January 27, 2015

NASA JPL making helicopter drones for Mars exploration

NASA Jet Propulsion Lab is making a Mars Helicopter drone. It is a proposed add-on to Mars rovers of the future that could potentially triple the distance these vehicles currently drive in a Martian day, and deliver a new level of visual information for choosing which sites to explore.

The helicopter would fly ahead of the rover almost every day, checking out various possible points of interest and helping engineers back on Earth plan the best driving route.

Scientists could also use the helicopter images to look for features for the rover to study in further detail. Another part of the helicopter's job would be to check out the best places for the rover to collect key samples and rocks for a cache, which a next-generation rover could pick up later.

Google Fiber accelerating its expansion

Google Fiber is expanding to 18 cities across four major metropolitan areas — Atlanta, Nashville, Charlotte, and Raleigh-Durham.

Google also noted that it is continuing to explore options for bringing fiber to Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, and San Jose and would have more updates on those cities this year.

Google Fiber charges $70 per month for gigabit Internet service and $120 for a television and Internet bundle in its the Kansas City market.

India nearing completion of a Predator Drone copy and a stealth bomber drone

Rustom-2 is an unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) developed by India on the lines of the American Predator drones. Various reports indicate the Rustom-2 has been flying since 2014. US Predator drones first file in 1994 and in service by 1995.

The AURA will be a stealth UCAV, capable of releasing missiles, bombs and precision-guided munitions. India's combat drone would be a stealthy flying-wing concept aircraft with internal weapons and a turbofan engine. The UCAV's design is similar to Northrop Grumman's B-2 Spirit.

The AURA will cruise at medium altitude and will be capable of carrying two or more guided strike weapons with on-board sensors for targeting and weapon guidance. The flight control system and data link packages of Aura (unmanned combat aerial vehicle) will be designed and developed jointly by ADA and Defence Electronic Application Laboratory.

The AURA first flight is expected to be 2015-2016 and it should be introduced in 2018-2020.

NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft Captures Best-Ever View of Dwarf Planet Ceres

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has returned the sharpest images ever seen of the dwarf planet Ceres. The images were taken 147,000 miles (237,000 kilometers) from Ceres on Jan. 25, and represent a new milestone for a spacecraft that soon will become the first human-made probe to visit a dwarf planet.

"We know so little about our vast solar system, but thanks to economical missions like Dawn, those mysteries are being solved," said Jim Green, Planetary Science Division Director at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

At 43 pixels wide, the new images are more than 30 percent higher in resolution than those taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in 2003 and 2004 at a distance of over 150 million miles. The resolution is higher because Dawn is traveling through the solar system to Ceres, while Hubble remains fixed in Earth orbit. The new Dawn images come on the heels of initial navigation images taken Jan. 13 that reveal a white spot on the dwarf planet and the suggestion of craters. Hubble images also had glimpsed a white spot on the dwarf planet, but its nature is still unknown.

This animation of the dwarf planet Ceres was made by combining images taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on Jan. 25. The spacecraft's framing camera took these images, at a distance of about 147,000 miles (237,000 kilometers) from Ceres, and they represent the highest-resolution views to date of the dwarf planet.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL

787 Enables faster direct international travel and true revolution will come with widespread discount international flying

Chinese airlines are planning regular direct flights from silicon Valley to Beijing. The flights will take 12 hours instead of typical 16 hour flights now.

United is using Boeing 787-9 for service between Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia.

At a distance of 7,920 miles (6,855 nautical miles), the Los Angeles-Melbourne route is the world's longest with regular Dreamliner service. The 787-9's extended range is 8,550 miles compared with the 787-8's 8,200 miles.

There are also new direct flights from North America to India.

Boeing 787s and Airbus A350s are opening up direct Europe to US routes between secondary cities.

The 787 is enabling discount international airlines. The impact will be greater when more 787s are in service to allow for more flights per day. Norwegian airlines is an example of airline using 787s for direct flights from smaller airports like Oakland in the San Francisco bay area.

I have flown a 787 Dreamliner direct from Oakland to Stockholm. The cabin is more comfortable and the flight with Norwegian airlines was cheaper.

Spacex and Boeing should fly manned crews to the space station starting in 2017

American spacecraft systems testing followed by increasingly complex flight tests and ultimately astronauts flying orbital flights will pave the way to operational missions during the next few years to the International Space Station. Those were the plans laid out Monday by NASA's Commercial Crew Program officials and partners as they focus on developing safe, reliable and cost-effective spacecraft and systems that will take astronauts to the station from American launch complexes.

According to Boeing, the company’s schedule calls for a pad abort test in February 2017, followed by an uncrewed flight test in April 2017, then a flight with a Boeing test pilot and a NASA astronaut in July 2017.

SpaceX said they anticipate a pad abort test in about a month, then an in-flight abort test later this year as part of its previous development phase. An uncrewed flight test is planned for late 2016 and a crewed flight test in early 2017.

SpaceX and Boeing have both completed the first milestones in their plans to send humans into space. SpaceX's goal is to fly over 50 Falcon 9 missions before attempting the first crewed launch in early 2017. Those missions will accommodate four crew members with space for cargo.

Tweel, the never flat Airless Tire, is being used commercially for John Deere riding mowers

The Tweel is an airless tire design concept developed by the French tire company Michelin. Its significant advantage over pneumatic tires is that the Tweel does not use a bladder full of compressed air, and therefore it cannot burst, leak pressure, or become flat. Instead, the Tweel assembly's inner hub connects to flexible polyurethane spokes which are used to support an outer rim and these engineered compliant components assume the shock-absorbing role provided by the compressed air in a traditional tire.

John Deere and Michelin Tweel Technologies announced the new MICHELIN X TWEEL TURF for commercial ZTrak mowers. The new MICHELIN X TWEEL TURF is an airless radial tire sold exclusively for John Deere ZTrak 900 Series models with 54-, 60- and 72-inch deck sizes. Unlike traditional pneumatic tires, the MICHELIN X TWEEL TURF virtually eliminates tire downtime and is nearly maintenance free.

The X TWEEL TURF has the same dimensions and bolt pattern as a standard 24x12x12 tire, and features automotive rubber technology, allowing the tread to last up to three times longer than standard turf tires.

Michelin opened a dedicated tweel-producing factory in Piedmont, South Carolina, in the 4th quarter of 2014.

UC Irvine can unboil an egg by untangling proteins which will lower biotech costs for cancer treatment and food production

UC Irvine and Australian chemists have figured out how to unboil egg whites – an innovation that could dramatically reduce costs for cancer treatments, food production and other segments of the $160 billion global biotechnology industry, according to findings published today in the journal ChemBioChem.

“Yes, we have invented a way to unboil a hen egg,” said Gregory Weiss, UCI professor of chemistry and molecular biology & biochemistry. “In our paper, we describe a device for pulling apart tangled proteins and allowing them to refold. We start with egg whites boiled for 20 minutes at 90 degrees Celsius and return a key protein in the egg to working order.”

Chembiochem - hear-Stress-Mediated Refolding of Proteins from Aggregates and Inclusion Bodies

US navy looks at next generation SSNX submarines and 200 mile range torpedoes

The U.S. Navy is starting early preparation work to design a new nuclear attack submarine to replace the Virginia-class boats (SSN-774) in the 2030s. The new attack boat would become operational in 2044 after the last Block VII Virginias are built.

nine years to identify, design and demonstrate the new technologies the new attack boat will need.

Johnson said that he has formed a small team to work on a five-year plan to begin to do some of that work. The team will consult with industry and will identify the threat environment and technologies the submarine will need to operate against in the 2050 plus timeframe, Johnson said.

One of the areas Johnson has already identified as critical for SSN(X) is integration with off-board systems. Vice Adm. Mike Connor, said that future submarine weapons for both the Virginia and the future SSN(X) would be networked extremely long-ranged weapons.

They will integrate with off-board systems so future Virginia boats and the SSN(X) can employ networked, extremely long-ranged weapons. A torpedo propulsion system concept from the Pennsylvania State University could allow a torpedo to hit a target 200 nmi (230 mi; 370 km) away and be guided by another asset during the terminal phase. Targeting information might also come from another platform like a patrol aircraft or an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) launched from the submarine.

January 26, 2015

Elon Musk plans for 4000 toaster sized micro-satellite network for global internet

Elon Musk has proposed a network of some 4,000 micro-satellites to provide broadband Internet services around the globe. SpaceX is partnering with Google and Fidelity Investments, which are investing $1 billion for a 10 percent stake in the endeavor. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Qualcomm, meanwhile, are investing in a competing venture called OneWeb, which aims to build a similar network of micro-satellites.

Satellite technology has advanced, bringing the cost of deployment down significantly. Toaster-sized micro-satellites can be launched dozens at a time, and don’t have to operate at very high orbits, reducing launch costs, but they can deliver performance comparable to larger, older satellites at higher altitudes.

The speed of light is 40 per cent faster in the vacuum of space than it is for fiber. Elon plans to use optical lasers to communicate between the micro-satellites.

Elon will have 60 people working on the space Internet project initially and that could rise to 1,000 in a few years.

Russia starting five nuclear submarines this year and hope to have 16 by 2020

Russia will add five nuclear submarines in 2015 and by 2020 is hoping to add at least 16 new nuclear submarines to its Northern and Pacific fleets.

The USA will add two nuclear submarines this year.

The most lethal new subs are those of the Yuri Dolgoruky class, also known as the Project 955 Borey class. Construction of the Dolgoruky has been a protracted affair — the ship was laid down at the Sevmash military shipyard in Severodvinsk in 1996 but not launched until 2007. Sea trials began in 2009, but development of the ship's primary weapon, the Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), itself has been fraught with problems. It was only in 2014 that the submarine submerged with a full load of 16 ICBM.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 245

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 245 is up at Fukushima Commentary

Forbes- The moon is a planet. A minor planet.

In our Solar System, there are 28 planets of all sizes within the orbit of Pluto. Major planets. Minor planets. Dwarf planets. And the Moon is one of the minor planets.

Here are many small, or minor, planets in our Solar System, some are even larger and more complex geologically than Mercury. Io, a very small planet, is the most geologically active planet in our Solar System – volcanoes are erupting constantly from its highly differentiated and heated mantle. Source: NASA

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