NASA launched powerful moon booster rocket ever built, a key part of its Space Launch System to return humans to the Moon - With a spark, a burst of flames and a thundering roar this Wednesday, NASA completed a crucial test of a propellant rocket that is expected to propel the return to the Moon.
The 54 —meter thrusters being tested-which NASA calls " the largest and most powerful thrusters ever built for flight— - are part of the agency's Space Launch System (SLS), which it intends to use to fly astronauts to the lunar surface. It is part of a larger program called Artemis: an effort of approximately $ 30 billion to return the boots to the moon for the first time since the 1970s.
Wednesday's test involved a prototype propellant built by Northrop Grumman, one of the private companies NASA has hired to build the 112-meter-high SLS.
The prototype came to life at 1500 hours (2100 hours at night in Spain), at the company's test facility in the hills of Promontory, Utah. He threw an estimated 3.6 million pounds of thrust, destroying the desert with fire, smoke and sand for 126 seconds - the exact amount of time he would have to work during a real flight.
"The results paint very well for now, but it will take some time to review the information," said Charlie Precourt, vice president of propulsion systems at Northrop Grumman, during a post-Test call with reporters.
NASA's Artemis program wants the SLS to launch the first woman and the next man to the moon in 2024. The agency eventually plans to build a Space Station orbiting the Moon, called The Gateway, and a permanent moon base to and from which it can regularly transport astronauts.
If carried out as designed, the SLS will be composed of a small upper stage rocket, a massive central stage and two flight support thrusters coupled to one side. Each propellant is made of 5 segments filled with solid fuel. Precourt, a NASA exastronaut, claims that the material has a consistency similar to that of a pencil eraser.
NASA launched powerful moon booster rocket
Lifting the entire 2.2 million pound system off the ground requires enormous energy. Together, the twin thrusters are designed to provide about 75% of the force needed to propel the rocket during the first 2 minutes of flight.
After that, the thrusters used will fall, allowing the central stage to propel the upper stage with an Orion spacecraft at the top. From there, Orion and his crew of astronauts can plot a course to the Moon.
But that's years away: first NASA must test extensively the tempering of its new launch system, including thrusters. The recent ground test was designed to expose materials or processes that need to be adjusted.
"This test, called Flight Support Booster-1, or FSB-1, will evaluate new propulsion materials and verify that all ballistic engine requirements are met," Northrop Grumman ballistic engineer Nikolas Ciaston explained during NASA's live broadcast.
Precourt explained that the main goal was to test the changes in the propellant nozzle, as well as the solid fuel itself.
Of the 30 fuel-filled segments required for the first 3 SLS flights planned, Precourt has detailed that Northrop Grumman has manufactured 26 and is about to complete the other 4.
However, the SLS program as a whole is already well above budget (as is NASA's other manned space flight initiative, The Commercial Crew Program). The cost of developing the rocket has increased by 30% since 2017, when it was estimated at $ 7 billion, according to a report from the U.S. government's Accounting Office.
NASA hopes to complete a crucial series of ground tests, called "Green Run," this fall.
Kathy Lueders, the newly appointed manager of NASA's manned space flight program, has written on her blog that she" trusts " that the first full, unmanned test flight of the SLS could take place in November 2021. He added, however, that "it is too early to predict the full impact of COVID-19" on the program's timeline.
End of NASA launched powerful moon booster rocket
More ads and new forms of monetization: how TikTok will change with its sale to Microsoft, Oracle or Walmart, experts say
After weeks of deliberations, it seems that TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, is about to announce which company will be the one to buy its business in the United States.
Microsoft and Walmart have announced their interest in acquiring the popular short video app, and the Financial Times published that Oracle has emerged as another of the big favorites of the negotiations.
TikTok would have decided who the buyer would be and could be ready to make the announcement this week, CNBC reported Monday. But new regulations on how Chinese technology can be exported have delayed discussions, according to information published by The Wall Street Journal.
Talks on the acquisition began when Donald Trump issued an executive order addressed to TikTok in early August that would ban any transaction with ByteDance by anyone under U.S. jurisdiction.
It is clear why these companies would be interested in buying. Microsoft, for example, could use TikTok to impact younger consumers more strongly. It also has the cloud infrastructure needed to support a popular video platform like TikTok. For Walmart, TikTok represents an opportunity to grow its advertising and e-commerce business, while Oracle might be interested in using the platform to boost its marketing business and cloud tools.
But what remains uncertain is the impact that this acquisition could have on TikTok itself, an application that has grown to become one of the most popular social platforms among Generation Z with more than 2.300 million downloads. In addition, China's new export rules could threaten TikTok's popularity if the app's "for you" algorithm is excluded from the sale.
There is No way to know how TikTok can change, but some experts have speculated that companies like Microsoft, Walmart, and Oracle could add tools to facilitate monetization to influencers and advertisers while maintaining and improving the user experience in the app.
Microsoft, Walmart and Oracle have declined to comment on their possible plans for TikTok should the acquisition occur. Walmart has referred Business Insider to its previous statement on the matter.
Experts say it is likely that any new owner will try to preserve the appeal of the app by leaving it largely unchanged. At least for now.
"The most immediate strategy would be not to stir the waters too much," Mukul Krishna, Head of operations for digital companies and digital media at Frost & Sullivan, tells Business Insider. "If we talk about the immediate future, nothing will change, at least for the user, because the companies themselves would be working very, very hard to preserve what they have acquired."
That said, the possibility of seeing some changes would not be excluded if TikTok's operations in the United States have a new owner. But it would be some time before significant updates appeared.
Some changes to the application could involve behind-the-scenes modifications to make the application comply with the terms of the agreement and the Trump executive order from a cybersecurity perspective. Others may create more monetization opportunities depending on the interests of the new owner.
It is also worth noting that both Microsoft and Oracle have a track record of work close to the U.S. government and law enforcement. President Trump acknowledged Microsoft's track record in collaborating with the government at a press conference in August. He noted that Microsoft has a "high-level" security clearance, which allows it to work with federal agencies such as the Department of Defense.
Walmart said in a press release that partnering with Microsoft to acquire TikTok could help the company "reach and serve omnichannel customers" and grow its " third-party market and advertising business."
Still, it's unclear exactly what that would mean for the TikTok user experience. Brian Yarbrough, senior securities research analyst at Edward Jones, speculates that it could mean Walmart integrating more advertising into the app given its focus on e-commerce.
"I wouldn't expect many changes, but I would probably wait over time to see more ads," says Yarbrough.
A purchase by Oracle could give the enterprise tech giant an advantage in the digital marketing space, considering it would have access to data about new influencers in TikTok that could be useful for advertisers, Krishna says. As for the application itself, Oracle could potentially release more tools to provide influencers with new ways to monetize their content.