Exciting new 3D invention can target and remove space junk

Norwegian company SINTEF is developing a new 3D robot that explores the surface of planets and identifies space junk.

Originally, the camera was designed to roam the surface of Mars through a collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russia. However, following the war in Ukraine, this project has been abandoned and SINTEF is looking to target regions closer to Earth.

“Mars is still an interesting target for us,” said SINTEF’s Jostein Thorstensen. “But right now, it all seems a little far away, so we’re looking at other opportunities. Servicing satellites and the removal of space junk have emerged as very interesting areas.”

There are thousands of satellites and many of them require servicing and repairs in order to extend their lifetimes. Increasing amounts of space junk are also becoming a major problem, with thousands of decommissioned satellites still in orbit around Earth.

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New Robot Design May Revolutionize How We Build Things in Space

3D animation showing the Hubble Space Telescope over the Earth.

A New Walking Robot Design.

Researchers have created a cutting-edge walking robot that might revolutionize large space construction projects. They tested the feasibility of the robot for the in-space assembly of a 25m Large Aperture Space Telescope. Their findings were recently published in the journal Frontiers in Robotics and AI. Furthermore, a scaled-down version of the robot has shown potential for large-scale construction applications on Earth.

Maintenance and maintenance of massive structures are particularly important in space, where the circumstances are harsh and human technology has a limited lifetime. Robotics, autonomous systems, and extravehicular activities have all proven helpful for servicing and maintenance missions and have assisted the space community in conducting innovative research on a variety of space missions. Robotics and autonomous systems advancements provide a wide range of in-space services. This includes, but is not limited to, manufacturing, assembly, maintenance, astronomy, earth observation, and debris removal.

Due to the many hazards involved, relying just on human builders is insufficient, and current technologies are outdated.

“We need to introduce sustainable, futuristic technology to support the current and growing orbital ecosystem,” explained corresponding author Manu Nair, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Lincoln.

“As the scale of space missions grows, there is a need for more extensive infrastructures in orbit. Assembly missions in space would hold one of the key responsibilities in meeting the increasing demand.”

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SPACE STAYCATION 

INSIDE MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR PLAN TO BUILD A TOWN ON THE MOON USING LUNAR DUST

By Jona Jaupi

ONE 3D-printing company has revealed plans to build towns on the Moon’s surface.

Nasa has given 3D printing firm Icon $57.2 million to develop a plan that could help build infrastructure on the lunar surface.

Types of infrastructure would include landing pads, habitats, and roads on the lunar surface.

Not only would the developments be built for Nasa but for commercial companies, as well.

Icon, based in Austin, previously displayed its cutting-edge technology by 3D printing a 1,700-square-foot simulated Martian habitat.

The habitat dubbed Mars Dune Alpha was presented at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Nasa’s contract will help Icon research and develop space-based construction systems, specifically for its project Olympus.

This project will help to support the planned exploration of the Moon and beyond.

It’s also intended to be a multi-purpose construction system primarily using local lunar and Martian resources as building materials to further the efforts of NASA as well as commercial organizations to establish a sustained lunar presence.

“In order to explore other worlds, we need innovative new technologies adapted to those environments and our exploration needs,” said Niki Werkheiser, director of technology maturation in Nasa’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).

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SpaceChain Paves the Way for High-speed Blockchain Processing in Space with Seventh Payload Launch

SpaceChain announced it has successfully launched its second Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) payload into space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which is on its way to the International Space Station (ISS) for installation via the SpaceX Dragon 2 spacecraft. The mission marks SpaceChain’s seventh successful blockchain payload launch into space, and the second integration of its payload with Velas, the world’s fastest EVM blockchain and open-source platform for decentralized applications.

Once installed and tested on the ISS via Nanoracks, the space node will be capable of processing Velas blockchain on the ISS and sending Velas digital assets from space, such as VLX, tokens and NFTs, in addition to performing complete high-speed transaction services across the Velas platform, including smart contract deployment and coin minting.

Today’s mission not only reaffirms SpaceChain’s commitment in empowering blockchain companies to harness space as a platform for business innovation, and the high customizability of blockchain-enabled space nodes in meeting diverse industry needs, it also validates the possibility and feasibility of performing high-speed blockchain processing in space, and serves as a successful scientific demonstration of SpaceChain’s highly integrative space-as-a-service solutions with EVM compatible blockchain technology.

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Additive Manufacturing is Propelling the Next Generation of Space Exploration

Figure 1: Turbomachinery components like those shown here are typically produced using laser metal fusion.

By Eliana Fu

The next frontier includes 3D-printed materials and antennas.

What do I think about space exploration? If you ask me that question and get me started on that topic, I probably won’t be able to stop. Since the new space race has begun, we are starting to see “new space” companies pop up that are basically tech startups: highly motivated, enthusiastic, driven individuals who are committed to their mission and will do “what’s right” to achieve their goals. Additive manufacturing (AM), or 3D printing, is a tool they can use to help achieve their goals. For metallic components on spacecraft or even on the launch pad, AM is, simply put, propelling the next generation of space exploration.

In the last few years, we have seen tremendous success in the public and private space exploration industry. The legendary William Shatner (Captain Kirk of “Star Trek” fame) took a ride on Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle when he was 90, becoming the oldest person to go to space. SpaceX’s Starship has a new tentative launch date for late 2022. Virgin Orbit launched satellites from the Mohave Air and Space Port, and they are on target to launch from the U.K. in coming months. Firefly had its first successful flight, and Astra also returned to launching from its Alaska facility. NASA’s Artemis mission got underway and, though pushed back, will resume when it is safe to do so. Many others continued making progress, including Rocketlab, ABL Space, Stoke Space, Venus Aerospace, and Firehawk.

The conversation of using AM for space exploration has continued unabated. For example, Relativity Space announced its intention to launch in late October 2022. This is significant, given that a large proportion of its vehicle is produced using AM processes, such as wire-arc additive manufacturing (WAAM) and laser-powder-bed fusion—also called laser metal fusion (LMF).

Many other space flight companies—old and new—are using AM processes for structural components, fuel tanks, barrels, and propulsion devices. The classic rocket engine lends itself well to 3D printing, and laser metal fusion is appropriate to produce turbo machinery, injectors, combustion chambers, and nozzles.

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China Space Program Plans to Build a Nuclear-powered Moon Base by 2028

China Space Program Plans to Build a Nuclear-powered Moon Base by 2028

John Lopez

China is looking to establish its first base on the lunar surface by 2028. This is part of the country’s plans to send its astronauts to the moon in subsequent years, a challenge to NASA’s revived space supremacy.

Local news outlets report that China’s planned moon station will be built on the moon’s south pole, and it will be completely nuclear-powered.

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FCC Proposes New “Space Bureau” to Meet the Challenges of Commercial Space

By Daniel Pereira

On November 3, 2022, at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced a plan to reorganize the agency to better support the needs of the growing satellite industry, promote long-term technical capacity at the FCC, and navigate 21st-century global communications policy.

Under this plan, Chairwoman Rosenworcel will work to reorganize the FCC’s International Bureau into a new Space Bureau and a standalone Office of International Affairs. These changes will help ensure that the FCC’s resources are better aligned so that the agency can continue to fulfill its statutory obligations and keep pace with the rapidly changing realities of the satellite industry and global communications policy.

“The satellite industry is growing at a record pace, but here on the ground, our regulatory frameworks for licensing them have not kept up. Over the past two years, the agency has received applications for 64,000 new satellites. In addition, we are seeing new commercial models, new players, and new technologies coming together to pioneer a wide range of new satellite services and space-based activities that need access to wireless airwaves,” said Chairwoman Rosenworcel.

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Caltech Researchers are Creating a Huge Satellite That Sends Solar Power Back to Earth

But as a whole, it is the size of roughly 1,700 football fields.

By Jace Dela Cruz

Solar power has been widely used all throughout the world as more countries opt for renewable sources of energy. However, there is a higher volume of solar energy in space where there is no day, night, and clouds that would limit us from harvesting power from the Sun.

Hence, a group of researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is building a huge satellite that can harvest solar energy and then wirelessly transmit it back to our planet. If the project proves successful, it could power a wide range of places in the world.

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IBM and Sierra Space develop ‘space cloud’ for orbital data management

Future space stations will require significant computing capabilities and IBM is working with Sierra Space to develop a platform to service the space cloud.

By Ryan Morrison

Servicing a growing economy in low-Earth orbit will require a dedicated ‘space cloud’ platform, according to IBM and Sierra Spa

Ushering in the ‘orbital age’ where commercial activity spreads into space will require “robust space compute and data capability,” declares Ken Shields, senior director of business development at Sierra Space, one of the companies developing the Orbital Reef commercial space station.

Within the next three years, Sierra Space plans to send a test station into orbit that will prove its technology works and can be used for humans to stay in space, but first, they need to work out how to manage data and that is where a new partnership with IBM comes into play.

They will work together to develop the next generation of space technology and software platforms that will run across Sierra Space’s range of space vehicles and infrastructure including the Dream Chaser space plane scheduled to fly for the first time next year with cargo for the ISS.

A memorandum of understanding between the two companies will see IBM integrate its technology that will coordinate tasks undertaken by astronauts, connect devices in orbit and help send data from research projects back to the Earth.

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New Zealand: Superconducting Magnet Tech Demonstrator in Space

The University of Wellington’s Paihau-Robinson Research Institute and an astronautics company based in Texas have announced a partnership to launch a new superconducting magnet technology demonstrator to test a novel type of space propulsion.

By Samaya Dharmaraj

Paihau-Robinson selected the Houston-based hosted-payload provider to launch a superconducting magnet technology demonstrator to the International Space Station (ISS). According to a statement, the Institute is undertaking a five-year research programme into the application of its proprietary magnet technology to a type of electric space thruster, applied-field magneto plasma dynamic (AF-MPD) thrusters. There is currently only one example of a similar thruster being flown in space, with the mass and power requirements of magnetic components being a key technological barrier.  The Institute intends to leverage its advancements in high-temperature superconducting (HTS) magnet development to overcome these obstacles.

The Primary Investigator and Institute Director, Nick Long, stated that the research leverages Paihau-Robinson’s twenty-year track record in HTS magnet technology to drastically reduce the mass and power consumption of these thrusters, demonstrating a viable pathway to commercial applications. The researchers believe they could provide propulsion solutions for large spacecraft instead of electric thrusters.

The payload will launch to the ISS where it will be installed into the private player’s external platform by astronauts onboard the station. Engineers on the ground will then operate the magnet over several months-demonstrating the ability to generate a core magnetic field thousands of times stronger than that of the Earth, along with shielding to ensure the safety and stability of surrounding equipment.

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Boffins propose Slinky-like robot that can build stuff in space

E-Walker is a ‘seven degrees-of-freedom fully dexterous end-over-end walking robot’

By Richard Currie 

Although large in-space construction projects are the stuff of science fiction, they will have to become science fact as missions grow ever more ambitious. Researchers at the University of Lincoln have decided to get a head start.

Introducing the design for an “End-over-end Walking Robot” (or E-Walker) in the Frontiers in Robotics and AI journal, study authors Manu Harikrishnan Nair, Mini Chakravarthini Rai, and Mithun Poozhiyil describe “an innovative dexterous walking robotic system for in-orbit assembly missions.”

They say that simulated results “prove the dual E-Walker robotic system’s efficacy for accomplishing complex in-situ assembly operations through task-sharing,” using a Large Aperture Space Telescope (LAST) as an example.

“We need to introduce sustainable, futuristic technology to support the current and growing orbital ecosystem,” said lead author Nair, PhD candidate at the University of Lincoln.

“As the scale of space missions grows, there is a need for more extensive infrastructures in orbit. Assembly missions in space would hold one of the key responsibilities in meeting the increasing demand.”

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Lynk to Launch World’s First Cellular 5G From Space Payload

First of its kind payload will transmit Cellular 5G from Space

Lynk Global, (Lynk), the world’s leading satellite-direct-to-standard-phone telecoms company, will fly the world’s first 5G cellular base station in space in a first-of-its-kind demonstration. This test will demonstrate the ability to send a 5G signal from space to standard mobile devices on Earth. The test has been funded by an undisclosed partner.

Charles Miller, CEO and co-founder of Lynk, said “Lynk’s fast development cycle, combined with our unique patented and proven technology to connect satellites in orbit to standard mobile phones on Earth, allows Lynk to quickly build and test the world’s most advanced cellular technologies in space.”

Lynk is the only company in the world to demonstrate satellite-direct-to-standard-mobile-phone technology. Earlier this month, Lynk received the world’s first satellite-direct-to-phone commercial license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Lynk has also patented the ability to connect to existing standard 5G devices on Earth, with no change to the 5G device, in 55 countries. The 5G payload will launch in December 2022 on Lynk’s second commercial satellite.

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