Rand Simberg offers an alternative vision for NASA in a New Atlantis piece: "A Space Program for the Rest of Us."
Meanwhile, researchers at York University in Toronto have come up with an alternative design for a "beanstalk" to space, and are busy patenting it in partnership with space firm Thoth Technology Inc. They also published a related paper about it in Acta Astronautica. From a York U. page:
"Constructed from Kevlar, the free-standing structure would use pneumatically-inflated sections pressurized with lightweight gas such as hydrogen or helium, to actively stabilize itself and allow for flexibility. A series of platforms or pods, supported by the elevator, would be used to launch payloads into Earth's orbit.... Stacks of pods containing control and stabilization machinery are embedded in its core structure, and then pulled out and extended vertically via a system of rollers. The structure's position would be maintained by an active control system that corrects its centre of gravity using methods such as pressure balancing and gyroscopic stabilization. The system would also counter the forces of nature...."
So, here's the thing about black holes. They tend to be either super-massive vortexes in the center of galaxies that are, as Carl would put it, millyuns or billyuns of times the mass of our Sunn - or a remnant stellar black hole of between 3-20 solar masses.
We think we know how the smaller ones form. Supergiant star goes up the periodic table, fusing heavier and heavier elements for fuel, until its temperature and hence its outward pressure drop below key gravitic thresholds. Result: implosion, accompanied by rebound and a cataclysmic supernova explosion that blows off most of its mass. If last-stage atomic forces can hold the tiny remnant up after everything is collapsed into neutrons or quark "degenerate matter," you get a neutron star/quark star, where one teaspoonful would weigh about as much as an earth mountain. If it's a more massive remnant, however, it will continue collapsing in size, without losing mass. What's left makes such a big dent (hole? hard to say) in space-time, that even light ends up circling the drain and unable to escape if it passes within the thing's "event horizon".
What we don't know, is how the super-massive black holes form. The most popular current theory is merger: black holes combined. OK. But if that's so, there should be more of a size continuum. We should see mid-size black holes that are larger than we could expect from a single star's collapse: somewhere between 100 and several thousand solar masses.
The first strongly-confirmed example may have come in 2004, when the Hubble Space Telescope found one at the center of the giant G1 globular cluster near Andromeda galaxy. These medium-size black holes have been theoretically linked to some of the massive x-ray bursts we pick up now and then, but they aren't the only thing that could cause them. That's why the recent HLX-1 discovery using the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton X-ray space telescope may have just added a 2nd medium black hole to the catalog - and an important piece to the puzzle.
The proliferation of micro-satellites is just the start. USAF journals like High Frontier [5/1, PDF] are already talking about nano-satellites, or in civilian parlance "CubeSats." Their effects could be profound, and will be felt in many ways. San Jose's Good Morning Silicon Valley covers an Institute for the Future project called The Signtific Lab. The premise, which you're invited to discuss and build on, is:
"...in 2019, cubesats - space satellites smaller than a shoebox - have become very cheap and very popular. For $100, anyone can put a customized personal satellite into low-earth orbit. And space data transfer protocols developed by the Interstellar Internet Project provide a basic relay backbone linking low-powered cubesats with ground stations, and with each other. Space is open.... What will you do when space is as cheap and accessible as the Web is today?"
You're welcome to participate. The exercise is open until end of day on Match 12/09, and readers can sign up to play "positive imagination" [see example] or "dark imagination" [see example] cards, or supplement existing cards with an "antagonism" card (disagree), a "momentum" card (and then what?), an "adaptation" card (introduce a twist), or an "investigation" card (follow-up questions). Remember, as the IFTF reminds participants:
"Your forecasts don't have to be probable. They just have to be possible."
Kirkland AFB, NM recently gave the University of Hawaii of Honolulu, Hawaii a modified contract for $8 million for the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (PanSTARRS) multi-year program. The initial effort to develop and deploy a telescope data management system was awarded via a Grant to the University of Hawaii (considered a Minority Institute) and "as the various phases progressed, the Air Force determined that a Cooperative Agreement would be the more appropriate instrument as now we would be substantially involved." At this time all $8 million has been committed (FA9451-06-2-0338, P00002).
PanSTARRS will address numerous science applications ranging from the structure of the Solar System to the properties of the Universe of the largest scales. It will be able to detect and catalog large numbers of earth-orbit crossing asteroids, or near earth objects (NEO) that present a potential threat to mankind.
That last component to the mission is especially intriguing, as there is a long history of partial efforts in this direction within the US and elsewhere. So, where does this award fit in?
In many ways, it appears to be a replacement of existing efforts that have faltered, including GEODSS and NEAT. Kirtland AFB replied to DID:
"GEODSS is not involved in NEO (Near-Earth Object) work. Although "Planetary Defense" was an AF mission at one point, or at least showed up in Mission Needs statements, that was removed some time ago. At one point NEAT was located on one of the GEODSS telescopes on Maui. Because it interfered with the normal GEODSS mission, and because NEO disappeared from the AF mission, AFSPC paid AFRL to modify the 1.2-meter telescope to accommodate NEAT at prime focus. The NEAT camera was then moved to the 1.2 at AMOS.
Although the NEAT (Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking) program used the 1.2-meter telescope for a number of years, the NEAT camera was removed from the mount over a year ago and is being sent back to JPL. JPL and NASA were not paying customers for this program, the O&M was supplied by AFRL/RDSM using CA funding. When notified that AFRL funding was no longer available for support of NEAT, JPL responded that they did not have funding either. That's when the NEAT program began to shut down. NEAT still has another camera at Palomar. At this point in time, GEODSS does not support the NEO mission, and the NEAT camera is no longer used on Maui."
This was the view from my kitchen porch last night, just before totality of the lunar eclipse. We had clear skies until about 10 p.m. CST, then overcast started to set in. But from the beginning to totality, we got a great view.
The redness of the eclipsed moon, btw, is caused by sunlight that refracts through the earth's atmosphere and then reflects off the moon our view. The refracted light is reddish for the same reason that the setting or rising sun is reddish - the red end of the spectrum refracts more than the shorter wavelengths and so we see more of it.
It was a great show.
Camera: Canon A710IS, resolution 3072X2304, trimmed down to 838X720, handheld on auto setting.
TEOLAWKI - The End of Life as We Know It - threatens again.
Folks, the news from outer space just keeps getting worse and worse.
First, the supernova and galactic-attack scenarios.
Then the predicted return of the comet Genondahwayanung, which pretty much annihilated most life in North America when it came here the first time.
ScienceDaily (Jan. 13, 2008) — A giant cloud of hydrogen gas is speeding toward a collision with our Milky Way Galaxy, and when it hits -- in less than 40 million years -- it may set off a spectacular burst of stellar fireworks.Fireworks? Fireworks? Good heavens, man, it's TEOLAWKI!
Time is running out. Don't go see "The Bucket List," make your own bucket list!"The leading edge of this cloud is already interacting with gas from our Galaxy," said Felix J. Lockman, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).
Hat tip: American Digest, whose post leads with this priceless nugget: "Our premise made stupid: Study Shows over 68% of Science Stories Have Scientific Errors but.... but "over 42% of the stories were completely accurate."
Eta Carinae is drawing closer to its ultimate explosive demise. When Eta Carinae explodes, it will be a spectacular fireworks display seen from Earth, perhaps rivaling the moon in brilliance.And it gets worse.
An explosive star within our galaxy is showing signs of an impending eruption, at least in a cosmic time frame, and has for quite some time. From 1838 to 1858, the star called Eta Carinae brightened to rival the light of Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, and then faded to a dim star. Since 1940 it has been brightening again, and scientists think Eta Carinae will detonate in 10,000 to 20,000 years.
A jet of highly charged radiation from a supermassive black hole at the center of a distant galaxy is blasting another galaxy nearby -- an act of galactic violence that astronomers said yesterday they have never seen before.Gerard Van Der Leun, whence the first link, declares,
First the global freezing, then the ozone hole, then the alar scare, then the warming, then the comet strike and now, now this, the FINAL INSULT! I tell you if this keeps up, sooner or later every single person alive on the Earth today is going to be dead.Bummer.
Russia's RIA Novosti press agency. "Protecting Earth Against Asteroids":
"Anatoly Perminov, the Russian Space Agency chief, announced at a recent news conference that there were plans to develop a space system that could protect the Earth from a potential asteroid impact by 2040."
I'll raise a shot of Stoli to that. Glad someone is looking into this seriously. Russia's resources are giving it some serious cash. It would be nice to see some of it head that way, and see Russian science show itself to be back in the game at a world-class level (of course, some say it never left, just moved to Israel...).
Militaries around the world are moving to modernize and transform themselves to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Our renewed mission is to deliver a monthly cross-section of relevant, on-target stories, news, and analysis that will help experts and interested laypeople alike stay up to speed on key military developments and issues. Stories are broken down by military category and presented as fast bullet points that orient you quickly, with accompanying links if you wish to pursue more in-depth treatments.
Some of This Month's Targets of Opportunity Include: Upgraded A-10s; Orbital Express; Hypersonics; Pod people; nEUROns; AARGMs, Spikes, & MOPs; Project Sandblaster; Compound helicopters; Stealth going mainstream; Routers in space; UAV swarms; Land Warrior RIP, Rifles that don't jam - but you can't have one; Counter-sniper systems; Mine-protected vehicles go big; Trophy ready in Israel - or how about a net instead; Border robots with guns; Non-lethal weapons; UCAVs from carriers; the ASDS fiasco; Firing NEMO; Virginia's new nose; Intercontinental cans of whup-ass; Paying for jets, not parts; EFP land mines - and the response; Inventory outsourcing in US military; Medical research; Bulgarian telemedicine; Privatized air tankers? Afghanistan doctrine; Canada's tank lesson in Afghanistan; 6-Day Satellites; Transformation & Air Power; Lebanon post-mortems; Medals for UAV crews? And much, much more...!
This monthly briefing comes from a team a team that includes professional publications Defense Industry Daily and Aviation Week & Space Technology, and covers events over the last couple of months. To contact us with story tips, email transformation, over here @windsofchange dot net.
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Defense Industry Daily usually confines our coverage to procurements, but we also cover militarily significant field tests. A DARPA program called Orbital Express, which just achieved the first ever servicing of a satellite by another satellite in space, certainly qualifies (video link at DID). There are more tests to come, and their success will be watched closely in many quarters.
The Orbital Express advanced technology demonstration couples a prototype servicing satellite (ASTRO) and a surrogate next generation serviceable satellite (NextSat). Together, they are meant to test robotic, autonomous, on-orbit refueling and reconfiguration of satellites. If that were possible, it would mean faster, less risky missions to maintain and extend the lives of America's critical military satellite fleet - and the technology would have more than a few civilian/NASA uses, as well.
Weapons in the final frontier
There are three ways of looking at it: China tested a new way to clean up orbital slots occupied by defunct satellites; it now has a way to take out space-based assets belonging to other countries; or, that it just created a whole lot of hazardous orbital junk up there. But let there be no mistake---it has also started this century's arms race. Star wars, ladies and gentlemen, has received a new lease of life.
What China did is not tremendously difficult to do. Both the United States and the Soviet Union have tested anti-satellite (ASAT) missiles, but the post-cold war world has held back from testing space-related weapons. That unspoken taboo is now broken.
Where is India in all this? At least three air chiefs have publicly talked about the establishment of an Aerospace Command. Although the government has not approved its formation, the Indian air force has started "work on conceptualising (space-based) weapons systems and its operational command system". And then there are accounts of DURGA or Directionally Unrestricted Ray-Gun Array, and KALI or Kinetic Attack Loitering Interceptor. Whether or not these projects exist outside the anyone's imagination is not known. But the folks at DRDO have a way with acronyms. (Actually, these weapons may belong to the family of advanced weapons known to professionals as Vertically Aligned Polar Omnidirectional Uniform Radioactive Weapon And Re-entry Equipment.)
For now, the United States has reacted with reproach at the Chinese for having defected first in this prisoner's dilemma game. But the Chinese may have settled the domestic debate in the United States weapons programmes in space. They may have settled it in India too.