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Monthly Archives: June 2020
Space travel is giving the future of cryptocurrency a boost for one surprising reason – Express.co.uk
Posted: June 30, 2020 at 1:47 pm
For a number of reasons, space technology is beneficial for cryptocurrencies. These include added security to network nodes as well as more widespread use of the internet generally. Addressing this latter point is one of the potential strengths of satellite internet. Cryptocurrencies, obviously, can only work if people have access to the web.
But in 2016 the World Economic Forum stated that over 4 billion people around the world do not have ready access to the internet.
Infrastructure is of course a problem here. As of 2016, 15 percent of the global population didnt have electricity, let alone access to the internet. 31 percent didnt have 3G data coverage.
The WEF added that broadband internet is only completely affordable for residents in 29 countries, and said it was urging government to introduce policies that aim to improve infrastructure coverage and quality.
But setting aside the issue of affordability, infrastructure presents a big hurdle for many when it comes to internet access, as building telephone lines or data cables to isolated or mountainous regions can be big task.
This is where satellite internet becomes useful. With satellite internet, the internet is already there, so to speak. Its just that a means of communicating with the satellites and a subscription service is needed.
And this is where the cost element comes in. For home use, African satellite broadband provider Konnect offers unlimited satellite broadband for 72.85 per month.
But according to global satellite communications service providerGroundControl.com, it can be eye-wateringly expensive.
Using Africa as an example, a portable satellite internet terminal for the continent with unlimited data access costs $1,100 every single month.
READ: Bitcoin price crash: Cryptocurrency mirrors global stock market dip amid second wave fears
Using a fixed, non-portable solution is even costlier. A professional grade system, including a satellite dish, starts at $4,353 US dollars.
So for the vast majority of people, the cost of satellite internet access needs to be brought down significantly before it can be considered for general use.
This is why current space-faring developments are important, and why it is linked to cryptocurrency.
SpaceX, for example, with its well-known Starlink programme, is setting out to provide low- cost, high-speed satellite internet across the globe.
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It aims to do this with a constellation of tens of thousands of small satellites orbiting the Earth at all times.
The firm is making steady progress to this end, launching 60 satellites roughly every two weeks in recent months, and its CEO Elon Musk has said the service will be available as soon as this year albeit with a limited rollout to Canada and the northern US, initially.
There is no official figure regarding cost as of yet, however, though the average cost of a satellite internet plan in the US is said to be about $100 per month.
The other benefit to cryptocurrency will be security. Blockstream provides a 24/7 broadcast of the latest Bitcoin blockchain from space, which adds another layer of security to its peer-to-peer network.
This is because all points in the Bitcoin network the nodes need to connect to each other in order for all of them to know whats going on in the Bitcoin market, so to speak.
This is called a consensus, and its crucial to cryptocurrencys decentralised operation. But if there was an attack that isolated one node from the rest, it could create issues for a limited number of other nodes, Forbes reports.
Using satellite internet as a backup of sorts might help address this issue, it adds.
Posted: at 1:47 pm
Gary Martin is the Vice President for North American operations for the International Space University, but before that he was a senior advisor to the Luxembourg Space Agency and spent more than 30 years at NASA, advising on space science missions, advanced technology development, and human spaceflight.
He explains the significance of the recent SpaceX launch, what private space travel can do that governments cant, and why we need sci-fi to inspire our engineers.
In the past, national space agencies have built and launched the spaceships that carried astronauts into space. Recently, we saw a private company, SpaceX, launch American astronauts to the International Space Station on behalf of NASA for the first time ushering in a new era of private space travel.
SpaceXs Crew Dragon successfully docked with the International Space Station on 1 June 2020 NASA
Were starting a whole new chapter in humanitys quest to move off this planet, to actually start things weve seen in science fiction.
The SpaceX launch, although it was still bought by government funds, is a huge change. Its something Ive been waiting for all my career in that before, only governments had the kind of money, could take the liability, and actually had permission to go into space and explore this frontier.
Now weve got a commercial company that has shown it can take an astronaut up to space into low Earth orbit.
Read more about space exploration:
There are a couple of private space station companies out there [for example Axiom Space and Bigelow Aerospace] but until now you had no way to get there, because you would have had to get a government to sell you a seat and the governments have other priorities and seats are precious.
Now SpaceX could sell you a trip to your private space station. And if all these countries are going to the Moon, there are a number of companies that are interested in providing communications around the Moon, providing resources and fuel and water and power.
Theres all kinds of economic possibilities in the next couple of decades that are now empowered. This is very exciting; this is a milestone that we will look back on and say, This is when it started; this is when it really took off.
Gary Martin in 2004 when he held the role of Space Architect at NASA David Paul Morris/Getty Images
At the beginning of the Internet, you would never ever think of what a role it plays in our entire world right now. This is what I believe space is going to be like.
So how do you start that? Well, this is where governments absolutely do work. It was NASA putting so much money into SpaceX that allowed it to have the capability to take humans into space. Now, SpaceX can amortise [pay off] that investment to give anyone a ride, if they pay the price.
And thats the difference, the government would never have that capability, theyre not going to become an operational activity. But SpaceX is a private company that has motivations to do private things in space.
Read more about Moon bases:
In Luxembourg, we looked at where are the places you could make money in space. Well, its very expensive to take things from the Earth and use them in space. So, if you assume that governments are going to the Moon, you need to make everything you want for civilisation in space at some point.
At these Moon bases, youre going to want to not only be out there doing science, exploring or having tourism there, youre going to want to go have a beer at night, youre going to want to have a pizza, youre going to want a comfortable, safe room.
SpaceX expect that one day their Starship could carry passengers to the Moon SpaceX/Flickr
All of these materials and things and ideas have to be constructed by people in businesses. So the business opportunities at some point, maybe two decades or so from now, are actually limitless.
Once theres a foot hold of people on the Moon, then people will be going to Mars. Well learn how to live safely, well learn how to do things in space. Theres a lot to learn, and theres a lot of business opportunities in learning those things.
Every day I read a number of clippings to try to stay current and Ill tell you, theres a new launcher system proposed every week. There are launcher systems all over the world in many, many countries, mostly though, those are to put things in low Earth orbit.
The countries that can launch people are China, Russia, and the US. India is working towards that capability.
In the commercial role, only SpaceX has launched people into orbit, in addition theres only a few other US companies working to develop the capability: Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada, and Boeing. Its a handful but you wouldnt expect it to be a lot till theres a lot going on and then people will rush to the marketplace.
BlueOrigin, owned by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, is also working to launch humans into space BlueOrigin
Think about it, if youre a country, lets say youre a Middle Eastern country with a lot of money, in a few years you could automatically go into the space age by just buying a private space station and buying tickets to get there from SpaceX.
Now youre in a country that went from no human spaceflight to your own space station. Because you can buy it.
If you look at Star Wars movies and you look at Star Trek, whatever these inventive writers envision for the future, it gives the real engineers something to aim for and some of it comes true.
Star Treks USS Enterprise might be a work of fiction, but it has inspired many to push us further into space Alamy
So, in a way, Elon [Musk, SpaceX CEO] is setting a vision, and engineers, like myself, all want to do exciting things. And so whether 100 people are going to be going to Mars anytime soon, that may or may not happen.
But theres a lot of engineers and a lot of people who want to dedicate their lives to doing something exciting, that is different and that has never been done before. And so he energises amazing people who have already shown the amazing things theyre able to do in space and hes gotten their creativity working.
Posted: at 1:47 pm
Photo: Johannes Eisele | Getty Images
5 Public Space Companies to Invest in Over the Next Decade
Always being on the lookout for emerging technologies with high growth potential is the basis of successful investing, particularly if youre open to making bold decisions. And when it comes to new tech, nothings quite as exciting as space exploration.
Space the final frontier offers more than a few opportunities for the exploring investor. Moon rockets and space stations don't come cheap, and space was once the exclusive domain of national governments. But public and private companies are now involved in satellites, research, mining, communications and space tourism. The space business has branched into several distinct sectors, with hundreds of companies involved, and has even developed its own market index and specialized research sources.
Related:How This AI Company Is Working to Transform Space Exploration in an Age of Global Change
According to the Space Foundation, the revenue of the global space industry totaled almost $415 in 2018. More importantly, however, predictions by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch put the worth of the industry at a massive $2.7 trillion by 2045. So, if innovative technologies are your thing, nows the time to get in on the action and begin investing in space companies.
Weve all heard about SpaceX the company behind the development of a reusable rocket and launch system, founded by Elon Musk. SpaceX is a privately funded company with no plans of going public, however, so at the time of writing it doesnt present any investment opportunities.
Related:NASA Astronauts Successfully Dock SpaceX Crew Dragon at ISS
However, there are several public companies on the market working in different areas of space exploration. Although they mightnot be receiving the same publicity as SpaceX, theyre no less worthy of attention and investment.
Virgin Galactic part of Richard Bransons Virgin Group empire was the first publicly traded commercial space tourism company. The majority of the companys efforts are focused on making passenger flights into space a reality.
Related:Virgin Galactic Signs NASA Deal to Take Private Citizens to the ISS
In addition to its ambition to conquer space, Virgin Galactic is also developing hypersonic travel technology, having entered into a Space Act Agreement with NASA. Hypersonic flights would revolutionize intercontinental travel, cutting down the transit time between London and New York to as little as two hours, instead of the eight it takes with current flight technology. A trip from London to Australia, meanwhile, would take just four and a half hours instead of almost 22.
In addition to designing, manufacturingand selling airplanes, telecoms equipment, missilesand rotor craft, Boeing is also working on rockets.
Boeings history with space travel reaches back further than most people realize: in 1969, the company was involved in the creation of the Saturn V rocket, which propelled Apollo 11 to the Moon. In the course of its work with NASA, the company has also built numerous satellites, as well as being responsible for managing the International Space Station.
Currently, Boeing is developing spacecraft capable of carrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The companys largest space project is the Space Launch System rocket, intended to explore deep space.
Northrop Grumman is one of the worlds leading weapons manufacturers, with an annual revenue of over $30 billion. Although recently, the companys been known mostly for its development of stealth bombers, it has been working in the field of space tech development for over 60 years.
At the moment, Northrop Grumman is working on building NASAs James Webb Space Telescope. The company is also involved in the development of the Chandra Space Telescope and the Dawn asteroid explorer, as well as taking part in programs intended to develop technology for observing Earth from space.
The worlds largest defence contractor, Lockheed Martin is one of the major players in the space industry, too. As a contractor to NASA, the company built parts for the Apollo 11 spacecraft in the 1960s as well as satellites and space probes. Lockheed Martins other major space projects include the deep-space Orion spacecraft and the Mars InSight lander.
In terms of stock prices, Lockheed Martin is the highest on this list, having reached almost $440 in February this year. During the crisis-related crash in mid-March, the companys stock dropped to just under $300, suffering much less than the vast majority of other stocks. It also recovered very well, reaching over $400 in the first week of June.
This exchange-traded fund focuses on investing in companies that are already profiting from the space industry, rather than looking to in-development tech and far-off revenue streams like space tourism. Specifically, the ETFs policy is that 80 percentof investments are into companies that receive at least half of their profits from the space industry.
An example of how profit can be made from space without involving space flight or related tech is how satellites are used for emerging technologies on Earth. 5G, blockchainand crypto currencies, for instance, are all dependent on satellites and other space-based systems.
Key holdings of Procure Space include Boeing (described above), Iridium Communications, Airbusand Maxar.
Related:25 Unforgettable Moments in Space Exploration to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11
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Posted: at 1:47 pm
A new fleet of satellites is being built in Houston to mimic the color-changing chameleon.
Like the versatile reptile, the satellites could be quickly updated and reconfigured while in orbit. Lets say a volcano erupts and there isnt an imaging satellite nearby. This planned Chameleon Constellation of 24 to 36 satellites could switch within minutes from running machine learning models on data collected in space to taking pictures of the disaster and aiding first responders.
Or perhaps a malicious hacker gets into the satellites software and renders it useless. An update to fix the security weakness could be quickly pushed out.
More from Hypergiant: Houston company solving the next problem of deep space travel: How to post to Instagram
Such adaptability is not typical of satellites, landing Austin-based Hypergiant Industries and its Houston space division a contract with the U.S. Air Force, the company announced Tuesday.
Were at this transition point, said Ben Lamm, co-founder and CEO of Hypergiant, where the space industry that has been predominantly a hardware industry is moving and advancing to one thats innovating through software.
Lamm and John Fremont founded Hypergiant in 2018 to help bring artificial intelligence and machine learning to hardware-intensive industries such as aerospace, defense and energy. Last year it acquired Houston-based Satellite & Extraterrestrial Operations & Procedures, a company that deployed satellites, to form the Hypergiant Galactic Systems division.
This division is tackling issues that range from outer-space internet (so colonists on Mars wouldnt have to wait for long stretches of time, potentially months, to see the results of a Google search) to more user-friendly mission control software to this new Chameleon Constellation of satellites.
The latter is being funded by the Air Forces Small Business Innovation Research grants.
We need to be able to put assets in space as quickly as possible and then continuously improve them to maintain superiority, Air Force Maj. Rob Slaughter, director of the Department of Defenses Platform One, said in a news release. In order for the U.S. to remain competitive and protect the systems that run the lives of everyday Americans, we created a solution that allows for continuous software delivery in space. The only difference between a national security system and space junk is the software that operates it.
Hypergiant is building its software on top of the Platform One software, which ensures Hypergiant will meet Air Force and Department of Defense security requirements. Its first satellite, roughly the size of two bread loaves, is set to launch in 2021 on Northrop Grummans Cygnus spacecraft used to carry supplies to the International Space Station.
After the spacecraft delivers its supplies, the satellite will be attached to the outside of the Cygnus vehicle. Cygnus will depart the station, travel some 62 miles above the station and then deploy the satellite.
This first satellite will be used to prove that Hypergiants software can be frequently updated (and recalled, if necessary). Thats how it works on Earth - software updates are pushed out regularly and with small, iterative changes for iPhones, work computers, etc.
But Lamm said current satellite software is only updated once or twice a year.
Instead of having existing space assets that are constantly almost out of date with their software, Lamm said, we can update those assets in real time.
Then as more satellites get launched into space, they will connect to one another and combine their computing capabilities to enable more powerful machine learning. This can allow satellites to make their own decisions.
Tweaking satellite designs: SpaceX adds visors to its Starlink satellites to minimize impact on astronomers
Currently, if a satellite takes a picture of something it doesnt recognize, it will have to send the data down to people on Earth. Those people analyze it and then send a new signal to the satellite telling it what to do next. With machine learning, the satellites could autonomously determine what the mystery object might be and if they should take more pictures to investigate further.
Ultimately, the goal is for these satellites to change tasks as theyre orbiting the planet. Future versions of the satellite could be equipped with antennae to provide emergency communications in the case of a network outage, cameras for taking pictures of the Earth and other sensors. By sending up new software code, these tasks can be swapped to meet various Air Force needs.
Thats why we named it Chameleon Constellation, Lamm said. Now your constellation has changed.
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Relativity and 6K Partner to Develop AM Rocket Parts for Space Made from Sustainable Materials – PR Newswire UK
Posted: at 1:46 pm
LOS ANGELES and NORTH ANDOVER, Mass., June 30, 2020 /PRNewswire/ --Relativity Space, the world's first autonomous rocket factory and launch services leader for satellites and6K, the world's leading developer of microwave plasma technology for the production of advanced materials used in additive manufacturing, lithium ion batteries and other industrial markets, today announced a strategic partnership to prove true sustainability in additive manufacturing production. The partnership is intended to create a closed loop supply chain where certified scrap materials produced at Relativity are turned into powder by 6K, which can then be reprinted by Relativity. The two companies will also explore new materials created specifically for rocket manufacturing and space travel.
"Relativity is completely reimagining the aerospace supply chain, by creating an autonomous robotic factory that can additively manufacture a rocket in 60 days. This partnering with 6K will add another important element to our very unique approach: the ability to reuse materials," said Tim Ellis, CEO of Relativity. "We are looking forward to working with 6K to add this sustainability to our supply chain, while ensuring closed loop traceability all the way through."
Dr. Aaron Bent, CEO of 6K added, "Relativity is pushing the boundaries of additive manufacturing by 3D printing a complete rocket and we see this partnership as a natural extension of their forward thinking practice. Our ability to turn their used powder and parts into premium powder through the UniMelt process provides them with a sustainable source for AM powder. We are proud to be partnering with Relativity to explore ways to increase sustainability, recycling and environmentally responsible manufacturing processes, which the entire AM industry is uniquely posed to be able to integrate into standard practices."
As part of the collaboration, the two companies have signed an agreement detailing a three phase approach from a proof of concept all the way through a Relativity printed part. The project will prove out the process of taking scrap material produced directly at Relativity, utilizing 6K's UniMelt proprietary process to deliver premium certified powder to a final printed part suitable for Relativity's production. Working with the 6K process ensures Relativity will have complete line of sight and control of their supply chain while ensuring certified AM chemistry for production parts that are suitable for the rigors of a rocket launch and space travel.
Lastly, both organizations see sustainability as a key requirement for production. Creating high-quality additive powders from something that was previously viewed as machine scrap showcases that the process significantly contributes to a circular economy and positions Relativity and 6K as pioneers of sustainability in additive manufacturing production.
At Formnext 2019, 6K launched world's first premium metal powders for additive manufacturing derived from sustainable sources. 6K's UniMelt microwave plasma is the first-of-its-kind process that has the unique ability to convert certified chemistry machined millings, turnings and other recycled feedstock sources into premium AM-ready metal powder.6K also demonstrated the world's first HEA part opening limitless possibilities for having a 'perfect blend' of elements to tailor properties, such as high strength coupled with superior elongation, higher strength-to-weight ratios, or stable properties over a wider range of temperatures.
About Relativity Space
Founded in 2015 by Tim Ellis and Jordan Noone, Relativity Space is building the world's first autonomous rocket factory and launch services for satellite constellations. The company's vision is to expand the possibilities for human experience by building the future of humanity in space faster - starting with rockets. Disrupting 60 years of aerospace, Relativity's factory vertically integrates intelligent robotics and 3D autonomous manufacturing technology to build the world's first entirely 3D printed rocket, Terran 1. Relativity is the first application-layer 3D printing company; Terran 1 is the first application. Terran 1 has 100x lower part count than traditional rockets, a radically simple supply chain, and will be built from raw material to flight in less than 60 days with unparalleled iteration speed. Relativity deploys and resupplies satellite constellations with industry-defining lead time, flexibility, and cost, better connecting and securing our planet.
Relativity is backed by leading investors including Bond, Tribe Capital, Playground Global, Y Combinator, Social Capital, and Mark Cuban. For more information, please visit https://www.relativityspace.com
6K represents 6000 degrees, setting 6K technology apart from all others. It is the temperature of operation of UniMelt (5778K to be exact), the world's only microwave production scale plasma, and is also the temperature of the surface of the sun.
6K uses proprietary advanced plasma processing and industrial systems to create materials that are enabling the next-generation of commercial and consumer products. The company's continuous UniMeltprocess allows for complete and unprecedented control of the entire materials engineering process, to produce materials at exact specifications. 6K and its divisions are members of MESA The Association for Sustainable Manufacturing.
The 6K Additive division is a ISO9001 facility, reclaims and processes over 500 tons of Ti-64 per year, and is in the process of completing its state-of-the-art 40,000 square foot production facility for additive manufacturing powders.
To learn more about 6K, please visitwww.6Kinc.com
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Posted: at 1:46 pm
Thierry Breton, the EU Commissioner, told Reuters that the EU wants to keep up with the US and China in terms of space research.This comes after SpaceXs success with launching NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.
It also follows after Chinas recent moon mission last year.
The EU will sign a 1 billion (913 million) deal with Arianespace for more research into spaceflight innovation.
Arianespace is a commercial rocket launcher that operates in France.
Mr Breton said: Space is one of Europes strong points, and were giving ourselves the means to speed up."
He also explained that the EU will be hoping to look at reusable rockets.
He added: SpaceX has redefined the standards for launchers, so Ariane 6 is a necessary step, but not the ultimate aim: we must start thinking now about Ariane 7.
Ariane 6 is a rocket launcher created by the European Space Agency.
The rocket launcher is over 60 metres tall and weighs almost 900 tonnes when launched.
READ MORE:Space travel is giving the future of cryptocurrency a boost
The European Space Agency worked with over 600 companies in 13 European countries to develop Ariane 6.
The spacecrafts first flight was scheduled for 2020, however, it is yet to lift off.
Ariane 6 is reportedly able to launch both heavy and light payloads to a wide range of orbits.
It can be used for Earth observation, telecommunication, meteorology, science and navigation.
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Arian 6 is set to be launched from Europes Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana in South America.
The European Space Council decided to start developing Ariane in 2014.
Mr Breton is allegedly asking for 16 billion (14 billion) an additional to fund space exploration in the European Commissions next budget.
Of the funds, 1 billion (913 million) is set to be used for a European Space Fund that will help space startups.
The EU is reportedly also looking at investing in a satellite system to provide high-speed internet across Europe.
This would be similar to the Starlink satellites being launched by SpaceX.
Elon Musks rocket company has been sending Starlink satellites into orbit.
Earlier in June, the company carried 58 of its own broadband satellites as well as three Earth-observing spacecraft for Planet Labs into space.
There are reportedly more than 500 starling satellites in low-Earth orbit.
SpaceX aims to bring tens of thousands of orbiting routers into space to surround the Earth with broadband internet access.
Read the rest here:
Posted: at 1:46 pm
Virgin Galactic wants to be a lot more than a company which flies wealthy passengers to the edge of space on small rocket ships.
The company, which went public in October 2019, recently partnered with NASA to help train private astronauts to reach the International Space Station. NASA also just booted up a new Suborbital Crew office with an aim of using Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, among other suborbital vehicles perhaps even stratospheric balloon ships to fly scientists and their involved experiments to space.
But Virgin Galactic is looking to expand far beyond all of these businesses, as CEO George Whitesides explained in a recent interview with Business Insider.
In the not-too-distant future he couldn't say exactly when Virgin Galactic hopes to leverage its suborbital space tourism operations and data, along with new research and development, into a high-speed transportation system. The goal: Claim a fraction of the airline industry's premium long-haul travel business, which totals about $300 billion a year.
"If we can just capture 5% or something like that, then it's still a huge number. I mean, $10 to $15 billion of revenue is is a massive opportunity," Whitesides told Business Insider in May, adding that he believes people will want to go places faster in smaller vehicles, and are willing to pay for the privilege. "The things that we're working on are very much part of our aviation future."
The gap for such operations is wide open, given that the Concorde a supersonic passenger airliner retired in 2003. That's not to say it will be easy or inexpensive to reclaim, improve, and expand such business territory, but Whitesides feels Virgin Galactic is up to the challenge, even in the face of prior failures to create new supersonic and even hypersonic passenger vehicles.
"The words 'many companies have tried' is music to my ears," Whitesides said. "People said we couldn't build up human spaceflight company. People say we couldn't go public."
A British Airways Concorde supersonic jet taking off in flight. AP
It's not hard to see why another high-speed transportation system has not hit the commercial market since the Concorde's retirement.
The supersonic passenger jet did operate for nearly three decades, but its initial development required nearly 20 times the funding that its founders anticipated so the UK and French governments ended up absorbing the costs to get the aircraft off the ground.
That colossal initial investment, the disruption of sonic booms, resulting limitations in where supersonic jets could fly (i.e. over oceans), and high maintenance costs limited the numbers and use of the Concorde.
An artist's concept of NASAs X-59 QueSST supersonic jet, which is being designed and built by Lockheed Martin to produce lower-volume sonic booms. Lockheed Martin via NASA However, many decades' worth of improvements in aviation, propulsion, and computing technology have passed since the Concorde's creation, including work by NASA and its contractors, such as Lockheed Martin's X-59 QueSST jet an experimental aircraft designed to produce quieter sonic booms, and is slated for first flight in 2021.
"I think the Concorde was designed with like the computing power of, I don't know, my pocket calculator calculator. It really was 60s-era propulsion," Whitesides said.
Such developments, along with Virgin Galactic's own and growing experience in flying rocket-powered passenger spaceships, gives Whitesides confidence that now is the time to look past the failures of prior attempts to make high-speed travel work for consumers.
"We're building spaceships we can do these things and we can tackle big, big, big challenges, particularly when there's such a big opportunity on the other side," Whitesides said. "It's not going to be easy, but I think that we actually have a unique head-start because we've been doing all this other stuff."
Whitesides indicated that its development effort may cost billions, and said the emergence of its plan to tackle high-speed travel, let alone a flyable prototype, is likely years down the line.
An artist's 2002 rendering of an air-breathing, hypersonic X-43B vehicle: the third and largest of NASA's Hyper-X series flight demonstrators that never came to be. NASA
Whitesides was reluctant to share details of Virgin Galactic's futuristic high-speed travel concept. But he said it's not because he didn't want to, but rather because he couldn't: The company is in its earliest stages of research, development, and data gathering, and is not yet certain of its direction.
"Where you choose your technology approach will shape dramatically the development costs and the technical difficulties. What we're trying to do, as we think through the problem, is to make smart choices, to do something that's compelling," he said. "There's no question that this is going to be something that will require the resources of multiple partners, so you can definitely see potentially various companies being involved in this."
Whitesides said "a very wide range of potential options" is on the table since "propulsion technology is light-years ahead of what it was with ... the Concorde propulsion."
Supersonic travel, or between Mach 1 and Mach 5 one to five times the speed of sound will most likely lead to the use of an air-breathing engine, as the Concorde used. But the company is most experienced in the reusable rocket-engine system that powers SpaceShipTwo. The vehicle has flown five employees to the edge of space over two flights, though it has not yet rocketed any paying passengers.
An illustration of SpaceX's Big Falcon Rocket system (now called Starship) launching with passengers from an ocean platform near a city. SpaceX/YouTube That rocketry know-how might be leveraged into a hypersonic system that could fly between Mach 5 to 25, which is what SpaceX hopes to eventually do with its fully reusable Starship-Super Heavy launch system. In theory, a hypersonic vehicle could launch from New York and to Shanghai in less than an hour.
But Whitesides said hypersonic speeds introduce a large amount of complexity. A vehicle moving at such speeds requires cruising through space and would generate searing-hot plasma during its reentry, mandating the creation of a robust, lightweight heat shield.
"I'm not going to promise Mach 25, because that that definitely suggests a certain type of propulsion that we haven't formally thought through," he said. "Mach 25 would be great, but you do have high heating and higher [gravity]-loads on reentry. So you've got to think through all of these trades to make sure that the whole experience that you're providing to people is compelling and can be widely adopted."
Whitesides said flying passengers in SpaceShipTwo at Mach 3, or three times the speed of sound the vehicle's top speed, which it uses to fly more than 50 miles above Earth will help Virgin Galactic gain an edge over competitors.
"We're going to be building up a huge database of high-speed flight," he added. "It's going to be unrivaled, except for maybe the biggest defense primes. ... But nobody's flown a bunch of people at Mach 3 who are not test pilots or fighter pilots."
For his part, Whitesides said he's trying to keep his "personal emotions" out of the effort and "just let the engineers do their thing."
"They'll present the [trade-offs] and then we'll try to rapidly move forward," he added. "It's not going to be next year, but it is something that I think we can continue to work on in a sort of a staged approach and hopefully change the world."
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Gov. Mike DeWine threw his support behind the push.
COLUMBUS The state Senate passed a resolution urging the federal government to locate the U.S. Space Command in Ohio.
Last week, the state Senate unanimously approved Senate Concurrent Resolution 15. The measure now heads to the state House for consideration.
Moving the space command to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Dayton area could bring as many as 1,400 jobs to the Buckeye State, officials say. The feds could announce a decision in early 2021.
The Dayton region is the ideal place for the U.S. Space Command headquarters, state Sen. Bob Hackett, R-London, said in a statement. We will do all we can to strengthen and expand this industry right here where it all began, the birthplace of aviation and the future of aerospace Ohio.
Gov. Mike DeWine threw his support behind the push. Beavercreek Mayor Bob Stone submitted a nomination, and the governor sent a letter endorsing the plan to the assistant secretary of the U.S. Air Force.
Wright-Patterson is home to the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, which is the Department of Defenses primary source for foreign air and space threats, according to its website. The Air Force Research Laboratory is also located in Ohio.
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Dayton region would be excellent hosts for the U.S. Space Commands new headquarters, DeWine said in a statement. This area is already home to the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, Air Force Research Laboratory, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and Air Force Material Command. Its a powerful combination and a synergy that you cant find anywhere else.
The resolution seems likely to pass, especially after House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, endorsed the move.
Ohio is home to many fine institutions that support Ohios aeronautical pioneers, Householder said in a statement. Our great state represents the best and the brightest minds in our nation that have tackled problems and challenges of space travel and space-based threats with steadfastness and composure.
Story courtesy of The Center Square.
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A new study claims that humanity would need to send a minimum of 110 people to Mars to build a self-sustaining civilization there.
The paper, written by Jean-Marc Salotti from Frances Bordeaux Institut National Polytechnique and published in Scientific Reports, took a big swing in trying to solve this seemingly simple question via mathematical modeling.
For survival on Mars, some assumptions are made for the organization of the settlers and engineering issue, Salotti wrote in the study.
The minimum number of settlers has been calculated and the result is 110 individuals.
Salotti concedes the figure is a relatively low number, but it would help to make sure that supplies and resources dont run out quickly. He imagines these individuals living in an oxygen-filled dome and growing plants in greenhouses constructed of glass with reflectors that provide sufficient light.
In order to have appropriate soil for plants, Salotti believes an assortment of rocks, salts, water and organic wastes and decomposers (insects and microorganisms) is needed.
Water will be extracted from icy terrain and recycled using natural filters, he added.
Salotti noted that the overall success of those people on the Red Planet would likely depend on an array of factors, including how well they cooperate with one another and share their time and resources.
Problems arising from armed conflicts and government control here on Earth, however, could be major roadblocks for the future colonization of Mars.
In case of war on Earth, important space sector infrastructures may be destroyed, causing a long-term interruption in space travel, Salotti said.
It could also happen that a conflict occurs between the terrestrial governments and the settlers and, later on, a group declares independence and tries to survive on its own. Another reason could be the will of a new government to stop the settlement process because of the never-ending increasing cost.
Although the question the study tackled is largely theoretical at the moment, Salotti is aware that life on Earth could one day be threatened by some cataclysmic eventand the only way humanity could survive would be to head to Mars or another suitable planet.
Earlier this month, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk urged his employees to accelerate the work on the next-generation Starship rocket, which will one day transport humans to Mars and eventually build a colony there.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.
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As it was during the recent launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 booster, carrying the Crew Dragon and its two-person crew toward a rendezvous with the International Space Station, the entire space community and much of the worldwide general public are truly excited about the planned July 22 launch of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover.
They should be.
NASA considers the 2,300-pound Perseverance rover to be a robotic scientist. Its astrobiology mission, much like the introduction to Star Trek,is to seek out new life in this case, signs of past microbial life on Mars. In addition, Perseverance will characterize the Martian climate and geology, collect rock and soil samples, fly a drone over the surface, and serve as the latest stepping-stone for human exploration of the Red Planet.
Its exciting and inspiring.
But, along with that excitement and promise comes a serious and potentially troubling disconnect. When Perseverance launches atop the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas 541 booster, if you squint your eyes just right, it will seem exactly the same as when Viking 1 was launched on Aug. 20, 1975, to touch down on the Martian surface on July 20, 1976. The point is that, in the 44 years between the Viking 1 landing and the launch of Perseverance, we are using basically the same chemical rocket propulsion technology.
The same example applies to the SpaceX Falcon 9 booster and the Crew Dragon spacecraft. When that lifted off at the end of May, it was reminiscent of watching John Glenn in the Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft being launched into orbit by an Atlas (6) booster 58 years ago. Theres little real difference in the technology.
Recognizing the seriousness of this problem, NASA last year highlighted, The future of manned space exploration and development of space depends critically on the creation of a dramatically more proficient propulsion architecture for in-space transportation.
Almost six decades after Glenn reached orbit, technology on Earth evolves at blinding speeds and in life-improving ways and yet, rocket propulsion remains virtually the same. How? And more importantly, why?
Space exploration, in the most favorable of circumstances, remains a harsh and risky business. Knowing that, mitigating risk and exposure should be Job One for those reaching for the stars.
When Perseverance launches, it will be seven months until it touches down in the Jezero crater on Mars basically, the same length of time that it took Viking 1 to reach Mars. What would the United States look like today if we still relied upon horse-and-buggy travel and the steam engine?
When humans do venture out to Mars, what if, instead of seven or nine months for a one-way journey, they could get there in seven or nine weeks? By dramatically cutting the time needed to get from the Earth to Mars, we would greatly reduce the risk to human crews. Beyond that, we would make Mars and the rest of the near solar system infinitely more accessible and promising.
The obvious question becomes: Is such a leap in technology possible? I believe the answer is, Yes. Its called Fusion propulsion and several companies in the United States are working to perfect the concept.
Unfortunately, at least from a national security perspective, this same technology is also being developed in China and Russia. That begs an even more important question: Should the U.S. government be instituting Manhattan Project-like urgency to develop fusion propulsion for space travel?
NASA made a winning bet by getting behind SpaceX. Should NASA and the Department of Defense, through DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), get behind the fusion propulsion program now? Almost seven decades of no progress in the rocket propulsion field would seem to render that a rhetorical question.
As that horse-and-buggy technology limps along, ever so slowly pushing Perseverance toward Mars, squint your eyes one more time and imagine it going supersonic by comparison. If you dont, the Chinese and the Russians surely will.
Douglas MacKinnon was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communication at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration. He was an adviser to NASAs space shuttle team and worked space-related issues while at the Pentagon. He is the author of: The Dawn of a Nazi Moon: Book One.