April 14, 2012

NASA Invests in Satellites That Beam Power to Earth (Source: PopSci)
As spaceborne energy-harvesting schemes go, this one seems faintly possible — an array of curved mirrors directing sunlight toward solar cells, their energy production microwaved down to Earth. It’s so realistic, actually, that NASA is providing funding for a proof-of-concept study. A former NASA engineer named John Mankins, now with a company called Artemis Innovation Management Solutions, detailed his plans at a NASA innovation conference recently. The concept is called called Solar Power Satellite via Arbitrarily Large PHased Array (SPS-ALPHA), and it would harvest solar energy from a perch in high Earth orbit. (4/11)

Sphere of Solar Panels Around Sun Could Turn Humanity into Galactic Superpower (Source: Daily Mail)
It sounds like science fiction, but building a giant ball around the sun to harness its power could be closer than you think - we just have to blow up the planet Mercury. An emerging technology expert has claimed that we can start building a Dyson sphere (a sort of spherical solar panel) that would give us more energy than we will ever need within a matter of decades. George Dvorsky said that by ‘taking apart’ the whole of Mercury, asteroids and even other planets like Venus we can gather enough material to complete the huge project. Click here. (4/10)

Solar Twin HIP 56948: A Prime Target in Quest for Other Earths (Source: SpaceRef)
We study HIP 56948, the best solar twin known to date, to determine with an unparalleled precision how similar is to the Sun in its physical properties, chemical composition and planet architecture. We explore whether the abundances anomalies may be due to pollution from stellar ejecta or to terrestrial planet formation.

We perform a differential abundance analysis (both in LTE and NLTE) using high resolution (R = 100,000) high S/N (600) Keck HIRES spectra of the Sun and HIP 56948. We use precise radial velocity data from the McDonald and Keck observatories to search for planets around this star. We achieve a precision of sigma = 0.003 dex for several elements. Including errors in stellar parameters the total uncertainty is as low as sigma = 0.005 dex (1 %), which is unprecedented in elemental abundance studies. (4/13)

Great Moonbuggy Race Draws Record 88 Teams (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA's Great Moonbuggy Race got off to a fast start in Huntsville today with two high school teams from Puerto Rico posting times under four minutes. Only five seconds separated Vocational High School Team 1 at 3:21 from VHS Team 2 at 3:26, according to unofficial records. This year, NASA said 88 teams showed up at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville for the annual race that is being streamed live on NASA TV. That's a record turnout including high school and college teams from as far away as Germany, India and Russia.

Editor's Note: Four of the competing teams are from Florida schools, including two from Jupiter High School, one from North Florida Community College, and one from the University of Central Florida. (4/13)

How 49 Heroes Lost the Right Stuff and Sullied Their Names (Source: Huffington Post)
I spoke at Goddard on Wednesday about my new book, Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America, and ways NASA scientists, particularly NASA climate scientists, can communicate complex science in the face of antiscience attacks, such as those by global warming deniers. One of the most common tactics deniers use is something I call The Impressive Letter Technique, a letter signed by a lot of impressive sounding people who make a public statement or demand, and expect the gullible antiscience press (whose last science class was probably in high school), and the public, to lap it up because of their 'collective authority'.

Ironically, at the same time I was speaking to some of NASA's climate scientists about how to counter these kinds of propaganda attacks, the denialsphere was abuzz with a new letter -- this one signed by 49 former NASA employees. In fact when you break the letter down, it too evaporates into propaganda -- in a way that sullies the names and credentials of these formerly respected individuals. (4/14)

How Commercial Space Is Paying Off Now (Source: Aviation Week)
It’s still a “Field of Dreams” proposition—“if you build it, they will come.” Even so, NASA’s as-yet-unrealized efforts to offload routine human space access onto the private sector is beginning to ripple across the U.S. launch industry in ways that could go well beyond transporting people and their stuff into space.

Brash entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, who openly declares his intention to take over the worldwide launch industry with lower-cost launchers than the competition’s, are exerting downward price pressure on traditional launch-vehicle manufacturers. And the possibility of an off-planet economy in low Earth orbit (LEO) has triggered a new round of innovative launcher designs, not all of them “paper rockets” and some of them quite different from traditional vehicles. Click here. (4/14)

Reisman on Building the World's Safest Spacecraft (Source: PopSci)
With a crucial test flight of its Falcon 9 rocket and an unmanned Dragon capsule slated for later this month, commercial space outfit SpaceX is nearing the crescendo of its unmanned space launch program--a robotic rendezvous with the International Space Station. Next up for SpaceX: doing the exact same thing, but this time delivering humans rather than cargo into orbit.

To that end, SpaceX announced last week that it would convene an independent safety advisory panel staffed with former astronauts and NASA researchers to provide an objective review of the Falcon 9 and the DragonRider, SpaceX's crew-capable variant of its Dragon capsule. The company says it wants to create the world’s safest human spaceflight system--no easy feat considering how very dangerous place space can be. Click here. (4/13) http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2012-04/qa-former-astronaut-and-spacex-engineer-garrett-reisman-building-worlds-safest-spacecraft

`Pyongyang Advances Propulsion Tech Despite Failure` (Source: The Dong-A Ilbo)
North Korea has learned more about rocket propulsion technology despite its launch fiasco Friday, experts said, because most countries with such technology have developed it through failure. Chae Yeon-seok, a researcher at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute in Seoul, said, “A failed rocket launch frequently happens in the initial phase of rocket development. North Korea is also undergoing trial and error.” (4/14)

Humans Explore Space Only for Profit (Source: Pravda)
As the business on land, water and air becomes denser, business in space becomes all the more attractive. Of course, the entire space is too much for people. Therefore, the right term is the near-Earth space. Of particular interest is business through the prism of the space race project between the U.S., Russia, the EU and China.

For example, China plans to launch 100 rockets and 100 satellites in the next five years, announced deputy of the national space agency of China, Zhang Jian Chen. He reported to lawmakers that in 2011 China produced 19 space launches - one more than the U.S., and came in second place behind Russia in the number of rocket launches. In 2012, China plans to launch 30 satellites, including manned spacecraft "Shenzhou-9", which is expected to deliver the first expedition to the Chinese space station "Tyangun-1."

The world space market is a rapidly growing market segment of high technology and deep knowledge with the positive potential for development. The formation of the space market is due to the beginning of the processes of international transfer of space technologies on a commercial basis and the commercialization of space activities. Within a short period (50 years) the space market has gone from a monopoly to oligopoly and perfect competition, as evidenced by a sharp increase in the number of market participants. (4/13)

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