Spin launch’s ginormous centrifuge plans to slingshot rockets into space

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One of the greatest obstacles in launching spacecraft off our planet is the tremendous volume and cost of fuel required to achieve escape velocity and break out of Earth’s gravity well into the vacuum of outer space.

Aerospace firms have offered a number of novel solutions to this dilemma, but we’re still stuck with the good old-fashioned method of firing up a rocket engine and blasting ourselves off our spinning rock in a thunderous display.

Hoping to build a better mousetrap, California startup firm SpinLaunch is taking a kinetic energy approach and has lofty plans to construct a football field-sized, vacuum-sealed centrifuge that will accelerate a 25-foot-long rocket to over 5,000 miles per hour, then release it to slingshot into the heavens before its booster engine fires to attain a proper orbital attitude.

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ESA opens oxygen plant, making air out of moondust

 

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Oxygen and metal from lunar regolith. Credit: Beth Lomax – University of Glasgow

ESA’s technical heart has begun to produce oxygen out of simulated moondust.

A prototype oxygen plant has been set up in the Materials and Electrical Components Laboratory of the European Space Research and Technology Centre, ESTEC, based in Noordwijk in the Netherlands.

“Having our own facility allows us to focus on oxygen production, measuring it with a mass spectrometer as it is extracted from the regolith simulant,” comments Beth Lomax of the University of Glasgow, whose Ph.D. work is being supported through ESA’s Networking and Partnering Initiative, harnessing advanced academic research for space applications.

“Being able to acquire oxygen from resources found on the Moon would obviously be hugely useful for future lunar settlers, both for breathing and in the local production of rocket fuel.”

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China plans 39 million-mile race to Mars to catch up with NASA

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“Mars Base 1” is a Mars simulation center in the Gobi desert.

China is taking its rivalry with the U.S. to another planet.

The Chinese space agency is preparing a mid-year mission to Mars, marking the most ambitious project on an exploration checklist intended to achieve equal footing with NASA and transform the nation’s technological know-how.

Landing the unmanned probe on the red planet would cap President Xi Jinping’s push to make China a superpower in space. The nation already has rovers on the moon, and it’s making bold plans to operate an orbiting space station, establish a lunar base and explore asteroids by the 2030s.

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Scientists come up with a method to make oxygen from moon dust

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Artist impression of activities in a Moon Base. Power generation from solar cells, food production in greenhouses and construction using mobile 3D printer-rovers.

The moon is covered in fine, delicate dust called regolith which sticks to absolutely everything and causes all sorts of technical problems. But it is an abundant resource, and plans for making use of it include melting it with lasers to use for 3D printing or packing it into bricks to build habitats. Now, the European Space Agency (ESA) has come up with a different use for the tricky substance: Turning it into oxygen which could be used by lunar explorers for breathing and for the production of fuel.

Moon regolith is known to contain about 40 to 50% oxygen by weight, but it is bound in the form of oxides so it’s not immediately usable. Researchers at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) have been investigating ways to extract this oxygen using a technique called molten salt electrolysis. The regolith is placed in a metal basket along with molten calcium chloride salt and heated to a high temperature, then an electric current is passed through it so the oxygen can be extracted. A bonus of this method is that it also produces usable metal alloys as a by-product.

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China makes major breakthrough in space propulsion technology

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The 20-kW Hall thruster in operation at a laboratory of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation

 China has made a major breakthrough in the development of the Hall-effect thruster (HET), an important space propulsion technology.

Researchers from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) have developed the country’s first HET with an input power of 20 kilowatts that can produce a thrust of one newton, marking a leap for China’s HETs from millinewton level to newton level.

The applications of HETs include control of the orientation and position of orbiting satellites and use as a main propulsion engine for medium-size robotic space vehicles.

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The most impressive aerospace innovations of 2019

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The year’s most important developments in the world of aerospace. Lockheed Martin

The most awesome aerospace innovations of this past year aren’t just cool contraptions designed to cruise through air and space at breakneck speeds. They’re hints at what might be mainstream in the future. From an experimental craft that could help usher in a new period of quiet supersonic flight to a drone destined to fly on Mars, these machines are made to push the edges of our engineering envelopes. These mind-bending vehicles are bringing wings, rotors, engines, and humanity to new heights.

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The biggest barrier to future space exploration is in our heads

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With enough time, the technological challenges of sending humans to Mars and beyond are solvable. But psychologically, we’re not ready to leave our home.

In 1945 British science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke—now best known for 2001: A Space Odyssey—correctly predicted the invention of satellites, the first of which launched into space in 1958. Then in 1963, Clarke predicted that a man would land on the moon and safely return to Earth sometime around the year 1970—which Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin did in the summer of 1969. In 1973, Clarke predicted a future where humans would be able to monitor outer-space threats such as asteroids and other near-earth objects—NASA established its Near-Earth Object Observations Program in 1998.

Much of what Clarke suggested about our future in outer space, however, has slipped further and further behind schedule in recent years. For example, he predicted commercial space flights by the year 2011 and a manned mission to Mars by 2021. He also spoke of a manned mission to Jupiter by 2099, which experts say looks pretty unlikely at this point.

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Massive, AI-powered robots are 3D-printing entire rockets

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To make a 3D-printable rocket, Relativity Space simplified the design of many components, including the engine.PHOTOGRAPH: RELATIVITY

Relativity Space may have the biggest metal 3D printers in the world, and they’re cranking out parts to reinvent the rocket industry here—and on Mars.

For a factory where robots toil around the clock to build a rocket with almost no human labor, the sound of grunts echoing across the parking lot make for a jarring contrast.

“That’s Keanu Reeves’ stunt gym,” says Tim Ellis, the chief executive and cofounder of Relativity Space, a startup that wants to combine 3D printing and artificial intelligence to do for the rocket what Henry Ford did for the automobile. As we walk among the robots occupying Relativity’s factory, he points out the just-completed upper stage of the company’s rocket, which will soon be shipped to Mississippi for its first tests. Across the way, he says, gesturing to the outside world, is a recording studio run by Snoop Dogg.

Neither of those A-listers have paid a visit to Relativity’s rocket factory, but the presence of these unlikely neighbors seems to underscore the company’s main talking point: It can make rockets anywhere. In an ideal cosmos, though, its neighbors will be even more alien than Snoop Dogg. Relativity wants to not just build rockets, but to build them on Mars. How exactly? The answer, says Ellis, is robots—lots of them.

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This is how long the human body would survive on every planet in the Solar System

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Let’s assume that people learned how to breathe in space without special equipment and we found a way to reach any planet in the solar system. Despite the fact that this information is not likely to be practical in the near future, let’s have a look at how a person would feel on the different planets of our solar system without any protective devices. And looking at big ambitious plans from Elon Musk, who knows, we may start space-traveling sooner than we expect.

We think that the world around us is so fascinating and can’t wait to share some facts about it with our readers.

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Scientists are starting to take warp drives seriously, Especially one specific concept

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It’s hard living in a relativistic Universe, where even the nearest stars are so far away and the speed of light is absolute. It is little wonder then why science fiction franchises routinely employ FTL (Faster-than-Light) as a plot device.

Push a button, press a petal, and that fancy drive system – whose workings no one can explain – will send us to another location in space-time.

However, in recent years, the scientific community has become understandably excited and skeptical about claims that a particular concept – the Alcubierre Warp Drive – might actually be feasible.

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Here’s how we could feed a million people on Mars

 

Plant growth chamber on Mars

If we want to colonize Mars, we’re going to need to figure out a way to feed ourselves there, and continuously sending food to the Red Planet isn’t a sustainable plan.

But now, a team of researchers thinks it’s figured out a way to produce enough food on Mars to feed a million people — and they say their plan to make Martian colonists self-sufficient would take just a hundred years to implement.

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Astronauts make cement in space for the first time

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European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst works on an experiment aboard the International Space Station looking into how cement reacts in space.

Concrete could provide humans in space with better protection from radiation and extreme temperatures than many other materials.

In the future, when humans live in and visit space, they’re going to need places to stay and work. That calls for durable infrastructure such as concrete. For the first time, astronauts made cement in space as part of a project looking into the effects of microgravity, NASA said last week.

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