There are more than 500,000 pieces of dangerous space junk orbiting the Earth, not including paint flecks and other tiny bits flying around at 17,500 miles per hour that put spacecraft at risk. The Brane Craft, in the conceptual phase at Aerospace Corporation, is a bulletproof "blanket," one yard across and thinner than a human hair, that the company thinks could wrap around space junk and pull it into the atmosphere where it will safely burn up. The project just received another grant from NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts program that funds radical concepts that may never work but would have great impact if they do. From Space.com:
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The thin spacecraft is not only lightweight, which reduces fuel consumption, but is easy to stack in a launcher and deploy in a swarm of dozens of bots, each on a track to a different rogue piece of debris. Brane Crafts will be powered by ultrathin solar cells as well as a little bit of propellant. The company plans to launch the craft frequently, with many Branes deployed at the same time, helping to reduce costs...
The NIAC grant provides two years of funding for laboratory demonstrations of the thin film. The investigators plan to outline how to develop the technology and which fabrication technologies hold the most promise.
"We're also looking at how we can get government or other companies interested in this to take this to the next level," (Aerospace Corporation principal investigator Siegfried) Janson said, pointing out that readiness for space would likely take a few million dollars.
Boeing revealed its new sleek and chic spacesuit designed for astronauts aboard the Boeing/Bigelow CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Launched on Atlas V rockets the Starliner capsule will shuttle commercial crew members to and from the International Space Station and other low-Earth orbit locales. From Boeing:
The Starliner spacesuit provides greater pressurized mobility and is about 40 percent lighter than previous suits. Its innovative layers will keep astronauts cooler as well. The touchscreen-friendly gloves allow astronauts to interact with the capsule’s tablets while the boots are breathable and slip resistant. Zippers in the torso area will make it easier for astronauts to comfortably transition from sitting to standing. In addition to protecting astronauts during launch and the return to Earth, the suit also helps connect astronauts to ground and space crews through the communications headset within the helmet. The suit’s hood-like soft helmet sports a wide polycarbonate visor to give Starliner passengers better peripheral vision throughout their ride to and from space.
Video from Boeing:
Photo from Boeing:
Photo from NASA/Cory Huston:
The legendary underground lair of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was so secretive that few photos have been published. Russ Kick at Memory Hole was good enough to locate one of 27 libraries in the world with an obscure book titled NORAD Command Post: The City Inside Cheyenne Mountain. The photos he shared will make you want to watch Dr. Strangelove again. Read the rest
Three strange metal spheres fell from the sky in Vietnam's Tuyen Quang province. They range in size and weight, with the smallest at 250 grams and the largest at 45 kilograms. According to the Ministry of Defense, they are likely compressed air tanks from an aircraft or rocket. That said, Nguyen Khoa Son of the National Research Program on Space Science and Technology suggests that they could be debris from a failed satellite launch. Apparently the balls were made in Russia.
The blog Fuck Yeah Fluid Dynamics posted some stills from this video recently. The images were fantastic, but I didn't totally understand what I was seeing. Thankfully, FYFD blogger (and aerospace engineering Ph.D. student) Nicole Sharp was kind enough to answer my questions.
What you're looking at is a rocket engine. The video shows what happens to airflow in the engine as it goes from subsonic to supersonic. In the video and the pictures, you can see a dark red line moving down the tunnel. That's the edge of the shockwave that marks the boundary between subsonic air and Mach 1. You should also pay attention to the little black vortices that whirl away from the edge of the engine wall. Those are pretty important. Read the rest
In the Los Angeles Times, an article about an aerospace industry boom of sorts in Southern California, involving new twists on an old technology: airships. Who's buying? The military, and other government agencies, primarily for defense and surveillance purposes.
[I]n recent years, the affordability of airships as well as developments in high-definition cameras, high-powered sensors and other unmanned technologies have turned these oddball aircraft from curiosities of a bygone era to must-have items for today's military. And airships increasingly are being used for civilian purposes.
The federal government is buying blimps, zeppelins and spy balloons, and many of these new-generation hybrid "lighter than air" aircraft are taking shape across California.
"So much is going on with airships in California now," Pasternak said. "It wasn't this way 10 years ago."
Of note, the difference between airships, blimps, and zeppelins: Read the rest
A number of journalists I know believe the Obama administration is the most secretive administration yet.
When I read news like this, I am inclined to believe them: the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is going after our pals at Danger Room, over a 5-year-old leak about a weapon that was never built.
"Federal agents are also chasing a leaker who gave Danger Room a document asking for a futuristic laser weapon that could set insurgents’ clothes on fire from nine miles away."
Total bullshit. Read the rest