Monday, June 3, 2024

SpaceX Starship orbital flight test 4 - infographic by Tony Bela

Australian space illustrator Tony Bela has created an infographic of the upcoming 4th integrated flight test of SpaceX's Starship rocket (booster B11, ship S29) on Thursday, June 6 (the 120-minute test window opens at 7:00 a.m. CT) from Starbase, Boca Chica, Texas.

SpaceX Starship B11S29 orbital flight test 4 - infographic by Tony Bela

SpaceX: "The fourth flight test turns our focus from achieving orbit to demonstrating the ability to return and reuse Starship and Super Heavy. The primary objectives will be executing a landing burn and soft splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico with the Super Heavy booster, and achieving a controlled entry of Starship. To accomplish this, several software and hardware upgrades have been made to increase overall reliability and address lessons learned from Flight 3. The SpaceX team will also implement operational changes, including the jettison of the Super Heavy’s hot-stage following boostback to reduce booster mass for the final phase of flight.

Flight 4 will fly a similar trajectory as the previous flight test, with Starship targeted to splashdown in the Indian Ocean. This flight path does not require a deorbit burn for reentry, maximizing public safety while still providing the opportunity to meet our primary objective of a controlled Starship reentry."


SpaceX livestream of the launch:

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Martian city in "Chaser"

Chaser is an old first-person shooter released on 2003. Today there is no shortage of video games set on Mars, but back then Chaser was one of the few, even if only less than half of the game actually takes place on Mars. It follows a story somewhat similar to that of Arnold Schwarzenegger's famous movie Total Recall (1990) and I reviewed the game here 10 years ago.
Recently I made a second playthrough of the game. Part of Chaser's story takes place in a city on Mars under a large dome and here are some screenshots of the city:
Mars city in 'Chaser' video game

Mars city in 'Chaser' video game

Mars city in 'Chaser' video game

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Destruction of Deimos in "The Expanse" TV series

Deimos is the smaller and outer of the two natural satellites of Mars, the other being Phobos. Deimos, likely an asteroid captured by Mars' gravity, is highly non-spherical with a mean diameter of 12.5 km (about 57% the size of Phobos) and it orbits 23,460 km from Mars (Deimos' orbit is slowly getting larger and it is expected to eventually escape Mars' gravity). Escape velocity from the surface of Deimos is only 5.6 m/s so a human can basically jump off of it.

In the universe of The Expanse TV series (a political sci-fi drama set in mid-24th century when humans have colonized the entire Solar system) Deimos hosts military facilities and a deep radar station for Martian Congressional Republic - one of the three competing powers in The Expanse, along with the United Nations (based on Earth) and the Belt.
Concept art of Deimos in The Expanse by Canadian designer Lee Fitzgerald:
Concept art of Deimos by Lee Fitzgerald for 'The Expanse' TV series

In early season 2 of The Expanse Deimos is destroyed with nuclear missiles in a "moon for a moon" retaliatory strike by the United Nations (Earth) after the Martian assault cruiser destroyed Earth's research base on Saturn's moon Phoebe along with the consequent destruction of the moon itself. The destruction of Deimos killed 17 Martians and the moon disintegrated forming the "Deimos Ring" around Mars.
Concept art of Martian Deep Radar Station on Deimos before the missile strike by Lee Fitzgerald:
Concept art of Deimos surface before the missile strike by Lee Fitzgerald for 'The Expanse' TV series
News coverage of the destruction of Deimos:
Destruction of Deimos in 'The Expanse' TV series

Sunday, April 28, 2024

NASA has revealed new designs of lunar cargo landers from SpaceX & Blue Origin

As we know NASA has contracted SpaceX and Blue Origin to provide landing systems to take astronauts to the Moon’s surface from lunar orbit, beginning with SpaceX's Lunar Starship for Artemis III mission.

On April 19, 2024, NASA announced it has asked SpaceX and Blue Origin to develop cargo versions of their human lunar landers as an option under their existing contracts. These cargo variants are expected to land approximately 12 to 15 metric tons (26,000 to 33,000 pounds) of payload on the lunar surface and be in service no earlier than the Artemis VII mission. In the announcement NASA shared the latest official renders of lunar cargo landers from SpaceX and Blue Origin:
SpaceX's Lunar cargo Starship
SpaceX's Lunar cargo Starship
Blue Origin's Lunar cargo Lander
Blue Origin's Lunar cargo Lander

Saturday, April 13, 2024

SpaceX Starship update 2024

On April 4th at Starbase, Texas SpaceX CEO and lead designer Elon Musk provided an unannounced update of SpaceX's Starship architecture. Here are slides and animations from his presentation.
Full presentation:

Slides from the presentation

Starship v1, v2 and v3 specifications:
SpaceX Starship update 2024 - Starship v1, v2 & v3 specifications
Thrust comparison of Raptor v1, v2 and v3:
SpaceX Starship update 2024 - Raptor engine v1, v2 & v3 specifications
First Mechazilla launch tower pairs at Starbase, Texas and Cape Canaveral, Florida:
SpaceX Starship update 2024 - Mechazilla Launch tower pair

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

SpaceX Starship orbital flight test 3 - infographic by Tony Bela

Australian space illustrator Tony Bela has created an infographic of the upcoming 3rd integrated flight test of SpaceX's Starship rocket (booster B10, ship S28) on Thursday, March 14 (the 110-minute test window opens at 7:00 a.m. CT) from Starbase, Boca Chica, Texas.

SpaceX Starship orbital flight test 3 - infographic by Tony Bela

SpaceX: "The third flight test aims to build on what we’ve learned from previous flights while attempting a number of ambitious objectives, including the successful ascent burn of both stages, opening and closing Starship’s payload door, a propellant transfer demonstration during the upper stage’s coast phase, the first ever re-light of a Raptor engine while in space, and a controlled reentry of Starship. It will also fly a new trajectory, with Starship targeted to splashdown in the Indian Ocean."

SpaceX livestream of the launch:


Saturday, February 24, 2024

Harmonia City - Part 5 of Martian sketches by Andrey Maximov

Environment concept artist Andrey Maximov from Armenia has created an impressive set of artworks called Martian sketches depicting a "routine" journey to Mars in 2089. So far he has published 30 pages of those sketches. As the artist describes them: "this series is kind of like the road sketches of a member of an expedition to Mars. It's a routine flight in the not-too-distant future. The planet is more or less inhabited. We have an orbital station around Mars. There are already several settlements on the surface, mining is going on."
  • 1st part (10 sketches) of Andrey's Martian sketches depicted the expedition leaving Earth;
  • 2nd part (5 sketches) depicted expedition's arrival to "International Mars Orbital Station";
  • 3rd part (6 sketches) depicted spaceport "Anteros" on Mars.
  • 4th part (4 sketches) depicted expedition's road to the "Harmonia City".

Here is 5th part (5 sketches) depicting the multi-leveled "Harmonia City" on Mars:

Page 26 of Martian sketches by Andrey Maximov - Harmonia City. Top view

Page 27 of Martian sketches by Andrey Maximov - Harmonia City. Lower level

Sunday, February 18, 2024

SpaceX Starship next to a solar farm on Mars

Two renders of SpaceX's Starship standing next to a solar farm on Mars by German 3D artist and YouTuber 3D_Daniel.

SpaceX Starship next to solar farm on Mars by 3D_Daniel

SpaceX Starship next to solar farm on Mars by 3D_Daniel

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Road to the City - Part 4 of Martian sketches by Andrey Maximov

Environment concept artist Andrey Maximov from Armenia has created an impressive set of artworks called Martian sketches depicting a "routine" journey to Mars in 2089. So far he has published 30 pages of those sketches. As the artist describes them: "this series is kind of like the road sketches of a member of an expedition to Mars. It's a routine flight in the not-too-distant future. The planet is more or less inhabited. We have an orbital station around Mars. There are already several settlements on the surface, mining is going on."
  • 1st part (10 sketches) of Andrey's Martian sketches depicted the expedition leaving Earth;
  • 2nd part (5 sketches) depicted expedition's arrival to "International Mars Orbital Station";
  • 3rd part (6 sketches) depicted spaceport "Anteros" on Mars.

Here is 4th part (4 sketches) depicting expedition's road to the "Harmonia City" on Mars:

Page 22 of Martian sketches by Andrey Maximov - The Road to the City. Morning

Page 23 of Martian sketches by Andrey Maximov - The Road to the City. Gorge

Sunday, January 14, 2024

How to steal an asteroid .. "For All Mankind" season 4

It's possible our judgement is biased towards Mars-related content, but season 4 of For All Mankind alternate history sci-fi TV series is show's most exciting season yet. In season 4, depicting the alternate 2003, the international Happy Valley Base, founded in 1995 during season 3, has been significantly expanded and there are around 200 people living in it. We made a separate article with a large collection of high resolution shots depicting the exterior and interior of Happy Valley Base:

Mars base for 200 people in For All Mankind season 4

The main theme in season 4 is increasingly diverging visions for the purpose of human presence on Mars. For some it's only another contract job, but for others Mars is a new place to call "home". Add to the mix a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get hold on a large lithium-rich asteroid and increasingly strained relationships between the "upper class" (astronauts / cosmonauts, scientists and top executives) and contract workers literally living underground, and you have a recipe for a "Martian rebellion".

How to steal an asteroid - 'For All Mankind' season 4

For All Mankind is exploring the idea of never ending space race if Soviets would have beaten US in the race for the Moon and the intention of the show is each season to jump about a decade further into the increasingly diverging reality of the show: in season 1, depicting alternate 1969 to 1974, both Soviets and US start building their separate bases near the lunar South pole; in season 2 (1983) both bases have been expanded and the superpowers compete for resources on the Lunar surface; in season 3 (1992 to 1995), Soviets and US are joined by a private company Helios and North Korea for a four way race to be first on Mars; in season 4 (2003) there is a sprawling international human base on Mars and an unexpected side enters the race to get hold on a large, lithium-rich asteroid for mining. You can watch the show on Apple TV+

Ahead there is a VISUAL RECAP OF SEASON 4, consisting of high resolution shots, downscaled from 4K UHD screens for better image quality. Be aware of heavy spoilers, revealing major story plots:

During season 4 interplanetary ships don't land directly on Mars; instead they dock to Phoenix, orbiting Mars, and the rest of the trip is made via small shuttles heading down to the surface:
Mars orbital station Phoenix in 'For All Mankind' season 4
Ed and Svetlana flying the asteroid capture ship Ranger:
Ed and Svetlana flying asteroid capture ship Ranger in 'For All Mankind' season 4

Mars orbital station Phoenix in 'For All Mankind' season 4
Season 4 starts with an unsuccessful asteroid capture mission:
Asteroid capture ship Ranger leaving Mars orbital station Phoenix in 'For All Mankind' season 4

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Mars base for 200 people in "For All Mankind" season 4

Season 4 of For All Mankind alternate history sci-fi TV series, depicting alternate 2003, "is really about the building of a new civilization on Mars" by the words of the co-creator of the series Ben Nedivi. The international Happy Valley Base, founded in 1995 during season 3 and located in Melas Chasma in the Valles Marineris canyon system on Mars, has been significantly expanded and there are around 200 people living in the base during season 4. The base is financed and operated by Mars-7 Alliance (consisting of US, USSR, ESA, North Korea, India, Japan, and the Coalition of Communist Countries for Spaceflight (CCCS)) and maintained by a private company Helios Aerospace.

Ground level of the base features several separate facilities for power generation, communications, fuel refinement, regolith processing, algae production, storage etc. and a central interconnected cluster of modules consisting of the Entrance hall for new arrivals with airlocks for the rovers, control rooms, laboratories, hydroponic farms, meeting rooms, warehouses / garages, a cafeteria, as well as the quarters for higher level personnel and astronauts / cosmonauts. The base has 5 underground sublevels, of which level 4 & 5 are still under construction in 2003 and not accessible. The sublevels house maintenance and storage rooms and additional quarters for workers. There is also a separate North Korean sector accessible only to North Koreans. The base also operates six landing pads for their orbital Hopper shuttles.

The design of the Happy Valley Base in For All Mankind is the most plausible design of a mid-sized human base on Mars that we have ever seen in a TV series or film.

Happy Valley Mars base in 'For All Mankind' season 4

For All Mankind is exploring the idea of never ending space race if Soviets would have beaten US in the race for the Moon and the intention of the show is each season to jump about a decade further into the increasingly diverging reality of the show: in season 1, depicting alternate 1969 to 1974, both Soviets and US start building their separate bases near the lunar South pole; in season 2 (1983) both bases have been expanded and the superpowers compete for resources on the Lunar surface; in season 3 (1992 to 1995), Soviets and US are joined by a private company Helios and North Korea for a four way race to be first on Mars; in season 4 (2003) there is a sprawling international human base on Mars and an unexpected side enters the race to get hold on a large, lithium-rich asteroid for mining.

Here we collected high resolution shots from season 4 (downscaled from 4K UHD screens for better image quality) depicting the exterior and interior of Happy Valley Base on Mars. No images revealing major story plots are included. We will make a separate article with season 4 story spoilers after the last episode will be released on January 12. [UPDATED:]

How to steal an asteroid .. "For All Mankind" season 4

Happy Valley Mars base in 'For All Mankind' season 4

Happy Valley Mars base (warehouses) in 'For All Mankind' season 4

Happy Valley Mars base in 'For All Mankind' season 4

Happy Valley Mars base in 'For All Mankind' season 4