June 29, 2010

A Fusion Thruster for Space Travel (Source: IEEE)
Designers of satellites obsess about how little fuel their creations are able to carry into space. So the propulsion method they choose for maneuvers such as orbital transfers has to deliver a lot for a little. Now a NASA engineer has come up with a new way to fling satellites through space on mere grams of fuel, tens of times as efficiently as today’s best space probe thrusters.

The answer, he says, is fusion. You might be thinking, "Fusion? Really?" But it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds at first blush. Instead of using deuterium and tritium as the fuel stocks, the new motor extracts energy from boron fuel. Using boron, an "aneutronic" fuel, yields several advantages over conventional nuclear fusion. Aneutronic fusion, in which neutrons represent less than 1 percent of the energy-carrying particles that are the result of a reaction, is easier to manage.

To make use of neutrons, "you need an absorbing wall that converts the kinetic energy of the particles to thermal energy," he says. "In effect, all you’ve got is a fancy heat engine, with all its resultant losses and limitations." In Chapman’s aneutronic fusion reactor scheme, a commercially available benchtop laser starts the reaction. A beam with energy on the order of 2 x 1018 watts per square centimeter, pulse frequencies up to 75 megahertz, and wavelengths between 1 and 10 micrometers is aimed at a two-layer, 20-centimeter-diameter target. (6/28)

Shuttle Program May End, But Wallops Island Will See Plenty of Action (Source: WAMU)
If you've seen a rocket launch on TV, chances are it blasted off from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida. But the oldest and busiest launch site in America is actually in Virginia, near Chincoteague on the Eastern Shore. Three rockets launched from the commonwealth this month, and five more will go up in July.

NASA decided to build on Wallops Island in 1945. The location was ideal: on the water, near Langley Air Force Base, close to the Chincoteague Naval Air Station. "We've launched over 16,000 rockets since then," Koehler said. "Today we launch everything from suborbital rockets to targets for the military to a rocket to launch a satellite into orbit." About 1,700 people work there, and the center is a draw for tourists. (6/28)

Alaska Man Claims to Have Missing Apollo-era Moon Rock (Source: KHOU)
An Apollo-era moon rock gifted to the State of Alaska as a goodwill gesture by President Richard M. Nixon and thought to have been lost has been in the possession of a man who found it as a teenager in 1973, according to court documents obtained by KHOU 11 News.

In a lawsuit filed against the State of Alaska, Arthur C. Anderson claimed that he is the rightful owner of the moon rock, which the lawsuit said he found in a pile of debris after a fire at the Transportation Branch of the Alaska State Museum in Anchorage. (6/28)

LightSquared Gains NetTalk, Faces More Critics (Source: PC World)
Mobile startup LightSquared has gained another wholesale customer on Tuesday even as more critics joined a group that opposes LightSquared's planned LTE network on the grounds that it will interfere with GPS. NetTalk, which sells an inexpensive alternative to landline phone service using VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol), will resell access to LightSquared's LTE (Long-Term Evolution) mobile network under its own branded service. (6/29)

SpaceX Dragon Capsule Returns to Florida (Source: SpaceX)
SpaceX's recently flown Dragon Capsule will be delivered to the Air Force Space and Missile History Center at the South Gate entrance to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on July 1 for a limited-time display. The Air Force Space and Missile History Center will be open for media tours as well. The 3,200 sq. ft. facility houses historic hardware and visual displays that highlight all active and deactivated CCAFS launch complexes from the past 50+ years of flight. (6/29)

China and UK Strike Space Deal (Source: BBC)
Chinese and UK companies have agreed a deal that will result in three high-resolution Earth observation spacecraft being built to map China's extraordinary growth from orbit. The deal was penned between Guildford satellite imagery provider DMCii and Beijing-based company 21AT. It means DMCii can now roll out its new constellation of spacecraft that will picture details on the surface of the planet less than a meter wide. They should be ready to launch in 2014. (6/29)

ISS Orbit to be Corrected for Docking with Atlantis (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Russian Mission Control Center will correct on Wednesday the orbit of the International Space Station to create favorable conditions for the docking with NASA’s space shuttle Atlantis. The shuttle is expected to blast off from Canaveral on July 8. Eight docking and orientation engines of Progress M-11M cargo craft will be used to raise the orbit. (6/29)

'Commercial Space Trips to be Affordable in 20 Years' (Source: PTI)
Noted space entrepreneur Susmita Mohanty, founder of the country's first private space start-up Earth2Orbit, said commercial space transportation would be an affordable reality in the next two decades. He called for a commercial approach to the space missions saying, "our space transportation technologies are still primitive, flying dirty and polluting rockets to space. One of the reasons for this is that across the globe it is being funded by tax-payers money. It is time we come out of the government cocoon and start working on our own." (6/29)

Space Debris a Growing Problem (Source: AFP)
A scare triggered by orbital debris that on Tuesday came within a couple of hundred meters of the International Space Station sheds light on an acutely worsening problem. Millions of chunks of metal, plastic and glass are whirling round Earth, the garbage left from 4,600 launches in 54 years of space exploration.

The collision risk is low, but the junk travels at such high speed that even a tiny shard can cripple a satellite costing tens of millions of dollars. Around 16,000 objects bigger than 10 centimeters (four inches) across are tracked by the US Space Surveillance Network. There are around 500,000 pieces between one and 10 cms (half and four inches), while the total of particles smaller than one centimeter (half an inch) "probably exceeds tens of millions," NASA says. (6/29)

Embry-Riddle Rocket Engineers Win International Competition for Second Year (Source: ERAU)
A student team from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University won first place at the sixth annual Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition with the launch of their rocket Pathfinder III, which flew to 10,310 feet. The event was hosted by the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association in Utah, and drew teams from nine universities in the U.S., Canada, and Brazil. Students in Embry-Riddle’s Future Space Explorers and Developers Society engineered Pathfinder III, and students in the Engineering Design Club created the rocket’s electronic inertial monitoring system, global positioning system, and telemetry downlink. Last year, in their rookie entry, the same Embry-Riddle team won the competition with their Pathfinder II heavy rocket. (6/29)

No comments: