Carnival of Space 228

1. Astroblogger – Comet Lovejoy survived its passage over the Sun

C/2011 W3 Lovejoy in SOHO C3 (16 December UT), astonishingly, it has left its tail behind (the comet the is bright object to the right of the occulting disk).

2. Weareallinthegutter – Comet Lovejoy covered the expectation before and after the passage. The comet will get close (perhaps as little as 140,000 km from the solar surface) and was expected to destroyed by the extreme temperatures. It was believed to be a 200 meter diameter comet and the temperatures were 2 million degrees celsius.

3. Universe Today will be Interviewing Dr. Alan Stern ( Principal Investigator for New Horizons). If you have a question you’d like asked, read the article for information on how to submit your question.

Stern is a planetary scientist and an author who has published more than 175 technical papers and 40 popular articles. His research has focused on studies of our solar system’s Kuiper belt and Oort cloud, comets, satellites of the outer planets, Pluto and the search for evidence of solar systems around other stars. He has worked on spacecraft rendezvous theory, terrestrial polar mesospheric clouds, galactic astrophysics and studies of tenuous satellite atmospheres, including the atmosphere of the Moon.

4. Weirdwarp -I don’t know how it does it but the Mars rover opportunity continues to send back results from Mars. This one could be very significant as Opportunity has found slivers of a bright material that could be gypsum (calcium sulphate).

The gypsum is in a narrow vein about 1 to 2 cm wide and 40 to 50 cm in length. Opportunity has a microscopic imager which it has been examining the deposit with. It has also been using its x-ray spectrometer and the multiple filters of its mast camera. The vein has been given the name homestake.

5. Discovery News – For the first time, astronomers have spotted a black hole’s lunch before it gets eaten.

6. Ridingwithrobots – “The Golden Age” The future of space exploration–as seen in 1960.

The proto-Hubble. One of my favorite accurate predictions is the potential for space-based telescopes.

7. Cheapastro – Part 2 of the MP3 interview where Steve Nerlich appears on the ‘Smart Enough to Know Better’ podcast to discuss our 4% (and the rest) universe.

8. Vega00 – What is the higgs boson? This post explains what is this boson and its importance in the particle physics. [In Spanish]

9. Urban Astronomer – Even though the Mars Science Laboratory is still over 200 days from Mars, instruments in it’s laboratory are already hard at work

10. Dear Astronomer – The Space Shuttle Model Finds a New Home in Texas

11. Weareallinthegutter – Last Christmas SWIFT saw a very peculiar gamma-ray burst. Now there are two competing explanations for what could have caused it

12. Nextbigfuture – software billionaire Paul Allen and aerospace guru Burt Rutan are teaming up with SpaceX and other top-flight rocketeers to create an air-launched orbital delivery system. Stratolaunch will require the construction of the largest aircraft ever flown as the air launch carrier vehicle.

13. Nextbigfuture – The Stratolaunch press conference and other coverage of Stratolaunch. Stratolaunch supersizes the Virgin Galactic White Knight 2 and spaceship 2 launch systems to target launching 13,500 pounds of payload to low earth orbit.

14. Nextbigfuture – Stratolaunch pictures and information from the 11 page press kit

Stratolaunch Systems, a Paul G. Allen project, is developing an air-launch system that will revolutionize space transportation by providing orbital access to space at lower costs, with greater safety and more flexibility. Delivering payloads in the 10,000lbm class [13,500 pounds into low earth orbit, the system allows for maximum operational flexibility and payload delivery from several possible operational sites, while minimizing mission constraints such as range availability and weather.

The air-launch system is made up of four primary elements: a carrier aircraft, a multi-stage booster, a mating and integration system, and an orbital payload. Initial efforts will focus on unmanned payloads; however, human flights will follow as safety, reliability, and operability are demonstrated.

15. Nextbigfuture – Spacex is also shooting to capture the EELV space launch program Space review looked at the cost advantage of Spacex.

In the closest apples-to-apples comparison based on vehicle performance, which is a Falcon 9 versus an Atlas V 401, the SpaceX vehicle is priced for 2013 on the company’s website for all the world to see, at $54–59.5 million for a commercial flight, while a government flight would also include mission assurance fees of around 20%. Pricing for the comparable Atlas is much more obscure, but is frequently cited in a range of $150–180 million. A full accounting, however, would have to include a portion of the billion-dollar-a-year launch capability subsidy that ULA receives under a second contract, which would add at a minimum another $120 million to the price, bringing the total to a staggering $270–300 million. Even under the most conservative estimates, the Falcon offers a three-to-one price differential.

16. Nextbigfuture – James Benford works out the details around economic rules for scaling power beaming space sails

Microwave propelled sails are a new class of spacecraft using photon acceleration. It is the only method of interstellar flight that has no physics issues. Laboratory demonstrations of basic features of beam-driven propulsion, flight, stability (‘beam-riding’), and induced spin, have been completed in the last decade, primarily in the microwave. It offers much lower cost probes after a substantial investment in the launcher. Engineering issues are being addressed by other applications: fusion (microwave, millimeter and laser sources) and astronomy (large aperture antennas). There are many candidate sail materials: carbon nanotubes and microtrusses, graphene, beryllium, etc. For acceleration of a sail, what is the cost-optimum high power system? Here the cost is used to constrain design parameters to estimate system power, aperture and elements of capital and operating cost. From general relations for cost-optimal transmitter aperture and power, system cost scales with kinetic energy and inversely with sail diameter and frequency. So optimal sails will be larger, lower in mass and driven by higher frequency beams. Estimated costs include economies of scale. We present several starship point concepts. Systems based on microwave, millimeter wave and laser technologies are of equal cost at today’s costs. The frequency advantage of lasers is cancelled by the high cost of both the laser and the radiating optic

17. Nextbigfuture – DARPA has funded the $37 million MOIRE – Membrane Optic Imager Real-Time Exploitation space telescope project. The final goal are 20 meter diameter space telescopes / spy satellites that are not to cost more than $500 million each. This would enable high resolution monitoring from geosynchronous orbit. They could also be used as superior space telescopes with over ten times the light gathering capacity of the James Webb telescope which is to have 6.5 meter diameter lens.

18. Vintage Space -A look at Flight Director Gene Kranz’s trademark white vests

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