Tag Archives | Spacecraft

Inching Closer to the Light Barrier

Picture:By AllenMcC. (CC)

The speed of light has often been called the universal speed limit, but scientists believe that breaking it may be possible. Physicist Miguel Alcubierre proposed a real-life warp drive in 1994, but the drive’s power requirements were so enormous that it was relegated to merely theory. Space.com is reporting that scientists at the 100 Year Starship Symposium have made adjustments to Alcubierre’s calculations, which lowered the power requirements significantly.

“Everything within space is restricted by the speed of light,” explained Richard Obousy, president of Icarus Interstellar, a non-profit group of scientists and engineers devoted to pursuing interstellar spaceflight. “But the really cool thing is space-time, the fabric of space, is not limited by the speed of light.”

With this concept, the spacecraft would be able to achieve an effective speed of about 10 times the speed of light, all without breaking the cosmic speed limit.

The only problem is, previous studies estimated the warp drive would require a minimum amount of energy about equal to the mass-energy of the planet Jupiter.

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DARPA’s Project To Send Humans To Another Star

1960traveltodistantworlds2aThe 100-Year Starship Study is collaboration between NASA and DARPA on the possibility and implications of someday sending a human being on a one-way space mission to distant star. The symbolic hope is that this might occur one century from now. They are not taking volunteers. Via Phenomenica:

Humans have sent probes to planets and asteroids throughout our solar system. But we’ve never come close to propelling a manmade object as far as another star.

But if NASA and DARPA – the agency responsible for some of the early innovations that led to the Internet – have their way, in the next 100 years, a spaceship would stand ready to visit another star.

The two agencies have teamed up on a 1 million-dollar project called the 100-Year Starship Study to begin contemplating technologies and organizational strategies to make the mission happen.

alled the 100-Year Starship Symposium, the public event will run Sept.

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‘Magnetic Bubbles’ Found Around Solar System Edge

Photo: NASA

A digital image of the newly theorized 'foam zone'.

Is our solar system a ‘cosmic jacuzzi filled with magnetic bubbles’? The outer shield of our solar system was thought to be smooth, like soda gone flat, but new theory believes it may foam-like filled with “bubbles.” From National Geographic:

The edge of the solar system may be a frothy sea of giant magnetic “bubbles,” a new NASA study says.

The new findings may mean that our system’s magnetic barrier—once thought to be a smooth shield—may be letting in more harmful cosmic rays and energetic particles than previously thought.

The new “foam zone” theory is based on a computer model created using data from NASA’s twin Voyager spacecraft, both launched in 1977 and currently about 10 billion miles (16 billion kilometers) from Earth.

In 2007 Voyager 1 recorded dramatic dips and rises in the amount of electrons it encountered as the craft traveled through the heliosphere—the “force field” that surrounds the entire solar system and is created by the sun’s magnetic field.

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Cold War USAF Considered Space-Based Atomic Warship (Video)

One of the secret projects discussed in Annie Jacobson's new Area 51 book is Project Orion, an ambitious 1950's-1960's era attempt to develop a nuclear fission-propelled spacecraft capable of interplanetary travel. Like many of the Cold War aeronautics projects developed at Area 51 and related test sites, it was way ahead of its time. According to Jacobs, however, when ARPA and the USAF took over the project, they had a far more Strangelovian vision in mind:
"From high above Earth, a USS Orion could be used to launch attacks against enemy targets using nuclear missiles. Thanks to Orion's nuclear-propulsion technology, the spaceship could make extremely fast defensive maneuvers, avoiding any Russian nuclear missiles that might come its way...For a period of time during the early 1960's the Air Force believed Orion was going to be invincible. 'Whoever builds Orion will control the Earth!" declared General Thomas S. Power of the Strategic Air Command." [Jacobson, p. 305]
In this fascinating TED lecture George Dyson, son of Freeman Dyson, shares his special knowledge of the project. Not much information about Project Orion's proposed weaponization has reached the web, but pay special attention to what he says at around 3:30-3:50...
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Air Force’s Mysterious Space Plane Lands As Twin Prepares For Launch

X-37BLandingLG-660x314Via Wired’s Danger Room:

After 225 days in orbit the Air Force’s mysterious X-37B space plane touched down today at 1:16 am local time at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. It was only the second fully-automated re-entry and runway landing in the history of space flight. The Soviets achieved the first in 1988 with the robotic prototype of their Buran Space Shuttle clone.

Space plane program manager Lt. Col. Troy Giese says that “today’s landing culminates a successful mission” which “completed all the on-orbit objectives.” But the Air Force has been consistently vague about what that mission really was; for a while, military personnel claimed they didn’t even know when the X-37B was coming back to Earth.

With a payload bay roughly the size of a pickup-truck bed, the 29-foot-long robot could carry sensors or even weapons. Its maneuverability — amateur skywatchers tracked the X-37 making four major course-changes — means it could sneak up on and hijack other nations’ satellites.

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Virgin Galactic May Be Selling Tickets By Autumn

Photo: SpaceShipTwo under the Mothership WhiteKnight2 in Mojave, CA. Photo from Virgin Galactic/Mark Greenberg

Photo: SpaceShipTwo under the Mothership WhiteKnight2 in Mojave, CA. Photo from Virgin Galactic/Mark Greenberg

Virgin Galactic will offer suborbital rides if the SpaceShipTwo spaceliner is approved after tests. Virgin Galactic will be the first program that will allow private tourists to take a scenic trip to see the darkness of space. The first full-crewed flight proved successful on July 15, with more tests to follow, there is a confident possibility for the first commercial tour to be this fall. MSNBC reports:

A private spaceship built to launch space tourists on suborbital joyrides could by flying on its own by this fall, Space.com has learned.

The SpaceShiftTwo spacecraft VSS Enterprise, which the space tourism company Virgin Galactic has been flying on test flights attached to a huge mothership, could make its first drop flights over California’s Mojave Desert for glide and landing tests.

“There’s a reasonable possibility that we could see the first drop flight in the fall, but as always, everything is predicated on thoroughness and safety,” Virgin Galactic’s commercial director Stephen Attenborough told Space.com in an e-mail.

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