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Space

Rocket Lab plans to launch the German company’s super-secret satellite

OHB Group, a German technology company, has partnered with Rocket Lab to launch a small communications satellite into low earth orbit on behalf of a customer. The payload is to be delivered by Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle on Saturday 16th January 2021 from New Zealand. Officials from both Rocket Lab and OHB have not provided details about the payload, which remains a secret to the public.

The spacecraft, built by the OHB divisions in Sweden, Germany and the Czech Republic, will be launched during a seven-minute window opening at around 8 p.m New Zealand time. This will be Rocket Lab’s first mission in 2021 and its 18th flight on an Electron launcher. According to a statement given by Rocket Lab, “this is a single communication microsatellite that will enable specific frequencies to support future services from the orbit.”

Rocket lab’s founder and CEO, Peter Beck, noted that this launch is scheduled for six months after OHB signs the contract. “By flying a dedicated mission on Electron, OHB and their mission partners have control over launch timing, orbit, integration schedule, and other mission parameters,” added Beck. Dr. Lutz, OHB executive board member, said OHB had purchased the Electron Launcher for a customer. “We will also operate it until the end of the satellite’s operational life,” Bertling said. The identity of the customer remains unknown. However, satellite market specialists have been speculating on who it might be.

An image of Electron rocket’s payload shows a pair of mission logos. According to a tweet by Alexandre Najjar, the logos might reveal the identity of the covert customer. “I think I have ID-ed the mystery OHB payload,” tweeted Najjar, who works at the Euroconsult as a satellite market consultant. He added that the payload seems to serve as a prototype for the low earth orbit broadband network which is linked to GMS, Chinese Company that also goes by the name Shanghai Spacecom Satellite Technology. GMS collaborates with KLEO Connect, a company based in Germany, to develop small satellites. GMS funds the project, which is aimed at providing data relay services and industrial asset tracking. KLEO Connect launched successful technology demonstration satellites in 2019, using a Chinese rocket.

According to Najjar’s tweet, the secrecy of the relationship between OHB and GMS could be due to the Germany-China relations. Rocket Lab’s Electron is an 18- meter launch vehicle capable of carrying 200kilograms of payload to an altitude of 500km on the polar orbit. The company’s Electron flights are inexpensive, which gives small satellite operators a chance to get rides for their payloads. Rocket Lab sells the flights at approximately $7 million per ride.

The Electron rocket will launch from the Mahia Peninsula launch complex, heading south to deliver the secret payload to a polar orbit. The two-stage rocket uses a Rutherford engine, propelled by kerosene and liquid oxygen fuel. During this flight, the Electron’s first stage will burn the 9 engines for two and a half minutes. The second stage is going to inject the kick stage and microsatellite into an elliptical transfer orbit. The kick stage uses a Curie engine. It will “perform a series of burns to raise apogee and act as a space tug to deliver the satellite to its precise orbital destination,” said Rocket Lab. This mission has been nicknamed ‘Another One Leaves the Crust.’

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Space

What is the origin of the primordial black holes in the solar system?

The origin of giant primordial black holes has remained a mystery for quite a long time. Not even astronomers seem to understand anything about them. That’s understandable because black holes have existed for quite a long time as far as the cosmological record is concerned. Therefore, unless new physics is discovered, the existing one lacks information to explain how they came into appearance.

However, there is an exciting research proposal about their origin. It states that the stars are not the sources of the first black holes. On the contrary, they originate from clumps of gravitinos, particles that are super-hypothetical and super-exotic. These particles might have survived the Bing Bang, especially the first challenging years of the same.

For quite a long time, it was believed that black holes came about after the big stars’ death. Given the massive size, the black hole they leave behind is often more prominent than the sun. Assumptions have it that the extra big black holes result from merging two or more small black holes. Others are big because of solar masses resulting from consuming as much gas as possible. The theory has been justified for quite some time. After all, they often occur amidst every galaxy in the cosmos, including the Milky Way. That includes even the supermassive black holes (SMBHs).

Nevertheless, there is something weird about this particular assumption. According to astronomers, there were massive black holes at or before even the galaxies and stars existed. They existed even before the universe was a billion years old. Therefore, there are high chances that they don’t result from stars’ death since that takes a long time. Going by the typical stellar death route, stars could take even hundreds of millions of years to die. Yet again, the supermassive black holes were there even with the very first stars and galaxies. There are high chances there was no time for the star to die and form black holes in the early universe.

That pokes holes in the existing theory of how black holes came to be, especially the supermassive ones. Do we really know much about the astrophysics surrounding the growth of the big black holes? Probably not, but time will tell.

There is also the gravitinos theory that is too weird at the moment. After all, no known physics covers its scope. That’s where the rest of the work is put on the shoulders of theoretical physicists. Fortunately, they are already working day and night to go beyond the existing physics. With the help of things like supersymmetry, it might be possible. It has a way of explaining how the particle world works inside and tell if there are brand-new particles in them.