SpaceJibe

November 25, 2015

Blue Origin makes historic reusable rocket landing in epic test flight

Filed under: Cool, Earth, Inner Solar System, Moon, Space Ships — bferrari @ 10:38 am

Go AMAZON Go !

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The private spaceflight company Blue Origin just launched itself into the history books by successfully flying and landing a reusable rocket.

Powered by the company’s own BE-3 engine, the rocket kicked off the launchpad on Nov. 23 at 11:21 a.m. Central Time, carrying the New Shepard space vehicle. The stunning feat was captured in an amazing test flight video released by the company.

Shortly after liftoff, the rocket separated from the vehicle. In the past, a spent rocket would fall back to Earth like a stone, having completed its one and only flight.

But Blue Origin’s rocket didn’t fall aimlessly back to Earth; instead, it was guided toward a landing pad, where it re-ignited its engines, hovered briefly above the ground and finally touched down softly on the pad, remaining upright and intact. This soft landing means the rocket can be used for more flights, which Blue Origin and other companies have said will significantly drive down the cost of spaceflight. [See more photos of Blue Origin’s epic test flight]

No other agency or company has successfully landed a reusable rocket before.

“Rockets have always been expendable. Not anymore,” stated a blog post on the company’s website, written by founder Jeff Bezos, the billionaire who also founded Amazon.com. “Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts, a used rocket. This flight validates our vehicle architecture and design.”

Blue Origin’s New Shepard capsule reached a maximum altitude of 329,839 feet and a speed of Mach 3.72, meaning 3.72 times the speed of sound, or about 2,854 mph, according a press release.

The release also laid out the details of the rocket booster landing. The rocket’s physical design first helped it to glide back toward the launch pad. Closer to the ground, the vehicle’s eight “drag brakes” reduced its terminal speed to 387 mph. Additional fins on the outside of the vehicle “steered it through 119-mph high-altitude crosswinds to a location precisely aligned with and 5,000 feet above the landing pad,” the release stated.

Finally, the BE-3 engine re-ignited “to slow the booster as the landing gear deployed and the vehicle descended the last 100 feet at 4.4 mph to touch down on the pad.”

The New Shepard crew vehicle also landed safely, guided down to Earth by parachutes.

Blue Origin has been somewhat secretive about the progress of its spaceflight vehicles and rockets; the company typically doesn’t announce test flights until they are already completed. Blue Origin intends to use the New Shepard vehicle for suborbital space tourism and as a microgravity science laboratory. (Suborbital means the vehicle can fly only to a lower altitude than is necessary to start orbiting the Earth — it would have to travel higher, and faster, to reach altitudes achieved by orbiting satellites or the International Space Station, for example.)

The company is also working on an orbital vehicle, which has been nicknamed “Very Big Brother.”

“We are building Blue Origin to seed an enduring human presence in space, to help us move beyond this blue planet that is the origin of all we know,” Bezos wrote in the blog post. “We are pursuing this vision patiently, step by step. Our fantastic team in Kent [Washington], Van Horn [Texas] and Cape Canaveral [Florida] is working hard not just to build space vehicles, but to bring closer the day when millions of people can live and work in space.”

Blue Origin is not the only company pursuing a reusable rocket design. The private spaceflight company SpaceX, founded by another Internet billionaire, Elon Musk, has made two efforts to set down a rocket on a landing pad after flight. But both times, the rocket came in too hard and too fast, and crashed on the landing pad.

On Nov. 24, Musk tweeted, “Congrats to Jeff Bezos and the BO team for achieving VTOL [vertical takeoff and landing] on their booster.” But, in a second tweet, he said, “It is, however, important to clear up the difference between ‘space’ and ‘orbit,’ as described well by https://what-if.xkcd.com/58/.”

SpaceX is not building a suborbital vehicle like New Shepard. Musk’s company’s robotic Dragon cargo capsule has already flown supplies to the International Space Station, and SpaceX has been selected by NASA to build a crew vehicle that will take people to the orbiting laboratory.

Source

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November 16, 2015

Hypersonic rocket engine could ‘revolutionize’ air travel

Filed under: Cool, Gadgets, Military, Space Ships, Uncategorized — bferrari @ 6:08 pm

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British aerospace giant BAE Systems is betting big on hypersonic travel — something its potential new partner says could be a reality within two decades.

BAE is planning to invest £20.6 million ($31.8 million) in a 20% stake of Reaction Engines, a UK-based engineering firm which has developed what it calls “breakthrough” aerospace engine technology, which could potentially be used for a new generation of reusable space vehicles and, as a commercial offshoot, could revolutionize air travel.

An announcement on BAE’s website states that the partnership will allow collaboration on Reaction Engines’ SABRE technology — “a new aerospace engine class that combines both jet and rocket technologies with the potential to revolutionize hypersonic flight and the economics of space access.”

Along with hypersonic air travel, Mark Thomas, Reaction Engines’ managing director, told CNN’s Richard Quest that a reusable space plane that takes off and lands like an aircraft is “one of the concepts that could be made possible by this engine.”

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Five times the speed of sound
SABRE, which stands for Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine, is an air-breathing engine, which uses ultra-lightweight heat exchangers to cool very hot air streams — such as those encountered at hypersonic speeds.

The technology will “enable aircraft to operate easily at speeds of up to five times the speed of sound or fly directly into Earth orbit,” Reaction Engines says in a press release on its website.

Through its ability to use atmospheric oxygen for propulsion, the engine’s design negates the need for heavy fuel reserves on board, drastically reducing the weight of a SABRE-powered vehicle.

BAE’s statement says that SABRE can also “transition” to a rocket mode, allowing spaceflight at speeds up to orbital velocity — or 25 times the speed of sound.

Thomas describes the design as an “absolutely revolutionary… visionary concept.”

He explains that SABRE is, at heart, a rocket engine but can breathe air when in the atmosphere “so you don’t need to carry so much liquid oxygen on board your vehicle, it massively reduces the weight, and you can put that into vehicle design capability or payload.”

The company’s advanced heat exchanger, which can reduce hypersonic air temperature by over a thousand degrees in a hundredth of a second, is fundamental to the engine’s design.

“If you’re doing hypersonic speed the air is around 1000˚C (1832˚F) which is more typical of the air coming out the back of the engine than goes in the front,” he explains. “So you have to be able to cool that down really quickly.”

Breaking boundaries

The company is focusing on developing the engine and Thomas says BAE will help translate its potential into a range of workable applications.

“I think we’re two decades away from a passenger carrying vehicle but a (reusable) space access vehicle within ten to 15 years.”

BAE’s proposed 20% investment is pending the approval of Reaction Engines’ shareholders.

November 12, 2015

New planetary find “best chance for life outside our solar system”

Filed under: Cool, Exoplanets, Extraterrestrial Life — bferrari @ 11:45 am

Astronomers have made two new planetary discoveries that they claim expand the known boundaries of our solar system — and they may be the biggest breakthroughs in the search for alien life.

The two finds, one planet at the edge of our solar system and one just beyond, have both been hailed as major scientific advances.

Commenting on one of the planets, Brad Tucker, an astronomer from Mount Stromlo Observatory in Canberra, Australia who was not involved in the research, said it “probably gives us the best chance for life outside our solar system right now.”

“One of the goals of astronomy and astrophysics and finding these planets is firstly to really find another Earth,” he added. “And part of the reason of finding another Earth is that we ultimately do want to find life in the universe. It’s a question that weighs on everyone’s mind.

Lying on the edge of our solar system, a new, rocky planet close to the size of Earth and named GJ 1132b, is the discovery that holds the most potential for finding new life to date, according to astronomers.

The scientists who discovered it it said its small size and proximity — it’s three times closer than any other similar object found orbiting a star — “bodes well for studies of the planet’s atmosphere,” according to their report in the journal, Nature.

“GJ 1132b (is) arguably the most important planet ever found outside the solar system,” Drake Deming, an astronomer at the University of Maryland said in an accompanying letter in the journal. He added that it’s proximity will “allow astronomers to study the planet with unprecedented fidelity.”

Found moving across a “red dwarf” star that is only a fifth of the size of the world’s sun, the planet has a radius only 16% larger than Earth’s, and has surface temperatures that reach 260 degrees Celsius. Although that’s too hot to retain liquid water or sustain life as we know it, Tucker said it was cool enough to support some of the basic building blocks of life, and possibly support life forms like bacteria.

“We haven’t even found anything close to this so far,” he said.

“It’s more habitable, it’s less harsh and this gives us a good strong chance of actually finding life or something as opposed to the other Earth-like planets found to date.”

The planet also completes an orbit or passes its star once every 1.6 days, providing more opportunities for research and measurement than any other planet has provided to date, Tucker added.

“By being able to find evidence of these smaller, more inner planets, these rocky planets that we have in our solar system, we’re really realizing that the planets are probably in the trillions in our galaxy alone.”

http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/12/world/solar-system-discoveries-earth/index.html#

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