August 31, 2015

Russia plans to fly new hypersonic scramjet prototypes in 2019 or 2020

Russia’s Gromov Flight Research Institute (LII) expects its latest GLL-AP-02 hypersonic scramjet test vehicle to fly in “three or four years,” with officials telling Flightglobal that funding constraints and technical issues have slowed progress.

LII’s Sergei Pernitsky and Sergei Vasilievich said via a translator at the MAKS air show in Moscow that work on the flight sciences vehicle is progressing, but slowly.

“Mostly because of the lack of funding, but there are lots of difficulties despite the funding because this project is very ambitious,” they explain.

GLL-AP-02 is the Russian equivalent of America’s Boeing X-51 and China’s “WU-14”. It is the latest in a series of Russian rocket-boosted hypersonic test vehicles, proceeding the GLL-VK and GLL-31 projects.

DARPA pursues launching dozens of drones from bombers, fighters and drone carriers

An ability to send large numbers of small unmanned air systems (UAS) with coordinated, distributed capabilities could provide U.S. forces with improved operational flexibility at much lower cost than is possible with today’s expensive, all-in-one platforms—especially if those unmanned systems could be retrieved for reuse while airborne. So far, however, the technology to project volleys of low-cost, reusable systems over great distances and retrieve them in mid-air has remained out of reach.

To help make that technology a reality, DARPA has launched the Gremlins program. Named for the imaginary, mischievous imps that became the good luck charms of many British pilots during World War II, the program seeks to show the feasibility of conducting safe, reliable operations involving multiple air-launched, air-recoverable unmanned systems. The program also aims to prove that such systems, or “gremlins,” could provide significant cost advantages over expendable systems, spreading out payload and airframe costs over multiple uses instead of just one.

“Our goal is to conduct a compelling proof-of-concept flight demonstration that could employ intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and other modular, non-kinetic payloads in a robust, responsive and affordable manner,” said Dan Patt, DARPA program manager.

Artist's concept of the Gremlins, which would supplement multi-role aircraft them with simpler, cheaper, specialized drones that can be deployed and recovered multiple times (Credit: DARPA)

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 276

August 30, 2015

1 to 10 billion earthlike planets in the Milky Way Galaxy

Researchers combine constraints on galaxy formation histories with planet formation models, yielding the Earth-like and giant planet formation histories of the Milky Way and the Universe as a whole. In the Hubble Volume (10^13 Mpc3 ), we expect there to be ∼ 10^20 Earth-like and ∼ 10^20 giant planets; our own galaxy is expected to host ∼ 10^9 and ∼ 10^10 Earth-like and giant planets, respectively. Proposed metallicity thresholds for planet formation do not significantly affect these numbers. However, the metallicity dependence for giant planets results in later typical formation times and larger host galaxies than for Earth-like planets. The Solar System formed at the median age for existing giant planets in the Milky Way, and consistent with past estimates, formed after 80% of Earth-like planets. However, if existing gas within virialised dark matter haloes continues to collapse and form stars and planets, the Universe will form over 10 times more planets than currently exist. We show that this would imply at least a 92% chance that we are not the only civilisation the Universe will ever have, independent of arguments involving the Drake Equation.

Top-left panel: formation rate (in planets/yr) for Earth-like planets as a function of galaxy stellar mass and cosmic time. The dashed line indicates the median expected growth history of the Milky Way (Behroozi et al. 2013e). The dot-dashed line indicates [Fe/H]=−1.5, which has been suggested (Johnson and Li 2012) as the threshold metallicity for planet formation. Grey shaded areas indicate where galaxies are not expected to exist in the observable Universe. Top-right panel: same, for giant planets. Bottom-left panel: Earth-like planet formation rate multiplied by galaxy number density as a function of stellar mass and cosmic time, i.e., the volume density of planet formation (in planets/yr/comoving Mpc3 /dex). Contours indicate where 50% and 90% of all planet formation has taken place. The symbol indicates the Milky Way’s stellar mass and age at the formation of the Solar System. Bottom-right panel: same, for giant planets.

Arxiv - On The History and Future of Cosmic Planet Formation

Lithium Ion batteries scaling up and costs could drop to $100 per kwh

Tech giant Google has a secretive team building better batteries, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Analysts speculate that Apple is doing the same, based on the company’s job postings. Nearly every major automaker has an electric vehicle for sale and many – notably Toyota and General Motors – are investing millions in designing new batteries to power them. It’s a veritable moon race to see who can build the first affordable electric vehicle to drive 200 miles on a single charge. Many analysts believe hitting that mark would dramatically accelerate a global transition from fossil fuels to electricity as the energy of choice for the automotive world.

Between 2007 and 2014, electric car battery costs dropped by more than half – from more than $1,000 per kilowatt-hour to around $410 per kWh. By 2025, the cost of batteries in electric vehicles will drop to as low as $172 per kWh, according to Lux.

Energy storage is a $33 billion global industry that generates nearly 100 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year, according to Boston-based Lux Research. By the end of the decade, it is expected to be worth more than $50 billion and generate 160 GWh. That’s still just the equivalent of a AAAA battery in the sprawling energy industry, but it’s enough to attract the attention of major companies that might not otherwise be interested in a decidedly pedestrian technology. Even utilities, which have long viewed batteries and the alternative forms of energy they support as a threat, are learning to embrace the technologies as “enabling” rather than “disruptive.”

Tesla Motors is among those pushing the battery era the hardest. The California-based company has spent the past 12 years doing to electric vehicles what Apple did to early MP3 players – making them cool. It already has a battery-powered car that goes 200 miles on a single charge – the Model S – but its $70,000-plus price tag keeps it beyond the reach of most drivers.

Most analysts expect the Powerwall, Tesla’s battery for homes, to appeal to only a small number of people, at least until the price and associated costs drop further. With a capacity of between only 7 and 10 kWh, and a price tag ranging from $3,000 to $3,500, the economics just don’t make sense for most consumers across the US. But the larger-sized Powerpacks are already proving attractive to businesses and utilities, which have more of a financial incentive to avoid the violent fluctuations in energy supply and demand. And when the gigafactory comes on line in 2017, Tesla hopes the economies of scale will drive prices down to a point where home batteries entice a lot of people.

For Musk, “a lot of people” means just about everyone. At April’s launch, Musk calculated it would take roughly 2 billion Powerpacks to electrify the entire world. That sounds like a lot, but, as Musk noted, it’s on par with the number of cars and trucks on the road.

Millions of drones by 2025 and a million military grade drones by 2030

An Indian Army requirement for approximately 600 sets of mini-UAVs is attracting interest from various manufacturers, who must partner with Indian companies to comply with the government’s “Make in India” industrial strategy. The Directorate General of Infantry has issued a request for information (RFI) that will be followed by a request for proposals by late 2016.

Some estimates indicate China plans to produce upwards of 41,800 land- and seabased unmanned systems, worth about $10.5 billion, between 2014 and 2023.

Russia plans to invest $10 billion in unmanned systems for its armed forces through 2020.

The United States military currently has more than 10,000 drones.

The hobbyist and consumer drone market could see 1 to 2 million drones sold each year by 2025.

The volume of drones is going to increase by 100 to thousands of times by 2030 (for all types of drones) and the capabilities at each level of drone will vastly increase.

The US air force budget is about $200 billion and the world air force budget (including the USA) is about $600 billion. Eventually unmanned drones could become half of the total air force budget.

Military drones will get bigger with drone carriers (flying aircraft carriers) and smaller robotic flying bullet size devices or insect size devices.

On the commercial side, there will drones for delivering products and long duration drones for distributing internet and wifi. Long duration drones will be able to fly for years instead of days.

In 2010, the entire global defense and security UAV market — including platforms and services — was worth $4.7 billion. In 2015, it grew to $5.9 billion. IHS expects it to reach $11.1 billion by 2024.

The US makes it more difficult for countries to buy US drones with a range of more than 300 km and can carry more than 500 kg.

A world of proliferated drones is emerging. In spite of over ten thousand military drones in the USA, these are early days for drones.

Expandable space stations will be tested and proven in space within 12 months and then larger modules will increase space station size per cost by over ten times

Bigelow Aerospace of Las Vegas, Nevada, has entered into a joint agreement with NASA to leverage the company’s B330 inflatable space habitat for use with NASA’s human space flight program. With the space agency eyeing deep space destinations – such as an asteroid and perhaps one day Mars – the systems could enable crews to travel deeper into the Solar System than humans have ever been to do before.

Late this year or early next, NASA will build an addition to the International Space Station, increasing the orbital laboratory’s size from eight rooms to nine. The new room is like no other on the station, and will be very easy to construct: Just connect to a docking port, fill with compressed air, and voilà! Instant space habitat

Bigelow Aerospace in North Las Vegas needed to create the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM. Initially scheduled for a September launch, BEAM’s test deployment is now delayed due to the post-launch explosion of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket bound for the ISS on June 28 — and no one yet knows how long that delay will be. Once BEAM does reach its destination, it will undergo two years of intensive testing, a trial run for a technology that could play a significant role in future human spaceflight and low-Earth-orbit commercial ventures: inflatable spacecraft.

BEAM, designed to expand to 16 cubic meters, or about the size of a 10- by 12-foot room, weighs only 3,000 pounds at launch. Its density—that is, its mass divided by its volume—is 88 kilograms per cubic meter. By comparison, the density of the U.S. lab at the International Space Station, Destiny, is 137 kilograms per cubic meter. The ISS’s Tranquility module has a density of 194 kilograms per cubic meter.

Nuclear Energy and Uranium through 2024

Harsh Singh Chauhan has a view of Uranium and Nuclear energy at Seeking Alpha

Disclosure - Author of Nextbigfuture has some shares in Cameco

Over $740 billion will be invested in the construction of new reactors going forward as operable reactors are slated to increase by 81 till 2024

Uranium consumption is slated to outpace supply by almost 64% by 2024

August 29, 2015

China has the money and Russia has some needed experience and know how so they may jointly develop aircraft carriers

Russia is struggling to develop advanced military hardware thanks to economic challenges. Russia has touted what it calls a strategic alliance with China, which may develop into plans to build a joint aircraft carrier.

A defense industry official, however, said China is raising its demands, and wants a controlling stake in the project.

‘We both tout the benefits of our friendship,’ the official said. ‘But the truth is, the Chinese are playing hardball.’

Age of aircraft carrier over for any real war but they remain useful for gunboat diplomacy in non-world war situations

Even if aircraft carriers would be highly vulnerable in a full scale major nations war, they are useful for bullying the lower tier military powers.

* a joint China-Russia development would enable both to get better aircraft carriers sooner
* Russia can ill afford tens of billions for the development of carriers
* China could accelerate carrier technology and learning deep open operations with a Russian partnership

As China's military development partner Russia will stay relavant for another 2-3 decades.
Russia needs to restore its large navy ship building capability that they have essentially lost still the fall of the USSR.

China could try to work out an extended agreement for jet engines and military alloys with Russia.

Small, low power flatter metamaterial satellite receivers from Kymeta and possibilities for next generation stealth planes

Intelsat the world’s leading provider of satellite services, and Kymeta Corporation, the leading developer of metamaterials-based antenna technology, announced an agreement to design and produce innovative, flat, electronically steerable, Ku-band mTenna™ satellite antenna solutions that are optimized for the Intelsat EpicNG high throughput satellite (HTS) platform. The first Intelsat EpicNG satellite is expected to launch in late 2015.

Intelsat EpicNG satellite platform which will deliver increased throughput and cost efficiency. Just as important is our investment in this new, metamaterials-based ground technology which will simplify access to our satellites and open attractive new markets for our solutions.

Kymeta’s flat, thin, light and low-cost satellite tracking antennas will be designed to work seamlessly with Intelsat’s satellite fleet, providing complete flexibility to establish connectivity in sectors for which traditional antennas are not currently practical or feasible. The Intelsat-Kymeta development agreement is expected to lead to a range of antenna and terminal products across our core application verticals such as maritime and aero mobility, content delivery and wireless backhaul applications. In addition, it will provide the opportunity to expand our reach into new verticals such as the Internet of Things (IoT), machine-to-machine (M2M) and ground transportation which are expected to experience significant demand over the next 10 years. Kymeta has agreed to work exclusively with Intelsat on Ku-band technology development in certain application verticals.

“We are excited to partner with Intelsat to bring Kymeta’s patented mTenna™ technology to existing and newly enabled high-volume markets for mobile satellite communications,” stated Dr. Nathan Kundtz, President and Chief Technology Officer of Kymeta.

Metamaterial unit cells based on the complimentary ELC resonator structure, the orientation of the liquid crystal itself can be modulated through the application of a bias voltage to the central island of a unit cell. This bias is entirely capacitive, resulting in no continuous current draw and minimal total power requirements. In practice, less than 2 W of power are required for even large antenna panels. In principal, it is possible the power draw could be limited to several milliwatts.

One of the particularly intriguing aspects of liquid crystal for space applications is that LC is naturally radiation hardened. Studies have shown no observable systematic effects from even very high levels of radiation from Cobalt 60 and neutron sources. Regardless of architecture, this makes the use of LC attractive for these applications

Researchers Use DNA ‘Clews’ to Shuttle CRISPR-Cas9 Gene-Editing Tool into Cells

Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have for the first time created and used a nanoscale vehicle made of DNA to deliver a CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool into cells in both cell culture and an animal model.

The CRISPR-Cas system, which is found in bacteria and archaea, protects bacteria from invaders such as viruses. It does this by creating small strands of RNA called CRISPR RNAs, which match DNA sequences specific to a given invader. When those CRISPR RNAs find a match, they unleash Cas9 proteins that cut the DNA. In recent years, the CRISPR-Cas system has garnered a great deal of attention in the research community for its potential use as a gene editing tool – with the CRISPR RNA identifying the targeted portion of the relevant DNA, and the Cas protein cleaving it.

But for Cas9 to do its work, it must first find its way into the cell. This work focused on demonstrating the potential of a new vehicle for directly introducing the CRISPR-Cas9 complex – the entire gene-editing tool – into a cell.

“Traditionally, researchers deliver DNA into a targeted cell to make the CRISPR RNA and Cas9 inside the cell itself – but that limits control over its dosage,” says Chase Beisel, co-senior author of the paper and an assistant professor in the department of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NC State. “By directly delivering the Cas9 protein itself, instead of turning the cell into a Cas9 factory, we can ensure that the cell receives the active editing system and can reduce problems with unintended editing.”

Angewandte Chemie - Self-Assembled DNA Nanoclews for the Efficient Delivery of CRISPR–Cas9 for Genome Editing

3D printed 120 micron long microfish with microject engines could be efficient bloodstream robots

California, San Diego used an innovative 3D printing technology they developed to manufacture multipurpose fish-shaped microrobots — called microfish — that swim around efficiently in liquids, are chemically powered by hydrogen peroxide and magnetically controlled. These proof-of-concept synthetic microfish will inspire a new generation of “smart” microrobots that have diverse capabilities such as detoxification, sensing and directed drug delivery, researchers said.

The technique used to fabricate the microfish provides numerous improvements over other methods traditionally employed to create microrobots with various locomotion mechanisms, such as microjet engines, microdrillers and microrockets. Most of these microrobots are incapable of performing more sophisticated tasks because they feature simple designs — such as spherical or cylindrical structures — and are made of homogeneous inorganic materials. In this new study, researchers demonstrated a simple way to create more complex microrobots.

Red blood cells are 6 to 8 microns in diameter. These microfish are about three times thicker and 20 times longer. They are jet propelled robots that can travel in the bloodstream. The microfish are around the sie of a fat cell or skin cell.

White blood cells are 12 to 15 microns in diameter.

3D-printed microfish contain functional nanoparticles that enable them to be self-propelled, chemically powered and magnetically steered. The microfish are also capable of removing and sensing toxins. Image credit: J. Warner, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

Advanced Materials - 3D-Printed Artificial Microfish


Hydrogel microfish featuring biomimetic structures, locomotive capabilities, and functionalized nanoparticles are engineered using a rapid 3D printing platform: microscale continuous ­optical printing (μCOP). The 3D-printed ­microfish exhibit chemically powered and magnetically guided propulsion, as well as highly efficient detoxification capabilities that highlight the technical versatility of this platform for engineering advanced functional microswimmers for diverse biomedical applications.

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