Carnival of Space 455

1. Universe Today – An Earth Like planet only 16 light years away ?

An artistic representation of Gliese 832 c against a stellar nebula background. A new paper says Gliese 832 might be home to another planet similar to this, but in the habitable zone. Credit: Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico, Arecibo, NASA/Hubble, Stellarium.

2. Universe Today – Chinese Space baby research lands in Mongolia

The Chinese performed a 96-hour experiment to test the viability of mammal embryos in space. They placed 6,000 mouse embryos in a micro-wave sized chamber aboard a satellite, to see if they would develop into blastocysts. The development of embryos into blastocysts is a crucial step in reproduction. Once the blastocysts have developed, they attach themselves to the wall of the uterus. Cameras on the inside of the chamber allowed Chinese scientists on Earth to monitor the experiment.

3. Planetaria – New ‘KEM’ proposal would extend New Horizons post-Pluto mission to 2021

A proposal has been formally submitted to NASA to conduct a flyby of at least one more Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) and last until 2021.

This new mission has been dubbed “KEM,” or Kuiper Belt Extended Mission. There are many other small bodies in the Kuiper Belt besides Pluto, and mission scientists would love to be able to visit some of them as well. Pluto has already turned out to be more geologically active than anticipated, so what about some of these other ones? Granted, they are all smaller than Pluto, but being able to compare some of them directly with Pluto and its moons would be invaluable.

If approved by NASA, the KEM proposal will allow New Horizons to continue its study of the outer fringes of the Solar System until 2021, including a flyby of 2014 MU69. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

4. Universe Today – Dawn just wants to make all the other probes look bad

5. Spacer Pam Hoffman – The Evolution of Astronaut Food

An astronaut career has always been shrouded in a veil of mystery. Many people perceive astronauts as extraordinary and out-of-this-world kind of people. In a way they are, since they live and spend their lives between galaxies, exploring and unveiling the universe. Becoming an astronaut implies taking a long and winding road that few decide to follow and many never complete. If and when they finally reach the end of it, that’s where the…

Part of a much larger infographic at Everyday Spacer

6. Chandra Xray Space Telescope Blog – Comets in the “X”-Treme

7. Nextbigfuture – Emdrive may be explained by quantized momentum, New Emdrive experiments are showing thrust replication and superconducting Cannae drive demo set for May 2016

If EMdrive works it will vastly increase our capabilities to move in space at very high speeds. An EMdrive system with a multi-megawatt nuclear power source would be able to get to significant fractions of the speed of light.

Various teams around the world have begun to build their own versions of the EmDrive and put them through their paces. And to everyone’s surprise, they’ve begun to reproduce Shawyer’s results. The EmDrive, it seems, really does produce thrust. In total, six independent experiments have backed Shawyer’s original claims.

Cannae drive will have a demo that uses superconductors reveaked in May

Mike McCulloch at Plymouth University EMDrive explanation is based on a new theory of inertia that makes startling predictions about the way objects move under very small accelerations.

Inertia is the resistance of all massive objects to changes in motion or accelerations. In modern physics, inertia is treated as a fundamental property of massive objects subjected to an acceleration. Indeed, mass can be thought of as a measure of inertia. But why inertia exists at all has puzzled scientists for centuries.

McCulloch’s idea is that inertia arises from an effect predicted by general relativity called Unruh radiation. This is the notion that an accelerating object experiences black body radiation. In other words, the universe warms up when you accelerate.

According to McCulloch, inertia is simply the pressure the Unruh radiation exerts on an accelerating body.

8. Nextbigfuture – 3d printing of rocket parts and liquified natural gas fuel could also dramatically lower launch costs

Reusable rockets could greatly lower rocket launch costs but two other significant emerging technologies are 3D printing and liquified natural gas rocket fuel.

Liquefied natural gas, which is a commercially available form of methane, could have several advantages as a rocket fuel. Blue Origin has said its wide availability and low cost would enable an “extended engine development test program.” Methane is also clean, meaning it’s less likely to clog fuel lines inside the engine. That would reduce the type of rigorous cleaning needed to clear those particulates and make it easier for reusability, said Ann Karagozian, UCLA professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. The gas also self-pressurizes, which could eliminate the need for tank-pressurization systems.

The combination could enable a simple, reliable design that is easy to manufacture. It could be a game changer.

SpaceX is also developing a liquid-oxygen-and-methane staged combustion engine called Raptor.

3-D printing: Additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3-D printing, can substantially reduce the time and cost of producing rocket parts.

9. Nextbigfuture – Megawatt beam propulsion by 2023 and Gigawatts by 2030

Billionaire Yuri Milner is spending $100 million to work out the technology for ground based laser based beam propulsion for interstellar travel.

California Polytechnic State University researchers propose a 100 kilowatt space based laser system capable of probing the molecular composition of cold solar system targets such as asteroids, comets, planets and moons from a distant vantage. This system uses existing technology and only some needs refinement. All of it looks achievable in the next 3 to 5 years. They have NASA NIAC funding. They have detailed designs for a 900 kilowatt system that would use two Falcon heavy launches.

The military laser segment will be about a $5 billion per year market by 2020. There is a large multi-billion commercial laser market. Those markets will drive improvements in laser efficiency and technological improvements which will be leveraged for space based systems or ground based lasers for space beam propulsion applications.

University California Santa Barbara looked at sail mass and speed pushed by a 100 GW laser

UCSB has looked closely at issues for what Milner is proposing and have produced a roadmap for interstellar beam propulsion.

1 gram     24% of lightspeed
10 grams   14% of lightspeed
100 grams   7.8% of lightspeed
1 kg        4.3% of lightspeed 
10kg        2.4% of lightspeed
100kg       1.4% of lightspeed
1000kg      0.77% of lightspeed
10 tons     0.43% of lightspeed
100 tons    0.24% of lightspeed

10. Nextbigfuture – All of the technology is nearly ready for megawatt space based laser systems for science and planetary defense

California Polytechnic State University researchers propose a system capable of probing the molecular composition of cold solar system targets such as asteroids, comets, planets and moons from a distant vantage.

Their concept utilizes a directed energy beam to vaporize or sublimate a spot on a distant target, such as from a spacecraft near the object. With sufficient flux, our published results indicate that the spot temperature rises rapidly, and evaporation of materials on the target surface occurs (Hughes et al., 2015; Lubin and Hughes, 2015; Lubin et al., 2014). The melted spot serves as a high-temperature blackbody source, and ejected material creates a molecular plume in front of the spot. Molecular and atomic absorption of the blackbody radiation occurs within the ejected plume. Bulk composition of the surface material is investigated by using a spectrometer to view the heated spot through the ejected material. They envision a spacecraft that could be sent to probe the composition of a target asteroid, comet or other planetary body while orbiting the targeted object. The spacecraft would be equipped with an array of lasers and a spectrometer, powered by photovoltaics. Spatial composition maps could be created by scanning the directed energy beam across the surface. Applying the laser beam to a single spot continuously produces a borehole, and shallow sub-surface composition profiling is also possible.

Their initial simulations of laser heating, plume opacity, material absorption profiles and spectral detectivity show promise for molecular composition analysis. Such a system has compelling potential benefit for solar system exploration by establishing the capability to directly interrogate the bulk composition of objects from a distant vantage. They propose to develop models, execute preliminary feasibility analysis, and specify a spacecraft system architecture for a hypothetical mission that seeks to perform surface molecular composition analysis and mapping of a near-earth asteroid (NEA) while the craft orbits the asteroid.

This drawing illustrates a system concept for investigating the molecular composition of a distant target, such as an asteroid or comet. A spacecraft is sent to the asteroid, and enters into orbit. Solar cells generate electricity that is used to power a laser, which is directed at the asteroid’s surface. The laser will heat a spot on the surface, and very quickly material will begin to evaporate from the spot. The glow from the heated spot is visible at the spacecraft through the plume of evaporated material. Sensors in the spacecraft measure the intensity of light across a span of wavelengths; analysis of light intensity patterns provides information about materials in the plume of evaporated material. Credits: Mark Pryor (Vorticity, Inc.) , Gary B. Hughes (Cal Poly SLO)