Isro developing capability to launch humans on quick space tourism flights

The Gaganyaan crew module will be the first indigenous spacecraft to take Indian astronauts into space. (Photo: Isro)

Isro is working on developing indigenous capabilities towards space tourism through the demonstration of human space flight capability to Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is working on developing space tourism capability in a bid to score a chunk of the pie, which is set to become a multi-million-dollar market in the coming years.

Science & Technology Minister Dr Jitendra Singh said that the space agency is in the process of developing indigenous capabilities towards space tourism through the demonstration of human space flight capability to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). He added that Isro is currently working with 61 countries of the world in different fields of space activity.

The space tourism market has catapulted in the last couple of years with private aerospace companies dominating the field as government space agencies playing catch up. Elon Musk founded SpaceX is leading the space tourism market with its Dragon spacecraft taking people on tourism flights in zero gravity.

Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos-led Blue Origin is another big player with its New Shepard spacecraft launching from West Texas with passengers in brief joyrides to space. The flights last nearly 10 minutes, giving the passengers a view of the Earth from outside it. Isro is currently working on several other missions as it looks to conduct its first human spaceflight launch with the Gaganyaan mission, with an uncrewed launch delayed to next year.

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A New Method for Making Graphene has an Awesome Application: A Space Elevator!

The Space Elevator is one of those ideas that seems to have an endless supply of lives. Originally proposed about a century ago, this concept calls for a tether of supermaterial that connects a station in orbit to Earth’s surface. Our planet’s rotation would keep this tether taut, and a system of “climbers” would transport people and payloads to and from space. The engineering challenges and costs associated with such a structure have always been enormous. But every generation or so, new research comes along that causes engineers and space agencies to reevaluate the concept.

The single-greatest challenge has always been the tether since no known material has ever been strong enough to handle the stresses involved. But as it turns out, this issue may finally be resolved! According to scientists with the International Space Elevator Consortium (ISEC), a cost-effective manufacturing process could produce graphene ribbons that are strong enough to fashion a tether! Their latest findings are detailed in a paper they will present at the upcoming 2022 International Astronomical Congress in Paris.

The research was led by Adrian Nixon, a graphene and 2D materials scientist, a Royal Society of Chemistry member, founder and editor of Nixene Publishing, and a board member of StellarModal and the ISEC. He was joined by Dennis Wright – the Vice President of the ISECIBM and a former researcher with the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) National Accelerator Laboratory – and Dr. John Knapman, a former AI specialist with IBM, a member of the British Interplanetary Society, and the Managing Director of the ISEC. 

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Virgin Galactic announces deal with Boeing subsidiary to build next-gen motherships

An artist’s conception shows a Virgin Galactic mothership in flight.

BY ALAN BOYLE 

Virgin Galactic says it will partner with Aurora Flight Sciences, a Virginia-based Boeing subsidiary, to design and build next-generation motherships for its suborbital rocket planes.

The motherships will serve as flying launch pads for Virgin Galactic’s next-gen, Delta-class spacecraft, just as a carrier airplane called White Knight Two or VMS Eve has served for the company’s SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity rocket plane.

The system’s design is an upgraded version of the SpaceShipOne system that was funded almost two decades ago by Paul Allen, the late Microsoft co-founder, and won the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004.

VSS Unity and VMS Eve have been undergoing test flights for years, and commercial suborbital space missions are scheduled to begin next year at Spaceport America in New Mexico. Hundreds of customers have reserved spots on future flights.

The next-generation mothership and rocket plane are due to start revenue-generating missions in 2025. The partnership announced today will cover the production of two motherships. 

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Japan Proposes a Wild Concept for Making Artificial Gravity on the Moon

By Jason Dorrier

The list of challenges space explorers will face is formidable. They’ll have to produce breathable air, clean water, and food in extremely hostile environments lacking all of the above. They’ll also have to peacefully coexist with small groups of fellow explorers in tight quarters for long periods of time, all while minimizing exposure to the searing radiation that’s ubiquitous virtually anywhere they go.

Assuming explorers overcome these challenges, there’s another that doesn’t get the love it deserves, according to researchers at Japan’s Kyoto University.

Long-term settlement of Earth orbit, the moon, Mars, and beyond requires explorers forsake Earth’s gravity—the steady downward force every Earthly animal has evolved to navigate over billions of years. Studies of astronauts spending weeks or months in microgravity have shown atrophied muscles, bone loss, vision loss, and changes to immune systems. There have, of course, been no studies of humans living on planetary bodies with low-gravity, but it’s likely adult explorers would contend with health issues—and how all this might affect childbirth and normal development in kids is unknown.

Assuming some kind of artificial gravity would lessen these risks considerably, Kyoto University partnered with construction company, Kajima Corp, to explore futuristic concepts that might one day offer tourists and settlers a healthy dose of good ol’ Earth gravity.

Their far-future vision? A towering sci-fi space cone, called the Glass, that would stand 1,312 feet (400 meters) tall and 656 feet (200 meters) across. This habitat would spin around its axis once every 20 seconds so that people living on its inner walls would enjoy Earth gravity—alongside trees, grass, and a lake that would do MC Escher proud. The plans call for spinning habitats on the moon and Mars, where gravity is notably less than on Earth.

In addition to the habitat itself, the three-part proposal, outlined in a press release and video last week, also sketched out a system for transportation between Earth, Mars, and the moon called Hexatrack, which would include standardized vehicles for travel between habitats on the surface of the planet or moon and base stations in orbit.

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SPACE MACHINES TO LAUNCH ITS OPTIMUS IN-SPACE ORBITAL TRANSFER VEHICLE

Australian in-space transportation provider, Space Machines Company (SMC) has secured the support of SpaceX as a launch partner to carry its Optimus Orbital Transfer Vehicle (OTV) to space as part of its April 2023 mission. 

SMC’s Optimus OTV is one of the largest commercial spacecraft designed and manufactured in Australia. 

The 2023 mission will demonstrate the 270 kg Optimus OTV’s ability to deliver in-space logistics services and will deploy solutions for foundation customers.

The Optimus spacecraft’s assembly and integration will occur at the Space Machines Company facility within the University of Technology Sydney’s (UTS) Tech Lab, and will demonstrate Australian sovereign access to space capability. 

With more than 6,000 active and inactive satellites in orbit, there will increasingly be a need for infrastructure and logistics services to support and manage exponential growth in satellites and debris, according to the company. 

CEO of Space Machines Company Rajat Kulshrestha said: “Logistics is the new frontier in space innovation. 

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MIT’s New Self-Rearranging Space Station Revealed; Will TESSERAE Be Better Than ISS?

Griffin Davis 

MIT’s new self-rearranging space station has been revealed. However, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said that this new space tech is not yet under development. 

The new TESSERAE (Tessellated Electromagnetic Space Structures for the Exploration of Reconfigurable, Adaptive Environments) project aims to build a new space station that can rearrange or readjust itself. 

If this is true, then astronauts will have a better artificial environment as their study the universe. 

“The future of human habitation in space lies in self-assembling, adaptive, and reconfigurable structures,” said MIT via its official blog post. 

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Jeff Bezos’s Rocket Company Tests America’s Largest Rocket Engine

Blue Origin’s BE-4 oxygen-rich, liquefied-natural-gas-fueled, staged-combustion rocket engine as part of a test at 100% power levels earlier this month while also displaying its ‘gimbaling’ capabilities. Gimbaling allows a rocket engine to slightly change its angle in order to aid the rocket to adjust orientation during flight

By Ramish Zafar

Retail billionaire Jeff Bezos’s aerospace firm Blue Origin has successfully tested the largest rocket engine in America. Blue Origin, Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) and the United Launch Alliance (ULA) are the only three American firms that are developing next-generation, heavy-lift rockets to kick off the space race, alongside the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Space Launch System (SLS) which will form the backbone of the agency’s Artemis program aimed at developing and sustaining a human presence on the Moon.

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Avio has successfully tested the new M10 liquid methane and liquid oxygen engine

Avio has successfully carried out the first test of the new M10 liquid oxygen-liquid/methane engine, the first of its kind to be successfully tested in Europe. The M10, which will be a new generation green engine, will provide 10 tons of thrust and it is manufactured with extensive use of additive layer manufacturing technologies (ALM).

The M10 engine is a key part of the development of the future Vega E launcher, a project coordinated by ESA (European Space Agency) aimed at qualifying the successor of Vega C starting from 2026.

The project has been supported from start by the Italian Government and in particular by the Minister for Technological Innovation and Digital Transition, Vittorio Colao, in view of the positive effects in terms of innovation and sustainability at the National and European level.

The development of M10 started a few years ago with an initial cooperation between Avio and the Italian Space Agency (ASI), through which some key technologies were developed. The program was then established within the European Space Agency as a prospective solution for the upper stage of Vega E.

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British rocket company Orbex reveals first full-scale micro-launcher rocket

The Prime orbital space rocket is the world’s most environmentally friendly rocket. Credit: Orbex

British rocket company Orbex has unveiled the first full-scale prototype of the Prime orbital space rocket on its dedicated launch pad publicly for the first time.

The unveiling of the first of a new generation of European launch vehicles – designed to launch a new category of very small satellites to orbit – represents a major step forward for the British rocket company as it prepares for the first ever vertical rocket launch to orbit from UK soil. Orbex´s Prime rocket is the first ‘micro-launcher’ developed in Europe to reach this stage of technical readiness.

With the first full integration of the Orbex rocket on a launch pad now complete, the company is able to enter a period of integrated testing, allowing dress rehearsals of rocket launches and the development and optimisation of launch procedures. Orbex recently revealed their first test launch platform at a new test facility in Kinloss, a few miles from the company’s headquarters at Forres in Moray, Scotland.

Prime is a 19-metre long, two-stage rocket that is powered by seven engines, that is being designed and manufactured in the UK and Denmark. The six rocket engines on the first stage of the rocket will propel the vehicle through the atmosphere to an altitude of around 80km. The single engine on the second stage of the rocket will complete the journey to Low Earth Orbit (LEO), allowing the release of its payload of small, commercial satellites into Earth’s orbit.

Uniquely, Orbex Prime is powered by a renewable bio-fuel, bio-propane, supplied by Calor UK. This fuel allows the rocket to reduce carbon emissions significantly compared to other similarly-sized rockets being developed elsewhere around the world. A study by the University of Exeter showed that a single launch of the Orbex Prime rocket will produce 96 per cent lower carbon emissions than comparable space launch systems using fossil fuels. Prime is also a re-usable rocket which has been engineered to leave zero debris on Earth and in orbit.

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Virgin Orbit is assembling a fleet of 747 jets to launch more rockets into space

The modified 737 aircraft “Cosmic Girl” lifts off from Mojave Air and Space Port in California carrying a LauncherOne rocket on June 30, 2021.

By Michael Sheetz

  • Virgin Orbit is assembling a fleet of rocket-launching 747 jets, the company announced, ordering two new modified cargo airframes that CEO Dan Hart says “unleashes us in a few ways.”
  • The added jets open “up all sorts of possibilities for supporting different customers in different places,” Hart said.
  • Virgin Orbit expects to take delivery of the first of the two new planes next year.

Virgin Orbit is assembling a fleet of modified 747 jets, the company announced Tuesday, ordering two new modified cargo airframes to help launch more rockets into space.

The company is acquiring the two additional airframes through L3Harris, which will modify the jets to carry and launch Virgin Orbit’s rockets. Virgin expects to take delivery of the first of the planes next year.

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Solar Power Beats Out Nuclear for Future Crewed Mars Missions

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that solar power might be the ideal solution to power prolonged — or even permanent — visits to Mars. 

Until now, many engineers and scientists believed that nuclear power would be the better solution; however, advancements in photovoltaics show that solar could prove better if not comparable to nuclear power. 

For the study, the team looked at a six-person mission to Mars that included 480 days spent on the surface, a likely scenario that would reduce the time it takes to travel planet-to-planet. 

The researchers found that for sites on about half of the Martian surface, especially around the equator, solar power would be better than nuclear power, especially when you consider the weight and efficiency of solar panels. Of course, this is contingent on the power source’s ability to produce hydrogen gas to be used in fuel cells that will power the settlement at night or during sandstorms. Dust is a problem on the red planet and the main reason solar fell out of favor. If you recall, it was a dust storm that knocked the solar-powered Opportunity rover offline in 2019.  

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New Renderings Show Inside Luxurious Space Hotel To Open In 2027

BY TYLER DURDEN

Space is no longer only a place for the world powers but a new domain for private businesses to capitalize on. The latest example is an out-of-this-world space hotel set to open in low Earth orbit at the end of this decade. 

Orbital Assembly Corp., a California-based startup, bills itself as the “world’s first large-scale space construction company” and is slated to open the Voyager Station in 2027, equipped with restaurants, a cinema, spa, and space pods (rooms) for 400 people. 

“The goal has always been to make it possible for large amounts of people to live, work and thrive in space,” Tim Alatorre, Orbital Assembly’s chief operating officer, told CNN.  

The company plans to use robots to construct the celestial hotel shaped like a Ferris wheel. The 650-foot-wide wheel-shaped structure will spin with an angular velocity fast enough to generate moon-like levels of artificial gravity for guests.

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