Category Archives: Future space

Proposals, speculation, etc regarding the future of space and humanity’s place in it.

NIAC project aims to image exoplanets with solar gravity lens system enabled by advanced solar sail

Xplore sent me this press release:

NASA $2M Grant Advances Study to Directly Image Exoplanets Light Years Away
Xplore’s Advanced Solar Sail Design will be the Fastest Spacecraft Ever Made,
Expanding Xplore’s Reach Beyond the Inner Solar System

Xplore Inc., a commercial space exploration company providing Space as a Service™ today announced they and their teammates won a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Phase III award for a two-year, $2M NASA grant to further mature the Solar Gravity Lens Focus (SGLF) architecture to image planets in orbit around distant stars starting with a Technology Demonstration Mission (TDM). Dr. Slava G. Turyshev, a NIAC Fellow and Senior Research Scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is the Principal Investigator leading the SGLF mission which includes Xplore, JPL and The Aerospace Corporation. The SGLF mission study is only the third Phase III award granted in the NIAC program ever.

Xplore’s Advanced Solar Sail for NASA’s Solar Gravity Lens Focus Mission, visualization by Bryan Versteeg, SpaceHabs.com

Reaching the focus region where the Sun’s gravity acts like a magnifying lens to the background sky is an immense technological challenge. This region, the SGLF, is over 500 times the distance between Earth and the Sun (547 AU). One Astonomical Unit (AU) is the distance from Earth to the Sun, about 93 million miles (149.5 million km). Even by using our fastest deep space probe, Voyager 1, moving at 11 miles/s (17 km/s) it will take over 150 years to reach just the edge of the SGLF region.

During the previous two NIAC phases nearly every credible propulsion technology was assessed to not only accurately navigate across this vast distance, but also to communicate and operate once at the SGLF — all within a goal of 25 years from launch. To reach the SGLF on a timescale of 25 years requires a propulsion system capable of accelerating a spacecraft to a speed seven times faster than Voyager 1 (> 20 AU/yr or 100 km/s). The resulting propulsion technology was found to meet both the high speed requirement and the proposed architecture of sending many vehicles to the SGLF. This propulsion does not exploit chemical or nuclear reactions, but simply harnesses sunlight reflecting from a solar sail.

As a key enabler for the SGLF mission, Xplore will design the spacecraft for the SGLF’s Technology Demonstration Mission (TDM). The TDM vehicle as pictured is an advanced solar sail design based upon L’Garde’s SunVane concept. The SunVane concept addresses the control, packaging and scalability challenges of traditional large planar solar sails by breaking up the required overall sail area into smaller rotatable vanes distributed across a lightweight truss. Xplore will transition this concept to a prototype design as a first step toward demonstrating the key technologies necessary to achieve the SGLF mission. The goal for the Xplore TDM vehicle using current technologies is to reach speeds in excess of two to three times that of Voyager 1 (5-8 AU/year). At these unprecedented speeds it would allow the TDM vehicle to reach Jupiter in less than a year and Saturn in two years.

Xplore Founder Lisa Rich said,

“Xplore is laying the groundwork to revolutionize the transit speed to destinations in our solar system, and beyond. Once Xplore completes the design, build and first flight of the TDM vehicle, the company would accelerate these missions — perhaps sending one per year, to rapidly advance solar system exploration while providing fast reaction options for flybys of newly-discovered interstellar objects like Oumuamua and high energy intercepts for planetary defense.”

The TDM will enable rapid transit to dramatically transform and ease the exploration of the outer solar system and Kuiper belt objects. At 5-8 AU per year, the TDM vehicle’s extraordinary speed will allow it to reach Voyager in 20 years. To put these distances into perspective, New Horizons launched in 2006 and thirteen years later performed the first flyby of Ultima Thule, a distant Kuiper Belt object that lies 1 billion miles (1.6 billion km) beyond Pluto.

Alan Stern, planetary scientist, Associate Vice President of the Southwest Research Institute and the Principal Investigator on New Horizons mission to Pluto said,

“This is an incredible mission with incredible technology. I am incredibly excited to see it selected for study by NIAC. SGLF offers to revolutionize both exoplanet science and propulsion technology if implemented.”

The design of the TDM spacecraft is led by Xplore Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Darren Garber, who helped develop L’Garde’s SunVane concept and provided operational support to LightSail. Dr. Garber will coordinate with JPL and Aerospace team members to ensure that the TDM vehicle’s design and future flight will represent the next step toward traversing 500 AU in 25 years or less.

Dr. Louis D. Friedman, Xplore Advisor and Co-Founder of The Planetary Society, worked on numerous flagship missions including Mariner, Voyager, Magellan and the Mars Program. A well-known champion of the Halley’s Comet Rendezvous-Solar Sail project back in the 70s with Dr. Carl Sagan, Dr. Friedman said,

“I’m proud that Xplore, led by our colleague Dr. Slava Turyshev, will advance the vision for space exploration Carl Sagan and I put in motion many years ago. The ability to harness the power of the Sun to rapidly transit to distant corners of our universe is a groundbreaking effort that will impact the science community for generations.”

Xplore’s team is comprised entirely of experienced U.S. space professionals who have supported all aspects of the design, development and operations of advanced technology missions for commercial, civil and national security space customers.

For the TDM, Dr. Garber and Xplore’s advanced engineering team will leverage key components, software and system engineering processes employed for its Xcraft™, a high-performance, ESPA-class, multi-mission spacecraft uniquely designed for missions in the inner solar system with a planned lunar radar mapping mission in early 2022. Their expertise will further define the SGLF Phase III study mission and architecture analysis such as using clusters of follow-on TDM vehicles to collectively mitigate risk and lower total system cost. Multiple mass-produced TDM spacecraft offer resiliency and scalability for a future decades-long mission, and the concept could allow other partners to contribute their own set of clustered spacecraft to cooperatively operate during the journey to the solar gravitational lens region in deep space.

Solar Gravity Lens Concept Receives $2M NASA Grant for Technology Maturation.
Aerospace Corp.

Lisa Rich said,

“Designing the fastest object ever made in the history of humanity is a challenge worthy of the legacy of Carl Sagan, and we look forward to advancing solar sail technologies with our Advisor, Dr. Lou Friedman. SGLF aligns with Xplore’s long-term vision for frequent, low-cost commercial missions to deep space. The ability to rapidly travel anywhere in the solar system expands our human footprint and will open up new avenues for scientific exploration.”

About Xplore Inc.: Xplore is a Seattle-based company offering Space as a Service™. Xplore provides hosted payloads, communication relay services and exclusive datasets to its customers via the Xcraft™, the company’s multi-mission spacecraft. Xplore’s mission is to expand robotic exploration via commercial missions at and beyond Earth, to the Moon, Mars, Venus, Lagrange points and near-Earth asteroids for national space agencies, national security agencies, sovereign space agencies and universities.

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See also

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Xtronaut: The Game of Solar System Exploration

Space Adventures to fly private citizens on SpaceX Crew Dragon

Space Adventures and SpaceX announced today plans to fly four private citizens on a Crew Dragon flight. The Dragon would not go to the ISS but would be a “free flyer” mission in which the citizen astronauts would enjoy microgravity and views of Earth in the spacecraft. The spacecraft would go to 2-3 times the altitude of the ISS. The first launch is aimed for the late 2021 to mid-2022 time frame. The mission would last up to five days.

Space Adventures Announces Agreement with SpaceX
to Launch Private Citizens on the Crew Dragon Spacecraft

Mission profile provides opportunity to break a world record

February 18, 2020 – Vienna, Va. — Building on the success of Crew Dragon’s first demonstration mission to the International Space Station in March 2019 and the recent successful test of the spacecraft’s launch escape system, Space Adventures, Inc. has entered into an agreement with SpaceX to fly private citizens on the first Crew Dragon free-flyer mission. This will provide up to four individuals with the opportunity to break the world altitude record for private citizen spaceflight and see planet Earth the way no one has since the Gemini program.

The Crew Dragon atop a Falcon 9 on Pad 39A before the launch on March 2, 2019 of the uncrewed vehicle for a test mission  to the ISS.

If interested parties are secured, this mission will be the first orbital space tourism experience provided entirely with American technology. Private citizens will fly aboard SpaceX’s fully autonomous Crew Dragon spacecraft launched by the company’s Falcon 9 rocket, the same spacecraft and launch vehicle that SpaceX will use to transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

“This historic mission will forge a path to making spaceflight possible for all people who dream of it, and we are pleased to work with the  Space Adventures’ team on the mission,”

said Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer, SpaceX.

“Creating unique and previously impossible opportunities for private citizens to experience space is why Space Adventures exists. From 2001-2009 our clients made history by flying over 36 million miles in space on eight separate missions to the ISS. Since its maiden mission in 2010, no engineering achievement has consistently impressed the industry more than the Dragon/Falcon 9 reusable system. Honoring our combined histories, this Dragon mission will be a special experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity – capable of reaching twice the altitude of any prior civilian astronaut mission or space station visitor,”

said Eric Anderson, Chairman, Space Adventures.

A view of the Crew Dragon during the uncrewed test flight in March 2019. The vehicle here was on it’s way back to earth after departing the ISS. Credits: NASA TV.

About Space Adventures: Space Adventures, the company that organized the flights for the world’s first private space explorers, is headquartered in the Washington, D.C. metro area. It offers a variety of programs available today, including spaceflight missions to the International Space Station, around the Moon, record-breaking orbital missions, and various training and spaceflight qualification programs. The company’s orbital spaceflight clients include Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth, Greg Olsen, Anousheh Ansari, Charles Simonyi, Richard Garriott, and Guy Laliberté. For more information, please visit www.spaceadventures.com.

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See also

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See You In Orbit?:
Our Dream Of Spaceflight

“Frozen Orbit” – A new space novel by Patrick Chiles

Patrick Chiles has released the new novel, Frozen Orbit:

The Beginning of Life Awaits at the End of the Solar System

Frozen Orbit by Patrick Chiles

When a tiny space probe hurtled past Pluto in 2015, no one could know that its most amazing discovery would remain hidden for years. Only when a long-lost Soyuz is destroyed in the skies above Siberia does the truth begin to emerge.

About to embark on NASA’s first expedition to the outer planets, the crew of the spacecraft Magellan learns someone else has beaten them by a few decades: a top-secret Soviet project codenamed Arkangel. It was a mission that began before most of them were even born, and the Kremlin believes it drove their most trusted crew mad.

During their long race to the Kuiper Belt, astronauts Jack Templeton and Traci Keene unwind a decades-old mystery buried in the pages of a dead cosmonaut’s journal. Challenging their own beliefs about the nature of humanity, they will soon confront the question of existence itself.

Check out also Patrick’s other novels, Farside and Perigee.

[ Update: Some comments from Patrick about the new book: What Were You Thinking? – The Chiles Files.]

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Frozen Orbit

Note: The Amazon links here result in commissions for HobbySpace if click-throughs lead to purchases.

2019 NIAC Symposium presentations

Check out the presentations on leading edge space technologies given this week at the 2019 NIAC Symposium via the videos on Livestream. The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program provides modest amounts of funding to projects that are too close to (or too over) the leading edge for the usual SBIR type of research grants.

Here is the symposium’s agenda (pdf):

Below is a video of this morning’s session with the following speakers:

  • Phase I Fellow Joel Sercel, Lunar-Polar Propellant Mining Outpost (LPMO): Affordable Exploration and Industrialization, TransAstra Corporation
  • 2019 Phase I Fellow John Slough, Crosscutting High Apogee Refueling Orbital Navigator (CHARON) for Active Debris Removal, MSNW LLC
  • 2019 Phase I Fellow George Sowers, Thermal Mining of Ices on Cold Solar System Bodies, Colorado School of Mines
  • 2019 Phase I Fellow Robert Staehle, Low-Cost SmallSats to Explore to Our Solar System’s Boundaries, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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Moon Rush: The New Space Race

Xplore and Arch Mission Foundation to fly knowledge archives to space destinations

An announcement from the Arch Mission Foundation and Xplore:

Xplore and the Arch Mission Foundation partner to fly Arch™ Libraries
to the Moon, Mars, Venus and Asteroids
Arch™ Libraries will fly on Xplore missions beginning in 2021
to cislunar and interplanetary destinations.

June 11, 2019, Seattle, WA – Xplore and the Arch Mission Foundation today announced that Xplore spacecraft will host specially designed Arch Libraries on its planned missions to the Moon, Mars, Venus and Near-Earth Asteroids starting in 2021.

“Our civilization’s knowledge is precious. Helping distribute Arch™ Libraries in space is an important way to secure this valuable data. The Xplore team is proud to host the Lunar Library™ payload on our missions,”

said Jeff Rich, CEO of Xplore.

“These archives provide a personal connection to space,” said Jeff Rich. As an Arch Strategic Advisor, Mr. Rich’s image was etched into nickel and included on the Arch™ Lunar Library in 2019. “It is humbling to know my image is likely intact on the Moon’s surface. Soon we will enable everyone to bring their life into space as millions of individuals can include photos and stories in the Arch™ Libraries.”

[ Nova Spivack, Co-founder and CEO of the Arch Mission Foundation, said,]

“We are thrilled to work with Xplore, and join their mission to expand human knowledge through scientific space explorations,” […] “Partnering with Xplore enables us to continue expanding our Lunar Library™, and establish new Arch Libraries throughout our solar system as part of our Billion Year Archive. We are thankful to generous partners like Xplore who believe in our mission and are willing to help us achieve it.”

The Billion Year Archive™ is a solar system-wide collection of Arch Libraries that can preserve, connect, and share humanity’s knowledge for billions of years, and serve as a backup of planet Earth. Xplore and the Arch Mission Foundation are enabling new demonstration missions that expand the Billion Year Archive™ throughout the solar system. Together they will develop technologies that ensure the Arch Library’s 30 million pages of contents are detectable and functioning after extended time periods in deep space.

Xplore XCRAFT
Sketch of an Xplore XCRAFT.

About Xplore: Xplore is a privately-funded commercial space company focused on the scientific exploration of our solar system. The mission of Xplore is to expand human knowledge beyond Earth via continuous commercial Xpedition™ missions to the Moon, Mars, Venus, and Near-Earth Asteroids. Xplore has been building its strategy, team and spacecraft since 2017 and is planning missions beginning in 2021.

Xplore provides hosted payload Xpedition™ services for scientific instruments, branding, technology demonstrations, tributes, memorials, art and custom payloads, opening up interplanetary space to national space agencies, researchers, companies, non-profit organizations and individuals. Visit: www.xplore.com

About The Arch Mission Foundation: Co-founded by Nova Spivack and Nick Slavin, the Arch Mission Foundation is a non-profit organization that maintains a backup of planet Earth, designed to continuously preserve and disseminate humanity’s most important knowledge across time and space. Visit: www.archmission.org

NanoFIche
“Nanofiche can also store up to 2,000 analog pages of text at 150 dpi, per square centimeter. For example a 20 x 20 mm nickel Nanofiche sheet can hold up to 8,000 pages of text rendered at 150 dpi. At this resolution, a letter size page of Nanofiche would hold up to 1.2 million analog images and pages of text!” – Arch Mission

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Note that one archive of the Arch Lunar Library™ made it to the Moon this year, hopefully in one piece: The Lunar Library: Genesis — Arch Mission Foundation

The Arch Lunar Library™ represents the first in a series of lunar archives from the Arch Mission Foundation, designed to preserve the records of our civilization for up to billions of years. It is installed in the SpaceIL “Beresheet” lunar lander, which crashed on the Moon in April of 2019.

Currently it is believed that the Lunar Library survived the crash of Beresheet and is intact on the Moon according to our team of scientific advisors based on imagery data provided by NASA’s LRO.

The Lunar Library contains a 30 million page archive of human history and civilization, covering all subjects, cultures, nations, languages, genres, and time periods.

Another archive is on a Tesla that travels between Mars and Earth.

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The Case for Space:
How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up
a Future of Limitless Possibility