Showing posts from August, 2016

Report: NASA scientists to publish an EM drive paper in a peer reviewed journal

EM drive could send spacecraft to any destination in the solar system without propellant According to a piece in the International Business Times UK, a team at NASA’s Eagle Works, a lab at the Johnson Spaceflight Center, has a paper on the so-called EM drive accepted for publication in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Journal of Propulsion and Power. The story cites Dr. Jose Rodal as a source for the news. The report has yet to be confirmed by either the AIAA or #NASA. If the statement is verified, that means that one of the most controversial developments in aerospace technology has passed peer review with profound implications for #Space travel. The drive is the brainchild of a British engineer named Roger Shawyer back toward the beginning of this century. The idea is that bouncing microwaves in an enclosed space will make thrust, creating an engine that runs on an electrical source such as solar panels or a nuclear generator and does not need prope

They’re not saying it’s aliens, but signal traced to sunlike star sparks SETI interest

SETI researchers are buzzing about a strong spike in radio signals that seemed to come from the direction of a sunlike star in the constellation Hercules, known as HD 164595. The signal conceivably fits the profile for an intentional transmission from an extraterrestrial source – but it could also be a case of earthly radio interference, or a microlensing event in which the star’s gravitational field focused stray signals coming from much farther away. In any case, the blip is interesting enough to merit discussion by those who specialize in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI – including Centauri Dreams’ Paul Gilster, who brought the case into the public eye this weekend. At least two SETI research groups are aiming to track HD 164595 tonight. The SETI Institute is using the Allen Telescope Array in northern California, while METI International is looking to the Boquete Optical SETI Observatory in Panama. Gilster reports that the signal spike was detected mor

Planet Found in Habitable Zone Around Nearest Star

Pale Red Dot campaign reveals Earth-mass world in orbit around Proxima Centauri Just over four light-years from the Solar System lies a red dwarf star that has been named Proxima Centauri as it is the closest star to Earth apart from the Sun. This cool star in the constellation of Centaurus is too faint to be seen with the unaided eye and lies near to the much brighter pair of stars known as Alpha Centauri AB. During the first half of 2016 Proxima Centauri was regularly observed with the HARPS spectrograph on the ESO 3.6-metre telescope at La Silla in Chile and simultaneously monitored by other telescopes around the world [1]. This was the Pale Red Dot campaign, in which a team of astronomers led by Guillem Anglada-Escudé, from Queen Mary University of London, was looking for the tiny back and forth wobble of the star that would be caused by the gravitational pull of a possible orbiting planet [2]. As this was a topic with very wide public interest, the progress of the

The International Space Station is officially ready for the private spaceflight era

At almost 20 years old, the International Space Station (ISS) might be showing its age these days — but that doesn’t mean it can’t have a few more tricks left up its sleeve. NASA has officially completed installation of the new International Docking Adapter (IDA) on the ISS, which opens the space base up for all manner of new spacecraft to visit. Essentially, it means the ISS is now primed and ready for the private spaceflight revolution. The docking adapter was attached to the ISS’s second Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA-2) via spacewalk last week. The docking port was previously used for space shuttles (remember those?). By getting the IDA up and running, the ISS can now accept the private ships that will be flying in 2017 and 2018 to bring astronauts to and from the station, as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. It’ll obviously open up a new docking port for the spacecraft being developed by SpaceX and Boeing, but also any future craft, since it’s built to the Internation


For years, exoplanet hunters have been busy searching for planets that are similar to Earth. And when earlier this month, an unnamed source indicated that the European Southern Observatory (ESO) had done just that – i.e. spotted a terrestrial planet orbiting within the star’s habitable zone – the response was predictably intense. The unnamed source also indicated that the ESO would be confirming this news by the end of August. At the time, the ESO offered no comment. But this morning, the ESO broke its silence and announced that it will be holding a press conference on Wednesday, August 24th. No mention was made as to the subject of the press conference or who would be in attendance. However, it is safe to assume at this point that it’s main purpose will be to address the burning question that’s on everyone’s mind: is there an Earth-analog planet orbiting the nearest star to our own? For years, the ESO has been studying Proxima Centauri using the La Silla Observatory’s Hig

SpaceX Founder Set to Unveil Humans-to-Mars Plan in September

Challenges facing Elon Musk’s project include getting return-trip fuel from Martian resources SpaceX founder, CEO and lead designer Elon Musk is unveiling his humans-to-Mars plan at next month's 67th International Astronautical Congress (IAC), to be held in Guadalajara, Mexico. The world space meeting runs from Sept. 26-30. On the second day of the IAC, during a special keynote entitled "Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species," Musk will discuss the long-term technical challenges that need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars. The technical presentation will focus on potential architectures for colonizing the Red Planet that industry, government and the scientific community can collaborate on in the years ahead. RED DRAGON In the past, Musk has detailed his intention to use a Red Dragon spacecraft to fly to Mars in un-crewed mode in the 2018 time period. Later flights of the craft would transport

Earth-like planet around Proxima Centauri discovered

The hunt for exoplanets has been heating up in recent years. Since it began its mission in 2009, over four thousand exoplanet candidates have been discovered by the Kepler mission, several hundred of which have been confirmed to be "Earth-like" (i.e. terrestrial). And of these, some 216 planets have been shown to be both terrestrial and located within their parent star's habitable zone (aka. "Goldilocks zone"). But in what may prove to be the most exciting find to date, the German weekly Der Spiegel announced recently that astronomers have discovered an Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, just 4.25 light-years away. Yes, in what is an apparent trifecta, this newly-discovered exoplanet is Earth-like, orbits within it's sun's habitable zone, and is within our reach. But is this too good to be true? For over a century, astronomers have known about Proxima Centauri and believed that it is likely to be part of a trinary star system (along with

SpaceX successfully lands its sixth Falcon 9 rocket after launch

And the fourth drone ship landing Another one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets successfully landed on a floating drone ship this evening, after the vehicle launched a Japanese communications satellite into orbit. The feat marks the fourth time SpaceX has landed one of its vehicles at sea and the company’s fifth rocket recovery overall this year. Tonight’s landing was particularly challenging for SpaceX, too. The Falcon 9 had to carry its onboard satellite — called JCSAT-16 — into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). It’s a highly elliptical orbit that takes the satellite 20,000 miles out beyond Earth’s surface. Getting to GTO requires a lot of speed and uses up a lot of fuel during take off, more so than getting to lower Earth orbit. That makes things difficult for the rocket landing afterward. Not only is the rocket subjected to "extreme velocities and re-entry heating" during its fall back to Earth, according to SpaceX, but there’s less fuel leftover for the vehicle to reign

Scientists to unveil new Earth-like planet: Report

Berlin: Scientists are preparing to unveil a new planet in our galactic neighbourhood which is "believed to be Earth-like" and orbits its star at a distance that could favour life, German weekly Der Spiegel reported Friday. The exoplanet orbits a well-investigated star called Proxima Centauri, part of the Alpha Centauri star system, the magazine said, quoting anonymous sources. "The still nameless planet is believed to be Earth-like and orbits at a distance to Proxima Centauri that could allow it to have liquid water on its surface -- an important requirement for the emergence of life," said the magazine "Never before have scientists discovered a second Earth that is so close by," it said, adding that the European Southern Observatory (ESO) will announce the finding at the end of August. The report gave no further details. Contacted by AFP, ESO spokesman Richard Hook said he is aware of the report, but refused to confirm or deny it. "We ar

Could the moon be America's next economic frontier?

Moon Express was started with a tweaked concept from President John F. Kennedy, Jr., said founder Naveen Jain. "To rephrase JFK, we chose to go to the moon not because it's easy, but because it's good business," said Jain, the former CEO of dot-com InfoSpace, told CBS MoneyWatch. He said he was initially drawn to space exploration not because he had an interest in it, but because he's "a fan of everything that can become disruptive." And Moon Express has plans to disrupt some major businesses on Earth. Last week, the company became the first private business to receive FAA approval to land on the moon. While the 2017 launch date is still a ways off -- and the company's lunar lander still needs to be built -- Jain has no shortage of business plans for the moon, which he notes has been estimated to hold "16 quadrillion dollars worth of resources." One of the first projects will be lunar burials, with Moon Express working with space memo

How NASA is preparing to put humans in deep space

NASA announced yesterday that it will partner with six private companies to refine deep space habitation solutions in advance of a possible Mars mission. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has its sights set far beyond the moon, toward the mysteries of deep space. NASA announced Tuesday that as its mission objectives expand to human exploration of deep space, including planned missions to an asteroid in 2025, and Mars by 2030, it is working together with six US companies to help develop deep space habitats to support human exploration. “NASA is increasingly embracing public-private partnerships to expand capabilities, and opportunities in space,” said director of NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems (AES), Jason Crusan, in a NASA press release when the program was first announced in 2015. “Our NextSTEP partners commit their own corporate resources toward the development – making them a true partner in the spaceflight economy.” NASA announced NextSTEP in M

Space race heats up: Deep Space Industries plans to visit asteroid by 2020

One of the two big players in the asteroid mining market, Deep Space Industries, today unveiled its plan to land a 110-pound spacecraft on a near-Earth asteroid by 2020. The spacecraft, known as Prospector-1, would study the yet-to-be-selected asteroid to determine the value of its resources for mining. It’ll also put Deep Space Industries’ water-based propulsion system to an interplanetary test. “Deep Space Industries has worked diligently to get to this point, and now we can say with confidence that we have the right technology, the right team and the right plan to execute this historic mission,” Rick Tumlinson, DSI’s board chairman and co-founder, said in a news release. California-based DSI and its partners in Luxembourg say they’ll launch a precursor satellite called Prospector-X into low Earth orbit next year to test the technologies that would be used for Prospector-1. DSI sees near-Earth asteroids as potentially valuable sources for materials ranging from plain

SpaceX has shipped its Mars engine to Texas for tests

If a full-scale Raptor engine is undergoing tests, the company is progressing to Mars. SpaceX appears to have taken a significant step forward with the development of a key component of its Mars mission architecture. According to multiple reports , during the Small Satellite Conference Tuesday in Logan, Utah, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the company has shipped a Raptor engine to its test site in MacGregor, Texas. A spokesman confirmed to Ars that the engine has indeed been moved to Texas for developmental tests. The Raptor is SpaceX's next generation of rocket engine. It may be as much as three times more powerful than the Merlin engines that power its Falcon 9 rocket and will also be used in the Falcon Heavy rocket that may fly in late 2016 or early 2017. The Raptor will power SpaceX's next generation of rocket after the Falcon Heavy, the so-called Mars Colonial Transporter. Although official details regarding the Raptor engine remain scarce, SpaceX


The ongoing hunt for exoplanets has yielded some very interesting returns in recent years. All told, the Kepler mission has discovered more than 4000 candidates since it began its mission in March of 2009. Amidst the many “Super-Jupiters” and assorted gas giants (which account for the majority of Kepler’s discoveries) astronomers have been particularly interested in those exoplanets which resemble Earth. And now, an international team of scientists has finished perusing the Kepler catalog in an effort to determine just how many of these planets are in fact “Earth-like”. Their study, titled “A Catalog of Kepler Habitable Zone Exoplanet Candidates” (which will be published soon in the Astrophysical Journal), explains how the team discovered 216 planets that are both terrestrial and located within their parent star’s “habitable zone” (HZ). The international team was made up of researchers from NASA, San Francisco State University, Arizona State University, Caltech, University

China and NASA may work together in space, ending decades-old freeze on space cooperation

One small drive from the US embassy in Beijing last month may yet prove to be a giant leap for cooperation between the American space agency Nasa and China’s space programme. In mid-July, a US embassy vehicle drove into the guarded compound of the Chinese Academy of Science’s Institute of Atmospheric Physics in central Beijing, carrying Dr Michael Freilich, the director of Nasa’s earth science division, Christopher Blackerby, the agency’s Pacific Rim representative, and other US government staff. Once inside they spent hours with their Chinese counterparts in a closed-door meeting on TanSat, a Chinese satellite to be launched later this year. In an attempt to thaw the icy relationship between the two countries in space, Beijing had made a major concession several years ago, offering management of TanSat, China’s first carbon-sniffing satellite, to Nasa so that it could be incorporated into one of its constellations of earth observation satellites. That would have given scientists

The latest report about this mysterious star that could be encased inside a gigantic alien megastructure is making astronomers rethink what’s actually going on


Earth science discussion latest sign of NASA-China ties

WASHINGTON — The head of NASA’s Earth science division, Michael Freilich, met with Chinese officials last month regarding potential coordination between the two countries on an upcoming Chinese mission, the agency said Aug. 4. The meeting, first reported by the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post but not initially confirmed by NASA, is the latest sign that the space agency is finding ways to work with China despite strict limitations placed by Congress on bilateral cooperation. “As part of coordination discussions between NASA and the Chinese Academy of Sciences related to Earth science research, Dr. Freilich met with his counterparts at the Chinese Academy of Sciences on July 12, 2016, in Beijing,” NASA spokesman Steve Cole said Aug. 4. The purpose of the meeting, Cole said, was “to discuss scientific data exchange and China’s plans for the launch of its new carbon monitoring mission, TanSat.” Cole did not disclose the outcome of the meeting, and said “no follow-up acti

Next stop, the Moon: private company 'Moon Express' gets greenlight for 2017

The Florida-based company is the first to get government permission to fly beyond Earth’s orbit. Moon Express took one giant leap for private enterprise on Wednesday when it became the first company to receive permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly beyond Earth’s orbit. The company plans to fly a suitcase-sized robot to the moon for a two-week mission in 2017, said Bob Richards, the company's co-founder and chief executive officer, Reuters reported. The robot will conduct science experiments, send pictures and video to Earth, and travel with commercial cargo, including cremated human remains. The spacecraft is part of the company's mission to “reduce the cost of space exploration,” according to its website. “It’s been a very steep mountain,” Mr. Richards told Reuters in a telephone interview. “We had to lay the track at the same time that we wanted to do the mission.” Although the 1967 Outer Space Treaty states that the United States

NASA's Kepler Identified 20 More "Second Earth" Candidates Where Alien Life Could Thrive

A list of the potential "Second Earth" or where alien life can be found was released from the planets identified by NASA's Kepler Space telescope. After careful study and scrutiny, scientist managed to catalogue the list of exoplanets identified by Kepler, which has proven to be a not so easy task. Kepler alone discovered more than 4,000 exoplanets in three years. Identifying the top contenders is vital in concentrating the time and efforts of scientists and astronomers so they will know where to look. "That means we can focus in on the planets in this paper and perform follow-up studies to learn more about them, including if they are indeed habitable," one of the team members said in a statement. Among the discovered exoplanets, 20 have Earth-like properties, like being rocky, that enabled scientists to say that they are most likely the best candidates to find alien life forms. The life-finding telescope gathered the data that helped astronomers identif