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 !

blueorigin_launch_web

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.

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October 19, 2015

Incredible Cross-section of the Saturn V Moon Rocket

Filed under: Cool, Earth, Moon, Space Ships — bferrari @ 9:12 pm
The Incredible Saturn V

The Incredible Saturn V

September 20, 2015

Stunning 7-mile scale model of the solar system created in Nevada

Filed under: Cool, Earth, inn, Inner Solar System, Outer Solar System — bferrari @ 9:06 am

A group of friends has created a stunning 7-mile scale model of the solar system on a dry lakebed in Nevada.

“The only way to see a scale model of the solar system was to build one,” explained science film-maker, noting the vast distances between planets. The visually striking project is documented in “To Scale: The Solar System” a 7-minute short film by Overstreet and Alex Gorosh.

Related: NASA releases dramatic new Pluto images

In the scale model Mercury, Venus and Earth are, respectively, 224 feet, 447 feet and 579 feet away from the Sun. Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus are, respectively, 0.57 miles, 1.1 miles and 2.1 miles from the fiery orb with Neptune 3.5 miles away, right on the edge of the solar system.

In reality, Neptune is around 2.8 billion miles from the Sun.

The group used cars to trace the planets’ orbits. Time lapse shots were taken from the top of a nearby mountain, creating a striking representation of the vast solar system.

To Scale: The Solar System from Wylie Overstreet on Vimeo.

December 31, 2014

What the view from earth would be like if earth had rings like Saturn

Filed under: Cool, Earth, Saturn — bferrari @ 5:22 pm

The Space Shuttle Atlantis viewed from the International Space Station.

Filed under: Cool, Earth, Gadgets, Military — bferrari @ 5:20 pm
Space Shuttle Atlantis as viewed from the International Space Station. (NASA/ESA)

Space Shuttle Atlantis as viewed from the International Space Station. (NASA/ESA)

December 8, 2014

America, Welcome Back to the Space Race

Filed under: Cool, Earth, Government Policies, Space Ships — bferrari @ 1:11 pm

On December 5th, NASA’s Orion capsule successfully lifted off from its platform at Cape Canaveral in Florida, reaching a max altitude of 3,600 miles in outer space. During the four-and-a-half hour test flight, it entered the Van Allen radiation belt, orbited the planet, survived its fiery re-entry into our atmosphere and dove into the Pacific Ocean to be retrieved by the Navy. Below, you can see images that represent each stage of the spacecraft’s flight, from launch to splashdown.

August 25, 2014

Space plane tech could power hypersonic aircraft for US military

Filed under: Cool, Earth, Gadgets, Space Ships — bferrari @ 6:13 am
This artist's illustration depicts the Skylon concept vehicle. (Adrian Mann)

This artist’s illustration depicts the Skylon concept vehicle. (Adrian Mann)

Engine technology being developed for a British space plane could also find its way into hypersonic aircraft built by the U.S. military.

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory is studying hypersonic vehicles that would use the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE), which the English company Reaction Engines Ltd. is working on to power the Skylon space plane, AFRL officials said.

“AFRL is formulating plans to look at advanced vehicle concepts based on Reaction Engine’s heat-exchanger technology and SABRE engine concept,” officials with AFRL, which is based in Ohio, told Space.com via email last month. [The Skylon Space Plane (Images)]

A bold British space plane concept

SABRE and Skylon were invented by Alan Bond and his team of engineers at the Abingdon, England-based Reaction Engines.

SABRE burns hydrogen and oxygen. It acts like a jet engine in Earth’s thick lower atmosphere, taking in oxygen to combust with onboard liquid hydrogen. When SABRE reaches an altitude of 16 miles and five times the speed of sound (Mach 5), however, it switches over to Skylon’s onboard liquid oxygen tank to reach orbit. (Hypersonic flight is generally defined as anything that reaches at least Mach 5.)

Two SABREs will power the Skylon space plane — a privately funded, single-stage-to-orbit concept vehicle t-hat is 276 feet long. At takeoff, the plane will weigh about 303 tons.

The SABRE heat exchanger is also known as a pre-cooler. It will cool the air entering Skylon’s engines from more than 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit down to minus 238 degrees Fahrenheit in one one-hundredth of a second. The oxygen in the chilled air will become liquid in the process. [Skylon’s Many Possible Missions (Video)]

“The [pre-cooler] performance has always been pretty much what we predicted,” Bond explained in an interview with Space.com at the Farnborough International Airshow in England on July 16. “We’ve now done over 700 actual tests. It’s now done as much service as a pre-cooler would in a real engine.”

Bond’s team has also successfully tested the pre-cooler for a problem aviation jet engines have to deal with: foreign objects being sucked in.

“We know it [the pre-cooler] can take debris, insects, leaves,” Bond said.

Working with the U.S. military

Bond estimates that the pre-cooler is now at a technology readiness level (TRL) of about 5. NASA and AFRL use a 1-to-9 TRL scale to describe a technology’s stage of development. According to NASA’s TRL descriptions, 5 represents “thorough testing” of a prototype in a “representative environment.”

The AFRL work is being carried out under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Reaction Engines that was announced in January. AFRL officials told Space.com that they are using computers to model SABRE.

“The Air Force research laboratories in the States have carried out some modeling to verify that the SABRE does actually work, that it is a real engine, and so I am hoping they are going to confirm that very soon,” Bond said.

“This is obviously opening doors in the United States, and again, I can’t say a great deal about that, but we have very good dialogue going across the Atlantic,” he added. “In the next couple of years, it’s going to be quite exciting.”

Bond declined to confirm rumors of organized support within the U.S. aerospace community that involves former senior program managers of the U.S. military’s most high-profile defense projects.

Bond sees Skylon as an international project that would include the U.S. and Europe.

“We’re in dialogue with people across Europe in regard to supplying [rocket engine components]. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel; we’d like to be the engine integrator and put it on our test facilities and run it,” he explained.

Milestones approaching

Two SABRE engines are expected to be tested in 2019. “Hopefully, the earlier part of 2019,” Bond said. “I’d like to feel we can test them on Westcott. That is where the rocket propulsion establishment used to be.” (In the 1950s and 1960s, the United Kingdom had its own space program; the nation launched a satellite called Prospero with its last rocket, Black Arrow, in 1971. Westcott is about a one-hour drive from Reaction Engines’ headquarters).

The SABRE development program is expected to cost 360 million British pounds ($600 million at current exchange rates). “We’ve got 80 million [British pounds] of the 360 million lined up. We’re well on our way to that,” Bond said.

Of the 80 million pounds, 60 million is from the U.K. government. As with thecommercial ventures NASA supports, Reaction Engines has to meet milestones to acquire those government funds.

“We have to meet milestones, but those are programmatic issues,” Bond said. “There is nothing contentious about that; it is just a matter of getting the work done to get there. I think of it as an R&D program, and we’ve done the ‘R’ bit, and this part forward is the ‘D’ bit. We’ve spent years making sure the technology actually works.”

In January, this R&D program reached its third phase, which is split into four sections, known as 3A, 3B, 3C and 3D. Sections 3A and 3B are being carried out in cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA).

Section 3A began in January and will last until April 2015. It involves the engine’s system design, revising the engine’s layout and studying the impact on Skylon’s performance. This work will cost 8 million euros ($10.7 million, or 6.4 million British pounds), half of which will come from the U.K. government and ESA and the other half from Reaction Engines’ private investment.

“This is it for real now; this isn’t studies anymore,” Bond said. Section 3A will continue until spring 2015, and section 3B is due to start in January 2015, he added. “That is the preliminary design phase,.” Bond said.”

Section 3B will last until the end of 2015. During this section, the characteristics of the engine components will be defined and technical specifications produced.

Section 3C, which starts from mid-2015, will see 10 million euros ($13.37 million, or 8 million British pounds) from the U.K. government spent. The section 3C work with suppliers overlaps section 3B. This is because some of the components will get specifications during 3B before other parts of the engine are fully defined. Those detailed components with specifications can then be given to prospective suppliers during the first few months of section 3C.

“In 3C, we start to do detailed design — what the bearings will look like, who is the supplier going to be, that sort of stuff. This is really exciting stuff. We’re starting to pull the real engine together during the course of next year,” Bond said.

He explained that for section 3C, his company will spend “some of the U.K. government money alongside some of our own private investment.” The government money has “enabled us to raise quite a few millions of private investment to go alongside that, and we’re continuing that [fund-raising] activity,” Bond said.

Source

July 18, 2014

Artist’s Concept of DARPA’s XS-1 Vehicle

Filed under: Cool, Earth, Inner Solar System, Military, Space Ships — bferrari @ 2:24 pm
The U.S. military is developing the XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane to launch space missions faster and cheaper than ever before. See photos and images of the DARPA-led XS-1 space plane project in this Space.com gallery. Pictured here: An artist's concept of DARPA's Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1).

The U.S. military is developing the XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane to launch space missions faster and cheaper than ever before. See photos and images of the DARPA-led XS-1 space plane project in this Space.com gallery. Pictured here: An artist’s concept of DARPA’s Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1).

June 30, 2014

Ancient asteroid destroyer finally found, and it’s a new kind of meteorite

Filed under: Asteroids, Comets, Earth, Inner Solar System, Kuiper Belt, Oort Cloud — bferrari @ 8:56 am

Illustration of a meteor shower.argus/Shutterstock.com

For 50 years, scientists have wondered what annihilated the ancestor of L-chondrites, the roof-smashing, head-bonking meteorites that frequently pummel Earth.

Now, a new kind of meteorite discovered in a southern Sweden limestone quarry may finally solve the mystery, scientists report. The strange new rock may be the missing “other half” from one of the biggest interstellar collisions in a billion years.

“Something we didn’t really know about before was flying around and crashed into the L-chondrites,” said study co-author Gary Huss of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The space rock is a 470-million-year-old fossil meteorite first spotted three years ago by workers at Sweden’s Thorsberg quarry, where stonecutters have an expert eye for extraterrestrial objects. Quarriers have plucked 101 fossil meteorites from the pit’s ancient pink limestone in the last two decades. [Photos: New Kind of Meteorite Found in Sweden]

Researchers have nicknamed the new meteorite the “mysterious object” until its formal name is approved, said lead study author Birger Schmitz, of Lund University in Sweden and Chicago’s Field Museum. It will likely be named for a nearby church, the sterplana, he said.

Mysterious find

Geochemically, the meteorite falls into a class called the primitive achondrites, and most resembles a rare group of achondrites called the winonaites. But small differences in certain elements in its chromite grains set the mysterious object apart from the winonaites, and its texture and exposure age distinguish the new meteorite from the other 49,000 or so meteorites found so far on Earth.

“It’s a very, very strange and unusual find,” Schmitz told Live Science’s Our Amazing Planet.

The new meteorite was recently reported online in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, and the study will appear in the journal’s Aug. 15 print edition.

Until now, all of the quarry’s fossil meteorites were L-chondrites. Schmitz, who has led the chondrite cataloging, admitted the rock hunt had become “quite boring.”

But the rare find has not only revitalized interest in the quarry, it has also brought together the world’s top meteorite experts for a global hunt through geologic time. Thanks to Schmitz’s careful detective work on meteorites, scientists now know that each kind of meteorite leaves behind a unique calling card: tough minerals called spinels. Even if meteorites weather away, their spinels linger for hundreds of million of years in Earth rocks. Schmitz and his cohorts think they can pin down how many meteorites rained down on Earth in the past 2.5 billion years, as well as what kind fell, by extracting extraterrestrial spinels from sedimentary rocks. Their work may confirm suspicions that recent meteorite falls represent a mere fraction of the rocks drifting in space.

“I think our new finding adds to the understanding that the meteorites that come down on Earth today may not be entirely representative of what is out there,” Schmitz said. “One thing our study shows is that we maybe don’t know as much as we think we know about the solar system.”

Ancient wreckage

The limestone quarry preserves the remnants of a cosmic cataclysm that took place 470 million years ago, during the Ordovician Period. Scientists think there was an enormous crash between two large bodies out in the asteroid belt. The crash blew apart two asteroids, or an asteroid and comet, slinging dust and debris toward Earth. One of the impactors was the source of all L-chondrite meteorites. But no one has ever found a piece of the rock that hit the L-chondrite parent, until now.

The Swedish meteorite’s exposure age the length of time it sailed through space is the key to placing the fossil space rock at the scene of the crash. The meteorite zipped from the asteroid belt to Earth in just 1 million years. That’s the same remarkably young exposure age as the L-chondrites recovered from the Thorsberg quarry, suggesting the rocks sprayed Earth in the same wave of space debris. [Infographic: Asteroid Belt Explained]

Meteorite expert Tim Swindle, who was not involved in the study, praised the team’s careful analysis and said it was unlikely that any other meteorite but an Ordovician fragment would have such a short exposure age. “Very, very few modern meteorites have exposure ages that low,” said Swindle, a professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “Typically, it takes things longer to get here from the asteroid belt,” he said. “It’s a telling argument.”

But because so little is left of the original meteorite almost all its minerals have been altered to clay Swindle thinks there’s wiggle room for linking it to known classes of meteorite, instead of calling it a new find.

“I think it’s entirely plausible [that it’s a new kind of meteorite], and it’s a great study, but that’s not a guarantee they’ve got it right,” Swindle said. “But if they didn’t, it’s because of new things we’ll find out in future work, not because of their analysis.”

The geochemical tests were performed on sand-sized chromite spinels, which confirmed the rock’s extraterrestrial origin. The altered clay is also about 100,000 times richer in iridium than terrestrial rocks. Iridium is the element that marks the meteorite impact horizon when the dinosaurs went extinct.

Hunt for space history

Schmitz now plans to search for these strange achondrite spinels in the quarry sediments, as well as in other rocks of the same age around the world. Ordovician meteorite spinels from L-chondrites have been found in China, Russia and Sweden, and small micrometeorites have been discovered in Scotland and South America. Researchers think about 100 times as many meteorites fell on Earth during the Ordovician compared with today, but only about a dozen impact craters of the proper age have been identified. [Crash! 10 Biggest Impact Craters on Earth]

A bigger quest is also in the works. Schmitz and his colleagues plan to dissolve tons of rock in acid in a global search for meteoritic spinel grains. This detective work will help researchers pin down the history of the asteroid belt and solar system. Spinels can provide an estimate of how many meteorites fell in the past, and what kind hit Earth. These tiny pieces of vanished meteorites may fill in missing history, because meteorite impact craters often vanish due to geologic forces.

“This can give you a ground truth for models for how the solar system may have evolved over time,” said Gary Huss, a co-author on the Swedish meteorite study who will collaborate on the spinel search. “I think a lot of people have worried for some time that we don’t really know what’s going on in the asteroid belt.”

Source

June 13, 2014

Dream Chaser space plane prototype to fly again in 2014

Filed under: Cool, Earth, Gadgets, Inner Solar System, Military, Space Ships — bferrari @ 7:43 pm
This illustration shows the Dream Chaser vehicle launching into space. (Sierra Nevada)

This illustration shows the Dream Chaser vehicle launching into space. (Sierra Nevada)

A protoype of a space plane being developed to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station will take to the skies again later this year.

The prototype of Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Dream Chaser vehicle has already been through some drop tests and a free flight in 2013, which ended when the Dream Chaser skidded off the runway. The new series of flights will include several automated ones, followed by piloted trips, said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s space systems division.

The reusable astronaut taxi is one of three designs competing for NASA dollars in the space agency’s Commercial Crew Program. The initiative aims to create a viable United States spacecraft that could ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. At the moment, Russian Soyuz vehicles are the only spacecraft that can deliver astronauts into orbit. [See images of the Dream Chaser space plane]

Three companies – Sierra Nevada, SpaceX and Boeing – are funded through the Commercial Crew Program right now, but that pool of competitors could get smaller in the next phase of the program, which will be announced later this year.

“We believe we’re well positioned for that next phase, but in addition to that, I think what we’re doing is building a system [to attract] multiple clients,” Sirangelo told reporters during a news conference on Thursday.

Sierra Nevada aims to launch Dream Chaser into space for the first time in November 2016, company representatives have said.

Working in a former shuttle facility

Sirangelo delivered his comments while announcing a contract with Craig Technologies, an engineering and technical company that is leasing a 161,000-square-foot building in Cape Canaveral, Florida, which was formerly used for NASA shuttle logistics.

Craig will provide a piece of hardware that will help “move the Dream Chaser around and put it on its adapter for flight,” Sirangelo said. Called a “cradle,” the ground equipment device is intended to lift and move the spacecraft while it is being processed.

“This is the first of many different pieces of business we will be doing here,” Sirangelo said.

Dream Chaser will ride to orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket and return to Earth by making a landing on a runway, much like NASA’s space shuttles did before their retirement in 2011. Craig is expected to provide several other products and services to SNC, which Sirangelo said are being negotiated. The value of the contract was not disclosed.

‘We’re able to bring jobs’

In 2012, Craig also brokered a five-year Space Act Agreement with NASA for the agency to let it use 1,600 pieces of equipment that were once used to maintain and repair the shuttle.

Because the agreement required Craig to stay within 50 miles (80 kilometers) of the Kennedy Space Center, Craig signed a lease with Cape Canaveral Ventures for the nearby shuttle depot.

Since 2013, Craig (which has about 400 employees in the United States) has hired 150 employees, with 65 of those former shuttle workers. It also spent $2 million renovating the facility and hiring workers so far.

“The important message is we’re able to bring jobs, and keep that knowledge base, and retain that experience and that skilled work force that was here before,” Carol Craig, founder and CEO of Craig Technologies, said during the news conference. “That’s what we hope to bring to Mark and his team.”

Craig joins a list of about 40 companies that are participating in the Dream Chaser program. Sierra Nevada also has participated in missions such as NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, where it provided some of the systems that helped the rover land in the last minute of its so-called “seven minutes of terror” touchdown in 2012.

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