NASA launches the last of America’s deep space probes. In a freak mishap, Ranger 3 and its pilot, Captain William ‘Buck’ Rogers, are blown out of their trajectory into an orbit which freezes his life support systems, and returns Buck Rogers to Earth … 500 years later.”
The series gave us so many iconic elements of contemporary science fiction, including Twiki, space vampires, the Draconian Empire and the awesome Thunderfighter, which was actually the original concept by Ralph McQuarrie for the Mk1 Colonial Viper in “Battlestar Galactica,” also produced by Glen A. Larson.

A publicity shot featuring (L-R) Buster Crabbe, Erin Gray and Gil Gerard. (Image credit: Universal Television)
An impressive list of guest stars including Mark Lenard, Frank Gorshin, Roddy McDowall, Anne Lockhart and Jamie Lee Curtis appeared through the 32 episode run. Sadly, the second season tried a more serious approach and was set aboard the starship Searcher instead of being on Earth. It was cancelled after just 11 episodes. 
Graphic novel author Frank Miller tried to bring life to a Buck Rogers movie in 2008, but sadly it never got off the ground. In fact, the Glen A. Larson TV series was the last time Buck was in space, just shy of 40 years ago. 
Who knows what to expect. Will Gil Gerard guest star in this new show, just like Buster Crabbe did in the episode “Planet of the Slave Girls” (Season 1, Episode 3) as Brigadier Gordon? Will it be a gritty reimagining of the Glen A. Larson version, just like Ron Moore’s epic “Battlestar Galactica”? Will the space fighters still make that really cool noise when they fly down the launch tubes? 
This is exciting news, and we will keep you posted on every development. 
“Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Remastered Series” on Blu-ray is available on Amazon.
Follow Scott Snowden on Twitter @LorumIpsum. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

'Lost' tectonic plate called Resurrection hidden under the Pacific

Scientists have reconstructed a long-lost tectonic plate that may have given rise to an arc of volcanoes in the Pacific Ocean 60 million years ago. 
The plate, dubbed Resurrection, has long been controversial among geophysicists, as some believe it never existed. But the new reconstruction puts the edge of the rocky plate along a line of known ancient volcanoes, suggesting that it was once part of the crust (Earth’s top layer) in what is today northern Canada. 
“Volcanoes form at plate boundaries, and the more plates you have, the more volcanoes you have,” Jonny Wu, a geologist at the University of Houston, said in a statement. “Volcanoes also affect climate change. So, when you are trying to model the Earth and understand how climate has changed … you really want to know how many volcanoes there have been on Earth.”
Related: 10 ways Earth revealed its weirdness

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A 3D block diagram across North America showing a mantle tomography image reveals the Slab Unfolding method used to flatten the Farallon tectonic plate. By doing this, Fuston and Wu were able to locate the lost Resurrection plate. (Image credit: University of Houston)
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This image shows plate tectonic reconstruction of western North America 60 million years ago showing subduction of three key tectonic plates, Kula, Farallon and Resurrection. (Image credit: University of Houston)

Wu and his co-author, University of Houston geology doctoral candidate Spencer Fuston, used a computer model of Earth’s crust to “unfold” the movement of tectonic plates since the early Cenozoic, the geological era that began 66 million years ago. Geophysicists already knew that there were two plates in the Pacific at that time, the Kula plate and the Farallon plate. 
Because lots of magma is present east of the former location of these plates in what is today Alaska and Washington, some geophysicists argued there was a missing piece in the puzzle — a theoretical plate they called Resurrection. This magma would have been left behind by volcanic activity at the plate’s edge. 

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All of these plates have long since dived beneath Earth’s crust in a process called subduction. Wu and Fuston used the computer reconstruction to undo this subduction, virtually raising the plates back to the surface and rewinding their motion. When they did, they found that Resurrection did indeed fit into the picture. They reported their findings Oct. 19 in the journal GSA Bulletin.
“When ‘raised’ back to the Earth’s surface and reconstructed, the boundaries of this ancient Resurrection tectonic plate match well with the ancient volcanic belts in Washington State and Alaska, providing a much sought-after link between the ancient Pacific Ocean and the North American geologic record,” Wu said. 
Originally published in Live Science.