Thursday, March 31, 2011
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Monday, March 28, 2011
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Friday, March 25, 2011
- Long-duration space journey vehicle for crew of 6 for periods of 1 -24 months
- CIS-lunar would be initial Operations Zone [shakedown phase]
- Exo-atmospheric, Space-only vehicle
- Integrated Centrifuge for Crew Health
- Life Support in deployed Large Volume with shirt-sleeve servicing
- Truss & Stringer thrust-load distribution concept (non-orthogird)
- Capable of utilizing variety of Mission-Specific
- Propulsion Units [integrated in LEO, semi-autonomously
- Utilizes Inflatable & Deployed structures
- Incorporates Industrial Airlock for construction/maintenance
- Integrated RMS
- Supports Crewed Celestial-body Descent/Return Exploration vehicle
- Utilizes Orion/Commercial vehicles for crew rotation & Earth return from LEO
There is a very significant difference among nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, and nuclear fusion-fission hybrid reactors. Permit me very briefly to seek to differentiate the three energy technologies so we may better understand the options ahead.
Nuclear fission brought us the powerful atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and an American nuclear missile arsenal second to none in the world. The same fission nuclear energy has brought us disastrous partial or full atomic reactor core meltdowns at Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986, and Fukushima in 2011. Peaceful nuclear fusion at 104 nuclear plants spread throughout the United States has brought us electricity for decades. Nuclear power will continue to serve us in the years ahead as a part of the American energy strategy.
Fission energy is an inherently dangerous way to generate large amounts of electricity. Fission leads to radioactive byproducts that are very nasty to the environment for hundreds of years and require expensive geological repositories, such as the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste planned for Nevada. Globally, we have balanced the health and environmental risks with the ravenous energy demand for fifty or so years, mostly with success. There is a much better way for atomic energy, however. We do not face a Hobson's choice.
Nuclear fusion is a cutting-edge energy technology yet to materialize on commercial-scale. Called a 'Star in a Jar' - scientists seek to replicate the energy of our sun on Earth. Nonetheless, nuclear engineers and atomic physicists have been working for years to create fusion reactors that will produce clean and relatively cheap electric power without any of the risks associated with bomb-grade plutonium, radioactive core meltdown or spent fuel rods. Post-modern fusion power will generate hot plasma contained in a magnetic bubble to turn steam turbines for electric power. Experts say that the technology is still years away from a successful commercial fusion power plant, yet we must be determined to perfect it. Fusion is the goldilocks of the energy grid and space propulsion without the harmful side effects associated with fission. We must build the demonstration plants to get there in the years ahead.
One of the key leaders of fusion energy technology presented to the Southwestern Virginia Technology Council's Energy Summit- 3 held in Wise in April 2010. Dr. George Miley, a distinguished Professor of Nuclear Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has pioneered an innovative approach generating useful energy from fusion. The award-winning professor now has former graduate students-turned-professionals working for fusion energy solutions. There are, nonetheless, fusion demonstrator efforts underway around the globe today.
Unlike the conventional fission reactor, the fusion-fission hybrid can consume almost all of the uranium fuel without enrichment or reprocessing thereby reducing the fuel cycle costs. This has the major advantage for non-proliferation of nuclear weapons production associated with enrichment and reprocessing technologies. The cost of reactor construction is more expensive than the traditional fission reactor, leading to the early evolution resistance. While only an interim step to pure fusion energy, the United States should lead with new fusion-fission hybrid reactors in the next decade as we press forward with fusion plasma reactors, as suggested by one insightful member of the Congress.
Virginia Congressman J. Randy Forbes, a conservative Chesapeake Republican, has introduced Congressional legislation, which may provide a pathway forward to energy independence in the next twenty years. His bill would nurture the promising nuclear fusion technology forward calling for a large-scale 300-megawatt fusion power plant as a part of a "New Manhattan Project for Energy Independence."
CNN and The Wall Street Journal have hailed the Forbes energy bill as one of the most innovative solutions for energy now before the Congress. The measure relies on innovation rather than taxation to pursue alternative energy. Two years ago, the New Manhattan Project for Energy Independence legislation was an alternative to the controversial cap-and-trade bill; the House, unfortunately, rejected the measure in 2009.
Congressman Forbes points out, "While we sit back and allow our gasoline prices to climb, nations like China are racing ahead in their efforts to achieve energy independence by seizing technological innovations and making marked progress in relatively unknown areas like fusion. The Chinese Academy of Science announced in December 2009 that it had begun a new round of controlled nuclear fusion experiments. Their success has already exceeded the progress of both the European Union and American nuclear experts, who recently reengaged in fusion research."
Nuclear fusion remains relatively unexplored in the United States and is a promising source of energy that can move the United States toward energy independence in the next two decades. The New Manhattan Project for Energy Independence is a means to harness the best in American creativity and ingenuity by creating a competitive environment for scientists and researchers to achieve nuclear fusion energy evolution. Full implementation of the Forbes fusion energy bill may catapult the United States into a worldwide energy producer and exporter again, in my judgment.
Congressman Forbes merits the attention of his Congressional colleagues in seeking to advance the cause of nuclear fusion in this session. It is clear that the Atomic Age has changed significantly with the meltdown of the Fukushima fission reactor cores in Japan. We need to embrace better fusion energy technology, as opposed to continuing with more fission reactors. The United States can lead the way in an evolution from radioactive fission to essentially harmless fusion over the next twenty years. H.R. 301 merits a Congressional hearing in the House Science, Space & Technology Committee's subcommittee on energy & environment and passage by the House.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Brown dwarfs are essentially failed stars: they lack enough mass for gravity to trigger the nuclear reactions that make stars shine. The newly discovered brown dwarf, identified as CFBDSIR 1458+10B, is the dimmer member of a binary brown dwarf system located just 75 light-years from Earth.
This sequence starts with a view of the constellation of Boötes (The Herdsman) and the bright star Arcturus. As we zoom in we can see many faint stars in the Milky Way. The final view shows an artist's impression of CFBDSIR 1458+10, the coolest pair of brown dwarfs found so far.
Saturn emits radio waves known as Saturn Kilometric Radiation, or SKR for short. To Cassini, they sound a bit like bursts of a spinning air raid siren, since the radio waves vary with each rotation of the planet. This kind of radio wave pattern had been previously used at Jupiter to measure the planet's rotation rate, but at Saturn the situation turned out to be much more complicated, NASA JPL.
The Mir station was the first consistently inhabited long-term research station in space and was operated by a series of long-duration crews. The Mir programme held the record for the longest uninterrupted human presence in space, 3,644 days, until 23 October 2010 (when it was surpassed by the ISS), and it currently holds the record for the longest single human spaceflight, of Valeri Polyakov at 437 days 18 hours. Mir was occupied for a total of twelve and a half years of its fifteen-year lifespan, having the capacity to support a resident crew of three, and larger crews for short-term visits.
The Russians also contracted with Mir Corporation to enable the first efforts for a commercial space program.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
The HIF will support medium-class mission capabilities. The first customer to use the facility will be Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., with its Taurus II launch vehicle.
"With this state-of-the-art building, NASA demonstrates its commitment to the success of the nation's commercial launch industry," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "We have already seen some fantastic progress and are looking forward to more this year. Wallops, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport and Orbital have been working together to bring the Taurus II vehicle to the launch pad this coming fall under tough mission schedules. That effort is impressive and a model we should emulate whenever possible."
Orbital will conduct missions for NASA under the agency's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services project and Commercial Resupply Services contract. Integration of the Taurus II at the new facility will begin this month, with the first launch expected later this year.
"Today is about bringing jobs, jobs and more jobs to the Lower Shore -- jobs for today and jobs for tomorrow," said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, chairwoman of the Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice and Science, which funds NASA. "I'm so happy to see our federal facilities like Wallops bringing the innovation economy to the community with this world-class international launch site that will soon launch science missions and take cargo to the International Space Station."
"The Horizontal Integration Facility is a vital part of our operation at the Wallops Flight Facility," said Dave Thompson, chairman and CEO of Orbital Sciences Corp. "The capability it provides to process two Taurus II vehicles simultaneously puts us in an excellent position to support NASA with missions to the International Space Station."
The facility is 250 feet long, 150 wide and 60 feet high. Its bay provides dual horizontal processing with 70-and 50-ton bridge cranes. Built in approximately 16 months, the HIF has adjacent laboratory and warehouse space. Its safety features include a deluge fire suppression system and a blast-attenuating wall, according to NASA. DELMARVA Now has more.
After the researchers analyzed the four months of data in this initial batch of readings from Kepler, they determined that 1.4 to 2.7 percent of all sunlike stars are expected to have Earthlike planets — ones that are between 0.8 and two times Earth's diameter and within the habitable zones of their stars, reports Space.com.
"This means there are a lot of Earth analogs out there — two billion in the Milky Way galaxy," researcher Joseph Catanzarite, an astronomer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told SPACE.com. "With that large a number, there's a good chance life and maybe even intelligent life might exist on some of those planets. And that's just our galaxy alone — there are 50 billion other galaxies."
NASA and Lockheed hope to launch the first unmanned Orion test flight in 2013, if the budget allows. A human crew is expected to fly in 2016, perhaps. Orion could be launched atop a Delta 4 Heavy booster after the rocket is man-rated.
Monday, March 21, 2011
More from The Engineer (UK) and FoxNews.
The Spaceward Bound Mission includes de Leon of the UND Department of Space Studies; NASA space biologist Jon Rask; and NASA astrobiologist Dr. Chris McKay. Rask is Senior Scientist and McKay is a planetary scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) Ames Research near San Francisco, CA. The team also includes a field support and documentation specialist.
The team is expected to spend 7 to 10 days at the Marambio Station, Argentina’s main Antarctic base, to conduct a variety of tests with the NDX-1 planetary exploration suit system. The NDX-1 also has been tested extensively in the Badlands and at the Dahlen Esker in North Dakota, at the Mars Desert Research Center in Utah, and at the Ames Research Center, notes Reuters.
The NDX-1 was designed and constructed at UND through NASA funding provided by the North Dakota Space Grant Consortium. The team plans to blog this expedition; you can follow the team’s test routines at http://spacesuitlab.blogspot.com/
Sunday, March 20, 2011
The high-speed craft will be dropped, and a booster rocket will fire up to get the Waverider up to Mach 4.5, which is when the scramjet kicks in. The booster rocket is jettisoned, and then the X-51A goes hypersonic with the goal of Mach 6 or better, according to The Register.
The X-51A Waverider uses a scramjet engine, which uses no moving parts at all but is designed to achieve speeds anywhere from Mach 12 to Mach 24. Mach 24 is more than18,000 miles per hour.
It is the second of four test flights for the $246.5 million Waverider program, begun in December 2003. It is being done to demonstrate technology the Air Force hopes can eventually be used for more efficient transport of payloads into orbit.
This talk by Rob French, Research Assistant at the SETI Institute, provides a brief overview of the ring systems of the giant planets, the basic principles of photometry, and how we have applied photometry to Saturn's F ring. The F ring shows a dramatic change in brightness from the Voyager era to the Cassini era. Scientists attribute this change to perturbations by the nearby moon Prometheus.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
The primary scientific mission of Solar Probe Plus is to determine: 1] the structure and dynamics of the magnetic fields at the sources of solar wind; 2] trace the flow of energy that heats the corona and accelerates the solar wind; 3] determine what mechanisms accelerate and transport energetic particles; 4] explore dusty plasma near the sun and its influence on solar wind and energetic particle formation. It will be the first mission to a star in an unprecedented effort to unlock the Sun's biggest mysteries, with the primary mission beginning in late December 2024.
IRNA said the space agency aimed to test the performance of the launch pad, the engine and the electronic systems, according to The Voice of America.
Extensive rain from large cloud systems, spotted by Cassini's cameras in late 2010, has apparently darkened the surface of the moon. The best explanation is these areas remained wet after methane rainstorms. The observations released today in the journal Science, combined with earlier results in Geophysical Research Letters last month, show the weather systems of Titan's thick atmosphere and the changes wrought on its surface are affected by the changing seasons, notes NASA JPL.
Near the beginning of the movie/animation made from images taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft above, a particularly large cloud can be seen directly over and east of Titan's huge sea, Kraken Mare. If full, Kraken Mare, at 400,000 square kilometers (154,000 square miles), would be almost five times the size of North America's Lake Superior.
Over the past several years, Cassini has consistently observed clouds at Titan's mid-southern latitudes. More recent images also show clouds close to the moon's equator (see PIA12810). These observations provide evidence of a seasonal shift of Titan's weather systems to low latitudes following the Saturnian system's August 2009 equinox. (During equinox, the sun lies directly over the equator.)
Friday, March 18, 2011
The Soyuz launch from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan is of huge importance to Russia as it comes ahead of the 50th anniversary of the first human space flight by Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 2011, reports RIA Novosti, Xinhua and AFP.
"The preliminary date for the launch is April 5, around 4 a.m. Moscow time and a reserve date is April 7," a source at the Baikonur Space Center said.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
The orbit insertion will place the spacecraft into a 12 hour orbit about Mercury with a 200 kilometer (124 mile) minimum altitude. At the time of orbit insertion, MESSENGER will be 46.14 million kilometers (28.67 million miles) from the sun and 155.06 million kilometers (96.35 million miles) from Earth.
MESSENGER has been on a 6.6 year mission to become the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury. The spacecraft followed a path through the inner solar system, including one flyby of Earth, two flybys of Venus, and three flybys of Mercury. This impressive journey is returning the first new spacecraft data from Mercury since the Mariner 10 mission over 30 years ago.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
The recent 9.0 magnitude earthquake rapture in Japan highlights the need for geologists and space scientists to begin to collaborate on new methods to predict seismic events and their relationships, if any, among the Earth's upper atmospheric ionosphere, solar sun spot flares, the moon on tidal water movements and their impact on the Earth's tectonic plates. If humanity is to modify the dangers associated with the cataclysmic earthquake events, we must identify the precursor signals.
Governments around the globe have invested billions of dollars in ground-based seismic systems associated with the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites to measure earthquakes that move up and down and from side-to-side, sometimes with deadly force, and too frequently followed by tsunamis and volcanoes. The technology systems can provide people a little over a minute advanced warning for those hundreds of miles from the epicenter of a quake. The closer to the epicenter the less time there is for human warning.
Prior to space-based weather satellites, humanity had little to no warning of major weather events. Meteorology and the science of weather prediction have vastly improved in the last fifty years of the Space Age, as best evidenced with a click of a computer to see weather predictions anywhere on Earth, several days in advance. Earthquake prediction, on the other hand, remains in the Dark Ages of human capability changing too little over the past 250-years of scientific study.
There are growing bodies of pseudoscience and mainstream science seeking to address earthquake prediction and forecasting. The challenges faced by the two approaches are intellectually challenging. Heralding the next great earthquake is an unknown thus far in the 21st century.
Largely rejected by mainstream scientists, pseudo-scientists are building elaborate hypothetical models and theories that relate to the sun, the moon and atmospheric conditions to create mathematical scenarios on which to seek to predict earthquake times and locations. Known as astrotometry, a New Age techno-shaman seeks to quantify movement of the sun, moon and other planets as some sort of energy flux-transfer resulting in earth tectonic plate movements. It appears to be a blend of astrology with traditional astronomy and space weather.
On the other hand, there is a body of peer-reviewed science providing evidence of abrupt disturbances of the Earth's ionosphere may be one precursor to earthquake events. There are international academic research papers statistically linking solar flares with the high altitude atmospheric disturbances but they are far short of complete understanding. For example, following one hundred years of research of the Aurora Borealis, humanity lacks full understanding of these reoccurring natural phenomena.
To begin to address the shortfall of earthquake and volcanic forecasting science, British and Russian scientists signed an agreement in February to collaborate on the building and launching in 2015 two orbiting satellites called the Twin-Sat Project. The two planned satellites aim to investigate precursors to earthquake tremors and volcanic eruptions through the effects of the upper atmosphere correlated with ground-based observations.
The Twin-Sat Project satellites will be looking for detectable electromagnetic signals resulting from stress build up inside the Earth, slight changes in the Earth's magnetism that could be signs that earthquake tremors are significantly imminent. In the days leading up to the January 2010 Haiti 7.0 magnitude earthquake, magnetic signals were observed in the upper ionosphere above the region.
This kind of new and unique research may begin to provide an epiphany to our understanding of the interactions of the Earth's upper atmosphere to the subsurface movements of earthquakes. The linkage theory between the ionosphere and magnetic interactions is very immature and requires substantial scientific efforts be cast over the decades ahead if humanity is to have some depth of scientific understanding. An associated event can also be an erupting, lightening-spewing volcano ash plume also suggesting magnetic forces at work. Knowledge is very limited on this particular phenomenon as well.
The question confronting the science community is whether an accurate, reliable forecast of large seismic quakes is a realistic goal in the 21st century. Recent observations of earthquake and volcanic activity have shown that events tend to be localized in space, primarily on Earth's tectonic plate boundaries, and appear to be clustered in time more than would be expected for a random process. Nonetheless, the challenge of identification of earthquake event variables and associated precursors will be a monumental challenge, at least in the short-term.
The development of reliable earthquake precursors is a laudable goal of modern science. There are so many possible variables relating to Earth's internal stresses, magnetism, and their relationships to solar activity and lunar tidal forces: how each may contribute to earthquakes is an unknown. The road ahead in this scientific inquiry will be hard. The joint-effort between the British and Russians is a start worthy of greater international cooperation to advance earthquake prediction past the Dark Ages.
In his 1759 Candide novel, French philosopher Voltaire noted, the idea that science cannot predict everything is not new; it dates back to the 1755 Great Lisbon earthquake, which shattered contemporary European belief in a benign, predictable Universe in the Age of Reason. As the first earthquake studied scientifically for its effects over a large area, the Lisbon quake ushered forth-modern seismology and earthquake engineering.
Over two-hundred and fifty years later, humanity confronts the 2011 Great Japanese earthquake, which shattered modern atomic energy to meltdown and now threatens a renowned national economic tsunami. We face again the same premise: global science cannot predict everything, even one of the most destructive and deadliest earthquakes in the 21st century Age of Information.
Another 7 to 9--magnitude Richter scale earthquake is unequivocally certain; these natural high magnitude events happen around the globe on a two-week average, too frequently killing thousands. Yet, it is very uncertain humanity will outwit the next or the next thereafter with meaningful prediction.
As humanity, we must be determined to seek a larger view and more meaningful focus to understand this too common oddity of nature. We must seek to use the array of new scientific tools of post modernity if we are to avoid history continually repeating itself, with the same catastrophic results, over-and-over. A reliable 24-to-72 hour earthquake forecast could save thousands of lives and billions in damages giving greater significance to several areas of science.
The Soyuz TMA-21 "Gargarin" spacecraft and the Space Shuttle Endeavour are expected to dock with the International Space Station next month. Three humans remain aboard the ISS with the Soyuz TMA-01M landing today.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Robert Hutchings Goddard (October 5, 1882 – August 10, 1945, an American professor, physicist and inventor, cretaed and built the world's first liquid-fueled rocket which he successfully launched on March 16, 1926 - 85 years ago today.
At different parts of the orbit, different instruments control spacecraft pointing. Blue frames on the planet denote imaging with either MESSENGER's wide-angle or narrow-angle camera. The green line denotes an observation of Mercury's exosphere with MESSENGER's Ultraviolet and Visible Spectrometer. The red circles denote topographic profiling with the Mercury Laser Altimeter. The magenta scans denote remote sensing of surface elemental composition by MESSENGER's X-Ray Spectrometer and Gamma-Ray and Neutron Spectrometer.
Monday, March 14, 2011
An interesting tidbit of trivia here, Mt. Shimoe-dake is the volcano that Sean Connery (James Bond 007) secreted into during the film You Only Live Twice from back in 1967. Shinmoedake is a very large and powerful volcano located on the southern Japanese Island of Kyushu, about 950 miles south of the epicenter of Friday’s earthquake. The volcano is thought to have formed between 7,000 and 25,000 years ago, and has erupted in the past during the years; 1716, 1717, 1771, 1822, 1959, 1991, 2008, and 2009. The last major eruption of the mountain before January was 52 years ago.
Mikhaylova discussed the results of recent internet contests of SF about space in Russia and the 'Back to the Future' contest conducted by NASA. Ethical aspects of space exploration are manifold, and there is hope that looking at human conflicts from an extraterrestrial angle still may help to solve pressing problems today and create a livable future.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Saturday, March 12, 2011
The magnitude 8.8 earthquake that jolted northeast Japan was caused by a tectonic upheaval that created offshore faults stretching for hundreds of kilometers from Iwate Prefecture to Ibaraki, The Japan Times and the London Evening Standard reported seismologists saying Saturday.
Friday, March 11, 2011
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
STS-134 (ISS assembly flight ULF6) will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02) to the International Space Station. The AMS-02 unit is designed to search for antimatter and the origin and structure of dark matter.
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Using data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, researchers have determined that the far southern reaches of the Saturn moon Enceladus produce about 15.8 gigawatts of heat-generated power. That's about 2.6 times the power output of all the hot springs in and around Yellowstone — and 10 times more than scientists had predicted, researchers have told Space.com.
According to Cassini's composite infrared spectrometer (CIRS), the activity is most prominent along an 80-mile stretch of four parallel, mile-wide furrows. Evidence gathered in October 2008 showed that huge plumes of water vapour emitted from these same furrows contained methane, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and silicate dust -- elements that indicate the presence of a habitable saltwater ocean beneath the moon's frozen shell, in contact with the satellite's mineral-rich terrain, notes Wired UK.
Monday, March 07, 2011
As Alexander Courage's "Star Trek" theme song played underneath, Shatner replaced the original television introduction with, "Space, the final frontier. These have been the voyages of the Space Shuttle Discovery. Her 30 year mission: To seek out new science. To build new outposts. To bring nations together on the final frontier. To boldly go, and do, what no spacecraft has done before."
The "Theme from Star Trek" received the second most votes in a public contest from a Top 40 list for NASA's Song Contest. Shatner recorded the custom introduction for Discovery's final voyage -- its 39th flight and 13th to the International Space Station.
Sunday, March 06, 2011
Alan Smith heads the British part of the Russia-UK joint TwinSat Project that is working on the construction of next-generation satellites to observe and monitor seismic activity on Earth, such as earthquakes and volcanoes. The satellites are proposed for launch in 2015. [British Embassy in Moscow and the International Science & Technology Center].
Models of the possible history of the martian high latitudes in particular, show that conditions favoring even thicker film development are likely to occur on the timescale of obliquity variations. The discovery of nearly pure ice at the Phoenix landing site is a possible indicator of in situ ice segregation, a physical process that depends on the same films of unfrozen water. We will review all of these recent results, and assess their potential implications for the habitability of the martian regolith.