December 27, 2015

It's Bezos Vs. Branson, not Musk (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The truth is, it’s not Bezos vs. Musk at the moment. It’s Bezos vs. Branson. Branson said Virgin Galactic would begin commercial suborbital flights in a mere three years. Rutan promised SpaceShipTwo would be at least 100 times safer than any spacecraft that had ever flown. Virgin added a zero to that estimate and said it would be a thousand times safer than conventional ground-based rockets.

Bezo’s New Shepard system is a new twist on some old technology. It’s conventional in that it takes off from a launch pad and only lofts a suborbital capsule that descends under parachute. In that way, it’s not that different from the Mercury-Redstone system that launched Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom into space in 1961. And it’s not as elegant of a solution as SpaceShipTwo.

However, New Shepard has three key advantages. It is much larger than the Mercury capsule, allowing up to six passengers to fly and float around in microgravity. The entire system is reusable. And there is a clear path from New Shepard to larger reusable rockets and orbital spacecraft that Bezos wants to produce. But, orbital flights — and direct competition with Musk and SpaceX — lies some years in the future. The key point now is that Blue Origin has achieved something that Virgin Galactic has not been able to do in 11 years. (12/23)

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Moves Closer to Flight in 2015 (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA and its partners are on track to launch astronauts from Florida’s Space Coast to the International Space Station as soon as 2017, thanks to critical progress made in 2015. Through partnerships with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, Boeing and SpaceX are developing a new generation of American rockets and spacecraft to open low-Earth orbit like never before.

Commercial crew missions will increase the number of astronauts aboard the space station from six to seven, doubling the amount of crew time to conduct scientific research off the Earth, for the Earth, while advancing the journey to Mars. This year, both companies began to lock in their designs, paving the way for flight tests that will begin as early as 2016. Here are the top 15 ways commercial crew made progress toward certification and missions during 2015. (12/27)

Quantum Computing Particles Sent Back Through Time (Source: New Universe Daily)
A new paper published in the journal npj Quantum Information, suggests that time travelling quantum particles in quantum computers can solve insolvable problems while travelling along “open timelike curves”, which don’t cause causality problems. Previously, quantum computers with “closed timelike curves” created several causality issues.

Threatening causality in the world of time-travelling quantum computer particles has consequences. In the classic/ simplified example, someone could travel back in time and kill their grandfather, negating their own existence. These type of paradoxes, though admittedly much more complex, happen at the particle level too.

The new study shows that quantum computers using open timelike curves can solve insolvable problems without creating causality issues. This happens as long as researchers entangle the time travelling particle with one kept in the present. The reason these curves don’t break the causal flow of time is because they don’t allow interaction with anything in the past – in other words, the time travelling entangled particles, or data they contain, never interact with themselves. (12/15)

'Forbidden' Substances on Super-Earths (Source: GeologyPage)
Using mathematical models, scientists have 'looked' into the interior of super-Earths and discovered that they may contain compounds that are forbidden by the classical rules of chemistry -- these substances may increase the heat transfer rate and strengthen the magnetic field on these planets.

"Earth-like planets consist of a thin silicate crust, a silicate-oxide mantle -- which makes up approximately 7/8 of the Earth's volume and consists more than 90% of silicates and magnesium oxide -- and an iron core. We can say that magnesium, oxygen, and silicon form the basis of chemistry on Earth and on Earth-like planets," says Oganov.

Using the USPEX algorithm, the researchers investigated various structural compositions of Mg-Si-O that may occur at pressures ranging from 5 to 30 million atmospheres. Such pressures may exist in the interior of super-Earths -- planets with a solid surface mass several times greater than the mass of the Earth. There are no planets like this in the solar system, but astronomers know of planets orbiting other stars that are not as heavy as the gas giants, but are considerably heavier than the Earth. (12/26)

Fire Breaks Out Inside Converted Saturn V Stages at U.S. Space & Rocket Center (Source: CollectSpace)
A fire broke out at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama on Saturday (Dec. 26), damaging an out-of-use ride building that was formed from converted Saturn V rocket interstages. The fire inside the former Mission to Mars facility broke out sometime after 2 p.m. CST (2000 GMT) and was brought under control by the Huntsville Fire Department less than hour later. No injuries were reported. (12/26)

How to Grow Space Age Veg (Source: The Telegraph)
The idea of space travel is endlessly appealing. From Meg on the Moon to Star Trek, it  has been imagined and reimagined, feeding science fiction and fantasy of every genre. Recently, in The Martian, Matt Damon plays an astronaut stranded on Mars who uses his knowlege of botany to survive.

Yet when Elton John’s Rocket Man sang “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids… In fact it’s cold as hell”, he neglected to mention that with reduced gravity, wildly fluctuating temperatures, high levels of radiation, no organic matter and an atmosphere of 95 percent carbon dioxide, it is also the mother of difficult growing conditions. But since the first manned space flight in 1961, progress has been steady. Click here. (12/27)

NASA Turns to Navy and Marine Corps for a Few Good Astronauts (Source:
NASA is looking for a few good astronauts. The Navy and Marine Corps sent out recruiting messages to the services Dec. 15, inviting sailors and Marines to apply for the chance to start astronaut training in 2017. (12/27)

Best Space Photos of 2015 (Source: TIME)
From stunning galaxies to dwarf planets to catastrophic rocket launches, here are the best space images of the year. Click here. (12/11)

Gunmaker to Forge $1 Million Pistols From a Meteorite (Source: CNN)
High-end handgun maker Cabot Guns is making a pair of pistols from a meteorite. Cabot Guns announced that its "extra-terrestrial pistols" will be forged from a meteorite as old as the Earth itself, and could sell for as much as $1 million at auction next year.

"It hasn't been done before and that's the kind of thing that drives me," said Cabot founder Rob BiaNchin. "I think it's fair to state many of the pistols we have constructed border on art...Meteor is rare, more so than terrestrial precious metals and I wanted to create a set of guns that were formed from a material that had intrinsic value," BiaNchin said. (12/24)

Antares, Wallops Ready for Takeoff After Explosion (Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
The buzzword around NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility these days is “new,” as in new pipes, new concrete, new electrical systems, new plumbing and new engines. Fourteen months after a rocket explosion derailed the facility’s signature space program, officials pronounced it ready for flight again Dec. 17.

“We replaced anything that appeared to have heat damage or blast damage,” Dale Nash said. Although officials described repairs to the pad as relatively minor, they still cost $15 million — a tab split equally three ways by NASA, Orbital and the pad’s owner, Virginia Space. Major work was completed by the end of September. A few, small tasks remain unfinished, Nash noted. The most noticeable is repainting the tank at the top of the 310-foot-tall water tower next to the pad, which still bears grayish char marks from the blast. (12/25)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Subsidiary Announces Major Milestone (Source: Sacramento Business Journal)
Aerojet Rocketdyne’s European subsidiary recently completed testing a space propulsion motor ordered by the European Space Agency for its satellite program. The agency in March awarded Aerojet 11 million euros(or $12 million) for flight qualification of a five-kilowatt XR-5E Hall thruster, which are ionic thrust devices used in high orbit and in space. (12/24)

Russia's New-Generation Manned Spaceship May be Called Gagarin Vector or Federation (Source: Tass)
The names Gagarin, that of the first man in space, Vector and Federation top the Internet shortlist of names for a new-generation manned transport spacecraft, the press service of Russia’s Energia Rocket and Space Corporation said on Friday. (12/25)

Russia's Space Agency Denies Express-AMU1 Satellite was Put Into Non-Calculated Orbit (Source: Tass)
The Express-AMU1 communications satellite has been put into calculated orbit, Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos told TASS. Earlier some media reported that the apparatus was put into a non-nominal orbit. According to a source in the rocket and space industry, the perigee and apogee of the satellite are within acceptable frames. (12/25)

Paid to Spend Two Months in Bed (Source: BBC)
Space travel has a major impact on the human body, so in order to help scientists work out what this means for astronauts' health, a lab in Germany is getting people to spend two months lying in bed. Envihab looks like a building from the future. Possibly one of those dystopian futures where everything looks shiny on the outside but something deeply sinister is going on within.

These rooms aren't for sick patients - instead they're occupied by 12 perfectly healthy volunteers paid to lie in bed for two months in the interests of science. Known as a bed rest study, this experiment is designed to simulate the long-term effects of weightlessness. The aim of the bed rest experiment in Envihab is to conduct a similar study to the one taking place in orbit. But lying in bed for 24 hours a day for 60 days is not as easy or enjoyable as you might imagine. Click here. (12/26)

University Researchers and NASA Engineers Test Future Spacesuits for Mars Missions (Source: AmericaSpace)
Astronaut spacesuits have evolved to purpose a variety of tasks and missions since the historic flight of Alan Shepard in 1961. In the past, protective spacesuit designs were created for the purpose of supporting astronauts in launching and landing, performing tasks outside a spacecraft in low-Earth orbit, and walking on the dusty surface of the Moon.

Now, NASA engineers and university researchers are hard at work testing new spacesuit prototypes to protect astronauts on future missions to Mars and deep space. Engineers from the University of North Dakota (UND) are working on a spacesuit prototype called the NDX-1 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. They tested the suit design throughout the American southwest before coming to Florida to utilize the research tools available at NASA’s Swamp Works facility.

The team performed tests inside the regolith bin at Swamp Works, which simulates the environment astronauts will have to work in as they explore new worlds. Future spacesuits worn on Mars must provide protection, water and air supply, and flexibility to enable the person inside to perform tasks that require a lot of movement (such as digging up samples). The regolith bin at Swamp Works consists of a fine talcum power texture similar to the substance found on the Moon. (12/26)

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