Current Affairs 12 April 2019 Digest 3: International Day of Human Space Flight; SpaceX Falcon Heavy launches first commercial flight
US space flight company SpaceX carried out its first commercial launch with its Falcon Heavy rocket by placing a Saudi satellite in orbit. The 13,000-pound Saudi Arabian telecommunication satellite is operated by Arabsat and is expected to provide television, internet and mobile phone service to the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
Story 1: International Day of Human Space Flight 2019 observed globally
12 April: International Day of Human Space Flight
The International Day of Human Space Flight was observed across the world on April 12, 2019. The day celebrates the anniversary of the first ever human space flight undertaken by Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet Union citizen then.
Gagarin carried out Vostok 1 space flight on April 12, 1961, making one orbit around the Earth in over 108 minutes in the Vostok 3KA spacecraft. The spacecraft was launched by Vostok-K launch vehicle. This space flight opened the way for space exploration for the benefit of all humanity.
The day is also observed as ‘Cosmonautics Day’ in Russia and some other countries.
When was the Day proclaimed?
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) through its resolution on April 7, 2011 proclaimed that International Day of Human Space Flight will be observed annually on 12 April.
In its proclamation, the general assembly said, “The day will be celebrated at the international level to reaffirm the important contribution of space science and technology in achieving sustainable development goals and increasing the well-being of States and peoples. It said that the day will help in ensuring the realisation of their aspiration to maintain outer space for peaceful purposes.”
Firsts in the space
• April 12, 1961: Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth.
• June 16, 1963: Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to orbit the Earth.
• March 18, 1965: Alexei Leonov became the first person to conduct a spacewalk
• March 31, 1966: Luna 10 was launched and was the first spacecraft to be placed in Moon orbit.
• July 20, 1969: Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the surface of the Moon.
• March 2, 1972: Pioneer 10 probe was launched. It was the first spacecraft to explore the Asteroid Belt, fly by Jupiter and leave the Solar System.
• July 17, 1975: Docking of Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft in space was the First international human mission to space.
• July 20, 1976: The unmanned space probe ‘Viking 1’ transmitted the first pictures from the surface of Mars.
• 1984: Rakesh Sharma, the former Indian Air Force pilot, became the first person of Indian origin to travel in space. He slew in the space aboard Soyuz t-11, which was launched on April 2, 1984. He flew as part of the Intercosmos programme.
• 1997: Kalpana Chawla, an Indian American astronaut, became the first woman of Indian origin to be in space.
Story 2: SpaceX launches its first commercial flight with Falcon Heavy
US space flight company SpaceX carried out its first commercial launch with its Falcon Heavy rocket by placing a Saudi satellite in orbit on April 11, 2019. The 13,000-pound Saudi Arabian telecommunication satellite is operated by Arabsat and is expected to provide television, internet and mobile phone service to the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
The bright white Falcon Heavy rocket was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The launch was initially scheduled on April 10 but was postponed due to fierce winds in the upper atmosphere.
This was also the first time that all three of the rocket's reusable boosters returned safely to Earth.
Maiden launch of Falcon Heavy rocket
This launch on the Falcon Heavy rocket came a year after it launched SpaceX founder Elon Musk's red Tesla roadster car into orbit as a test on February 6, 2018.
Falcon Heavy carried a red Tesla Roadster car belonging to Tesla founder Musk into space. The car was outfitted with a mannequin dressed in a spacesuit, a high-data storage unit containing Isaac Asimov's science fiction book series, the Foundation Trilogy, and a plaque bearing the names of 6000 SpaceX employees.
About Falcon Heavy
• With a total of 27 Merlin engines, Falcon Heavy rocket is capable of generating more than 5 million pounds (2.3 million kg) of thrust at liftoff, which is equal to about eighteen 747 aircraft or more than a dozen jetliners.
• The rocket can lift a total weight of 64 tons into the orbit, which is just the double of the lift capacity of the operational vehicle 'Delta IV Heavy', that too at a far lower cost of about USD 90 million per launch, in comparison to USD 350 million for Delta IV Heavy.
• The Falcon Heavy, on the whole, equals the strength of three Falcon 9 rockets of SpaceX.
• The 230-foot-tall rocket weighs more than 3.1 million pounds and is made up of three reusable boosters based on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.
• Three boosters make up the first stage of Falcon Heavy. The side boosters are connected to the centre of the core at its base and at the vehicle’s interstage.
• The two side boosters are both flight-tested. One of the boosters launched the Thaicom 8 satellite in May 2016 and the other supported the CRS-9 mission in July 2016.
• It was initially designed with an aim to restore the possibility of sending humans to the Moon or Mars, but now Falcon Heavy is being considered mainly as a potential equipment carrier for deep space destinations.