SpaceX launches another 52 Starlink satellites, lands rocket at sea

SpaceX launched another 52 of its Starlink internet satellites to orbit Saturday evening (Sept. 24) and also aced a rocket landing at sea.

A Falcon 9 rocket topped with 52 Starlink spacecraft lifted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Saturday at 7:32 p.m. EDT (2332 GMT).

Just under nine minutes later, the Falcon 9’s first stage came back to Earth for a pinpoint touchdown on the SpaceX “droneship” A Shortfall of Gravitas, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. It was the fourth liftoff and landing for this particular booster, according to a SpaceX mission description.

Starlink is a satellite internet constellation operated by SpaceX, providing satellite Internet access coverage to 40 countries. It also aims for global mobile phone service after 2023. SpaceX started launching Starlink satellites in 2019. As of September 2022, Starlink consists of over 3,000 mass-produced small satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO), which communicate with designated ground transceivers. Starlink provides internet access to over 500,000 subscribers as of June 2022.

The SpaceX satellite development facility in Redmond, Washington houses the Starlink research, development, manufacturing, and orbit control teams. The cost of the decade-long project to design, build, and deploy the constellation was estimated by SpaceX in May 2018 to be at least US$10 billion. In February 2017, documents indicated that SpaceX expects more than $30 billion in revenue by 2025 from its satellite constellation, while revenues from its launch business were expected to reach $5 billion in the same year.

60 Starlink satellites stacked together before deployment on 24 May 2019

Ukraine war: Could Russia use tactical nuclear weapons?

russian soldier with Iskander missile

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has said he’s ready to use nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory, raising the fear he might use a small, or “tactical” nuclear weapon in Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden has warned him that doing so would be the most serious military escalation since World War II.

What are tactical nuclear weapons?

Tactical nuclear weapons are small nuclear warheads and delivery systems intended for use on the battlefield, or for a limited strike.

They are designed to destroy enemy targets in a specific area without causing widespread radioactive fallout.

The smallest tactical nuclear weapons can be one kiloton or less (producing the equivalent to a thousand tonnes of the explosive TNT). The largest ones can be as big as 100 kilotons.

Strategic nuclear weapons are larger (up to 1,000 kilotons) and are launched from longer range.

By comparison, the atomic bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 was 15 kilotons.

What tactical nuclear weapons does Russia have?

According to US intelligence, Russia has about about 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons.

Its tactical nuclear warheads can be placed on various types of missiles which are normally used to deliver conventional explosives, such as cruise missiles and artillery shells.

Tactical nuclear weapons can also be fired from aircraft and ships – as anti-ship missiles, torpedoes and depth charges.

The US says Russia has recently been investing heavily in these weapons to improve their range and accuracy.

Have tactical nuclear weapons ever been used before?

Tactical nuclear weapons have never been used in conflict.

Nuclear powers such as the US and Russia have found it equally effective to destroy targets on the battlefield by using modern conventional munitions.

In addition, no nuclear-armed country has so far been willing to risk unleashing all-out nuclear war by employing tactical nuclear weapons.

However, Russia might be more willing to use smaller tactical weapons than larger strategic missiles.

“They might not see it as crossing this big nuclear threshold,” says Dr Patricia Lewis, head of the international security programme at the Chatham House think tank.

“They could see it as part of their conventional forces.”

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - APRIL 15, 2020: The first upgraded 203 mm 2S7M Malka self-propelled artillery vehicle delivered by Uraltransmash (a subsidiary of Uralvagonzavod, part of the Rostec State Corporation) to the Russian Defence Ministry. The modernised model shows better performance thanks to a new running gear and improved electronics. Rostec Press Office/TASS (Photo by Rostec Press Office\TASS via Getty Images)
Russian forces can fire small nuclear warheads using conventional artillery, such as the “Malka” self-propelled gun

Are Putin’s nuclear threats a real cause to worry?

In February 2022, shortly before invading Ukraine, President Putin placed Russia’s nuclear forces at “special combat readiness” and held high-profile nuclear drills.

More recently, he said: “If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will without a doubt use all available means to protect Russia and our people. This is not a bluff.”

Russia is planning to annex the regions of southern and eastern Ukraine it has occupied after holding self-styled referendums. President Putin says he is ready to defend the “territorial integrity” of the regions “by all means.”

US intelligence see this as a threat to the West not to help Ukraine try and retake these territories, rather than as a sign that he is planning a nuclear war.

But others worry that Russia, if it suffers further setbacks, might be tempted to use a smaller tactical weapon in Ukraine as a “game changer”, to break a stalemate or avoid defeat.

James Acton, a nuclear expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Pace in Washington DC, says: “I am legitimately worried that in that circumstance, Putin might use a nuclear weapon – most likely on the ground in Ukraine to terrify everyone and get his way. We are not at that point yet.”

How has the US responded?

US President Joe Biden has warned Russia not to use nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine.

Speaking during an interview with CBS News, Mr Biden said such action would “change the face of war unlike anything since World War Two,” adding: “It’ll be consequential.”

How the US and Nato would respond to any nuclear use is hard to predict. They may not want to escalate the situation further and risk all-out nuclear war but they also might want to draw a line.

However, Russia might also be deterred from using tactical nuclear weapons by another power – China.

“Russia is heavily dependent on Chinese support,” says Dr Heather Williams, nuclear expert at Kings College London.

“But China has a ‘no first use’ nuclear doctrine. So if Putin did use them, it would be incredibly difficult for China to stand by him.

“If he used them, he would probably lose China.”

BBC

Iranian Women Under Siege

This is what bravery looks like. Iranian women protesting for their human rights!

Protesters burn an Iranian flag
Image caption,Much of the country has seen protests following the death of a young woman in custody

Iran’s president has vowed to take action against protesters after more than a week of anti-government demonstrations.

President Ebrahim Raisi pledged to “deal decisively” with the protests, which have now spread to most of Iran’s 31 provinces.

Officials say some 35 people have been killed since protests broke out over the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody.

Clashes continue in several cities.

Ms Amini had been detained for allegedly breaking headscarf rules. Officers reportedly beat her head with a baton and banged her head against one of their vehicles. The police have said there is no evidence of any mistreatment and that she suffered “sudden heart failure”.

And while Mr Raisi says her death will be investigated, his Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi has insisted that Ms Amini was not beaten.

People gather in protest against the death of Mahsa Amini on September 24, 2022 in Rome, Italy

On Saturday people joined protests in several cities across the world including Rome, Athens and Stockholm

‘Godzilla’ lizard found climbing on Florida home’s window

Sept. 22 (UPI) — A Central Florida family captured video when they had an unusual visitor — a large monitor lizard climbing on a window.

Jocelyn Penson, who posted the video to Facebook, said the footage was filmed at the home of her son, Frank Crowder, in Apopka, Fla.

The video shows the lizard climbing on the window in an apparent attempt to find its way into the house. The reptile ends up flopping off the window and down to the ground.

“Looks like Godzilla to me!” Penson wrote.

Penson’s family initially said the animal appeared to be a tegu lizard, but Ron Magill, a wildlife expert with Zoo Miami, said the reptile is a water monitor lizard from Sub-Saharan Africa.

“It’s a lizard that could be anywhere between 3 and 5 feet, generally speaking,” he told WSVN-TV.

Magill said the lizard was likely a former pet that either escaped or was abandoned into the wild by its owner.