SpaceX sexual harassment claims, Starship at LC-49, & more top stories

In a full week of news, NASA is looking at LC-49 for Starship launches, Parker Solar Probe touched the Sun, and more claims of sexual harassment surfaced in the industry. Catch up on last week’s news this Monday below.

Former SpaceX employee speaks out about sexual harassment

In a letter posted by Lioness, a former SpaceX employee spoke out about her experiences with sexual harassment at the company. Unfortunately, the widespread disgusting behavior is not just at SpaceX but at many aerospace and tech companies is sadly not new and, for some reason, continues to go unchanged. In the letter, Ashley Kosak, who worked on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon program, detailed her encounters at Elon Musk’s company and how it was brushed aside by HR. Below is an excerpt from her letter that describes her experience.

In the past year alone, I have had to bring multiple different incidents of sexism to HR. Some of the men who work at SpaceX hug women without consent, stare at women while they work, and interpret every company-related social event as an opportunity to date (or hit on) women in the office. I saw one woman pressured into dancing with a male colleague in front of other male employees. When we had to work from home during the pandemic, men from the company found my Instagram account, messaging me to ask me out. One called my phone at 4:00 am. Another coworker came to my house and insisted on touching me even when I repeatedly requested we stay professional.

The Verge spoke with other SpaceX employees that have experienced similar behavior at the company. Kosak no longer works for SpaceX and is now at Apple.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe “touches” the Sun

Launched in 2018 on top of ULA’s Delta IV Heavy, the Parker Solar Probe has the mission to study the Sun closer than any previous probe has before. It uses gravity assists from flying past Venus to lower its orbit closer to our star. In April, Parker Solar Probe made one of its closest approaches to the Sun yet, just 10.4 solar diameters away. The downloaded data shows that it passed through the Sun’s corona, an area of plasma surrounding the Sun, for the first time.

Reaching the corona was one of the primary goals of the PSP, and researchers have already learned a great deal from just this first pass. Many more are expected over the coming years. The probe already did another pass of the Sun in August; however, that data is still being downloaded.

New Starship pads coming to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

One of the most exciting news stories from last week was NASA’s blog post on developing a new launch complex for SpaceX’s Starship Super Heavy vehicle. While SpaceX is working on a second pad inside LC-39A for Starship, LC-49, as NASA would call it, would allow for two more pads.

LC-49 has been on NASA’s master plan for years, but there hasn’t been a need to develop it so far. However, with SpaceX returning Starship development to Florida, SpaceX has asked NASA to perform an Environmental Assessment for launching Starship from LC-49. The new launch complex would be north of LC-39B, just within Kennedy Space Center’s existing security zone.

SpaceX launches two Falcon 9s in 24-hours

Over the weekend, SpaceX launched two Falcon 9 rockets from both coasts. First, SpaceX launched its most recent batch of Starlink satellites from SLC-4E in California. This launch took a less than usual trajectory, hugging the coastline of California and Mexico to place it in a non-polar orbit.

Next, SpaceX launched a commercial mission from SLC-40 in Florida. The payload was Türksat 5B, a telecommunications satellite serving parts of Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Both launches went smooth and placed their payloads into the correct orbits. This was a first for the company to launch two missions less than 24 hours apart.

Boeing OFT-2 now no earlier than May 2022

Boeing last week confirmed that a new service module would be needed for Starliner’s Orbital Flight Test-2 mission. In July, Boeing missed a launch attempt due to issues with valves in the reaction control thruster system. The company says it will have to wait until May of next year for the next launch window.

The new service module was intended for Starliner’s Crewed Flight Test, which is not expected to occur until late 2022 or early 2023. CFT will receive the service module from the first operational Starliner flight.

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