August 09, 2014

Elon Musk statements and my own extrapolation of developments towards an eighty thousand person Mars City by 2040

"[Elon Musk] is hopeful that the first people could be taken to Mars in 10 to 12 years. Elon think it is certainly possible for that to occur. He says the thing that matters long term is to have a self-sustaining city on Mars, to make life multiplanetary.

Here I have combined various statements from Elon Musk with my own extrapolation of developments towards and eighty thousand person Mars City by 2040.

Spacex hopes to recover and reuse a first stage next year.

Spacex hopes to carry hopes the Dragon 2 will carry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station as soon as 2016.

The seven person Dragon 2 capsule can land and be reused.

Musk's schedule puts him well ahead of NASA, which is only talking about getting man to Mars by the 2030s – and then only if it can get billions in public funding and build a rocket big enough for the job. Musk's Falcon Heavy booster is scheduled to fly within the next year, and will carry enough payload to make assembling a Mars spaceship possible.

After Spacex has developed a Mars vehicle and idealy flown it a few times then they will probably go public.

If the reusable Mars Colonial Transports (MCT) have begun taking people to Mars in 2026, then they would would be taking full loads of 100 people per trip by 2030. Averaging eighty Earth to Mars trips per year using Mars Colonial Transport would enable 80,000 people to be on Mars by 2040.

With chemical rocket technology Earth and Mars are lined up for 260 days trip once every 1.6 years.

If each MCT costs about $200 million, then making 200 would cost about $40 billion. Each might make one trip to Mars and back once every 30 months.

Spacecraft/Rover Hybrids for the Exploration of Small Solar System Bodies

NASA has awarded a $500,000 phase 2 grant for hybrid spacecraft - rovers.

The goal of this effort is to develop a mission architecture that allows the systematic and affordable in-situ exploration of small Solar System bodies, such as asteroids, comets, and Martian moons. Our architecture relies on the novel concept of spacecraft/rover hybrids, which are surface mobility platforms capable of achieving large surface coverage (by attitude-controlled hops, akin to spacecraft flight), fine mobility (by tumbling), and coarse instrument pointing (by changing orientation relative to the ground) in the low-gravity environments (micro-g to milli-g) of small bodies. The actuation of the hybrids relies on spinning three internal flywheels, which allows all subsystems to be packaged in one sealed enclosure and enables the platforms to be minimalistic, thereby reducing the cost of the mission architecture. The hybrids would be deployed from a mother spacecraft, which would then act as a communication relay to Earth and would aid the in-situ assets with tasks such as localization and navigation. In Phase I, we demonstrated that the bounding assumptions behind our proposed mission architecture are reasonable, and have a sound scientific and engineering basis. Phase II has two objectives. First, to advance from TRL 2 to TRL 3.5 the mobility subsystem of the hybrids (comprising planning/control and localization/navigation), with the aid of a unique test bed for low-gravity surface mobility and parabolic flight tests on a zero-g airplane. Second, to study at a conceptual level (TRL 2) system engineering aspects for the hybrids, with a focus on power, in the context of a mission to Mars' moon Phobos. Collectively, our study aims to demonstrate that exploration via controlled mobility in low-gravity environments is technically possible, economically feasible, and would enable a focused, yet compelling set of science objectives aligned with NASA's interests in science and human exploration. Indeed, while controlled mobility in low-gravity environments was identified by the National Research Council in 2012 as one of NASA's high priorities for technology development, it has never been demonstrated in a high-fidelity low-gravity test bed. Hence, this proposal, if successful, would provide a sought-after and currently unavailable capability for small bodies exploration.

China's offers southeast asian countries Canada and Mexico deal with the USA - an economic boost in exchange for economic, cultural and political domination

China wants to build thousands of miles of high speed rail and cargo rail track that will loop through Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia and head south to Singapore as part of a grand trans-Asian rail accord signed by nearly 20 Asian countries in 2006.

When the people of the mainland [southeast asian] countries soon find through the convenience of high-speed rail that Kunming is their closest neighbor but a few hours away, the Yunnan capital will eventually become, in effect, the capital of mainland Southeast Asia,” said Geoff Wade, a visiting fellow at the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University.

The gravitational pull of Southeast Asia toward China through its well-developed and relatively inexpensive high-speed rail technology was almost inevitable, despite opposition in some places, Mr. Wade said.

The fear of Chinese domination [in Myanmar] is pervasive. “The China railway project is a national security issue,” said U Than Htut Aung, the chief executive of Eleven Media, a group that publishes newspapers that have campaigned against the project. “Through the Sino-Myanmar railway, China can easily access the Indian Ocean, and Myanmar’s security would be threatened. Because of the rail, Myanmar could become a second Crimea.”

Japan, concerned about the economic strength of its archrival, China, across Southeast Asia, is presenting itself as an alternative benefactor. It has increased its investment in the region and targeted Myanmar with its largess, particularly in the rail projects that are so dear to China.

August 08, 2014

NASA studies enabling massive lens in space from dust

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, which has named five projects for $500,000 Phase 2 awards..

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is leading one of the Phase II projects, one called ‘Orbiting Rainbows,’. It involves clouds of dust-like matter being shaped into the primary element for ultra-large space lens.

Inspired by the light scattering and focusing properties of distributed optical assemblies in Nature, such as rainbows and aerosols, and by recent laboratory successes in optical trapping and manipulation, we propose a unique combination of space optics and autonomous robotic system technology, to enable a new vision of space system architecture with applications to ultra-lightweight space optics and, ultimately, in-situ space system fabrication. Typically, the cost of an optical system is driven by the size and mass of the primary aperture. The ideal system is a cloud of spatially disordered dust-like objects that can be optically manipulated: it is highly reconfigurable, fault-tolerant, and allows very large aperture sizes at low cost. This new concept is based on recent understandings in the physics of optical manipulation of small particles in the laboratory and the engineering of distributed ensembles of spacecraft swarms to shape an orbiting cloud of micron-sized objects. In the same way that optical tweezers have revolutionized micro- and nanomanipulation of objects, our breakthrough concept will enable new large scale NASA mission applications and develop new technology in the areas of Astrophysical Imaging Systems and Remote Sensing because the cloud can operate as an adaptive optical imaging sensor. While achieving the feasibility of constructing one single aperture out of the cloud is the main topic of this work, it is clear that multiple orbiting aerosol lenses could also combine their power to synthesize a much larger aperture in space to enable challenging goals such as exo-planet detection. Furthermore, this effort could establish feasibility of key issues related to material properties, remote manipulation, and autonomy characteristics of cloud in orbit. There are several types of endeavors (science missions) that could be enabled by this type of approach, i.e. it can enable new astrophysical imaging systems, exo-planet search, large apertures allow for unprecedented high resolution to discern continents and important features of other planets, hyperspectral imaging, adaptive systems, spectroscopy imaging through limb, and stable optical systems from Lagrange-points. Furthermore, future microminiaturization might hold promise of a further extension of our dust aperture concept to other more exciting smart dust concepts with other associated capabilities. Our objective in Phase II is to experimentally and numerically investigate how to optically manipulate and maintain the shape of an orbiting cloud of dust-like matter so that it can function as an adaptable ultra-lightweight surface. Our solution is based on the aperture being an engineered granular medium, instead of a conventional monolithic aperture. This allows building of apertures at a reduced cost, enables extremely fault-tolerant apertures that cannot otherwise be made, and directly enables classes of missions for exoplanet detection based on Fourier spectroscopy with tight angular resolution and innovative radar systems for remote sensing. In this task, we will examine the advanced feasibility of a crosscutting concept that contributes new technological approaches for space imaging systems, autonomous systems, and space applications of optical manipulation. The proposed investigation will mature the concept that we started in Phase I, identifying technology gaps and candidate system architectures for the spaceborne cloud as an aperture.

Babylon 5 reboot likely to become big-budget film with a 2016 Production Start

According to a report from TV Wise, Babylon 5 showrunner J. Michael Straczynski will shortly begin work on a rebooted big-screen version of his 1990s sci-fi TV series.

Speaking at San Diego Comic Con last week, Straczsynki announced that he would soon be sitting down to write a Babylon 5 feature film, which is envisioned as a reboot of the iconic sci-fi series. JMS said that he plans to get the script locked down by the end of 2015 and the film would then enter production the following year in 2016.

Next to nothing is known about the plot for this Babylon 5 feature film, beyond the fact that it is a reboot of the concept seen in the series. That said, J. Michael Straczynski has stated that he would like to use cast members from the series, such as Bruce Boxleitner and Mira Furlan, in new roles in the feature film. “I’d love to see Bruce as the President of the Earth Alliance”, he said.

The hope is that Warner Bros, who produced the Babylon 5 television series, would step up and green-light a “big budget” feature film once the script has been completed. But owing to the nature of the deal that Straczysnki inked with the studio to produce Babylon 5 in the early 1990s, he, rather than Warner Bros, owns the feature film rights to the show. Should Warner Bros. choose not to greenlight a B5 movie, Straczynski would still proceed with the feature, which would then be funded and produced through his Studio JMS banner on a budget of $80 – $100 million.

Pioneer Natural Resources CEO predicts US Crude oil production will reach 14 million barrels per day with improved drilling technology

Technological improvements will allow energy companies to scrape more crude out of the ground and drive U.S. oil production higher. Although government forecasters expect U.S. oil production to peak around 9.5 million barrels per day in 2016, Scott Sheffield, CEO of Irving, Texas-based Pioneer Natural Resources told an energy conference here the real pinnacle could be 14 million barrels daily.

“The only thing that can stop it is oil prices,” Sheffield said, warning that a price collapse for domestic West Texas Intermediate crude would cause “a tremendous turndown.”

The industry may not discover any more big elephant fields boasting up to 75 billion barrels of oil, Sheffield said, but will continue to find new opportunities in conventional plays. And he noted the industry is pursuing new techniques for boosting the recovery rate at wells up from the 2 percent to 3 percent common today.

Continental Resources is using megapads with 30 wells in them to reduce costs. The average cost of a Bakken-Three Forks well declined to $8.0 million from $9.2 million in the past year and a half, and the company expects to further reduce costs to $7.5 million by the end of 2014. Bott said the average industry well cost is $11.3 million. The Bakken-Three Forks accounted for 93,300 boe/d of Continental's production of 144,300 boe/d at year-end 2013, and company-wide output is expected to more than double to 300,000 boe/d by 2017. Continentals continuing efforts to improve its understanding of the Bakken-Three Forks are contributing to a rising reserve base. Proved reserves totaled 1.08 billion boe at year-end 2013, a 38% increase compared with yearend 2012.

Pioneer has a $30 billion market capitalization.

Nextbigfuture notes that with continuing fighting in the middle east (particularly Iraq) will support higher oil prices. About 10% of the world's oil production could remain under producing.

August 07, 2014

Elon Musk says that a sustainable human city is needed on Mars to achieve his multi-planetary goal

June 17th 2014 Closing Bell Session is a talk about SpaceX being the number one on CNBC's Disruptor 50 List. They also talk about SolarCity's major plan in NY and Tesla's direct sales update.

Elon feels it not just getting to Mars but there needs to be a sustainable human City on Mars.

Elon says Spacex should recover and relaunch a first stage booster next year (2015).

For solar power, Elon thinks there is an over supply of low efficiency panels. What is needed is more high efficiency solar panels. He is thinking ahead to the need for high volume of high efficiency panels. Needing less area for high efficiency solar panels lowers the cost for installation and other overhead costs.

The main concern for the gigafactory for batteries is to have the factories ready with volume production when the generation three Tesla car is ready. They have to be ready with volume batteries when Tesla is making high volume of lower price electric cars.

Video of the Elon Musk 60 Minutes Interview

Elon Musk, CEO and CTO (Chief Technical Offocer) of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, interviewed on 60 Minutes.

The video covers Elon Musk's biography from childhood to today.

Startup with optical solver supercomputer targets 17 exaFLOPS by 2020

A startup company called Optalysis is trying to invent a fully-optical computer that would be aimed at many of the same tasks for which GPUs are currently used. Amazingly, Optalysis is claiming that they can create an optical solver supercomputer astonishing 17 exaFLOPS machine by 2020.

To date they have successfully built a Proof of Concept derivative processor to demonstrate the ability to process a spectral derivative function using optical technology. This function forms the basis of spectral Partial Differential Equation solvers such as those used in high-end Computational Fluid Dynamics models.

The system produced two-dimensional derivative functions. Numerical data was represented as grey-level intensities on liquid crystal SLMs and projected through the optical system using a low power laser light. The results were then converted back into digital form with a camera.

A 340 gigaflops proof-of-concept model is slated for launch in January 2015, sufficient to analyze large data sets, and produce complex model simulations in a laboratory environment, according to the company.

Unlike current supercomputers, which still use what are essentially serial processors, the Optalysys Optical Processor takes advantage of the properties of light to perform the same computations in parallel and at the speed of light.

IBM announces 1 million neuron cognitive chip

The latest IBM SyNAPSE chip, introduced on August 7, 2014, has the potential to transform mobility by spurring innovation around an entirely new class of applications with sensory capabilities at incredibly low power levels. This is enabled by an revolutionary new technology design inspired by the human brain. IBM built a new chip with a brain-inspired computer architecture powered by an unprecedented 1 million neurons and 256 million synapses. It is the largest chip IBM has ever built at 5.4 billion transistors, and has an on-chip network of 4,096 neurosynaptic cores. Yet, it only consumes 70mW during real-time operation — orders of magnitude less energy than traditional chips. As part of a complete cognitive hardware and software ecosystem, this technology opens new computing frontiers for distributed sensor and supercomputing applications.

IBM's brain-inspired architecture consists of a network of neurosynaptic cores. Cores are distributed and operated in parallel. Core operate -without a clock- in an event-driven fashion. Cores integrate memory, computation, and communication. Individual cores can fail and yet, like the brain, the architecture can still function. Cores on the same chip communicate with one another via an on-chip event-driven network. Chips communicate via an inter-chip interface leading to seamless scalability like the cortex, enabling creation of scalable neuromorphic systems.

TrueNorth neuromorphic chips are pretty much ready to go for commercial applications. On the data center/supercomputer side of things, IBM already has dozens of big data solutions — such as Watson — that could be dramatically enhanced by TrueNorth. For consumers, the fact that TrueNorth consumes much less power than conventional Von Neumann chips could be significant. While TrueNorth isn’t going to run your operating system any time soon, it would make a fantastically efficient coprocessor to handle sensor input, computer vision, AI (self-driving cars), and other emerging spheres in personal/wearable computing."

Exoskeletons for Carrying heavy objects in shipbuilding similar to one of Lockheed HULC ecoskeleton configurations

The Experiments of Wearable Robot for Carrying Heavy-Weight Objects of Shipbuilding Works was presented at an IEEE conference

Workers building the world’s biggest ships could soon don robotic exoskeletons to lug around 100-kilogram hunks of metal. The exoskeleton fits anyone between 160 and 185 centimetres tall. Workers do not feel the weight of its 28-kilogram frame of carbon, aluminium alloy and steel, as the suit supports itself and is engineered to follow the wearer's movements. With a 3-hour battery life, the exoskeleton allows users to walk at a normal pace and, in its prototype form, it can lift objects with a mass of up to 30 kilograms.

To don the exoskeleton, workers start by strapping their feet on to foot pads at the base of the robot. Padded straps at the thigh, waist and across the chest connect the user to the suit, allowing the robot to move with their bodies as it bears loads for them. A system of hydraulic joints and electric motors running up the outside of the legs links to a backpack, which powers and controls the rig.

The Lockheed Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC) is based on a design from Berkeley Bionics of California and have been around since 2009. Lockheed enhanced the basic HULC.

* Soldiers wearing HULC are able to carry loads up to 200 pounds with minimal effort
* HULC uses four pounds of lithium polymer batteries will run the exoskeleton for an hour walking at 3mph, according to Lockheed. Speed marching at up to 7mph reduces this somewhat; a battery-draining "burst" at 10mph is the maximum speed

Daewoo exoskeleton

Lockheed HULC exoskeleton

Synthesis of structurally pure carbon nanotubes using molecular seeds

Researchers at Empa [Switzerland] and the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research have succeeded in "growing" single-wall carbon nanotubes (CNT) with a single predefined structure - and hence with identical electronic properties. And here is how they pulled it off: the CNTs "assembled themselves", as it were, out of tailor-made organic precursor molecules on a platinum surface, as reported by the researchers in the latest issue of the journal "Nature". In future, CNTs of this kind may be used in ultra-sensitive light detectors and ultra-small transistors.

With a diameter of roughly one nanometre, single-wall CNTs (or SWCNTs) need to be considered as quantum structures; the slightest structural changes, such as differences in diameter or in the alignment of the atomic lattice, may result in dramatic changes to the electronic properties: one SWCNT may be metallic, whilst another one with a slightly different structure is a semiconductor. Hence, there is a great deal of interest in reliable methods of making SWCNTs as structurally uniform as possible. In fact, corresponding synthesis concepts were formulated about 15 years ago. However, it is only now that surface physicists at Empa and chemists at the Max Planck Institute have successfully implemented one of these ideas in the laboratory. In the latest issue of "Nature", they describe how, for the first time, it has been possible to “grow" structurally homogenous SWCNTs and, hence, managed to clearly define their electronic properties.

Scanning tunneling microscopy images the precursor, the «folded» end cap, and the resulting carbon nanotube, together with the corresponding structural models. (Source: Empa / Juan Ramon Sanchez Valencia)

By means of "bottom-up" synthesis, the Empa researchers managed to produce specific nanostructures such as defined chains of "buckyballs" (essentially, CNTs shrunk into ball form) or flat nanoribbons on gold substrates. "The great challenge was to find the suitable starting molecule that would also actually 'germinate' on a flat surface to form the correct seed," says Fasel, whose team has gained broad expertise in the field of molecular self-organisation over the years. Finally, their colleagues at the Max Planck Institute in Stuttgart successfully synthesised the suitable starting molecule, a hydrocarbon with no fewer than 150 atoms.

Nature cover story - Controlled synthesis of single-chirality carbon nanotubes

August 06, 2014

Stacked solar cells could achieve more than 50 percent efficiency and 5 cent per kilowatt hour costs in 3 to 5 years

Semprius has come up with three key innovations for cheaper solar power.

1. a cheap, fast way to stack cells
2. a proprietary way to electrically connect cells
3. a new kind of glue for holding the cells together.

In its designs, Semprius uses tiny individual solar cells, each just a millimeter across. That reduces costs for cooling and also helps improve efficiency.

In addition to being fast and precise, the approach also makes it possible to reuse the expensive crystalline wafers that multijunction solar cells are grown on. Eventually the company hopes to stack two multijunction devices, for a total of five or six semiconductors with a “very high performance, beyond 50 percent efficiency,” says Scott Burroughs, vice president of technology at Semprius. He says the company hopes to achieve this in three to five years.

The cells will be more costly than conventional ones. Sarah Kurtz, a principal scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, says costs won’t come down until production happens at a large scale.

With economies of scale, however, such cells could improve the economics of solar power. At a scale of 80 to 100 megawatts a year of manufacturing capacity, a cell with 50 percent efficiency would make it possible to reach costs of less than five cents per kilowatt-hour.

A stacked solar cell made by Semprius.

Canada's Magnovate will build third generation magnetic levitation high speed rail which could be cost competitive with China's high speed rail

Canada's Magnovate aims to commercialize Magline, a proprietary magnetic levitation transport solution. Magline further improves on system economics by utilizing a “packet switching” model that enables offline stops without slowing traffic on the mainline. This enables more vehicles that are not connected to one another to run more often on the network. A project is being developed to connect the cities of Edmonton and Calgary with one of their tracks. The planned length will be just over 180 miles (300 kilometers) and is expected to cost $3.60 billion USD or roughly about $12 million USD per kilometer.

In 2014, Magnovate was awarded a contract from Transport Canada to build the first digitally controlled maglev passive switch in the world. The total cost of the prototype is expected to be about $15 million.

Another project is being developed to build local Magline Transit systems on the campuses of the University of Calgary, Red Deer College and U of Alberta.

These systems would grow into wider networks and eventually link Edmonton and Calgary with a 300 km section of high speed transit line.

The proposed line has the potential to reduce the travel time between Edmonton and Calgary to 45 minutes, compared to about three hours by road. Magnovate was founded in 2012 and has already raised $2 million from Cross Point Venture Partners in Silicon Valley.

Magline is third generation technology because of the HSPS technology and the two inch vertical levitation gap, which is much larger than existing systems.

The larger levitation gap will reduce construction costs of the substructure and allow the use of lighter tracks, as there is no longer a need for close-tolerance track alignment.

The vertical levitation gap of Magline design is an order of magnitude larger than those of existing designs, obviating the need for close-tolerance track alignment, and permitting the use of lighter rails and reduces capital costs. Based on a "Halbach Array" of magnets, Magline technology can switch tracks without mechanically moving the guideway.

It thus can achieve high-speed passive switching while maintaining lateral stability and directional control using much lighter guideways. Magline enables a variety of high speed vehicles to run with short headways on elaborate networks of guideways connecting through multiple Transit Oriented Developments and stations.

An average kilometer of High speed rail track in China costs between $4.8 million USD (Jiaoji Line) to $32.7 million USD (Zhengxi Line), which is significantly less than the estimated $380 million USD to $ 625 million USD it will cost for laying down the British HSR2 project.

India needs to expand nuclear power 16 times by 2050 and Indonesia is developing high temperature nuclear reactors with Japan

1. India has to hugely expand nuclear power along with its entire power system to bring electricity to 300 million people and move away from coal, according to a study by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

At a mere 673 kWh per year on average, per capita electricity consumption in India is less than one quarter of the global average, said the IEA, highlighting its analysis of India's electricity system published in its Energy Technology Persepctives 2014. A "first priority" for India is to raise this level of power consumption, while bringing electricity to some 300 million unconnected people.

Under the IEA's '2DS' scenario, where carbon dioxide emissions are curtailed enough to limit average global temperature increases to 2ºC, a range of renewables would provide 40% of electricity with nuclear supplying 15% by 2050. The use of carbon-intensive coal for power generation would fall from today's 80% to less than 20%.

The 2DS scenario also sees total power generation in India quadruple by 2050. But nuclear power would grow faster than the power sector as a whole, from a total capacity of 5.3 GWe today to 80 GWe in 2050 - some fifteen times more.

India's nuclear industry is characterized by its largely indigenous nature and reliance on the small pressurized heavy water units which make up 18 of its 21 units

2. A demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) could be constructed in Indonesia following the signing of a cooperation agreement between Japan and Indonesia on developing such reactors.

August 05, 2014

Possible Russian Separation from International Space Station could be an opportunity for Bigelow Aerospace or VASIMR

The ISS (International Space Station) currently has five Russian-built modules: the Zvezda service module, the Zarya cargo block, the Pirs docking module, the Poisk ("Search") research module and Rassvet ("Dawn") research module." Russia may not be able or want to take all of the existing modules.

[via statement made in 2013 by a Russian official] Russia may use future modules of its segment of the International Space Station (ISS) to build its own orbital station after 2020.

Russia is planning to launch four new ISS modules – a multirole laboratory module (MLM), a node module and two science-power modules – by 2020, when the time comes to de-orbit the existing international outpost in space.

Nauka also known as the Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM) is the major Russian laboratory module. The docking port that was occupied by the Pirs module is where it was to be added. However, the date has been postponed to February 2017. Prior to the arrival of the Nauka module, a Progress spacecraft was used to remove Pirs from the station, deorbiting it to reenter over the Pacific Ocean. Nauka contains an additional set of life support systems and attitude control. It will weigh 20 tons and has its own engines. The Uzlovoy Module (UM), or Node Module is a 4-ton ball shaped module would support the docking of two scientific and power modules during the final stage of the station assembly and provide the Russian segment additional docking ports to receive Soyuz TMA and Progress M spacecraft.

“If the need arises, we could undock the new modules [from the ISS], starting with the MLM, and they will serve as a foundation for a new generation Russian space station,” Alexander Derechin, deputy chief designer for Russia’s space corporation RKK Energia.

Opportunity for Bigelow Aerospace

Bigelow Aerospace is staffing up now. If relations with Russia deteriorate more then Russia might accelerate plans to undock its modules. Bigelow could be tapped to add more inflatable space station pieces to replace the Russian modules or to form a replacement space station for NASA.

[from Wikipedia] The technical feasibility of a controlled targeted deorbit into a remote ocean was found to be possible only with Russia's assistance.

[From Wikipedia : International space station end of mission section and other sources]On May 13, 2014, in response to US sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Crimea, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Rogozin, announced that Russia would reject a U.S. request to prolong the orbiting station's use beyond 2020, and would only supply rocket engines to the U.S. for non-military satellite launches.

[From Wikipedia : International space station end of mission section] A proposed modification that would allow some of the ISS American and European segments to be reused would be to attach a VASIMR drive module to the vacated Node with its own onboard power source. This would permit the station to be moved to Mars orbit, and serve as a staging post for future colonization. It would however allow long term reliability testing of the concept for less cost than building a dedicated space station from scratch

Russia and the EU battle over airline sanctions and rights

Russian’s lone economy airline Dobrolet, which was created by the national airline Aeroflot, has suspended flights due to the effects of EU sanctions. The decision was taken after leasing contracts were suspended and German partners refused to service Dobrolet aircraft.

Russia's foreign and transportation ministries are discussing placing restrictions on European airlines flying to Asia.

A ban on European airlines could affect British Airways, Lufthansa and Air France, while Russia's Aeroflot could lose out on around $300m each year in the form of overflight fees.

Fourth Successful Spacex launch of 2014

Spacex successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket, which was carrying the AsiaSat 8 spacecraft at 4:00 a.m. EDT Tuesday. This was the fourth Falcon 9 flight of 2014. The launch was originally scheduled for 1:25 a.m. EDT Tuesday, but an issue with the rocket's first stage caused a 2.5-hour delay.

The launch plan calls for the rocket to deliver AsiaSat 8 to a highly elliptical "transfer orbit," but the satellite will eventually make its way to geosynchronous orbit about 22,300 miles above the planet.

This launch did not test reusability.

July soft landing in the Atlantic

The most recent reusability test (in July) during a launch for commercial-satellite firm Orbcomm, was also a success, SpaceX representatives said. SpaceX released a video captured by a camera on the Falcon 9 first stage that shows its measured descent and controlled entry into the Atlantic Ocean.

SpaceX has said that its first manned mission would be no sooner than mid-2015, on board one of its Dragon spacecraft. That launch may prove to be a turning point for space travel, as reusable rockets allow NASA to stretch its limited budget further than ever before.

Full NASA Cannae Drive and EMdrive Test paper shows that there is anomolous thrust and the null test article criticism is wrong

The 21 page Anomalous Thrust Production from an RF Test Device Measured on a Low-Thrust Torsion Pendulum paper is online at Libertarian News.

Abstract - Anomalous Thrust Production from an RF Test Device Measured on a Low-Thrust Torsion Pendulum

This paper describes the test campaigns designed to investigate and demonstrate viability of using classical magnetoplasmadynamics to obtain a propulsive momentum transfer via the quantum vacuum virtual plasma. This paper will not address the physics of the quantum vacuum plasma thruster (QVPT), but instead will describe the recent test campaign. In addition, it contains a brief description of the supporting radio frequency (RF) field analysis, ssons learned, and potential applications of the technology to space exploration missions. During the first (Cannae) portion of the campaign, approximately 40 micronewtons of thrust were observed in an RF resonant cavity test article excited at approximately 935 megahertz and 28 watts. During the subsequent (tapered cavity) portion of the campaign, approximately 91 micronewtons of thrust were observed in an RF resonant cavity test article excited at approximately 1933 megahertz and 17 watts. Testing was performed on a low-thrust torsion pendulum that is capable of detecting force at a single-digit micronewton level. Test campaign results indicate that the RF resonant cavity thruster design, which is unique as an electric propulsion device, is producing a force that is not attributable to any classical electromagnetic phenomenon and therefore is potentially demonstrating an interaction with the quantum vacuum virtual plasma.

From the Full paper

Talk Polywell had an intersting comment on the full paper

Eagleworks tested one tapered (frustum) cavity, aka Shawyer's EmDrive; and two Cannae drives which are also asymmetric but different resonant cavities. The Cannae drive is said to work on a purported different principle than the EmDrive, according to its inventor Guido Fetta (a net Lorentz force imbalance of electrons upon top vs bottom wall of the cavity). According to this purported working principle, one Cannae drive had radial slots on its rim as required by Fetta in order to produce net thrust, and the second Cannae drive didn't have those slits and was intended to be a "null test device". But the Cannae null test article… also produced net thrust (20 to 40 µN of net thrust depending of the forward or backward direction).

The null device having thrust means that the Cannae drive theory that the slits mattered was not true. However, this is irrelevant as to whether the Cannae drive produces thrust. Another theoretical explanation is needed but the anomalous thrust remains

We're talking of net thrust because of course the setup was also tested with a null 50 ohm load connected, in order to cancel the effect from the drives and detect any detect any spurious force due to EM coupling with the whole apparatus (which exists, at 9.6 µN) and this "null" spurious force was evidently subtracted from any thrust signal due to the drives then tested on the pendulum.

All tests articles (the EmDrive version, the Cannae drive version, and even the Cannae "null test" version) had a dielectric embedded within. This is a hint for a different theoretical explanation involving EM fields, proper acceleration, mass fluctuation and dielectrics. Maybe Mach effects (due to Mach's principle), as supposed by Woodward and Fearn within the GR theory, or within a scalar-tensor theory of gravity according to Minotti.

The Cannae drive website from 2011 is still available on the web archive. Guido Fetta's Q drive work and his expectation to revolutionize space travel are on the site.

Fetta's experimental results are detailed. Also, numerical work and what he believes are the Principles.

Update on Sky City and mini Sky City skyscrapers

The South China Morning Post mentioned the stalled Broad Group 202 story Sky City project. Chairman Zhang Yue said the firm did not use bank credit to fund its development, but he did not rule out getting bank loans to finance the "Sky-city" project. It has a construction budget of nine billion yuan (HK$11.3 billion), a fraction of that of other super skyscrapers.

Broad Sustainable Buildings have six main advantages:

﹣ 90% factory-made
﹣ 5 times more energy efficient
﹣ 99% of inside air pollution (PM2.5) eliminated
﹣ will not collapse in a 9.0 magnitude earthquake
﹣ material saving
﹣ land saving

This claim of needing financing is confusing to me. Broad Group is making a lot of money and has huge growth from its air purification systems and other products.

Developers finished 37 structures higher than 200 meters, or about 50 stories, in China last year, the most in the world, according to the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, a non-profit organization that maintains the world’s largest free database on tall buildings.

By 2020, China may be home to six of the world’s 10 highest skyscrapers, including Suzhou’s 700-meter (2,297-foot) Zhongnan Center.

“With roughly 250 million people set to move into Chinese cities in the next decade or so, the pace of urban construction -- including road, rail and water infrastructure and cultural institutions, in addition to tall buildings -- has outstripped any previous period in human history,” the tall-buildings council.

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat is the world’s leading resource for professionals focused on the design, construction, and operation of tall buildings and future cities. The CTBUH now claim that the mini Sky City skyscraper being built in Changsha will only be 57 stories tall (about the height of the 60 story Woolworth Building) and not 97 stories (about Empire State Building height).

No updated photos or reports of the J57 or the J97 building for about 3 months. If it was only 57 stories and was already at 24 stories in May then it should be done by now

Self driving cars as horizontal elevators to spread downtown living accessibility

Brad Templeton discusses how low speed self driving cars like the recent Google self driving pods could bring ten minute access to downtown areas by an additional 1 to 2 miles.

When you have skyscraper density, as in downtowns and most of Manhattan, there is much greater density of retail streets, and everybody is close to neighborhood activity and shopping. You just step out of your unit and take the elevator down to be right in the thick of things -- a very walkable space. But most cities consist of lots of land with packed single family homes and townhomes, or apartment blocks 2-3 stories high.

The robocar might create something akin to a "neighborhood elevator.

This ride probably is free to you, or certainly very cheap. The vehicles are simple and not expensive, and either the businesses along that street or your own neighborhood association are probably quite glad to pay for them to get your custom. (It also means they need less parking and pays for itself quickly that way.) Most importantly, it's as seamless and easy as riding an elevator in a condo tower or a high density area.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 220

1 .James Conca at Forbes - Science Is Not Democratic

Since the 1980s. the distrust of scientists in the United States has become a growing ideology used for political purposes. It is extremely dangerous to our democracy. Obama touched on this very subject recently while speaking to the League of Conservation Voters.

2. Yes Vermont Yankee - The Carbon Regulations: Not What They Seem to Be

The proposed EPA rules for abatement of carbon dioxide are backwards, complex and political. Such complicated regulations do not achieve their official goals, but often succeed in enriching the people who wrote the rules. Angwin bases part of her analysis on the book Extortion by Peter Schweitzer.

Bigelow Aerospace is hiring and targeting Inflatable Space Station Alpha to start launching in about 2017 or 2018

Bigelow Aerospace has hired former NASA astronauts Kenneth Ham and George Zamka to form the cornerstone of the private astronaut corps the North Las Vegas, Nevada, company will need to maintain and operate the inflatable space habitats it plans to launch some time after 2017.

Bigelow said the smallest space station his company plans to fly will require two BA330 modules, each of which has 330 cubic meters of internal space. The company expects to finish building the first two BA330s by 2017, Bigelow said.

Ham and Zamka are former military aviators who have piloted and commanded space shuttle missions. Their NASA and military credentials are part of the appeal for Bigelow, who plans to put both former space fliers to work as recruiters.

“I would like to see us have half a dozen astronauts onboard by the end of the year,” Bigelow said.

Each Bigelow Aerospace space station would require about a dozen astronauts, including orbital, ground and backup personnel. The 660-cubic-meter stations would host four paying clients, who would be assisted by three company astronauts responsible for day-to-day maintenance, Bigelow said.

Initially, clients and crews would cycle in and out of the stations in 90-day shifts, Bigelow said. Eventually, the company hopes to shorten that cycle to 60 days.

“Our clients don’t need six months on orbit,” Bigelow said, referring to the time astronauts typically remain aboard the international space station. “It’s an imposition on them. They can get just as much out of three months.”

Zamka and Ham are part of a broader hiring push by Bigelow Aerospace. There are about 135 people in the North Las Vegas factory now, and “we’re hoping to be by Christmas time somewhere in the vicinity of 175,” Bigelow said

Bigelow Aerospace's historic first commercial space station will open up extraordinary opportunities for countries across the globe. Nations such as Japan, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Sweden could secure the future of their human spaceflight programs and dramatically increase the size of their astronaut corps. Smaller countries with no human spaceflight experience such as Singapore or the United Arab Emirates could take their first bold steps into space in a rapid and affordable fashion. The benefits to participating nations are many and varied. Developing an astronaut corps and conducting operations aboard a space station can dramatically transform a nation's image (both internally and externally). The creation of jobs and lucrative economic opportunities via microgravity research, development, and manufacturing can inspire a new cadre of domestic scientists and engineers while attracting the best and brightest minds from around the world to a country's universities and companies.

These commercial stations will also present unique opportunities for corporations to gain significant advantages over their competition.

The BA 330 would be a full-scale production module weighing approximately 43,000 pounds (20,000 kg),with dimensions of approximately 45 feet (14 m) in length and 22 ft (6.7 m) in diameter when expanded.

BA 330 compared a ISS Destiny

In December 2012, Bigelow began development work on Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) under a $17.8 million NASA contract. In 2015, BEAM is projected to be transported to ISS inside the unpressurized cargo trunk of a SpaceX Dragon during the SpaceX CRS-8 cargo mission.

The BA 2100, or Olympus module is a concept module that would require a heavy-lift launcher and would place in orbit the complete infrastructure of a 2,100-cubic-metre (74,000 cu ft) habitat, over six times as large as the BA 330. Initial estimates put the vehicle mass between 70-90 tonnes, with a diameter of approximately 41 feet (12 meters).

The Space Station Alpha complex was specified to be an in-space assemblage of exactly two BA-330 modules.

Space Complex Bravo would follow a couple of years after the Space Station Alpha. This complex would consist of four BA 330 modules.

Bravo woould have up to a crew of 24 people
Pressurised volume would be 1,320 m3 (47,000 cu ft) which is about 50% more than the 900 cubic meters of the ISS space station.

China could begin making an equivalent of triple Salyut space station in 2018

The first of three experimental modules for China's planned space station is expected to be launched in 2018, with the other two set for launch in 2020 and 2022, a leading scientist said. The modules will help form a 60-ton space station.

"We set the date as a preliminary goal," said Gu Yidong, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a leading research expert in manned space stations.

Previous media reports set the launch date for the modules at around 2020.

China launched the Tiangong-1 space lab in 2011. Over the next two years an unmanned and two manned spaceships docked with it, proving China's rendezvous and docking technologies.

It is reported that China will launch the Tiangong-2 space lab around 2015, which will test the technology to sustain astronauts for longer periods in space as well as conduct experiments.

Self Driving car news roundup

1. BBC News - The UK government has announced that driverless cars will be allowed on public roads from January next year. It also invited cities to compete to host one of three trials of the tech, which would start at the same time.

2. A Baidu representative confirmed to Tech in Asia that it’s working on a self-driving car, but stated that the program is “at a very early stage.” The Baidu driverless car project is being driven by its “deep learning” labs.

3. Chunka Mui is managing director of the Devil’s Advocate Group and author of three books on innovation and he discusses the disruption possible with driverless cars at Forbes

Driverless cars create opening for a leapfrog competitor. In other words, maybe Google will choose not to be a supplier at all. The International Energy Agency estimates that a combination of population growth and rising living standards could drive a 250% increase in the number of passenger light-duty vehicles worldwide, to more than 2 billion vehicles, over the next 35 years. There’s no guarantee, however, that those cars will look like today’s cars.

August 04, 2014

Carnival of Space 365

Carnival of Space 365 is up at Aartscope. This is 7 years of the Carnival of Space.

Universe Today - NASA announced the winners of a high stakes science instrument competition to fly aboard the Mars 2020 rover at a briefing held today, Thursday, July 31, at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Universe Today - Scientists analyzing the reams of data from NASA’s Cassini orbiter at Saturn have discovered 101 geysers erupting from the intriguing icy moon Enceladus and that the spewing material of liquid water likely originates from an underground sea located beneath the tiny moons ice shell, according to newly published research.

Inequality in Asia and policies to reduce inequality

China has higher levels of income inequality than the United States.

Inequality would be reduced with policies that increase access to education, healthcare and better access to finance. Other policies include reforming the Hukou system.

IMF says China yuan is 5 to 10% undervalued

The International Monetary Fund says the Chinese yuan remains moderately undervalued by 5% to 10%, given the large current-account surplus and economic fundamentals. China's yuan has rebounded from an unprecedented tumble earlier in the year, finishing July with a third monthly advance against the U.S. dollar and traders saying it is primed for further gains amid signs that the world's second-largest economy is strengthening.

Automatic word filters and Open August thread

Nextbigfuture has added in a list of banned words. All swear words and vulgar words. So none of the four letter words.

Also, some insult words have been banned to keep the liberal and conservative discussion more civilized.

This is the open August thread for discussing topics that you want to discuss or share links of interest.

Let us keep the discussion polite and fact based. Thanks

Shawyers 2014 presentations for propellentless but not reactionless EMDrive Uses High stored energy

High Q (stored energy per energy loss per cycle) of the cavity produces more stored energy, use up stored for kinetic energy

Now Shawyer is saying that an interesting 2nd generation device will be working on the ground in 2016.
His L Band thruster will be built in 2019.
Hybrid spaceplanes in 2023. [19:23 in the third video of the interview]

China does have a superconducting emdrive research program and has commercial space interest. US work is the Cannae drive that was recently unveiled.

NASA validation of Cannae version of EMDrive produced power in the null test and a detailed look at China's version

NASA's tests have a big problem - the control version that was to produce no thrust did produce thrust

The NASA report on the Cannae drive wasn't much help either, since it only delved into the practicalities of testing one of the devices. At first glance, however, it looked quite interesting, stating, "Approximately 30-50 micro-Newtons of thrust were recorded from an electric propulsion test article." If you push a bit further, it looks much less promising:

Thrust was observed on both test articles, even though one of the test articles was designed with the expectation that it would not produce thrust. Specifically, one test article contained internal physical modifications that were designed to produce thrust, while the other did not (with the latter being referred to as the "null" test article).

In other words, the negative control in the experiment worked. Which means that the experiment as a whole tells you nothing. Clearly, the device (even when disabled) appears to produce a force. But Lee suggested a variety of ways that this could happen and indicated that there are ways to monitor the device's operation to see if any of them play a role (for example, he suggested that a mass imbalance of as little as 3 mg could account for the small force the NASA researchers found. "All in all," Lee concluded, "it will take a lot more information before we can judge whether the thrust is really a thrust or not."

China built their own system and used different modelling to get theirs to work than the UK Emdrive

China is building their own EMdrive inspired offshoot systems. They do not make claims about the scaling or the improvements that they expect. The biggest claims are from Sawyer expecting massive gains when the Q is increased with superconducting chambers.

The 2012 Chinese paper that produced power from an EMDrive device

Net thrust measurement of propellantless microwave thrusters.

According to classical electromagnetic theory, this paper introduces a new kind of propellantless microwave thruster device for use in space propulsion. This device is able to directly convert microwave radiation into thrust without the need for any propulsion medium. The difference with traditional space propulsion devices is that this system means there is no need to carry a large propellant tank, and the problems of plume emissions polluting the space craft can be eliminated. The system comprises a frustum microwave resonator, microwave source, and load. The microwave source produces microwave radiation which can be input into the frustum microwave resonator and form a pure standing wave and electromagnetic pressure gradient. Thus, along the axial direction of the frustum microwave resonator, net thrust is formed. This article, based on the indifferent equilibrium principle, overcomes the weight and rigidity resistance of the thruster itself, and successfully measures the net thrust produced by the propellantless microwave thruster. The results show that: Based on classical electromagnetic theory, creating a propellantless microwave propulsion system can produce a net thrust; when the microwave source output is 2.45GHz, with a microwave power of 80-2500W, the propulsion produced by the thruster is located in the range of 70-720mN, and the total measurement error is less than 12%.

August 03, 2014

Trailer for Christopher Nolan's Interstellar

A group of explorers make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.

The movie will released in November, 2014.

Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine will be in Interstellar. They were in Nolan's Dark Knight Rises.

'Interstellar' details the toll climate change has taken on agriculture, with corn the last crop to be cultivated.

The scientists embark on a journey through a worm hole into other dimensions in search of somewhere other crops can be grown.

Reconciling China's labor shortages with the jobless automated future

For a long time, analysts and economists believed 8 per cent economic growth in China was necessary to create enough jobs to maintain social stability in the country. But China has fallen short of that line a few times now and there is no unemployment crisis. If anything, there is evidence of skills shortages in some parts of China.

The 8 per cent red-line myth has disappeared without a trace.

Guan Qingyou, a prominent economist and deputy head of the research at Minsheng Securities, a brokerage house, argues that analysts and policymakers need to update their toolkits to stay ahead of the game, and points out three examples of applying out-of-date techniques to the shifting reality in China.

1. The relationship between GDP and employment

The main reason Chinese policymakers care so much about the GDP growth rate is largely related to employment. The focus on delivering 7.5 per cent growth is based on the understanding that the country needs to maintain a 7.2 per cent growth rate to absorb 10 million new entrants to the labor market every year, according to the figure quoted by premier Li.

However, this widely accepted understanding is somewhat lagging behind the reality. Statistics shows that the correlation between GDP growth and job creation has been breaking down since 2010. We are seeing a curious situation where employment data remains strong while the economy is growing at its slowest pace in recent years.

China is shifting to a services growth engine

Guan suggests this situation is due to the fact that China’s economy and labor market is undergoing structural changes. China may be the world’s factory but the services sector has overtaken manufacturing as the largest part of its economy, as well as its new growth engine. The services sector has better capacity to absorb new jobseekers, according to Guan.

Rural surplus labor is reducing

More importantly, China has reached the so-called Lewis turning point: i.e. it is about to run of rural surplus labor. In the coming years, there will be less and less people entering the job market. Guan argues the real challenge for China in the future is labor shortage, not unemployment.

What about automation and the jobless future ?

Many people are concerned about a jobless future. However, automation and job elimination is not happening as quickly for the overall world economy as some fear. Also, there are policy and regulatory barriers that limit the speed of change.

If Amazon were to kill Walmart or if Walmart went to a mostly online model that would indicate the accelerated shift had happened. Meanwhile the changes and killing of other retailers is a way to track the shifts in employment in retail. This kind of exercise can be examined in each job segment. There are more efficient transportation companies and technology (self driving cars, multiple containers per truck, bigger container ships, Uber instead of taxis - part time people and not full time taxis etc...)

Amazon and Walmart are killing or transforming retailers like TJ Maxx. Amazon is five times more efficient than them in terms of revenue per employee. Amazon's revenue per employee is leaps and bounds above its competition. The only other one on our short list that comes close is CVS, but despite the public perception of the company as a retailer, it now generates the overwhelming majority of its revenues from its insurance programs, so it's partially miscategorized. Even so, it still doesn't come close to Amazon in terms of revenue efficiency; CVS would need to grow its sales by nearly 50% without adding a single staffer in order to catch up. Walmart? It would have to lay off over two-thirds of its employees or triple its same-store sales to even come close.

Who wants to go to the Rejuvenation Biotech conference on behalf of Nextbigfuture Thursday Aug 21 and Friday 22

My schedule is messing up where I can only go to the 014 Rejuvenation Biotech conference at the Santa Clara Hyatt Regency on Thursday Aug 21 and Friday Aug 22. I will be able to go Saturday.

It is all day both days.
To go on behalf of Nextbigfuture. You will ideally liveblog the event.
So you will have your own computer and take live notes from the speakers at the talks you are attending and then post them.

If I cannot find someone who can do that then someone who can take computer notes that get sent to me for posting later that evening.

So you have to be able to get off work on the two days and be local to the SF Bay area to go to the Santa Clara Hyatt Regency.

Contact me via email blwang at
or if you questions or want to talk about it use the comments to this article

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