Virgin Galactic nears commercial spaceflight with second rocket-powered test run

Virgin Galactic is nearing in on commercial spaceflight with the completion of its latest test of SpaceShipTwo. The reusable ship, which will eventually be used to ferry around passengers, took its second rocket-powered flight this morning over Mojave, California. Virgin founder Richard Branson says that the craft flew higher and faster than it ever has before — up to 69,000 feet in the air. This run was also apparently a crucial measure of the shuttle’s unique “feathering” reentry system, which it tested today for the first time.

The Verge

(via engineeringisawesome)

Giant Nasa spider robots could 3D print lunar base using microwaves (Wired UK)
The first lunar base on the Moon may not be built by human hands, but rather by a giant spider-like robot built by Nasa that can bind the dusty soil into giant bubble structures where astronauts can live, conduct experiments, relax or perhaps even cultivate crops.
We’ve already covered the European Space Agency’s (ESA) work with architecture firm Foster + Partners on a proposal for  a 3D-printed moonbase, and there are similarities between the two bases — both would be located in Shackleton Crater near the Moon’s south pole, where sunlight (and thus solar energy) is nearly constant due to the Moon’s inclination on the crater’s rim, and both use lunar dust as their basic building material. However, while the ESA’s building would be constructed almost exactly the same way a house would be 3D-printed on Earth, this latest wheeze — SinterHab — uses Nasa technology for something a fair bit more ambitious.

Giant Nasa spider robots could 3D print lunar base using microwaves (Wired UK)

The first lunar base on the Moon may not be built by human hands, but rather by a giant spider-like robot built by Nasa that can bind the dusty soil into giant bubble structures where astronauts can live, conduct experiments, relax or perhaps even cultivate crops.

We’ve already covered the European Space Agency’s (ESA) work with architecture firm Foster + Partners on a proposal for a 3D-printed moonbase, and there are similarities between the two bases — both would be located in Shackleton Crater near the Moon’s south pole, where sunlight (and thus solar energy) is nearly constant due to the Moon’s inclination on the crater’s rim, and both use lunar dust as their basic building material. However, while the ESA’s building would be constructed almost exactly the same way a house would be 3D-printed on Earth, this latest wheeze — SinterHab — uses Nasa technology for something a fair bit more ambitious.

 Space-based solar farms power up | KurzweilAI
Space-based solar power (SBSP) has once again begun to attract attention with projects emerging in the US, Russia, China, India and Japan, among others. All are driven by increasing energy demands, soaring oil and gas prices, a desire to find clean alternatives to fossil fuels and by a burgeoning commercial space industry that promises to lower the cost of entry into space and spur on a host of new industries, says BBC Future.
Space-solar-power pioneer John Mankins, CTO of Deep Space Industries, is the man behind a project called SPS-Alpha, which aims to assemble a huge bell-shaped structure that will use mirrors to concentrate energy from the sun onto solar panels. The collected energy would then be beamed down to ground stations on Earth using microwaves, providing unlimited, clean energy and overnight reducing our reliance on polluting fossil fuels.
The snag? It is unproven technology and he estimates it will take at least $15–$20 billion. .
However, a  2011 report by the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) found that SBSP could be commercially viable within 30 years, driven in part by the rise of private space companies.

 Space-based solar farms power up | KurzweilAI

Space-based solar power (SBSP) has once again begun to attract attention with projects emerging in the US, Russia, China, India and Japan, among others. All are driven by increasing energy demands, soaring oil and gas prices, a desire to find clean alternatives to fossil fuels and by a burgeoning commercial space industry that promises to lower the cost of entry into space and spur on a host of new industries, says BBC Future.

Space-solar-power pioneer John Mankins, CTO of Deep Space Industries, is the man behind a project called SPS-Alpha, which aims to assemble a huge bell-shaped structure that will use mirrors to concentrate energy from the sun onto solar panels. The collected energy would then be beamed down to ground stations on Earth using microwaves, providing unlimited, clean energy and overnight reducing our reliance on polluting fossil fuels.

The snag? It is unproven technology and he estimates it will take at least $15–$20 billion. .

However, a  2011 report by the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) found that SBSP could be commercially viable within 30 years, driven in part by the rise of private space companies.

Five Future Ideas NASA Is Considering Bringing To Life - PSFK
As part of their NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, the space agency recently announced the 28 selections for study and development as part of their larger Space Technology program. Proposals focus on developing technology that would help the agency achieve their future goals, and include research into power, propulsion systems, structures and avionics. Phase I proposals receive $100k for one year of research and Phase II proposals receive $500k for two years. They are eons away from any practical application, but the range of proposals give a hint of the direction NASA is moving in.
Here are our top five favorites, first from Phase I:
Water Walls




Getting rid of human waste is a big issue when you are floating out in space, and NASA’s Ames Research Center proposes an answer. In this space craft a system within the walls (“Water Walls”) filters out reusable water from waste material through osmosis. The waste material then gets recycled out as a radiation shield.
Water Walls: Highly Reliable and Massively Redundant Life Support Architecture
via PSFK: http://www.psfk.com/2012/08/nasa-space-program.html#ixzz239AYiYLz

Five Future Ideas NASA Is Considering Bringing To Life - PSFK

As part of their NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, the space agency recently announced the 28 selections for study and development as part of their larger Space Technology program. Proposals focus on developing technology that would help the agency achieve their future goals, and include research into power, propulsion systems, structures and avionics. Phase I proposals receive $100k for one year of research and Phase II proposals receive $500k for two years. They are eons away from any practical application, but the range of proposals give a hint of the direction NASA is moving in.

Here are our top five favorites, first from Phase I:

Water Walls

Getting rid of human waste is a big issue when you are floating out in space, and NASA’s Ames Research Center proposes an answer. In this space craft a system within the walls (“Water Walls”) filters out reusable water from waste material through osmosis. The waste material then gets recycled out as a radiation shield.

Water Walls: Highly Reliable and Massively Redundant Life Support Architecture



via PSFK: http://www.psfk.com/2012/08/nasa-space-program.html#ixzz239AYiYLz

New DARPA challenge: develop algorithms for controlling satellites | KurzweilAI
DARPA is looking for teams or individuals to develop unique algorithms to control small satellites on board the International Space Station, Network World Layer 8 reports.
DARPA’s Zero Robotics Autonomous Space Capture Challenge, kicking off March 28, wants skilled programmers from around the world to develop a fuel-optimal control algorithm.
The algorithm must enable a satellite to accomplish a feat that’s very difficult to do autonomously: capture a satellite that’s tumbling, spinning or moving in the opposite direction, the agency stated.

New DARPA challenge: develop algorithms for controlling satellites | KurzweilAI

DARPA is looking for teams or individuals to develop unique algorithms to control small satellites on board the International Space Station, Network World Layer 8 reports.

DARPA’s Zero Robotics Autonomous Space Capture Challenge, kicking off March 28, wants skilled programmers from around the world to develop a fuel-optimal control algorithm.

The algorithm must enable a satellite to accomplish a feat that’s very difficult to do autonomously: capture a satellite that’s tumbling, spinning or moving in the opposite direction, the agency stated.

Augmented reality promises astronauts instant medical knowhow | Physorg.com
The Computer Assisted Medical Diagnosis and Surgery System, CAMDASS, is a wearable augmented reality prototype. Augmented reality merges actual and virtual reality by precisely combining computer-generated graphics with the wearer’s view. CAMDASS is focused for now on ultrasound examinations but in principle could guide other procedures. Credits: ESA/Space Applications Service NV
A new augmented reality unit developed by ESA can provide just-in-time medical expertise to astronauts. All they need to do is put on a head-mounted display for 3D guidance in diagnosing problems or even performing surgery.

Augmented reality promises astronauts instant medical knowhow | Physorg.com

The Computer Assisted Medical Diagnosis and Surgery System, CAMDASS, is a wearable augmented reality prototype. Augmented reality merges actual and virtual reality by precisely combining computer-generated graphics with the wearer’s view. CAMDASS is focused for now on ultrasound examinations but in principle could guide other procedures. Credits: ESA/Space Applications Service NV

A new augmented reality unit developed by ESA can provide just-in-time medical expertise to astronauts. All they need to do is put on a head-mounted display for 3D guidance in diagnosing problems or even performing surgery.


Citizen Planet Hunters Help Scientists Locate Distant Worlds
 
Citizen science, first with protein folding video games, and now the search for distant planets:

“This Planet Hunters project, with 400,000 users worldwide, supplements the work of scientists from the Kepler project, who are looking at light patterns of 150,000 stars for tell-tale signs of far away rocky worlds crossing in their path.
The data from the Kepler Mission were released to the public in December, 2010, and the two exoplanets were flagged within the next month. The astronomers described the two new planet potentials—the first to be found by the public—in a new study that describes how crowd sourcing data from the Kepler Mission is valuable tool in the hunt for exoplanets. (Anyone who contributed to the project and chose to have their name released is publically acknowledged here).”

(via Fast Company)

jtotheizzoe:

Citizen Planet Hunters Help Scientists Locate Distant Worlds

Citizen science, first with protein folding video games, and now the search for distant planets:

“This Planet Hunters project, with 400,000 users worldwide, supplements the work of scientists from the Kepler project, who are looking at light patterns of 150,000 stars for tell-tale signs of far away rocky worlds crossing in their path.

The data from the Kepler Mission were released to the public in December, 2010, and the two exoplanets were flagged within the next month. The astronomers described the two new planet potentials—the first to be found by the public—in a new study that describes how crowd sourcing data from the Kepler Mission is valuable tool in the hunt for exoplanets. (Anyone who contributed to the project and chose to have their name released is publically acknowledged here).”

(via Fast Company)

jtotheizzoe:

(via jtotheizzoe)

Fifty New Exoplanets Discovered
Astronomers using ESO’s exoplanet hunter HARPS at La Silla Observatory in Chile have today announced a rich haul of more than 50 new exoplanets, including 16 super-Earths. This is the largest number of such planets ever announced at one time.
By studying the properties of all the HARPS planets found so far, the team have now improved the estimate of how likely it is that a star like the Sun is host to low-mass planets (as opposed to gaseous giants). They find that about 40% of such stars have at least one planet less massive than Saturn. The majority of exoplanets of Neptune mass or less appear to be in systems with multiple planets.
One of the recently announced newly discovered planets, HD 85512 b, is estimated to be only 3.6 times the mass of the Earth and is located at the edge of the habitable zone — a narrow zone around a star where liquid water, and perhaps even life, could potentially exist.
These results make astronomers confident that they are close to discovering other small rocky habitable planets around stars similar to our Sun. In the coming ten to twenty years we should have the first list of potentially habitable planets in the Sun’s neighbourhood.
Watch video »
Image: Artist’s impression shows the planet orbiting the Sun-like star HD 85512 in the southern constellation of Vela.
via unknownskywalker:

Fifty New Exoplanets Discovered

Astronomers using ESO’s exoplanet hunter HARPS at La Silla Observatory in Chile have today announced a rich haul of more than 50 new exoplanets, including 16 super-Earths. This is the largest number of such planets ever announced at one time.

By studying the properties of all the HARPS planets found so far, the team have now improved the estimate of how likely it is that a star like the Sun is host to low-mass planets (as opposed to gaseous giants). They find that about 40% of such stars have at least one planet less massive than Saturn. The majority of exoplanets of Neptune mass or less appear to be in systems with multiple planets.

One of the recently announced newly discovered planets, HD 85512 b, is estimated to be only 3.6 times the mass of the Earth and is located at the edge of the habitable zone — a narrow zone around a star where liquid water, and perhaps even life, could potentially exist.

These results make astronomers confident that they are close to discovering other small rocky habitable planets around stars similar to our Sun. In the coming ten to twenty years we should have the first list of potentially habitable planets in the Sun’s neighbourhood.

Watch video »

Image: Artist’s impression shows the planet orbiting the Sun-like star HD 85512 in the southern constellation of Vela.

via unknownskywalker:

Elon Musk: I’ll put a man on Mars in 10 years | KurzweilAI

SpaceX will launch a rocket into orbit in three years and will “go all the way to Mars” in 10 to 20 years, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on The Wall Street Journal MarketWatch Friday.

The statement follows a SpaceX announcement last week that NASA has awarded the company $75 million to develop a revolutionary launch escape system that will enable the company’s Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts.

Elon Musk: I’ll put a man on Mars in 10 years | KurzweilAI SpaceX will launch a rocket into orbit in three years and will “go all the way to Mars” in 10 to 20 years, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on The Wall Street Journal MarketWatch Friday. The statement follows a SpaceX announcement last week that NASA has awarded the company $75 million to develop a revolutionary launch escape system that will enable the company’s Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts.

Kepler’s Plenty: 6 Super-Earths, And 1,200 More Exoplanet Candidates
Source: Discover Magazine

For months we here at DISCOVER have been waiting impatiently for the Kepler mission to open up its vault of new exoplanets, hopefully filled with a bevy of Earth-like worlds and other exotic planets. Today planet lovers got a new peek at the Kepler findings, and those findings are stunning.
First, the Kepler scientists announced more than 1,200 candidate planets, which got DISCOVER blogger Phil Plait excited:
This is incredible! Even though I was expecting a number like this, actually hearing it for real is stunning. In 15 years we’ve found about 500 planets orbiting other stars, but in the almost two years since Kepler launched it may have easily tripled that number! Now, to be careful: these are candidate planets, which means they have not been confirmed. But in most cases these look pretty good, and if these numbers hold up it indicates that our galaxy is lousy with planets. They’re everywhere.
While those 1,200 are candidates, astronomers have confirmed a peculiar and fascinating set of six. From Phil Plait:
Using NASA’s orbiting Kepler observatory, astronomers have found a complete solar system of six planets orbiting a sun-like star… and it’s really weird: five of the six planets huddle closer to their star than Mercury does to the Sun!
None of them is what I would call precisely earth-like — they’re all more massive and much hotter than Earth — but their properties are intriguing, and promise that more wonderful discoveries from Kepler are coming.

Kepler’s Plenty: 6 Super-Earths, And 1,200 More Exoplanet Candidates

Source: Discover Magazine

For months we here at DISCOVER have been waiting impatiently for the Kepler mission to open up its vault of new exoplanets, hopefully filled with a bevy of Earth-like worlds and other exotic planets. Today planet lovers got a new peek at the Kepler findings, and those findings are stunning.

First, the Kepler scientists announced more than 1,200 candidate planets, which got DISCOVER blogger Phil Plait excited:

This is incredible! Even though I was expecting a number like this, actually hearing it for real is stunning. In 15 years we’ve found about 500 planets orbiting other stars, but in the almost two years since Kepler launched it may have easily tripled that number! Now, to be careful: these are candidate planets, which means they have not been confirmed. But in most cases these look pretty good, and if these numbers hold up it indicates that our galaxy is lousy with planets. They’re everywhere.

While those 1,200 are candidates, astronomers have confirmed a peculiar and fascinating set of six. From Phil Plait:

Using NASA’s orbiting Kepler observatory, astronomers have found a complete solar system of six planets orbiting a sun-like star… and it’s really weird: five of the six planets huddle closer to their star than Mercury does to the Sun!

None of them is what I would call precisely earth-like — they’re all more massive and much hotter than Earth — but their properties are intriguing, and promise that more wonderful discoveries from Kepler are coming.