June 17, 2016

New Paper Claims That the EM Drive Doesn't Defy Newton's 3rd Law After All (Source: Science Alert)
Physicists have just published a new paper that suggests the controversial EM drive - or electromagnetic drive - could actually work, and doesn't defy Newton's third law after all. In case you've missed the hype, here's a quick catch-up: a lot of space lovers are freaking out about the EM drive because of claims it could get humans to Mars in just 10 weeks, but just as many are sick of hearing about it, because, on paper at least, it doesn't work within the laws of physics.

Despite that not-insignificant setback, the EM drive shows no signs of quitting, and test after test - including trials by NASA scientists at the Eagleworks lab, and an independent researcher in Germany - has conceded that the propulsion system, somehow, does produce thrust. The EM drive uses electromagnetic waves as fuel, and creates thrust by bouncing those microwaves back and forth within a metal cavity to trigger motion. But the EM drive doesn't use any fuel propellants, and so it doesn't have an exhaust, and so... it can't produce thrust.

According to the researchers, the exhaust being blasted out is actually light, or more specifically, photons that have become paired up with another out-of-phase photon in order to shoot out of the metal cavity and produce thrust. The researchers predict that's because photons need to become paired up in order to escape the fuel cavity, so that the two photons in those pairs are out of phase, which means they completely cancel each other out and have no net electromagnetic field. (6/16)

New Facility at Former Launch Pad Secures Navy Testing at Spaceport for Decades to Come (Source: Space Florida)
Today, the U.S. Navy, the UK’s Ministry of Defense, Space Florida and the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast celebrated the completion of the Strategic Weapons System Ashore (SWS Ashore) facility at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 25. CCAFS Launch Complex 25 was originally constructed for the first Fleet Ballistic Missile test launches in the 1950s, and use of the location was discontinued in the 1970s.

SWS Ashore is a joint effort with the Navy and the State of Florida investing in the redevelopment of the site. Space Florida invested $5 million for capital improvements at Launch Complex 25.  “In 2012, we celebrated a groundbreaking for this project," said Space Florida's Frank DiBello. "[We] have transformed this launch site into a base for the Strategic Weapons Systems Ashore support facility."

The project enables integrated systems testing of strategic military systems at the spaceport, securing the high-value activity's place in Central Florida "for decades into the future." (6/16)

ESA Enlists NASA Chief in Campaign for Space Station Support (Source: Space News)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on June 15 made an impassioned plea to European governments not to quit the International Space Station partnership, saying the low-orbiting outpost is the on-ramp for longer-term collaboration in space exploration.

ESA’s governments are scheduled to meet in December to decide on a mid-term budget and specifically to discuss whether to remain a space station partner to 2020 – still not formally agreed to – and ultimately to 2024. These same governments in December 2014 refused to fully commit even to the 2020 date. (6/16)

Rocket Fight Winners & Losers (Source: Politico)
SpaceX's big guns and loaded rhetoric about boosting Putin cronies weren't enough to overcome Boeing and Lockheed-Martin's muscle, in a remarkable turnaround from last year's NDAA and a stunning defeat for Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain. The amendment from Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) lets the companies' joint United Launch Alliance buy up to 18 Russian-made rockets, which is what they and the Pentagon wanted.

McCain spun the amendment as a "compromise" since it imposed a cut-off in 2022, but the ULA never objected to that because they expect a made-in-America alternative by then. The fact is, the amendment passed by voice vote because SpaceX's side knew it didn't have the votes, sources familiar with the proceedings tell PI. (Last year's NDAA blocked the Russian rockets, but a sneaky rider in the omnibus put them back in play.) (6/15)

Russian Producer Makes Changes to RD-180 Engines to Avoid Future Anomalies (Source: Sputnik)
The producer of Russia’s RD-180 rocket engines has made the required changes to avoid engine anomalies in the future. An investigation found March 22 premature shutdown was caused by unexpected shift in fuel pressure differential across the RD-180 Mixture Ratio Control Valve (MRCV) and a reduction in fuel flow to the combustion chamber caused an oxidizer-rich mixture of propellants and a reduction in first stage performance. (6/15)

NASA to Launch Rocket with Student Experiments at Virginia Spaceport Next Week (Source: Virginian-Pilot)
Nearly 200 college students from across the country will be at the Wallops Flight Facility next week building experiments and launching them on a suborbital rocket. Rocket Week actually begins Saturday and continues through next week for the students, a NASA news release says. About 20 educators will learn how to use rocketry basics in their curriculum. (6/15)

Lifetime Medical Care for NASA Astronauts? (Source: Space Policy Online)
Three current and former astronauts, NASA's Chief Medical Officer and a medical ethicist told a congressional committee today that the U.S. Government has an ethical obligation to provide lifetime medical care to people who fly into space as part of a NASA program. In addition, the data NASA could obtain by following individuals after they leave the astronaut corps would be invaluable in determining how to protect the health of current and future astronauts. (6/15)

Task Force to Explore Independent Space Authority (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Space Florida's president said the industry should move toward a marketplace driven by commercial space companies and away from one driven by government agencies like NASA. To do so, Frank DiBello said he would create a task force to explore the best way of doing that. DiBello said an independent space authority could be part of those plans but warned that could come with some financial pains.

“We are moving from a past where the federal government paid for much to a more purely market-driven landscape,” DiBello said. “This will mean changes for (the) commercial industry , as well as government. Some things that launch providers pay little for now, they may pay more for in the future.”

The actual structure of the task force has not been determined, DiBello said. “Whether that authority is a state of quasi-federal authority does not matter,” DiBello said. “But the authority would manage most of the spaceport territory except for limited land and facilities retained by NASA and the Air Force to service unique or special-consideration national security or extraordinary space exploration missions.” (6/16)

Leading Astronomer Urges Europe to End Human Space Missions (Source: CNN)
Britain's leading astronomer has called on Europe to end human spaceflights because he says they are no longer cost effective or a benefit to science. Astronomer Martin Rees told CNN that the European Space Agency (ESA) should focus on robotic exploration instead. "The practical case for sending people into space is getting weaker as robots are getting better," Rees said. (6/16)

Small Asteroid Discovered Orbiting Earth (Source: CNN)
A small asteroid has been found circling Earth as the two objects orbit the sun together. Scientists say it looks like the asteroid -- called 2016 HO3 -- has been out there for about 50 years and isn't going away anytime soon. Scientists think the asteroid is between 120 and 300 feet (37 to 91 meters) in diameter.

"Our calculations indicate 2016 HO3 has been a stable quasi-satellite of Earth for almost a century, and it will continue to follow this pattern as Earth's companion for centuries to come," said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies. (6/16)

No comments: