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Thread: What's NASA Up To And Other Space Stuff

  1. #301
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    "In a field where an overlooked bug could cost millions, you want people who will speak their minds, even if they’re sometimes obnoxious about it."

  2. #302
    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
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  3. #303
    That's no moon. EyeKhan's Avatar
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    Anyone remember the Trappist system? The Washington Post put this nice bit together...

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/natio...ystem/?ref=yfp
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  4. #304
    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    Ist a Trapp!!
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
    — Bill Gates

  5. #305
    That's no moon. EyeKhan's Avatar
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    So, Deep Space Gateway, aka Lunar Orbital Station....

    Any thoughts on this one? Cool idea? Moondoggle, as at least one detractor calls it?

    NASA Shapes Science Plan for Deep-Space Outpost Near the Moon
    By Leonard David, Space.com's Space Insider Columnist

    DENVER — NASA is pressing forward on plans to build a Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, an outpost for astronauts positioned in the space near Earth's moon.

    According to NASA, the Gateway will not only be a place to live, learn and work around the moon but will also support an array of missions to the lunar surface. And scientists foresee a host of uses for the station.

    By making use of a suite of instruments housed on or inside the structure itself, or free-flying nearby, scientists could make Earth and solar observations.They could also carry out astrophysics and fundamental physics experiments as well as human physiology and space biology studies.

    NASA's fiscal year 2019 budget request calls for launching the first element of the Gateway – its power and propulsion module – into space in 2022. NASA plans to launch the module through a competitive commercial launch contract in an effort to both speed up establishment of the Gateway and advance commercial partnerships in deep space. Under that plan, construction of the Gateway would be complete after two additional launches by 2025, rounding out the complex with habitation, logistics and airlock capabilities. [6 Private Deep-Space Habitat Concepts for Mars]


    Breadth of science

    Several hundred scientists gathered here between Feb. 27 and March 1 to take part in a Deep Space Gateway Concept Science Workshop that discussed how best to use what is billed by NASA as developing "a strategic presence" in cislunar space (or the space near the moon).

    "We invited scientists from a wide range of disciplines and thrilled with the breadth of science that's represented," said Ben Bussey, chief exploration scientist in NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

    "The different science areas are really embracing the idea of a human-tended Gateway around the moon and it doesn't compete with what they currently do. It represents a new opportunity for them," Bussey told Space.com. Even though the Gateway isn't science-driven, he said, NASA would like science to be performed at the facility and wants to identify what the Gateway could enable.

    One thing is clear: Don't think of the Gateway as International Space Station 2.0.

    "It's a lot smaller," Bussey said, and would be an uncrewed platform that has a crew once a year.

    The Gateway could be parked in what scientists call a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO), an orbit in cislunar space that could serve as a staging area for future missions.

    Such orbits, which make close passes by the moon and loop far out, have the advantage of being near the moon, but always keep a station within the line of sight of flight controllers on Earth, as well as in sunlight for solar arrays.

    "It ends up being a very interesting orbit," Bussey said, with NRHOs now seen as a viable candidate for long-term cislunar operations and aggregation.


    Multiple priority goals

    "A Gateway in the vicinity of the moon has been the goal of scientists and designers of space exploration scenarios for almost two decades," said Harley Thronson, a senior technologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

    More than a half century later, Thronson said, professionals at the Deep Space Gateway workshop discussed how a habitation system might be adapted to achieve multiple priority goals in space and Earth sciences. "The Gateway, as planned, offers some of the same advantages to scientists as the space shuttle and the International Space Station , although in a much different location," he said.

    Learning from the experience of NASA's space shuttle missions' servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers at the workshop presented concepts for upgrading future very large observatories "or even one day actually assembling them in space, taking advantage of both astronauts and robots on site," Thronson said.


    Whole-Earth observations

    The Gateway's unique vantage point permits astronaut operation of telerobots on the lunar surface, Thronson said.

    These could include exploring the youngest craters on the moon, or laying out radio antennae to investigate the faint radio emission from hydrogen, emitted when the universe was a tiny fraction of its present age, he said. No other planned observatory will observe the universe any younger, he added.

    "The Earth itself could become a target of observation from the Gateway," Thronson said. "Remarkably, there have been very few whole-Earth observations from space that closely duplicate how Earth-like planets might appear to future astronomical observatories. A telescope at the Deep Space Gateway might accomplish this."


    Lunar telerobotics

    The role of exploration telepresence from the Gateway also garnered discussion at the meeting.

    "But we really don't have a lot of information about the value of doing lunar telerobotics from the Deep Space Gateway, as opposed to doing it from the Earth," said Dan Lester, a senior research scientist at Exinetics in Austin, Texas.

    Lester said that telepresence depends a lot on the cognitive load of what you're trying to do, and the price of modest control latency. "If you're trying to pick up a rock … probably not that much. If you're trying to tie a shoelace, it would make a big difference," he said.

    Some would say that telerobotic control from the Gateway, or from an Orion spacecraft, enables operation on the moon's far side, Lester added. On the other hand, it is cheap and easy to put a relay satellite at, for example, the Earth-moon Lagrangian point (L2) that would provide direct communications from Earth to the lunar far side.

    "[There's] no question, however, that the value of low latency telepresence for Mars is enormous, and implementation of that control strategy on the moon is exquisite practice for doing it on Mars in the future," Lester said.


    Agency alignment

    Just like the International Space Station today, where 15 different countries work together in space, there will be a role for international cooperation on the NASA's Lunar Orbiting Platform-Gateway.

    "The NASA Gateway Science workshop was a valuable meeting that highlighted the many opportunities that the Gateway presents for science," said James Carpenter, a strategy officer in the European Space Agency's (ESA) Directorate of Human and Robotic Exploration.

    What was discussed at the workshop was very much aligned with recent discussions within a European science community event held by ESA last December, Carpenter told Space.com.

    "It is exciting to see the alignment of international ideas about the future of exploration and the opportunities that could be offered by the Gateway on our journey to the moon," Carpenter said.


    Moondoggle?

    Not everyone is thrilled with NASA's Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway plan.

    The concept has received a thumbs-down from Robert Zubrin, president of the Colorado-based Pioneer Astronautics as well as founder and president of the public advocacy group, the Mars Society.

    Zubrin did not attend the recent gathering, but in a recent Op-Ed piece he labeled the Gateway as a "boondoggle" that has a price tag of several tens of billions of dollars, at the least, and serves no useful purpose.

    "We do not need a lunar-orbiting station to go to the moon, or to Mars, or to near-Earth asteroids. We do not need it to go anywhere," Zubrin said.

    "There is nothing worth doing in lunar orbit, nothing to use, and nothing to explore," Zubrin said. "It is true that one could operate rovers on the lunar surface from orbit, but the argument that it is worth the expense of such a station in order to eliminate the two-second time delay involved in controlling them from Earth is absurd."

    "We are on the verge of having self-driving cars on Earth that can handle traffic conditions in New York City and Los Angeles," Zubrin added. "There's a lot less traffic on the moon."

    https://www.space.com/39985-nasa-lun...adline+Feed%29
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  6. #306
    Resiste et Mords! Steely Glint's Avatar
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    Any thoughts on this one?
    Will be canceled before anything is ever put into orbit.
    I can hear your yearnings, your anguished cries. Let the nourishment pass your by.
    As it leaves you without a trace, it leaves your without the scars.
    Bitter is the end, the end of your cries. Let your nourishment pass you by.
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  7. #307
    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    Bullshit, it'll be the HQ for Space Force. Have you heard of it? They're putting a lot of money into it right now.
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
    — Bill Gates

  8. #308
    Resiste et Mords! Steely Glint's Avatar
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    I think I had some of those when I was 9.
    I can hear your yearnings, your anguished cries. Let the nourishment pass your by.
    As it leaves you without a trace, it leaves your without the scars.
    Bitter is the end, the end of your cries. Let your nourishment pass you by.
    It'll leave you without your faith. It'll leave you without your grace.
    It's a day of the ruins, the time of your relief. It's the day of the judgements. It's the day of your beliefs.

  9. #309
    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
    — Bill Gates

  10. #310
    That's no moon. EyeKhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    Will be canceled before anything is ever put into orbit.
    Well, NASA is still developing the SLS rocket and vehicle, which is sort of an anti-shuttle in that the vehicle is designed to go beyond LEO and 100% not reusable. So the missions keep changing, but the capability will eventually be ready -- maybe not before Space-X sets up a hotel on Mars, but you never know. It's either the Moon or a nearby asteroid - there definitely won't be funding to do anything more than that. And if it is the Moon, it'll be a station because there won't be funding for landings. With heavy lifters like the Falcon Heavy under development, it makes me wonder what's the point of the SLS rocket anymore anyway. Sigh. I thought we were making America great again, like with Apollo....
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  11. #311
    That's no moon. EyeKhan's Avatar
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    Speaking of SpaceX and their upcoming BFR, see the article below. Twice the payload capability of the Saturn V, but with full re-usability - that is the booster and the second stage spacecraft will both be re-usable. It's ambitious and necessarily so to be viable. And if it works as designed (rapid and lowish cost re-usability, the two key elements the Space Shuttle program never achieved), it would apparently make NASA's SLS obsolete practically before its first launch.


    https://phys.org/news/2018-03-spacex-bfr-orbital.html

    The first SpaceX BFR should make orbital launches by 2020

    Elon Musk has a reputation for pushing the envelop and making bold declarations. In 2002, he founded SpaceX with the intention of making spaceflight affordable through entirely reusable rockets. In April of 2014, his company achieved success with the first successful recovery of a Falcon 9 first stage. And in February of this year, his company successfully launched its Falcon Heavy and managed to recover two of the three boosters.

    But above and beyond Musk's commitment to reusability, there is also his longer-term plans to use his proposed Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) to explore and colonize Mars. The topic of when this rocket will be ready to conduct launches was the subject of a recent interview between Musk and famed director Jonathon Nolan, which took place at the 2018 South by Southwest Conference (SXSW) in Austin, Texas.

    During the interview, Musk reiterated his earlier statements that test flights would begin in 2019 and an orbital launch of the full BFR and Big Falcon Spaceship (BFS) would take place by 2020. And while this might seem like a very optimistic prediction (something Musk is famous for), this timeline does not seem entirely implausible given his company's work on the necessary components and their success with reusability.

    As Musk emphasized during the course of the interview:

    "People have told me that my timelines have historically been optimistic. So I am trying to re-calibrate to some degree here. But I can tell what I know currently is the case is that we are building the first ship, the first Mars or interplanetary ship, right now, and I think we'll probably be able to do short flights, short sort of up-and-down flights probably in the first half of next year."

    To break it down, the BFR – formerly known as the Interplanetary Transport System – consists of a massive first stage booster and an equally massive second stage/spaceship (the BFS). Once the spacecraft is launched, the second stage would detach and use its thrusters to assume a parking orbit around Earth. The first stage would then guide itself back to its launchpad, take on a propellant tanker, and return to orbit.

    The propellant tanker would then attach to the BFS and refuel it and return to Earth with the first stage. The BFS would then fire its thrusters again and make the journey to Mars with its payload and crew. While much of the technology and concepts have been tested and developed through the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, the BFR is distinct from anything else SpaceX has built in a number of ways.

    For one, it will be much larger (hence the nickname, Big F—— Rocket), have significantly more thrust, and be able carry a much larger payload. The BFR's specifications were the subject of a presentation Musk made at the 68th International Astronautical Congress on September 28th, 2017, in Adelaide, Australia. Titled "Making Life Interplanetary", his presentation outlined his vision for colonizing Mars and presented an overview of the ship that would make it happen.

    According to Musk, the BFR will measure 106 meters (348 ft) in height and 9 meters (30 ft) in diameter. It will carry 110 tons (~99,700 kg) of propellant and will have an ascent mass of 150 tons (~136,000 kg) and a return mass of 50 tons (~45,300 kg). All told, it will be able to deliver a payload of 150,000 kg (330,000 lb) to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) – almost two and a half times the payload of the Falcon Heavy (63,800 kg; 140,660 lb)

    "This a very big booster and ship," said Musk. "The liftoff thrust of this would be about twice that of a Saturn V (the rockets that sent the Apollo astronauts to the Moon). So it's capable of doing 150 metric tons to orbit and be fully reusable. So the expendable payload is about double that number."

    In addition, the BFR uses a new type of propellant and tanker system in order to refuel the spacecraft once its in orbit. This goes beyond what SpaceX is used to, but the company's history of retrieving rockets and reusing them means the technical challenges this poses are not entirely new. By far, the greatest challenges will be those of cost and safety, since this will be only the second reusable second stage spacecraft in history – the first being the NASA Space Shuttle.

    Where costs are concerned, the Space Shuttle Program provides a pretty good glimpse into what Musk and his company will be facing in the years ahead. According to estimates compiled in 2010 (shortly before the Space Shuttle was retired), the program cost a total of about $ 210 billion USD. Much of these costs were due to maintenance between launches and the costs of propellant, which will need to be kept low for the BFR to be economically viable.

    Addressing the question of costs, Musk once again stressed how reusability will be key:

    "What's amazing about this ship, assuming we can make full and rapid reusability work, is that we can reduce the marginal cost per flight dramatically, by orders of magnitude compared to where it is today. This question of reusability is so fundamental to rocketry, it is the fundamental breakthrough that's needed."

    As an example, Musk compared the cost of renting a 747 with full cargo (about $500,000) and flying from California to Australia to buying a single engine turboprop plane, – which would run about $1.5 million and cannot even reach Australia. In short, the BFR relies on the principle that it costs less for an entirely reusable large spaceship to make a long trip that it does to launch a single rocket on a short trip that would never return.

    "A BFR flight will actually cost less than our Falcon 1 flight did," he said. "That was about a 5 or 6 million dollar marginal cost per flight. We're confident the BFR will be less than that. That's profound, and that is what will enable the integration of a permanent base on the Moon and a city on Mars. And that's the equivalent of like the Union Pacific Railroad, or having ships that can quickly cross the oceans."

    Beyond manufacturing and refurbishing costs, the BFR will also need to have an impeccable safety record if SpaceX is to have a hope of making money from it. In this respect, SpaceX hopes to follow a development process similar to what they did with the Falcon 9. Before conducting full launch tests to see if the first stage of the rocket could safely make it to orbit and then be retrieved, the company conducted short hop tests using their "Grasshopper" rocket.

    According to the timeline Musk offered at the 2018 SXSW, the company will be using the spaceship that is currently being built to conduct suborbital tests as soon as 2019. Orbital launches, which may include both the booster and the spaceship, are expected to occur by 2020. At present, Musk's earlier statements that the first flight of the BFR would take place by 2022 and the first crewed flight by 2024 still appear to be on.

    For comparison, the Space Launch System (SLS) – which is NASA's proposed means of getting to Mars – is scheduled to conduct its first launch in 2019 as well. Known as Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), this launch will involve sending an uncrewed Orion capsule on a trip around the Moon. EM-2, in which a crewed Orion capsule will delver the first module of the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G, formerly the Deep Space Gateway) to lunar orbit, will take place in 2022.

    The ensuing missions will consist of more modules being delivered to lunar orbit to complete construction of the LOP-G, as well as the Deep Space Transport (DST). The first interplanetary trip to Mars, Exploration Mission 11 (EM-11), won't to take place until 2033. So if Musk's timelines are to be believed, SpaceX will be beating NASA to Mars, both in terms of uncrewed and crewed missions.

    As for who will be enabling a permanent stay on both the Moon and Mars, that remains to be seen. And as Musk emphasized, he hopes that by showing that creating an interplanetary spaceship is possible, agencies and organizations all over the planet will mobilize to do the same. For all we know, the creation of the BFR could enable the creation of an entire fleet of Interplanetary Transport Systems.
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  12. #312
    That's no moon. EyeKhan's Avatar
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    It's a good question.... I think the answer is that the SLS will either continue as a national prestige thing, or it will get defunded and turned into commercial rocket purchases.

    Sigh.

    The one key factor that has broken NASA in the decades since Apollo is politics, with a change in direction every 4/8 years, especially since the space station was completed. Unless the new program(s) get funded at a level to create big momentum in 8 years, then it's the mess we've seen. And that kind of funding will never happen again.

    NASA chief explains why agency won’t buy a bunch of Falcon Heavy rockets
    “It’s going to be large-volume, monolithic pieces that are going to require an SLS.”

    Since the launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket in February, NASA has faced some uncomfortable questions about the affordability of its own Space Launch System rocket. By some estimates, NASA could afford 17 to 27 Falcon Heavy launches a year for what it is paying annually to develop the SLS rocket, which won't fly before 2020. Even President Trump has mused about the high costs of NASA's rocket.

    On Monday, during a committee meeting of NASA's Advisory Council, former Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale raised this issue. Following a presentation by Bill Gerstenmaier, chief of human spaceflight for NASA, Hale asked whether the space agency wouldn't be better off going with the cheaper commercial rocket.

    "Now that the Falcon Heavy has flown and been demonstrated, the advertised cost for that is quite low," Hale said. "So there are a lot of folks who ask why don't we just buy four or five or six of those and do what we need to do without building this big, heavy rocket and assemble things like we did with the space station?"

    In response, Gerstenmaier pointed Hale and other members of the advisory committee—composed of external aerospace experts who provide non-binding advice to the space agency—to a chart he had shown earlier in the presentation. This chart showed the payload capacity of the Space Launch System in various configurations in terms of mass sent to the Moon.


    “A lot smaller”

    "It's a lot smaller than any of those," Gerstenmaier said, referring to the Falcon Heavy's payload capacity to TLI, or "trans-lunar injection," which effectively means the amount of mass that can be broken out of low-Earth orbit and sent into a lunar trajectory. In the chart, the SLS Block 1 rocket has a TLI capacity of 26 metric tons. (The chart also contains the more advanced Block 2 version of the SLS, with a capacity of 45 tons. However, this rocket is at least a decade away, and it will require billions of dollars more to design and develop.)

    SpaceX has not publicly stated the TLI capacity of the Falcon Heavy rocket, but for the fully expendable version of the booster it is probably somewhere in the range of 18 and 22 tons. This is a value roughly between the vehicle's published capacity for geostationary orbit, 26.7 tons, and Mars, 16.8 tons.

    Gerstenmaier then said NASA's exploration program will require the unique capabilities of the SLS rocket. "I think it's still going to be large-volume, monolithic pieces that are going to require an SLS kind of capability to get them out into space," he said. "Then for routine servicing and bringing cargo, maybe bringing smaller crew vehicles other than Orion, then Falcon Heavy can play a role. What's been talked about by [Jeff] Bezos can play a role. What United Launch Alliance has talked about can play a role."


    “And,” not “or”

    After this, Gerstenmaier reiterated NASA's default position with regard to the SLS and much cheaper commercial launch solutions—that there is room for everyone in the industry. "I don't see it as an 'either/or;' I see it as an 'and,'" he said. "We're trying to build a plan that uses SLS for its unique capability of large volumes and a large single mass in one launch. The cargo capability is pretty amazing with SLS. You can launch a big chunk of gateway in one flight; where it would take multiple flights, I'm not sure you could even break some of those pieces up into those smaller pieces to get them on a smaller rocket."

    One difficulty with Gerstenmaier's response to Hale's question is that NASA does not, in fact, yet have any "large-volume, monolithic pieces" that could only be launched by the Space Launch System. The cornerstone of its 2020s exploration plans is the Lunar Orbiting Platform-Gateway, a small space station to fly in orbit around the Moon. The first piece of this station, a power and propulsion module, will launch in 2022 aboard a commercial rocket.

    In fact, beyond this power element, NASA remains in the beginning stages of soliciting and accepting designs for the other components of this "gateway," including airlocks and habitation areas. These could, in theory at least, simply be designed to fit within the mass and size restrictions of a Falcon Heavy or other planned commercial launch vehicles. Potentially, this would save NASA billions of dollars and allow it to spend considerably more money on exploration activities.
    https://arstechnica.com/science/2018...ckets/?ref=yfp
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  13. #313
    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    Interesting update on SpaceX's reusable rockets:

    https://arstechnica.com/science/2018...on-9-in-a-row/
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
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  14. #314
    That's no moon. EyeKhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aimless View Post
    Interesting update on SpaceX's reusable rockets:

    https://arstechnica.com/science/2018...on-9-in-a-row/
    I remember when they first started landing the rockets Musk tweeted something about how beat up the rockets were. That data must have informed design changes for Block 5. I also read the Block 5 has some NASA-required changes for manned space flight to the ISS.
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  15. #315
    That's no moon. EyeKhan's Avatar
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    Planetary Resources' (Asteroid mining startup) tech development is moving along.... If the description of their 2020 mission is for real, I wonder if they'll keep the data they take as business proprietary or if they'll share it with the science community. I mean, its going to be unique and potentially of groundbreaking interest to space science generally.

    https://www.space.com/40400-planetar...adline+Feed%29

    Asteroid Miners' Arkyd-6 Satellite Aces Big Test in Space

    Some of Planetary Resources' asteroid-mining tech just passed a major space test.

    The Washington-based company's tiny Arkyd-6 satellite has completed all its mission goals in Earth orbit, just three months after lifting off atop an Indian rocket, Planetary Resources representatives said.

    "The spacecraft successfully demonstrated its distributed computing system, communications, attitude-control system, power generation and storage with deployable solar arrays and batteries, star tracker and reaction wheels, and the first commercial mid-wave infrared (MWIR) imager operated in space," Planetary Resources President and CEO Chris Lewicki wrote in an update Tuesday (April 24).

    The cereal-box-size Arkyd-6 launched on Jan. 12 atop a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, along with several dozen other payloads. The cubesat set up shop in a sun-synchronous polar orbit, where it's been working to prove out technology required for Planetary Resources' next spacecraft, an asteroid prospector known as Arkyd-301.

    he MWIR imager is particularly important to Arkyd-301 development and to the company's overall goals. The instrument can detect water, which is what Planetary Resources will be going after on asteroids, at least at first.

    Water can be split into its constituent parts, hydrogen and oxygen, the chief components of rocket fuel. Asteroid mining should therefore lead to the construction and operation of off-Earth propellant depots, which could revolutionize spaceflight and exploration by allowing spaceships to top up their fuel tanks on the go, Planetary Resources representatives and other space-mining advocates have said.

    If all goes according to plan, the company will launch multiple Arkyd-301 spacecraft atop a single rocket in 2020. Each spacecraft will cruise to a different asteroid, then assess the space rock's resource potential using onboard instruments such as the MWIR imager. The Arkyd-301s will also carry piggyback miniprobes, which will deploy from their motherships and burrow into their target asteroid to get even closer looks at the space rocks.
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  16. #316
    Resiste et Mords! Steely Glint's Avatar
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    I can hear your yearnings, your anguished cries. Let the nourishment pass your by.
    As it leaves you without a trace, it leaves your without the scars.
    Bitter is the end, the end of your cries. Let your nourishment pass you by.
    It'll leave you without your faith. It'll leave you without your grace.
    It's a day of the ruins, the time of your relief. It's the day of the judgements. It's the day of your beliefs.

  17. #317
    That's no moon. EyeKhan's Avatar
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    I saw that too, pretty cool stuff. Is it me, or does it seem like the ESA is slow to release cool stuff like that? NASA seems to put cool media out there right away - almost as soon as they get it.
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