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Posts tagged ‘Cometris Star Archives’

Indian Space Agency Test-Drives Solar Electric Hybrid Vehicle

New Delhi (Sputnik)

May 04, 2017

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) added another milestone to its list of achievements by successfully showcasing a solar-electric hybrid vehicle. ISRO’s different engineering branches at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram developed the vehicle.

The team working on the project developed a solar panel to fit on the roof of a car, along with an internal gearbox, control electronics for the battery and solar panel, and a conversion kit for fitting an electric motor to a vehicle with an internal combustion engine.

The vehicle was powered by ISRO’s famed Lithium-ion batteries, with a high power supercapacitor to meet the power demands to achieve required torque. ISRO also ensured to not compromise the safety while integrating various subsystems.

The vehicle was successfully test-driven, including an uphill drive. The space agency will now focus on building indigenous Lithium-ion fuel cells, supercapacitors and an electric motor.

“ISRO is doing a lot of things in addition to launching satellites. And all projects are interlinked and laying down the foundation for an industrial complex which will boost innovation and job creation. They have started sub-contracting many of their product building processes, which again will help in the growth of industries,” Dr. Mayank N. Vahia, Department of Astrophysics, at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, told Sputnik.

India is aiming to push the use of electric vehicles to tackle rising pollution in its cities with the government setting a target of 6 million electric and hybrid vehicles on the roads by 2020 under the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 and Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles.

The sales of electric vehicles in India is currently very low, rising 37.5 percent to 22,000 units in the year ended March 31, 2016, over 16,000 in 2014-15, according to the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles. Of these 22,000 vehicles, only 2,000 were cars and other four-wheelers.

The high cost of batteries, a majority of which are imported, is a major hindrance to the development of the sector. Yet another challenge is to create a network of docking stations or charging stations for electric vehicles although that is more of a demand-related problem.

“A helping hand is required to create the infrastructure… There are two concerns for electric vehicles-first is cost and second is infrastructure,” Mint quoted Abdul Majeed, partner and national auto practice leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers as saying.

The government recently asked ISRO to share its technology on Lithium-ion batteries with other public and private sector firms to give a push to the production of batteries in India and bring down the cost of electric vehicles.

Source: Solar Daily.

Link: http://www.solardaily.com/reports/Indian_Space_Agency_Test_Drives_Solar_Electric_Hybrid_Vehicle_999.html.

Atmosphere around super-earth detected

Heidelberg, Germany (SPX)

Apr 07, 2017

Astronomers have detected an atmosphere around the super-Earth GJ 1132b. This marks the first detection of an atmosphere around a low-mass super-Earth, in terms of radius and mass the most Earth-like planet around which an atmosphere has yet been detected. Thus, this is a significant step on the path towards the detection of life on an exoplanet.

The team, which includes researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, used the 2.2-m ESO/MPG telescope in Chile to take images of the planet’s host star, GJ 1132, and measured the slight decrease in brightness as the planet and its atmosphere absorbed some of the starlight while passing directly in front of their host star.

While it’s not the detection of life on another planet, it’s an important step in the right direction: the detection of an atmosphere around the super-Earth GJ 1132b marks the first time an atmosphere has been detected around a planet with a mass and radius close to Earth’s mass and radius (1.6 Earth masses, 1.4 Earth radii).

Astronomers’ current strategy for finding life on another planet is to detect the chemical composition of that planet’s atmosphere, on the lookout for certain chemical imbalances that require the presence of living organisms as an explanation. In the case of our own Earth, the presence of large amounts of oxygen is such a trace.

We’re still a long way from that detection though. Until the work described in this article, the (few!) observations of light from exoplanet atmospheres all involved planets much more massive than Earth: gas giants – relatives of our own solar system’s Jupiter – and a large super-Earth with more than eight times the Earth’s mass. With the present observation, we’ve taken the first tentative steps into analyzing the atmosphere of smaller, lower-mass planets that are much more Earth-like in size and mass.

The planet in question, GJ 1132b, orbits the red dwarf star GJ 1132 in the southern constellation Vela, at a distance of 39 light-years from us. Recently, the system has come under scrutiny by a team led by John Southworth (Keele University, UK).

The project was conceived, and the observations coordinated, by Luigi Mancini, formerly of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) and now working at the University of Rome Tor Vergata. Additional MPIA team members were Paul Molliere and Thomas Henning.

The team used the GROND imager at the 2.2-m ESO/MPG telescope of the European Southern Observatory in Chile to observe the planet simultaneously in seven different wavelength bands. GJ 1132b is a transiting planet: From the perspective of an observer on Earth, it passes directly in front of its star every 1.6 days, blocking some of the star’s light.

The size of stars like GJ 1132 is well known from stellar models. From the fraction of starlight blocked by the planet, astronomers can deduce the planet’s size – in this case around 1.4 times the size of the Earth. Crucially, the new observations showed the planet to be larger at one of the infrared wavelengths than at the others.

This suggests the presence of an atmosphere that is opaque to this specific infrared light (making the planet appear larger) but transparent at all the others.

Different possible versions of the atmosphere were then simulated by team members at the University of Cambridge and the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy. According to those models, an atmosphere rich in water and methane would explain the observations very well.

The discovery comes with the usual exoplanet caveats: while somewhat larger than Earth, and with 1.6 times Earth’s mass (as determined by earlier measurements), observations to date do not provide sufficient data to decide how similar or dissimilar GJ 1132b is to Earth. Possibilities include a “water world” with an atmosphere of hot steam.

The presence of the atmosphere is a reason for cautious optimism. M dwarfs are the most common types of star, and show high levels of activity; for some set-ups, this activity (in the shape of flares and particle streams) can be expected to blow away nearby planets’ atmospheres.

GJ 1132b provides a hopeful counterexample of an atmosphere that has endured for billion of years (that is, long enough for us to detect it). Given the great number of M dwarf stars, such atmospheres could mean that the preconditions for life are quite common in the universe.

In any case, the new observations make GJ 1132b a high-priority target for further study by instruments such as the Hubble Space Telescope, ESO’s Very Large Telescope, and the James Webb Space Telescope slated for launch in 2018.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Atmosphere_Around_Super_Earth_Detected_999.html.

Possible Venus twin discovered around dim star

Mountain View CA (SPX)

Apr 07, 2017

Astronomers using NASA’s Kepler space telescope have found a planet 219 light-years away that seems to be a close relative to Venus. This newly discovered world is only slightly larger than Earth and orbits a low-temperature star called Kepler-1649 that’s one-fifth the diameter of our Sun.

The planet tightly embraces its dim home star, encircling it every 9 days. The tight orbit causes the flux of sunlight reaching the planet to be 2.3 times as great as the solar flux on Earth. For comparison, the solar flux on Venus is 1.9 times the terrestrial value.

The discovery will provide insight into the nature of planets around M dwarf stars, by far the most common type in the universe. While such stars are redder and dimmer than the Sun, recent exoplanet discoveries have revealed instances in which Earth-sized worlds circle an M dwarf in orbits that would place them in their star’s habitable zone. But such worlds might not inevitably resemble Earth, with its salubrious climate. They could just as well be analogs of Venus, with thick atmospheres and scalding temperatures.

According to SETI Institute scientist Isabel Angelo, the study of planets similar to the Venus analog Kepler-1649b is “becoming increasingly important in order to understand the habitable zone boundaries of M dwarfs.

“There are several factors, like star variability and tidal effects, that make these planets different from Earth-sized planets around Sun-like stars.”

It’s said that Venus is Earth’s sister planet, but in many ways it’s not a close sibling. Despite being the same size as Earth, and only 40 percent closer to the Sun, its atmosphere and surface temperature are wildly different from our own. If we wish to find life on other Earth-sized worlds, we should take a cue from “The Music Man” and get to know the territory.

Elisa Quintana, from the SETI Institute and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and a member of the Kepler 1649b discovery team, notes, “Many people are hung up on finding other Earths. But Venus analogs are just as important.

“Since new telescopes coming down the pike will allow us to probe atmospheres, focusing on both Earth and Venus analogs may help decipher why, in our solar system, one planet allows life to thrive, and one does not, despite having similar masses, comparable densities, etc.”

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Possible_Venus_Twin_Discovered_Around_Dim_Star_999.html.

SpaceX cargo ship returns to Earth

Washington (AFP)

March 20, 2017

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft is scheduled to splash down in the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, March 19, with more than 5,400 pounds of NASA cargo, and science and technology demonstration samples from the International Space Station.

Everything from stem cells that could help us understand how human cancers start and spread after being exposed to near zero-gravity, to equipment that is paving the way toward servicing and refueling satellites while they’re in orbit will be on board.

After Dragon is recovered off the west coast of Baja California, some of the cargo will be removed and returned to NASA immediately while Dragon itself is prepared for a return trip to SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas. There, the processing and further unloading of scientific samples and returning station hardware will continue.

A variety of technological and biological studies are returning in Dragon. The Microgravity Expanded Stem Cells investigation had crew members observe cell growth and other characteristics in microgravity.

This information will provide insight into how human cancers start and spread, which aids in the development of prevention and treatment plans. Results from this investigation could lead to the treatment of disease and injury in space, as well as provide a way to improve stem cell production for human therapy on Earth.

Samples from the Tissue Regeneration-Bone Defect study, a U.S. National Laboratory investigation sponsored by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, studied what prevents vertebrates such as rodents and humans from re-growing lost bone and tissue, and how microgravity conditions impact the process.

Results will provide a new understanding of the biological reasons behind a human’s inability to grow a lost limb at the wound site, and could lead to new treatment options for the more than 30 percent of the patient population who do not respond to current options for chronic non-healing wounds.

Several external payloads were removed from the space station and placed in the Dragon’s trunk for disposal. The Optical PAyload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) device tested the potential for using a laser to transmit data to Earth from space, indicating that high speed space to ground optical communications are possible from a fast moving spacecraft.

The Materials on International Space Station Experiment tested the radiation tolerance of a computer built from radiation-tolerant material to simulate work for a future long-term space mission.

The Robotic Refueling Mission Phase 2 tested new technologies, tools and techniques that could eventually give satellite owners resources to diagnose problems on orbit, repair failures, and keep certain spacecraft instruments performing longer in space.

The Dragon spacecraft lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Feb. 19, carrying about 5,500 pounds of supplies and scientific cargo on the company’s tenth commercial resupply mission to the station.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/SpaceX_cargo_ship_returns_to_Earth_999.html.

NASA says goodbye to a Pathfinder Earth Satellite after 17 years

by Kasha Patel for GSFC News

Greenbelt MD (SPX)

Mar 17, 2017

The first to map active lava flows from space. The first to measure a facility’s methane leak from space. The first to track re-growth in a partially logged Amazon forest from space. But now, after 17 years in orbit, one of NASA’s pathfinder Earth satellites for testing new satellite technologies and concepts comes to an end on March 30, 2017. The Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite will be powered off on that date but will not enter Earth’s atmosphere until 2056.

Launched on Nov. 21, 2000, EO-1 was designed as a technology validation mission focused on testing cutting-edge satellite and instrument technologies that could be incorporated into future missions. Commissioned as part of NASA’s New Millennium Program, the satellite was part of a series of missions that were developed at a cheaper price tag to test new technologies and concepts that had never been flown before.

“EO-1 has changed the way spectral Earth measurements are being made and used by the science community,” said Betsy Middleton, EO-1’s Project Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

EO-1 was launched with 13 new technologies, including three new instruments. EO-1’s most important technology goal was to validate the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) for future Earth-observing satellites. The ALI provided a variety of Earth data including observations of forest cover, crops, coastal waters and aerosols. The ALI’s instrument design and onboard technology directly shaped the design of the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8, currently in orbit.

EO-1’s other key instrument is a hyperspectral instrument called Hyperion that allows scientists to see chemical constituents of Earth’s surface in fine detail with hundreds of wavelengths. These data allow scientists to identify specific minerals, track vegetation type and vigor of forests and monitor volcanic activity.

The knowledge acquired and technology developed from Hyperion is being incorporated into a NASA concept for a potential future hyperspectral satellite, the Hyperspectral Infrared Imager, that will study the world’s ecosystems, such as identifying different types of plants and assessing wildfires and droughts.

With both of these instruments, the EO-1 team was able to acquire images with high spatial resolution of events and natural disasters around the world for anyone who requested it.

The EO-1 team could point the instruments at any specific location and gather images every two to five days of a particular spot, which was very useful for scientists as well as disaster relief managers trying to stay informed of rapidly changing events. (Landsat typically looks at the same area once every 16 days.) EO-1 captured scenes such as the ash after the World Trade Center attacks, the flooding in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, volcanic eruptions and a large methane leak in southern California.

EO-1 also served as a valuable pathfinder for a variety of space technologies. Technologists installed and tested autonomy software on EO-1 that allowed the satellite to make its own decisions based on the content of the data it collected.

For instance, if a scientist instructed EO-1 to take a picture of an area where a volcano was currently erupting, the software could decide to automatically take a follow-up image the next time it passed over the location.

The mission also validated software that allowed “formation flying” that kept EO-1 orbiting Earth exactly one minute behind the Landsat-7 satellite, already in orbit. The original purpose was to validate the new ALI technologies for use in Landsat 8, which was accomplished.

EO-1 was originally only supposed to last one year, but after that initial mission, the satellite had no major issues or breakdowns. On a shoestring budget contributed by NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Reconnaissance Office and Naval Research Laboratory, the satellite continued to operate for sixteen more years, resulting in more than 1,500 papers published on EO-1 research.

On March 30, 2017, the satellite will be decommissioned, drained of its energy and become inert. Without enough fuel to keep EO-1 in its current orbit, the mission team will shut down the satellite and wait for it to return to Earth. When EO-1 does reenter the earth’s atmosphere in about 39 years, it is estimated that all the components will burn up in the atmosphere.

“We’ll probably just see EO-1 as a streak in the sky as it disintegrates,” said Middleton.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/NASA_says_goodbye_to_a_Pathfinder_Earth_Satellite_after_17_years_999.html.

The Second Moon Race

by Simon Mansfield

Gerroa, Australia (SPX)

Mar 13, 2017

The US and China are in an undeclared race back to the Moon.

At first glance it’s easy to dismiss China’s efforts as being little more than what the US and Russia achieved decades ago. And while the pace of China’s manned launches has been slow with over a year in many cases between launches; looks can be deceptive and China has achieved each critical step towards building a permanent space station within the next few years. Meanwhile, its overall space program builds out each critical element to support regular manned space operations.

At the same time, the US continues to pursue its own mix of military, science and civil space operations. Compared to every other national space program the US leads by such a distance it’s hard to imagine its achievements being eclipsed anytime soon.

Among the so called space community there are several groupings. Some are traditional in outlook and view the space program in purely military and or scientific terms. And while there is obviously a healthy commercial space industry – the focus here has been entirely on Earth orbit platforms such as communications and earth observation satellites.

As is well known, another group has emerged over the past 20 years and is often described as New Space. With an initial focus on space tourism, this has expanded to asteroid mining and the colonization of Mars.

Having closely followed these developments the one clear conclusion is how little has actually occurred with these dreams. Despite the regular round of space conferences and the like, the same dreams are repeated over and over. And the years keep on passing by with little to show for their efforts.

Despite a flurry of space tourist flights to the ISS, no private paying passenger has ridden a Soyuz to the ISS since 2009. Virgin Galactic remains Earth bound, while nearly every other company selling space tourist dreams has folded. The only near term contender is WorldView, which plans to launch balloons to the upper stratosphere that will enable long duration flights to an altitude where the illusion of being in space is about as real as you can get without actually flying a 100km ballistic mission profile.

SpaceX is often portrayed as the great game changer. And, like Blue Origin, both companies have embraced new computer based design methodologies that have significantly sped up rocket engine development while also reducing costs. But Blue Origin has yet to launch a single payload into space, and SpaceX is wholly dependent on traditional customers such as NASA and the large commercial satellite communication operators.

SpaceX’s recent announcement of a cis-lunar mission faces no significant obstacles and may achieve its goal of launching two paying customers by 2018 – but there is no shortage of industry observers who seriously doubt that this timeframe is realistic and expect the launch date to slip to 2019/2020 and even longer.

For now, the real action will remain with the government space programs of the US, Russia, the EU, China and India.

Given NASA’s recent history of attempting to develop a new heavy lift launcher only to abandon yet another program after spending billions, it’s been easy to dismiss the Space Launch System as just another make work program for Alabama.

Frequently derided as the Senate Launch System, in honor of its government backers in the US Senate, there is far more to this than many realize.

That the SLS is so strongly backed by the US Senate, should point to what the real objective of the SLS program actually is.

The stated reason has been to travel and land on a passing asteroid and achieve a significant “space first” that would obviously play well for national prestige. And while this may be one of its mission objectives, the obvious similarities to the Saturn 5 launcher should make it clear why the Senate has so readily backed the SLS program. Namely as a ready-to-go launcher for an Apollo Redux should China show any intention or, more importantly, near-term capability of sending humans back to the Moon.

Despite the dreams and aspirations of so many across New Space national prestige is what drives the civil space programs today as much as it has done for the past 60+ years.

China would be delighted to be the second nation to make it to the moon in what would be an entirely new achievement that would signal to the world that China was the new Superpower to respect and aspire to.

The US Senate has, in my opinion, long understood the realpolitik of this and for this reason demanded that NASA develop the SLS program as an undeclared back up plan that could be readily sped up when China begins to make its play for a manned mission to the lunar surface.

Within the framework of global superpower politics – the US cannot allow China to land humans on the Moon before the US returns.

For China to be landing people on the Moon while the US can’t even launch its own astronauts to the ISS, would be a global projection of power that would be immensely damaging to US prestige and power.

It would appear that this intersection of superpower politics has been communicated to President Trump and the undeclared race back to the Moon is fast becoming a reality.

Elon Musk has sought to deal SpaceX into the game with the CIS-Lunar mission. China has now responded with a flurry of well placed stories in its domestic media about its own manned Lunar program. And all of sudden everyone is talking about sending humans back to the moon.

In response, the Mars or Bust crowd has begun complaining that this is all a distraction that will make the “Journey to Mars” an even more distant prospect than what it is now. And that only private enterprise can make us a space faring species.

The reality though is that the space tourism industry has achieved next to nothing of what it has promised over the past 15 years. The asteroid miners are just paper projects that fill in slots for the conference circuit and are decades away from recovering any minerals from an asteroid for commercial purposes.

Comparisons to the age of discovery of the 16th and 17th centuries are usually best taken with a grain of salt given the sailing ships of those times had a functioning biosphere readily at hand and actual gravity to support them, along with complete radiation protection and an endless supply of cheap labor and food.

However, there is one aspect that can be reasonably compared – and that is time. It took decades and in some cases centuries for the full potential of the new world to be exploited in any significant way. Moreover, spaceflight and terrestrial flight are not the same. They are separated by many orders of magnitude in cost and energy. It is therefore entirely unsurprising that we are only where we are now with space exploration and development. Logically, this will change over the coming decades, but it will take far longer than most are prepared to accept.

In the meantime, the Second Moon Race has begun, and will be readily embraced by NASA and its private industry contractors, be they legacy or new space.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/The_Second_Moon_Race_999.html.

Under Trump, the Moon regains interest as possible destination

Washington (AFP)

March 12, 2017

Dismissed by former US president Barack Obama as a place explorers had already seen, the Moon has once again gained interest as a potential destination under Donald Trump’s presidency.

Private sector companies in particular are energized by the prospect of future space exploration missions beyond low-Earth orbit, where the International Space Station circles the Earth.

Even though Trump himself has said little about the subject, his close circle and some former NASA officials have made clear their interest in returning to the Moon by way of partnerships with the private sector.

Billionaire Elon Musk, the president and chief executive of SpaceX, along with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who also runs a rocket company called Blue Origin, have met with Trump’s advisers several times since the Republican won the presidency.

“There is certainly a renewed interest in the Moon in the Trump administration,” said John Logsdon, former director of the Space Policy Institute at The George Washington University.

Some of Trump’s advisers worked on the Constellation program, conceived by former president George W. Bush with a goal to return humans to the Moon for the first time since the pioneering US Apollo missions of the 1960s and ’70s.

Obama cancelled Constellation, deeming it too costly and repetitive in nature, opting instead to work toward new and unexplored destinations like an asteroid and, one day, Mars.

“The people advising Trump on space in a sense are still angry at that and believe it was a mistake,” said Logsdon.

“If the Trump administration gets out of the current chaos and if their approach to the budget would allow it, I think within the next 12 months, we will see a major space initiative involving a public-private partnership — hopefully international partnership — focused on a return to the Moon.”

– Bold –

Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, which represents the private sector of spaceflight, agreed.

“I think the Trump administration wants to do something big and bold and the Moon is certainly that idea,” he told AFP.

NASA’s current focus on developing what will be the world’s most powerful rocket, known as the Space Launch System, which will propel a new capsule, Orion, to deep space, one day carrying people around the Moon, to an asteroid or even to Mars by the 2030s.

Stallmer described this program as “very expensive.”

“I think you cannot proceed with a mission to the Moon and beyond at this point anymore without a partnership with the commercial industry,” he added.

Since the US-run space shuttle program ended in 2011, NASA has forged partnerships with private industry, including SpaceX and Orbital ATK, to resupply the International Space Station.

SpaceX plans to start sending astronauts to the orbiting outpost as early as 2018.

“I know that there is no backing down from the commercial sector, from the commercial launch companies on their desire and vision to go to the Moon and beyond. These are very exciting times,” said Stallmer.

SpaceX said last month it had signed its first contract to send two space tourists on a trip around the Moon at the end of 2018, but did not give many details, including the cost or their identities.

SpaceX has also vowed to send an unmanned spacecraft on a journey to Mars in 2018, as a prelude to manned missions one day.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that its owner Bezos is working on an Amazon-like delivery service to the Moon.

The proposal has not been made public, but was circulated to the Trump team and NASA in the form of a seven-page white paper, the report said.

– Moon colonies –

The goal of the project is to enable “future human settlement” on the Moon.

“It is time for America to return to the Moon — this time to stay,” Bezos was quoted as saying in an email to the Post.

“A permanently inhabited lunar settlement is a difficult and worthy objective. I sense a lot of people are excited about this.”

Oklahoma Republican lawmaker Jim Bridenstine, who has told Trump he wants to be the next NASA administrator, has praised cooperation between the US space agency and private industry, and called for a return to Moon mission as a way to boost needed resources on Earth, such as water.

Research has shown billions of tons of water ice can be found at each lunar pole.

“Water ice on the Moon could be used to refuel satellites in orbit or perform on-orbit maintenance,” he wrote in a blog post in December.

“Government and commercial satellite operators could save hundreds of millions of dollars by servicing their satellites with resources from the Moon rather than disposing of, and replacing, their expensive investments.”

This could translate into lower bills for users of satellite internet, television and radio services, he said.

The lunar soil is also believed to be rich in rare Earth minerals that are widely used in electronic devices.

The Google Lunar XPrize Foundation is also in on the action, recently announcing its five finalists for a $20 million award to the first team to land a robot on the Moon.

Source: Moon Daily.

Link: http://www.moondaily.com/reports/Under_Trump_the_Moon_regains_interest_as_possible_destination_999.html.

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