NASA determines mystery space object 2020 SO is a ’60s rocket booster


This photo from 1964 shows a Centaur upper-stage rocket. Space object 2020 SO is one of these.


Welcome back, Surveyor 2 Centaur rocket booster. We just got a new chapter in a bittersweet space saga that involves a fiery launch, a doomed moon mission and decades of space wanderings. 

A rocket booster NASA used to launch the Surveyor 2 lunar lander in 1966 has returned to us for a temporary spin as a mini-moon in orbit around Earth. When scientists spotted it in September, they named it 2020 SO. On Wednesday, NASA announced the strange object has been positively identified as the ’60s booster.

While the booster did its job admirably back in 1966, the lander didn’t survive a crash landing on the moon’s surface.   

The booster’s specific orbit around the sun tipped astronomers

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Astronomer Captures Possible Image of NASA’s Long-Lost Centaur Rocket Booster

A possible image of NASA’s lost Centaur upper stage rocket booster, launched in 1966.

A possible image of NASA’s lost Centaur upper stage rocket booster, launched in 1966.
Image: Gianluca Masi, an astronomer with the Virtual Telescope Project 2.0

A tiny mystery object is zipping past the Earth today, providing astronomers with an excellent opportunity to finally confirm it as being the upper stage of a Centaur rocket that was launched by NASA in 1966.

Is it or isn’t it? This is the question that astronomers have been asking since September, when scientists with the Pan-STARRS1 survey in Maui, Hawai’i, first spotted the object, named 2020 SO. Astronomers have good reason to believe it’s returning space junk, specifically a Surveyor 2 Centaur rocket booster dating back to the 1960s. Trouble is, they haven’t actually been able to prove it.

2020 SO normally orbits the Sun, but Earth’s gravity has, albeit temporarily, turned this object into an artificial minimoon. The object will complete a

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Rocket Lab says recovered booster in “good condition,” some parts will re-fly

Rocket Lab successfully launched its “Return to Sender” mission 10 days ago. Then, for the first time, the company attempted to recover the Electron booster’s first stage from the ocean after this launch, and now Rocket Lab has provided a preliminary assessment of the vehicle’s condition.

In summary, the company said in an update on its website, “We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome of our first recovery attempt and the team is thrilled.” The rocket came back in such good condition, the company added, “We will re-qualify and re-fly some components.”

The November 20 flight marked the first time Rocket Lab has fished an Electron out of the

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SpaceX uses booster seventh time on Starlink launch

ORLANDO, Fla., Nov. 24 (UPI) — SpaceX launched one of its Falcon 9 first-stage boosters for a record seventh time Tuesday night as the company launched more of its Starlink satellites from Florida.

The 16th batch of 60 satellites headed toward orbit at 9:13 p.m. EST from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The launch marks the 100th such mission for a Falcon 9 rocket, and boosts the number of Starlink satellites in orbit to more than 900.

A risk of rough seas in the Atlantic Ocean, where Elon Musk’s company wants to land the booster on a droneship, prevented the launch on Monday night. Rough seas remained a risk on Tuesday night, according to a U.S. Space Force forecast, but the launch took place as planned.

The rocket booster for the mission flew on four other Starlink launches, most recently in August, and two missions for

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Rocket Lab on road to reusability after successful booster recovery

Rocket Lab is now confident that its reusability dreams can come true.

The company recovered the first stage of its two-stage Electron rocket for the first time on Thursday (Nov. 19), fishing the booster out of the Pacific Ocean a few hours after it had helped launch a 30-satellite mission aptly called “Return to Sender.”

The stage survived its trip back from space in great shape, helping to validate Rocket Lab’s reusability vision, according to company founder and CEO Peter Beck.

“The test was a complete success,” Beck said during a call with reporters today (Nov. 23). “We’re really confident now that Electron can become a reusable launch vehicle.”

Related: Rocket Lab and its Electron booster (photos)

The 58-foot-tall (18 meters) Electron, which gives small satellites dedicated rides to orbit, has been an expendable vehicle since its debut launch in 2017. Last year, however, Beck announced that the company plans

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Rocket Lab recovers booster in major step toward reusability

A Rocket Lab booster propelled 30 small satellites into orbit from New Zealand Thursday while its first stage parachuted to a Pacific Ocean splashdown, a key step toward perfecting systems that will enable spent stages to be plucked from mid-air by waiting helicopters.

Appropriately enough, the company’s 16th mission was nicknamed “Return to Sender.”

The 60-foot-tall rocket blasted off from Rocket Lab’s picturesque launch complex on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula at 9:20 p.m. EST (3:20 p.m. Friday local time) and quickly climbed away toward a 310-mile-high polar orbit.

A an Electron rocket climbs away Rocket Lab’s New Zealand launch complex Thursday on a flight to deploy 30 small satellites and to test technology the company is developing to enable first stage recovery and re-use.

Rocket Lab webcast

Two-and-a-half minutes after launch, the first stage’s nine Rutherford engines shut down and the booster fell away while the rocket’s second stage continued

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Watch live: Rocket Lab to recover used Electron booster for first time

  • Rocket Lab, founded in 2006 by Peter Beck, plans to catch its first Electron rocket booster on Thursday night.
  • The aerospace company is streaming live video of the mission, called “Return to Sender,” starting around 8:15 p.m. ET on Thursday (2:15 p.m. NZT on Friday).
  • For every person who watches the YouTube video feed, embedded below, gaming mogul Gabe Newell will donate $1 to a New Zealand children’s hospital.
  • Newell is also funding the launch a titanium garden gnome as part of his fundraising push.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

SpaceX is famous for recovering and reusing its colossal Falcon 9 rocket boosters, each time saving more than $10 million. However, the Elon Musk-founded company is about to have some impressive (if smaller) competition in New Zealand.

Rocket Lab on Thursday night plans to try its first-ever recovery of an Electron booster, or first-stage rocket, after it has

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Rocket Lab to Attempt Its First Booster Recovery Next Week

Any company serious about building a viable satellite-launch business needs to be able to recover and reuse as many parts of its rocket system as possible.

SpaceX, for example, has achieved great success with its Falcon 9 rocket, today bringing its first-stage back to Earth by landing it upright on the ground or on a ship floating in the ocean. It can also catch the fairing that floats back to Earth on parachutes after deploying satellites in orbit, as well as reuse the capsule — the Dragon and, more recently, the Crew Dragon — that flies supplies and astronauts between Earth and the International Space Station.

Such reusability drastically cuts the cost of rocket launches, giving a company a much greater chance of succeeding in a challenging market.

California-based Rocket Lab has been making great progress with its satellite-launch system in recent years, up to now using the Electron, a

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Rocket Lab will try SpaceX-like booster recovery after its next launch

  • Rocket Lab, a small-launch startup in New Zealand, says it will soon try to recover one of its Electron rocket’s boosters for the first time.
  • Reusing boosters, as the Elon Musk-founded rocket company SpaceX now does routinely, can save millions of dollars in hardware per flight that’s normally trashed at sea.
  • Rocket Lab CEO and founder Peter Beck said the goal is to test a reentry and parachute system on November 15 with the company’s “Return to Sender” mission.
  • Though the booster will splash into the ocean for the test, the ultimate goal is to capture it in midair using a helicopter.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Rocket Lab is about to attempt its first-ever recovery of a rocket booster that’s flown a payload to space and fallen back to Earth. 

The mission, dubbed “Return to Sender” and scheduled for November 15, marks the New Zealand startup’s 16th

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Rocket Booster Likely Caused Lights in Hawaii’s Night Sky | Hawaii News

HONOLULU (AP) — Reports of a cluster of blinking lights traveling across Hawaii’s weekend night sky were likely caused by a rocket booster reentering the planet’s atmosphere, scientists said.

Astronomers said there is a high probability the booster pierced Earth’s atmosphere after orbiting for 12 years, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Tuesday.

Spectators posted photos and videos on social media of the lights that appeared Saturday night.

The booster identified by scientists was used to launch Venezuela’s communications satellite VENESAT-1 from China in October 2008.

The booster was in a low orbit and eventually slowed and reentered the atmosphere at about 10 p.m., said Roy Gal, associate astronomer of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

An aerospace company tracked and predicted the reentry of the booster, which correlated with Saturday’s reentry window, Gal said.

Some observers thought they may have spotted Starlink satellites launched by Space

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