November 29, 2015

How Business is Taking the Space Race to New Frontiers (Source: The Conversation)
Today’s space race is far different from the days when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. The emergence of Blue Origin and SpaceX is as much a reflection of a less regulated space industry as the conviction and vision of the individuals who are investing billions in pursuit of bigger objectives. Originally spurred by government seed funding from NASA, space exploration has become big business – and commercial space activity is expected to double over the next decade from today’s US$250 billion.

What’s more, today’s space race is less of a competition with only one possible winner. This is a race of consortia that often includes both private entities and multiple government agencies. It brings together commercial, scientific and military interests.

In many ways it is driven by a perceived need to expand the human presence beyond a single planet – not just commercial interests. The next step is journeying to Mars. Thus, the ultimate goal of the space race 2.0 is couched in existential ideas of survival. And, while we develop the capability to travel and settle on other planets, there will be several winners along the way. Click here. (11/28)

China’s New Hypersonic Weapon Capable of Defeating US Air Defense System (Source: Sputnik)
China successfully conducted a sixth flight test of its DF-ZF (previously known as WU-14) hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) designed to defeat US missile defenses. “The DF-ZF is an ultra-high-speed missile allegedly capable of penetrating US air defense systems based on interceptor missiles,” Bill Gertz of The Washington Free Beacon wrote. (11/28)

We Need to Clear Up Space Debris to Make Way for the Small Satellite Boom (Source: Motherboard)
CubeSats and other small-sized satellites promise to democratise space and open up the final frontier. But there’s one big thing in their way—or rather hundreds of thousands of small things: space debris. And before we go launching more future-junk into space, we need to figure out what to do about it.

“Everything that’s involved in space is dangerous and hazardous,” said Lesley Jane Smith. “But the CubeSats, because of the particular orbit that they’re going into—that is the orbit that has the greatest amount of debris already.”

CubeSats and other small satellites are generally launched into lower Earth orbit (LEO) because of latency issues higher up. But that means there are a lot of satellites all wanting a share of the same space—especially as the full potential of CubeSats lies in constellations of tens or even hundreds of the things. (11/25)

U.S. Space-Mining Law Seen Leading to Possible Treaty Violations (Source: CBC)
"My view is that natural resources [in space] should not be allowed to be appropriated by anyone — states, private companies, or international organizations," said Ram Jakhu, a professor at McGill University's institute of air and space law.

He said the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, signed by the U.S. and other countries, including Canada, makes it clear that the surfaces and contents of asteroids and other celestial bodies are protected from commercial harvesting. The treaty's Article 2 reads, "Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means."

That view isn't unanimous among legal scholars, however. Some say small asteroids don't qualify as "celestial bodies," while others say it's not "appropriating" an asteroid to extract minerals from it. And the new law does contain a clause making it clear the U.S. isn't asserting sovereignty or exclusive rights over any celestial body. (11/27)

Mysterious Dark Matter May Not Always Have Been Dark (Source:
Dark matter particles may have interacted extensively with normal matter long ago, when the universe was very hot, a new study suggests. "This may have happened in the early universe, when the temperature was very high — so high that both ordinary and dark matter were 'melted' in a plasma state made up of their ingredients," Pavlos Vranas told

The protons and neutrons making up atomic nuclei are themselves each made up of a trio of particles known as quarks. The researchers suggest dark matter is also made of a composite "stealth" particle, which is composed of a quartet of component particles and is difficult to detect (like a stealth airplane). The scientists' supercomputer simulations suggest these composite particles may have masses ranging up to more than 200 billion electron-volts, which is about 213 times a proton's mass. (11/4)

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