The activities the past week on the International Space Station are highlighted in the latest Space to Ground report:
The activities the past week on the International Space Station are highlighted in the latest Space to Ground report:
Scott Lowther is a space historian who specializes in projects that
on those programs that didn’t fly: the concepts that were too expensive, or politically non-viable, or technically infeasible or just plain unlucky. If you want to read about the P-51 Mustang or the 747, there are many books easily available. But what if you’re interested in the X-20 Dyna Soar or Project Pluto or the Orion nuclear pulse vehicle? Nuclear rockets? Manned missions to Mars? Hypersonic bombers? Vertical takeoff rocket powered suborbital passenger transports? Blended wing body jetliners? I’ve got you covered.
Scott publishes the aerospace history e-magazine Aerospace Projects Review, where he tells “the tales that have been largely forgotten”. He is expert in finding and presenting nearly forgotten and lost reports, blueprints, brochures and the like. In some cases he will create “accurate and detailed diagrams using CAD software. This all requires a whole lot of research, along with sometimes knowing where to go and who to talk to… as well as a lot of time and effort on preparing the information for release”.
For example, one of his recent issues focused on the X-20 Dyna-Soar projects that almost got a reusable spaceplane to orbit in the 1960s. The 128 page issue is packed with detailed blueprints, artists renditions, and text discussion 93 pages of which deal with the X-20′s history and design.
The issue also has articles on the Lockheed CL-295, McDonnell F-4(FVS), US Navy SCAT VTOL and the Republic Aircraft RAC-730 SSTO aerospaceplane. There is also a 49 page addendum with even more resource materials for the article.
Scott talked about his work on The Space Show last year: Scott Lowther, Monday, 12-2-13 0 Thespaceshow’s Blog - Audio (mp3).
You can support Scott Lowther’s aerospace history research by participating in his Patreon site.
The Hubble telescope looks at three gas giants, or “Hot Jupiters”, around distant stars that are similar to our sun and find little sign of water: Surprised scientists come up ‘nearly dry’ in search for water on ‘hot Jupiter’ planets – The Washington Post
Here is the NASA press release:
Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have gone looking for water vapor in the atmospheres of three planets orbiting stars similar to the sun — and have come up nearly dry.
The three planets, known as HD 189733b, HD 209458b, and WASP-12b, are between 60 and 900 light-years away from Earth and were thought to be ideal candidates for detecting water vapor in their atmospheres because of their high temperatures where water turns into a measurable vapor.
These so-called “hot Jupiters” are so close to their star they have temperatures between 1,500 and 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, however, the planets were found to have only one-tenth to one one-thousandth the amount of water predicted by standard planet-formation theories.
“Our water measurement in one of the planets, HD 209458b, is the highest-precision measurement of any chemical compound in a planet outside our solar system, and we can now say with much greater certainty than ever before that we’ve found water in an exoplanet,” said Nikku Madhusudhan of the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge, England. “However, the low water abundance we have found so far is quite astonishing.”
Madhusudhan, who led the research, said that this finding presents a major challenge to exoplanet theory. “It basically opens a whole can of worms in planet formation. We expected all these planets to have lots of water in them. We have to revisit planet formation and migration models of giant planets, especially “hot Jupiters,” and investigate how they’re formed.”
He emphasizes that these results may have major implications in the search for water in potentially habitable Earth-sized exoplanets. Instruments on future space telescopes may need to be designed with a higher sensitivity if target planets are drier than predicted. “We should be prepared for much lower water abundances than predicted when looking at super-Earths (rocky planets that are several times the mass of Earth),” Madhusudhan said.
Using near-infrared spectra of the planets observed with Hubble, Madhusudhan and his collaborators estimated the amount of water vapor in each of the planetary atmospheres that explains the data.
The planets were selected because they orbit relatively bright stars that provide enough radiation for an infrared-light spectrum to be taken. Absorption features from the water vapor in the planet’s atmosphere are detected because they are superimposed on the small amount of starlight that glances through the planet’s atmosphere.
Detecting water is almost impossible for transiting planets from the ground because Earth’s atmosphere has a lot of water in it, which contaminates the observation. “We really need the Hubble Space Telescope to make such observations,” said Nicolas Crouzet of the Dunlap Institute at the University of Toronto and co-author of the study.
The currently accepted theory on how giant planets in our solar system formed, known as core accretion, states a planet is formed around the young star in a protoplanetary disk made primarily of hydrogen, helium, and particles of ices and dust composed of other chemical elements. The dust particles stick to each other, eventually forming larger and larger grains. The gravitational forces of the disk draw in these grains and larger particles until a solid core forms. This then leads to runaway accretion of both solids and gas to eventually form a giant planet.
This theory predicts that the proportions of the different elements in the planet are enhanced relative to those in its star, especially oxygen, which is supposed to be the most enhanced. Once the giant planet forms, its atmospheric oxygen is expected to be largely encompassed within water molecules. The very low levels of water vapor found by this research raise a number of questions about the chemical ingredients that lead to planet formation.
“There are so many things we still don’t know about exoplanets, so this opens up a new chapter in understanding how planets and solar systems form,” said Drake Deming of the University of Maryland, who led one of the precursor studies. “The problem is that we are assuming the water to be as abundant as in our own solar system. What our study has shown is that water features could be a lot weaker than our expectations.”
The findings are published July 24 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington.
For images and more information about Hubble, visit: www.nasa.gov/hubble
The 2014 Space Elevator Conference, sponsored by the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC), will be held during August 22-24 at the The Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington. Check out the Program and Registration.
The latest ISEC news is available in the ISEC Newsletter – July.2014.
The journal Nature discusses the rise of several fusion power schemes that increasingly appear to be viable low cost alternatives to the dominant Tokamak/ITER approach:
One of those alternatives mentioned is Helion Energy, a spinoff of research at the University of Washington:
Helion Energy is uniquely qualified to succeed in bringing the Fusion Engine to market:
Helion Energy’s technology has received $4+ M non-dilutive U.S. Department of Energy seed funding to demonstrate the concept at increasing scales. The team has contributed another $100k towards business development and ongoing technology development. Helion Energy is seeking a $35M Series B. This three year round has several funding gates and will demonstrate a reactor scale fusion core that will exceed the performance of any fusion energy source ever built. Series B will also demonstrate direct electricity generation and finalize the commercial power plant design. Subsequently, a commercial 50 MW pilot plant will be constructed over a two year period .
The Helion approach appears to be similar to that of the Tri-Alpha Energy mentioned in the Nature article.
It’s been awhile since I posted on Carter Aviation Technologies and their slowed-rotor technology. Their Cartercopter may look like a gyroplane but the powered rotor with weighted tips allows it to takeoff and land vertically like a helicopter. And slowing the rotor down in flight allows the vehicle to achieve horizontal speeds comparable to a fixed wing airplane.
Their latest prototype has been performing well: Carter Aviation Breaks Five Aviation Records in Four Days – Carter Aviation – Jan.30.14 (pdf)
“We set an altitude record just shy of 18,000 ft, a Mu [advance ratio] record of Mu 1.13, slowed the rotor to a new minimum of 105 rpm, achieved a level 202 mph true speed on 325 hp at an aircraft test weight over 4000 lbs, and flew for well over an hour representing our longest flight to date,” exclaimed an excited Jay Carter. “We are expanding the envelope in baby steps and still have a ways to go. This aircraft should be able to fly up to 8 hours on its given fuel capacity, cruise at 220+ mph and up to 28,000 ft.”
Here are a couple of videos of the prototype in flight tests:
Milktoast Music “Makers of fine Space Opera and other noise” points me to Richard Pickman, who creates a “mix of electronic, live instruments and horror/science fiction movies, that crosses the musical boundaries to bring robots, aliens and love to the world”. He will soon release a new album titled, The Pink Laser.
Here’s an infographic that compares costs for living in a base on the Moon for a year for a NASA program versus private ventures. I think they underestimate the former quite a bit and overestimate the latter a bit but overall a reasonable guess-estimate.
I expect that our crowd crafted space future will be quite different than what a crowd-funded space plan could ever predict. Nevertheless, should a plan can be an interesting exercise. Check out the : Integrated Space Plan – Envisioning Humanity’s Future by Integrated Space Analytics — Kickstarter
The National Space Society has now become a $500 logo backer to the “Integrated Space Plan” Kickstarter and encourages NSS members to help this Kickstarter effort reach its goal. Many NSS members have already done so, but with only 5 days left, this Kickstarter is still $3000 short its $18,000 goal.
Become a “Backer” — visit the Kickstarter page to pledge your support.
The “Integrated Space Plan” project is to remake, maintain, and expand the uses of the Integrated Space Plan, a graphically detailed timeline of our future in space for the next 100 years. NSS leader Ronnie Lajoie writes “The five team leaders are all NSS members, including Jay Wittner, a past NSS Officer and Director, and current chapter officer. The ISP will complement and supplement our Roadmap to Space Settlement.”
Jay Wittner writes “20 years ago a detailed long term plan was created showing what was needed to develop a robust space infrastructure. It was called theIntegrated Space Plan (ISP). It was an early infographic developed to depict our future in space. The original plan by Ron Jones was a hit in the space community and it’s time to update the ISP and post it online so everyone can see the path forward!” Ron Jones is part of the new team.
NSS leader Gary Barnhard adds “While no one has a monopoly on insight into the future, the combination of perspectives should be integratable into a common framework which provides a context for understanding where we have been, where we are, and where we could go.”
As an extra incentive, all Backers at the $25 level or higher will get a free year of membership in the Space Frontier Foundation, one of our sister space advocacy organizations.
From the Moon Society:
There are any number of plans for the exploration of space out there in the marketplace of ideas. In the absence of much real-world progress, there is an inclination to plan for when there might be progress in the future. This often becomes a competition in the marketplace of ideas as agendas come into play, and some aspects of space exploration (and maybe development) are highlighted to the detriment of others as personal goals come into play.
One effort to address this was the Integrated Space Plan, which tried to take a meta- approach to looking at our space efforts and determine which activities and technologies fed into what aspects of humanity’s move out into the Solar System. Which aspects of exploration and development should be highlighted? How might they connect? What can help enable what else? Where are the synergies?
The Integrated Space Plan (ISP) was created in the 1980s as a wall-sized poster that ended up in universities and aerospace offices across the country and around the world. Its voluminous content encouraged exploration of how different goals could be achieved, almost like the technology tree structure of many civilization-type video games. It also encouraged many systems engineers, who thrive on complexity.
Now it’s time to revisit the Integrated Space Plan for a new generation of future space explorers, and update it for the new companies, new technologies, and new ideas in regards to things like the cislunar economy, interplanetary superhighways, and relevant resources.
A video from their recent crowdfunding campaign (now ended):
Here’s a new SETI Institute seminar: The Diversity of Habitable Zones and the Planets – Stephen Kane (SETI Talks)
The field of exoplanets has rapidly expanded from the exclusivity of exoplanet detection to include exoplanet characterization. A key step towards this characterization is the determination of which planets occupy the Habitable Zone (HZ) of their host stars. As the Kepler data continues to be processed, the orbital period sensitivity is increasing and there are now numerous exoplanets known to occupy the HZ of their host stars.
In this talk Dr. Kane will describe the properties of the HZ, the dependence on the spectral type properties, and the current state of exoplanet detections in the HZ. Along the way Dr. Kane will attempt to dispel some common misconceptions regarding the Habitable Zone. Dr. Kane will relate HZ results to the calculation of eta_Earth and eta_Venus. Finally, Dr. Kane will present several case studies of HZ Kepler planets, including circumbinary planets for which the HZ is a time-dependent function.
A reader pointed me to these posts that look at several topics related to the growth in information technologies and their use in science, which generates ever more data:
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has produced new imagery of the Apollo 11 landing site:
From the caption:
Apollo 11 landed on the Moon on July 20th, 1969, a little after 4:00 in the afternoon Eastern Daylight Time. The Lunar Module, nicknamed Eagle and flown by Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, touched down near the southern rim of the Sea of Tranquility, one of the large, dark basins that contribute to the Man in the Moon visible from Earth. Armstrong and Aldrin spent about two hours outside the LM setting up experiments and collecting samples. At one point, Armstrong ventured east of the LM to examine a small crater, dubbed Little West, that he’d flown over just before landing.
The trails of disturbed regolith created by the astronauts’ boots are still clearly visible in photographs of the landing site taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) narrow-angle camera (LROC) more than four decades later.
LROC imagery makes it possible to visit the landing site in a whole new way by flying around a three-dimensional model of the site. LROC scientists created the digital elevation model using a stereo pair of images. Each image in the pair shows the site from a slightly different angle, allowing sophisticated software to infer the shape of the terrain, similar to the way that left and right eye views are combined in the brain to produce the perception of depth.
The animator draped an LROC photograph over the terrain model. He also added a 3D model of the LM descent stage—the real LM in the photograph looks oddly flat when viewed at an oblique angle.
Although the area around the site is relatively flat by lunar standards, West Crater (the big brother of the crater visited by Armstrong) appears in dramatic relief near the eastern edge of the terrain model. Ejecta from West comprises the boulders that Armstrong had to avoid as he searched for a safe landing site.
Apollo 11 was the first of six increasingly ambitious crewed lunar landings. The exploration of the lunar surface by the Apollo astronauts, when combined with the wealth of remote sensing data now being returned by LRO, continues to inform our understanding of our nearest neighbor in space.
2. Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 7 PM PDT (10 PM EDT, 9 PM CDT): We welcome DR. MARK SHELHAMER of NASA regarding his FISO talk from earlier this year regarding critical issues for Human Space Flight. His FISO talk was April 1, 2014.
3. Friday, June 27, 2014, 9:30 -11 AM PDT (12;30-2 PM EDT; 11:30-1 PM CDT): No show as am at NewSpace Conference.
4. Sunday, July 27, 2014, 12-1:30 PM PST, (3-4:30 PM EST, 2-3:30 PM CST). OPEN LINES. First time callers welcome. All space and STEM topics welcome.
/– The Space Show on Vimeo – webinar videos
/– The Space Show’s Blog – summaries of interviews.
/– The Space Show Classroom Blog – tutorial programs
The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.
The latest TMRO/Spacevidcast show is now available on line: #Apollo45 -TMRO
From the caption:
TRMO is a crown funded show. Get you get value from this episode? Consider giving value back! http://www.patreon.com/tmro – Even as little as $1.00/ep can go a long way! Our main topic today is Apollo 45 years later and why we don’t want a repeat of the past. Our next humans on the Moon or Mars should be there to stay, not just flags and footprints!
It was 45 years ago today that humans first walked on the Moon. I hope, and expect, it will be a lot less time than that before humans are on the Moon again.
Some resource sites
On The Space Show today at 12 PM PDT, (3 PM EDT, 2 PM CDT), Rand Simberg and Bill Simon will return to “celebrate this special day with us and the Evoloterra ceremony. You can download Evoloterra [pdf] at www.evoloterra.com.”
Last year my wife and I and some friends celebrated July 20th with the Evoloterra ceremony and really enjoyed it: Our Evoloterra evening. Recommend you give it a try.
There are lots of Apollo 11 documentaries available at Youtube. Here is one from NASA:
Alvin Remmers has led the Moonandback Media effort to document this period of burgeoning private space development with video interviews of many of the leaders and participants in these endeavors. The project has built up a large collection of such interviews and now Alvin is
seeking funds to transcribe 102 hours of video content for donation to the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum. Our target funding will enable us to pay for the transcription and donation of the archive to the NASM and to continue our documentary project. The transcription is necessary to make the content useful for historians, journalists, academicians and researchers.
You can contribute to their crowd-funded campaign at The People of NewSpace (2010-2013) — a Moonandback documentary project | RocketHub.
Their collection of videos can be seen at Moonandback Media on Vimeo.
Alvin describes the Moonandback collection and the plan to create transcripts for them in this video:
More about the campaign on the RocketHub page.
Government space missions are expensive. New private-sector space ventures always seem to involve billionaires. Yet we achieved results by raising funds a few dollars at a time — and by involving our donors directly in our work.
NASA likes to say that “space is hard,” but to make itself relevant to the people whose taxes fund it, it must get outside its comfort zone. To its credit, NASA saw the potential of our project to reach beyond the traditional audience. The interactions via social media with our supporters have borne this out. Imagine what feats of exploration might be possible if an empowered and engaged citizenry realized that exploring space is really something anyone can do.
And here’s an update on the project: ISEE-3 Status Report 18 July 2014 – Space College
During our pass at Arecibo today we managed to get some propulsion out of thruster K. We’re looking at how this was accomplished with an eye toward repeating it.