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Watch NASA Test Powerful Motor For Its Moon Megarocket

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NASA‘s moon megarocket is going to get a heckuva lot… mega-er.

Though the U.S. space agency has only completed the crewless Artemis I mission around the moon and back so far, engineers are busy working on enhancements for the Space Launch System rocket, or SLS, for expeditions beyond Artemis IX.

The rocket is expected to one day put millions of miles on the odometer for the first astronaut flight to Mars. Robotic journeys to Saturn and Jupiter also could be in its future.

To see where NASA and its contractors are in the process, watch a recent hot-fire test of a small-scale solid rocket motor at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The motor produced over 82,000 pounds of scorching thrust.

The test was part of an ongoing series to study different possible materials for the nozzle and motor insulation, according to NASA.

Engineers hope the upgraded booster design will support heavier loads of cargo and people headed to the moon and deep space, said Jim Free, NASA’s associate administrator for exploration systems, on X, formerly known as Twitter.

NASA designed the Space Launch System as the foundation for a generation of human exploration missions to deep space.

The megarocket became the most powerful space-worthy rocket when it blasted to the moon in November 2022. But Elon Musk’s SpaceX could outperform it if the rocket company succeeds at launching Starship into space. The commercial rocket under development has 33 Raptor engines capable of 16.7 million pounds of thrust — double that of SLS.

NASA has planned for SLS to evolve into increasingly powerful configurations as its Artemis missions become more complex.

But the space agency has often faced criticism for the cost to develop and operate SLS. Inspector General Paul Martin, NASA’s federal watchdog, said the ballooning expense imperils the entire deep spaceflight program. He estimated the first four Artemis missions would cost about $4.1 billion each, with roughly half of the cost just for the new rocket system. By 2025, NASA will have spent about $93 billion on the Artemis program.

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The first rocket assembly, the same which was used for Artemis I, is called “Block 1.” It uses the central (orange) core booster with four main engines and can send over 59,500 pounds around the moon. A pair of solid rocket boosters and liquid fuel-fed engines provide much of the thrust.

After leaving Earth’s atmosphere, a final rocket booster — the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage — sent the Orion capsule onward to the moon. This is the configuration NASA plans to use for the first three Artemis missions, including a moon landing.

Later missions carrying astronauts will see the rocket evolve, including the powerful Exploration Upper Stage. Known as “Block 1B,” this rocket design can transport crew and large amounts of cargo — up to 83,700 pounds.

The final iteration of SLS, aka “Block 2,” is estimated to provide 9.5 million pounds of thrust. NASA expects this to be the workhorse vehicle for sending cargo to the moon, Mars, and other deep-space destinations, an eight percent increase over Artemis I’s 8.8 million pounds of thrust. This rocket should be able to lift a whopping 101,400 pounds.

To carry the supplies needed to mine the moon for water ice or build human habitats, NASA will need the extra oomph.





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India’s Private Rocket ‘Agnibaan’ Set For Launch By Agnikul Cosmos On May 28

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Another private Indian rocket is launching on May 28. Agnikul Cosmos will attempt to launch the ‘Agnibaan’ for the second time tomorrow at an expected time of between 5:30 to 7:30 am IST, India Today reported.

The Chennai-based space startup has also issued a Notice to Airmen (Notam) information to aware the authorities about the potential launch to avoid hazards.

According to Agnikul, the Notam will be active till June 5 for the launch which will take place from the company’s spaceport ALP-01 at Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota. This spaceport, which is India’s first private one, was inaugurated by ISRO Chairman S Somanath on November 25, 2023.

This would mark the second mission with a commercial launch vehicle. India’s first private rocket Vikram-S flew on November 18, 2022 during Skyroot Aerospace’s Prarambh mission.

ALSO SEE: India Gets Its First Private Launch Pad, And It Will Give Space Sector A Major Boost; Here’s How

What is Agnikul’s mission about?

Agnikul’s mission named SubOrbital Technological Demonstrator or SOrTeD is meant to test the single-stage Agnibaan rocket.

According to Agnikul’s website, the rocket to be used for SOrTeD will be powered by the Agnilet semi-cryogenic engine that uses kerosene and liquid oxygen. This single piece engine is entirely 3D printed and would be the first such power source used in a private rocket launch.

“Unlike traditional sounding rockets that launch from guide rails, Agnibaan SOrTeD will lift off vertically and follow a predetermined trajectory while performing a precisely orchestrated set of manoeuvres during flight,” Agnikul said in its mission profile.

ALSO SEE: Indian Tech Startup To Create World’s First 3D-Printed Rocket Engine; All You Need To Know

Agnikul is developing Agnibaan as a two-stage rocket which can be customised according to the customer’s needs. This two-stage rocket which measures 18 meters tall has a maximum payload capacity of 100 kg to a 700 km orbit and can be customised to add a ‘baby’ stage.

The mission was initially planned for launch on April 7 but was called off about two minutes before the lift off due to a communication issue between onboard hardware.

(Image: Agnikul Cosmos)





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Five Asteroids In 3 Days! A Barrage Of Space Rocks Are Heading Toward Earth This Week

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Five asteroids of varying sizes are set for a close encounter with Earth in the next two days. NASA’s Center For Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) has revealed that the smallest of them measures between roughly 4.5 to 10 meters in diameter whereas the biggest of them is about 32 to 73 meters.

The data has revealed that the smallest – 2008 LD – will be approximately 29.5 lakh km from Earth at the time of the fly by. It is travelling at a speed more than 16,000 km per hour.

Orbit of asteroid 2024 JV17. Image: NASA

The biggest of the five – the 2024 JV17 – will be approximately 66 lakh km away at the time of the closest approach while travelling at over 30,000 km per hour. Both these space rocks will fly past Earth on May 28.

ALSO SEE: Like Dinosaurs, Humans Will Become Extinct If A Single Asteroid Collides; ‘Asteroid Rush’ Trailer Proves Just That

The other asteroids – the 2021 LV (between 7-15 meters wide) and 2024 JG (between 22-50 meters) will get close to our planet on May 29.

Orbit of asteroid JO16. Image: NASA

There will be a close encounter today as well when the asteroid 2024 JO16 flies past Earth. According to the CNEOS data, it will be about 30 lakh km from our planet and will be travelling at more than 30,000 km per hour.

As the data suggests, there is no need to worry since the asteroids will fly from a safe distance from our planet. Besides, their size except for a few relatively big ones is also not a cause for concern.

ALSO SEE: Lack Of Earth’s Resources Can Be Fulfilled By Asteroids – And A US Firm Wants To Mine Them

(Image: Unsplash)



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Paytm warns of job cuts as losses swell after RBI clampdown

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Indian digital payments platform Paytm warned of job cuts on Wednesday after reporting that its net loss widened in the fourth quarter as it grapples with a recent regulatory clampdown.

One97 Communications, Paytm’s parent, said it expects to cut employee expenses and pare down its annual staff costs by $48 million to $60 million.

The company, once the most valuable Indian startup, reported a net loss of $66.1 million in the fourth quarter ended March 2024, compared to a loss of $20.11 million a year earlier. Revenue declined about 3% to $272.4 million from $280.4 million in the same period.

India’s central bank in February banned the company’s banking partner and sister company, Paytm Payments Bank, from conducting banking activity from March. That brought a sudden halt to Paytm’s slew of banking services, and the company was forced to ink new partnerships with other banks to keep many of those services running.

Paytm said it also took an impairment charge of $27.2 million related to its investment in Paytm Payments Bank in the quarter. In the quarter ending June this year, Paytm projected its revenue to be in the range of $180 million to $192 million.

In the full year ended March, Paytm’s revenue increased 25% to $1.19 billion from a year earlier, though higher payment processing charges, marketing costs, employee benefits charges and software cloud expenses weighed on its bottom line. As a result, net loss widened to $170 million from a loss of $213 million a year earlier.

Paytm’s results include “enough data points to suggest that the business is past the bottom in terms of payment volumes and user/merchant traction,” Bernstein analysts said in a note to clients. “Though from a financial metrics perspective, 1QFY25 is likely to be the bottom, as it would reflect the full impact of the lower steady state (vs. 2 months impact in 4QFY24).”

The analysts, however, cautioned that Paytm’s payment GMV has dropped by about 20% and the company’s expectations for its payment processing margin has also declined, which together “translates to a near 50% blow to the payment margins.” They estimated, however, that Paytm’s merchant lending volumes picked up in March and April — a clear sign of revival.

Paytm had about $1.03 billion in the bank as of March 31. The company’s shares were down about 1% on Wednesday afternoon to ₹349.20, giving it a market cap of $2.64 billion. Paytm went public in 2021 at a valuation of $20 billion.

“I am happy to share that we have successfully transitioned our core payment business from PPBL to other partner banks. This move de-risks our business model and also opens up new opportunities for long-term monetization, given our platform’s strength around customer and merchant engagement,” said Paytm’s founder and CEO, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, in the company’s annual shareholder letter.

“It has been possible in such a short period of time with extensive support from the Regulator, NPCI, Bank partners and our committed team mates. The unwavering commitment of our government and regulator to support innovation and financial inclusion, keeps us true to our mission and committed to our long-term sustainable growth opportunity,” he added.



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