Lost Progress, SpaceX RTF, and Downloadable Netflix | Vol. 4 / No. 6

Progress M-22M | Photo: NASA

This week we’ve got stories on the latest failed Russian launch, the good news from SpaceX, and me being really happy about Netflix downloads. Add to that our weekly In Case You Missed It segment and our Best of the Rest linkspam, and you’ve got the Sunday roundup for December 4, 2016!

Lost Progress

Six minutes and twenty-two seconds into Thursday’s launch of a Progress resupply ship to the ISS, Roscosmos lost contact. The ship, along with its 5,383lbs of cargo — water, fuel, oxygen, and dry cargo like food and experiments — burned up inn the atmosphere over Siberia. I know we say space is hard, but it does feel like a bit of a pattern these days. The newbies we can understand — when a SpaceX rocket explodes, it’s usually because it’s a situation they haven’t encountered before. And since they’ve only been sending things to the ISS for less than four years, there’s a lot they haven’t encountered before. But Russia’s been at this a long time, so why have they had fifteen rocket failures in six years? Well, according to Jason Davis over at the Planetary Society, it might have something to do with Russia’s economy. He cites a tiny space budget ($20 billion over the next ten years, vs the US’s $19.3 billion NASA budget (projected) for just 2016), aging demographics and a shrinking population, lacking investments in education, and a concomitant shortage of skilled professionals. When you don’t have the money or manpower to do adequate quality control, well, things suffer. The ISS should be fine — they lost three supply runs in under 12 months back in 2014-5, so they know a thing or two about losing cargo runs — but I don’t honestly know if Russia’s space industry is going to be. Check out Jason Davis’s post over at planetary.org for more.


SES-9 launch | Photo: SpaceX Photos, CC0 (public domain)
SES-9 launch | Photo: SpaceX Photos, CC0 (public domain)

SpaceX RTF NET Dec. 16

Meanwhile things are looking brighter for the US space industry, even under a Trump presidency (so long as the economy holds). SpaceX has officially scheduled a return to flight (RTF) of No Earlier Than (NET) December 16. The launch, if it goes ahead, will carry the first ten of the Iridium satellite constellation’s “Iridium-NEXT” satellites. The network calls for 66 operational satellites, plus an addition six “spares” in orbit and a further nine on the ground. This should be the first of ten SpaceX launches, with plans to have the network fully deployed by late 2017 or early 2018. And just because it’s awesome, here’s a gif of part of the manufacturing process for the Falcon’s oxygen tank:

Hot spin forming a dome that will make up part of Falcon's liquid oxygen tank

A video posted by SpaceX (@spacex) on

Oh, and in case you missed it, you can now spec out a rocket at ULA’s website — complete with price tag — in case you’ve been thinking about launching something, anything really, into orbit.



Netflix Downloads

Yes, that’s right ladies and germs, you can now download things from Netflix and watch them offline when you’re in a train, plane, or automobile that doesn’t have the kind of bandwidth you need to feed your binge-watching habits. The company announced Wednesday that — for a small but growing list of shows and movies — you’ll now be able to click “download now to watch offline later.” For now it’s everything Netflix “makes” — Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, A-Jin, Knights of Sidonia — as well as a growing selection of… whatever they’ve got. Cheers, The Flash, Sword Art Online… something calling itself Aliens on the Moon: The Truth Exposed. You know, whatever. Anyway, it’s going to make taking plane flights in low-quality planes better, that’s for sure. And the best part? It doesn’t cost anything extra. Well played, Netflix, well played indeed.



Just on the off chance you haven’t been following our ever move here at This Week In Tomorrow, here’s what we got up to.

If you missed any of those (except for Thursday) go back and take a look!

Best of the Rest

Here’s the things we didn’t get to this week!


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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as an editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.