April 29, 2016

China and Russia both successfully tested rocket launched hypersonic gliding missiles

China has successfully completed a seventh flight test of its new hypersonic glide vehicle last week in its northern central Shanxi province, according to an article on People’s Daily Online.

The “DF-ZF” glider can travel at speeds between Mach 5 and Mach 10, which is 5 to 10 times the speed of sound.

Pentagon officials also confirmed China successfully flight tested its new high-speed maneuvering warhead last week, days after Russia carried out its own hypersonic glider test.

The test of the developmental DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle was monitored after launch Friday atop a ballistic missile fired from the Wuzhai missile launch center in central China, said officials familiar with reports of the test.

The maneuvering glider, traveling at several thousand miles per hour, was tracked by satellites as it flew west along the edge of the atmosphere to an impact area in the western part of the country.

It was the seventh successful flight test of the revolutionary glider, which travels at speeds between 4,000 and 7,000 miles per hour.

U.S. intelligence officials have assessed that China plans to use the glider to deliver nuclear weapons through increasingly sophisticated missile defenses. The DF-ZF also could be used as part of a conventional strategic strike weapon capable of hitting targets around the world within an hour.

The congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated in its most recent annual report that the hypersonic glide vehicle program was “progressing rapidly” and that the new strike weapon could be deployed by 2020.

A powered version also is in development and could be fielded by 2025.

Russia conducted a flight test of a revolutionary hypersonic glide vehicle last week that will deliver nuclear or conventional warheads through advanced missile defenses, U.S. defense officials said.

The test firing of the hypersonic glider took place Tuesday and involved the launch of an SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missile from eastern Russia, said officials familiar with details of the test.

Russia’s state-run Interfax news agency confirmed the test on Thursday.

DARPA funds $146 million for spaceplane demonstrator

DARPA’s Experimental Spaceplane-1 (XS-1) has been gearing up its own development program, which in some ways is even more impressive than the big launchers.

DARPA has asked the aerospace industry to design a small, first-stage rocket that can launch into space, deploy another stage with 3,000 to 5,000 pounds of payload attached, then return to land on a runway and be ready to do it all over again the next day—ten days in a row. That’s much more often than any of the bigger rockets launch, none of which have actually achieved reusability yet. XS-1, as DARPA calls the experimental vehicle, won’t have time for extensive refurbishment. It should essentially be able to refuel and re-fly, like an airplane. And it should do it for $5 million per flight, around a tenth of the cost of a current launch

DARPA is putting up $146 million for Phase II of the project—building and flying an actual demonstrator

In 2014 for phase I, three teams were selected to do advanced design work on the XS-1: Boeing/Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman/Virgin Galactic/Scaled Composites, and XCOR/Masten were all funded to develop their concepts.

Boeing's concept for DARPA's XS-1 spaceplane. (Boeing)

DARPA awards contracts to develop smarter, faster unmanned and manned armored vehicles

Today’s ground-based armored fighting vehicles are better protected than ever, but face a constantly evolving threat: weapons increasingly effective at piercing armor. While adding more armor has provided incremental increases in protection, it has also hobbled vehicle speed and mobility and ballooned development and deployment costs. To help reverse this trend, DARPA’s Ground X-Vehicle Technology (GXV-T) program recently awarded contracts to eight organizations.

“We’re exploring a variety of potentially groundbreaking technologies, all of which are designed to improve vehicle mobility, vehicle survivability and crew safety and performance without piling on armor,” said Maj. Christopher Orlowski, DARPA program manager. “DARPA’s performers for GXV-T are helping defy the ‘more armor equals better protection’ axiom that has constrained armored ground vehicle design for the past 100 years, and are paving the way toward innovative, disruptive vehicles for the 21st Century and beyond.”

DARPA has awarded contracts for GXV-T to the following organizations:

  • Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Honeywell International Inc. (Phoenix, Ariz.)
  • Leidos (San Diego, Calif.)
  • Pratt and Miller (New Hudson, Mich.)
  • QinetiQ Inc. (QinetiQ UK, Farnborough, United Kingdom)
  • Raytheon BBN (Cambridge, Mass.)
  • Southwest Research Institute (San Antonio, Tex.)
  • SRI International (Menlo Park, Calif.)

GXV-T is pursuing research in the following four technical areas:
  • Radically Enhanced Mobility—Ability to traverse diverse off-road terrain, including slopes and various elevations. Capabilities of interest include revolutionary wheel/track and suspension technologies that would enable greater terrain access and faster travel both on- and off-road compared to existing ground vehicles.
  • Survivability through Agility—Autonomously avoid incoming threats without harming occupants through technologies that enable, for example, agile motion and active repositioning of armor. Capabilities of interest include vertical and horizontal movement of armor to defeat incoming threats in real time.
  • Crew Augmentation—Improved physical and electronically assisted situational awareness for crew and passengers; semi-autonomous driver assistance and automation of key crew functions similar to capabilities found in modern commercial airplane cockpits. Capabilities of interest include high-resolution, 360-degree visualization of data from multiple onboard sensors and technologies to support closed-cockpit vehicle operations.
  • Signature Management—Reduction of detectable signatures, including visible, infrared (IR), acoustic and electromagnetic (EM). Capabilities of interest include improved ways to avoid detection and engagement by adversaries.

China lending Russia $6.2 billion for Russia's Moscow-Kazan high speed rail project

China has agreed to provide a 400 billion-ruble ($ 6.2 billion) loan for Russia's Moscow-Kazan High-Speed ​​Rail Project, the Russian Railways company said Friday.

In late March, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich attended the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA), where he invited Chinese business to take part in the implementation of high-speed rail projects in Russia, including the Moscow-Kazan railway and a high- speed railway between Samara and Tolyatti.

The project is initial stage of a high speed rail line connecting Moscow and Beijing and later one of lines connecting China to Europe.

China is discussions with India on several High Speed rail projects

India has tied up with Japan for its first high-speed train to run on a 505-km track between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. China is keen to work on other proposed routes. It is carrying out feasibility studies for high-speed lines on the 2,200-km Chennai-New Delhi route and the 1,200-km long New Delhi-Mumbai corridor.

The proposed Chennai-New Delhi corridor could be the second-largest in the world, after the 2,298 km-long Beijing-Guangzhou line, which was launched three years ago.

Comparing the pricing of tickets of various modes of transport, the Chinese railway chief said the fare for a regular passenger train is 10 cents per kilometer, while second class on HSR costs 48 cents per kilometer and first class costs 80 cents. An air ticket, on average, came to about 1 RMB (100 china cents) per km. This was after airlines had been forced to lower their rates since they were losing out to High Speed Rail.

F35 using open air ranges and simulation to prepare to fight layered integrated air defenses and missiles like Russia's S500

The Air Force F-35 is using “open air” ranges and computer simulation to practice combat missions against the best Chinese and Russian-made air-defense technologies – as a way to prepare to enemy threats anticipated in the mid-2020s and beyond.

Surface threats from air defenses is a tough problem because emerging threats right now can see aircraft hundreds of miles away. Today digital SAMS (surface-to-air-missile-systems) can change frequencies and they are very agile in how they operate.

Emerging and future Integrated Air Defense Systems use faster computer processors, are better networked to one-another and detect on a wider range of frequencies. These attributes, coupled with an ability to detect aircraft at further distances, make air defenses increasingly able to at times detect even stealth aircraft, in some instances, with surveillance radar.

The Russian S-500 Prometey is expected to become operational in 2017. It will likely form the upper tier of Russia’s layered integrated air defense system.

The S-500 is expected to able to detect and simultaneously attack up to ten ballistic missile warheads flying at speeds of twenty-three thousand feet per second. It is also reportedly being designed to use hit-to-kill interceptors—a design with similarities to Lockheed Martin's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD).

Like all modern Russian air defense systems, the S-500 is expected to be highly mobile and will use a network of radars for targeting over vast distances. The missile system is expected to use the 91N6A(M) battle management radar, a modified 96L6-TsP acquisition radar, as well as the new 76T6 multimode engagement and 77T6 ABM engagement radars

Paramount Pictures has no honor and no right to copyright the Klingon language

The Language Creation Society submited a legal brief to defend the Axanar movie production against Paramount Pictures and CBS Paramount and CBS claim they have a copyright on the Klingon language as well as the look of many things used in the Star Trek TV show and movies.

English translation: “we succeed together in a greater whole.”
Latin transliteration: “wa' Dol nIvDaq matay'DI' maQap

Various organizations such as the Klingon Language Institute, as well as individual linguistic scholars, have studied and used the Klingon language for years.

Linguistics professor Marc Okrand initially created the Klingon language. Paramount hired him to create dialogue for Klingon characters in the film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984).

The version of Klingon he created for the film was not a functioning language, however, and Okrand had to add more grammatical features and vocabulary before publishing the first Klingon dictionary in 1985. More than 250,000 copies of the dictionary sold.

The nonprofit Klingon Language Institute (“KLI”) was formed in 1992 for the purpose of studying, promoting, and spreading the Klingon language.

The search engine Bing allows users to translate text to and from Klingon.

Copyright law protects the means of expressing ideas or concepts, but it does not give the copyright holder the right to exclude others from making use of the ideas or concepts themselves. Neither is one permitted to register copyright in a word.

Here is the whole brief

English translation: “brute strength is not the most important asset in a fight.” Latin transliteration: “Suvlu'taHvIS yapbe' HoS neH.”

The main issue of the lawsuit is that technology is enabling efficient content creators to make top quality feature movies for a million dollars or less

Good writing and $1 million can make a better movie than bad writing and $200 million. Special effect costs are not a barrier

NASA and Spacex may land unmanned Red Dragon capsule on Mars in 2018

SpaceX and NASA plan to create the Red Dragon capsule and land it on Mars to collect scientific data — possibly within the next two years in 2018. The plan is to use an unmanned Dragon capsule.

Red Dragon missions will help inform the overall Mars architecture that will be unveiled later this year.
These missions will help demonstrate the technologies needed to land large payloads propulsively on Mars.

A Falcon Heavy will by used to launch it.

The Dragon craft is meant to carry astronauts, but SpaceX founder Elon Musk says the SUV-sized interior of the craft would make it difficult for humans to endure any trips longer than from the Earth to the moon.

Still, NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman says that her agency is closer "to sending American astronauts to Mars than anyone, anywhere, at any time has ever been."

In a statement about the collaboration with SpaceX, Newman says a new and broad consensus is emerging that calls for sending astronauts to Mars in the 2030s.

April 28, 2016

China continues building the Pan Asian High speed railway network

By the early 2020s, rail commuters in Asia will be able to travel by rail between Kunming, a major transportation hub in southwestern China, and the tiny city state of Singapore in just 10 hours.

Construction has begun on several parts of the "Pan-Asia Railway Network," a mega plan that will see three 4,500-5,500 kilometer (2,800-3,400 mile) railway lines link China with mainland Southeast Asia, carrying passengers and freight services.

(H/T to reader Godfree Roberts) Construction of the Kunming – Shanghai leg was completed last week.

In southwest China’s Yunnan province, construction of a high-speed railway connecting the capital city of Kunming with Shanghai has just been completed. The high-speed railway is the first for Yunnan. The route is about 380 kilometers and connects the remote southwest with the prosperous eastern China. Engineers say there were great challenges during construction, but they were overcome. Yunnan is situated in a mountainous area, but engineers managed to build nearly 130 bridges and 40 tunnels.

Test runs of the railway will be conducted in June, with plans open to the public by the end of the year. It will allow people who live in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to take a 55 minute flight to Kunming then board a 4 hour train to Shanghai, which will connect them to the rest of China's 20,000 km High Speed Rail network.

The Kunming-Singapore central line will cross Laos and Thailand before heading south towards Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur and then Singapore. The eastern line will run through Vietnam and Cambodia before linking up with the central line in Bangkok. The western line will cross more of southwestern China and much of Myanmar before joining up in Bangkok.

The cities of Kunming and the Thai capital, Bangkok, will serve as the main hubs for the network.

High and medium-speed rail services are expected to connect 10 major cities between Kunming in China and Singapore. China is negotiating with seven Southeast Asian countries.

Transport analyst Dr. Ruth Banomyong thinks the economic benefits of a modern railway network are now too tempting for many poorer Southeast Asian countries to pass up.

"High speed rail is very expensive and none of the countries - Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, or Cambodia - can really afford one," Banomyong, who is a professor at Bangkok's Thammasat University, told DW.

He added that there is also a question mark over the cost of the proposed route through Thailand, a middle income country. Although the costs for the whole project haven't been revealed, the Thai section alone is estimated to be worth 20 billion euros ($23 billion.)
Construction has already finished on the Vietnam stretch of the rail link, while work got underway last December to connect landlocked Laos to Kunming.

China is also bidding to build high speed railway lines in India and has proposed a direct rail link to the Iranian capital, Tehran.

The rail route between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur already exists but the contract to upgrade to high-speed lines is expected to be taken by the end of the year. Local media reports suggest that Singapore prefers a Japanese or European bidder but Malaysia favors a Chinese firm.

Construction of sections connecting China with Vietnam, China with Myanmar and Laos with Vietnam are under way.

SOURCES - Deutsche Welle, Wikipedia,

Tesla claims $190/kwh cost for battery packs today

Tesla’s Vice-President of Investor Relations, Jeff Evanson, jumped in on the call between Langan and Bereisa to correct their analysis. Evanson stated that Tesla’s battery pack cost is already below $190/kWh – meaning at least 26% less than Bereisa’s current estimate – and that the base Model 3 will be offered with a battery pack option smaller than 60 kWh, like Bereisa assumed.

During the Model 3 unveiling last month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that the base Model 3, which is expected to start at $35,000 before incentives, will have a range of over 215 miles on a single charge. While Musk didn’t confirm the energy capacity of the pack, it will be impressive if Tesla can achieve such a range on a less than 60 kWh pack, like Evanson is now suggesting.

The $190 per kwh battery pack cost would indicate a cell cost of $128 or less using Bereisa's 48-percent increment.

Bereisa disagreed with that cost, saying that the raw materials cost for today's lithium-ion cell chemistries is $160 per kwh if you assume a conventional 40-percent supplier markup. Bereisa estimated Tesla's per-kwh cost for the entire Model 3 battery pack at $260 per kwh. Bereisa estimated $215 per kwh for GM

Evanson also disputed Bereisa's suggestion that the Model 3 would have a 60-kwh battery pack, saying that it would have a capacity below that estimate.

Bereisa shot back that 55 kwh or more would be required to get to the promised 200-mile range.

These various cost estimates cover only the materials and labor costs of the cells and packs, and do not include any overhead, capital investment, and the many other costs required to operate a car company.

The discussion reveals that battery and cell costs have not only fallen faster than expected just five years ago, but may be on a path to reach the magic $100 per kwh level at which electric cars are price-competitive with conventional models.

Bereisa is more pessimistic, estimating that even by 2025, the full pack will fall only to $135 to $155 per kwh.

By 2030 Electric Vehicles with a 200 mile range will be lower cost than the cheapest car sold in the US in 2015

Ramez Naam has an analysis of how cheap electric cars can get

Electric Vehicles, like virtually all other manufactured goods, are likely to have a learning curve, meaning that greater production will mean reduced price. Batteries, a large fraction of the cost of EVs, appear to have a learning rate of around 21%, meaning that every doubling of scale will reduce costs by 21%.

What about whole vehicles? The Ford Model T had a learning rate of around 16%. Let’s use that for the entire vehicle, including the battery. That gives us a conservative estimate of the cost improvement rate.

Last year, EVs grew at around 60% annually, to around 1 million total EVs ever sold. Sources in China tell me they expect several hundred thousand EVs to be sold there in 2016 alone. Growth could easily be 60% again in 2016. Even so, growth will eventually slow. Bloomberg New Energy Finance expects 30% long term growth. Let’s use that for now, to be conservative.

Those assumptions lead to a world where, by roughly 2030, EVs with a 200 mile range are cheaper than the cheapest car sold in the US in 2015.

A few days ago Telsa claims that the cost of their battery packs is down to $190 per kwh. This should go down 30-50% when the Gigafactory reaches full production levels

On Cost-Per-Mile, EVs Win Even More

Electric vehicles, today, have lower total costs per mile than equivalent gasoline-powered vehicles, due to lower energy costs of electricity and the lower maintenance costs. At 30% growth rate, EVs will have roughly half the up-front cost of gasoline-powered vehicles in roughly 10-12 years, around 2027 or 2028. At that point, the total cost per-mile-driven of EVs will also be roughly half the cost of gasoline powered vehicles.

In 2014, Nextbigfuture had discussed the possibility of a battery singularity. The Battery singularity would be the electric car singularity as Ramez is also discussing. Batteries (and electric engines) that replace gasoline (and combustion engines) but at lower lifetime costs have the potential to completely replace combustion engines. I believe the costs will be brought down and the factory construction and scaling of the supply chain will take until about 2025. We could get to 10 million electric cars per year by about 2020 and then to 100 million by 2025.

This would likely mean that Tesla with its large lead in electric cars would likely be selling as many cars as Toyota now and possibly 2 to 3 times as many. This would be 10 to 30 million cars. Tesla would be worth $300 billion to $2 trillion depending upon the price earnings multiple.

April 27, 2016

Magnetoplasmadynamic thrusters can have hundreds of times the thrust of ion propulsion for space application

There are a few technically feasible approaches to get about a megawatt of power in space using nuclear power or solar power. Russia has a project to develop about a megawatt nuclear reactor for space applications.

NASA Glenn Research Center, GRC, has several programs to advance near-term photovoltaic array development. One project is to design, build, and test two 20 kW-sized deployable solar arrays, bringing them to technology readiness level (TRL) 5, and through analysis show that they should be extensible to 300 kW-class systems (150 kw per wing). These solar arrays are approximately 1500 square meters in total area which is about an order-of-magnitude larger than the 160 square meters solar array blankets on the International Space Station (ISS).

Orbital ATK has a promising lightweight and compact solar array structure. The MegaFlex™ engineering development unit was tested at NASA GRC Plumbrook facility in 2015. Use of high-power solar arrays, at power levels ranging from ~500 KW to several megawatts is possible in the near to mid-term.

Deployable Space System, DSS, developed a roll-out array, ROSA, EDU that employs an innovative stored strain energy deployment to reduce the number of mechanisms and parts. The elastic structure maintains stiffness throughout deployment for partially deployed power generation. The rectangular design can be configured in many ways by either lengthening the booms, adjusting the length and width, or attaching several winglets onto a deployable backbone. Lengthening and/or shortening the booms provides power scaling without changing any of the subsystems or stowed configuration. See below for a fully deployed ROSA array.

* four 150 kilowatt wings would be 600 kilowatts in power. The new wings are easy to deploy and do not involve astronauts.
* eight 150 kilowatt wings would be 1.2 megawatts

A NASA presentation looked at space based power and storage requirements and options.

Power at the hundreds of kilowatts and megawatt levels would be great for magnetoplasmadynamic thrusters

In theory, magnetoplasmadynamic (MPD) thrusters could produce extremely high specific impulses (Isp) with an exhaust velocity of up to and beyond 110,000 m/s (0.03% of light speed), triple the value of current xenon-based ion thrusters, and about 25 times better than liquid rockets. MPD technology also has the potential for thrust levels of up to 200 newtons (N) (45 lbF ), by far the highest for any form of electric propulsion, and nearly as high as many interplanetary chemical rockets.[citation needed] This would allow use of electric propulsion on missions which require quick delta-v maneuvers (such as capturing into orbit around another planet), but with many times greater fuel efficiency

CGI rendering of Princeton University's lithium-fed self-field MPD thruster (from Popular Mechanics magazine)

A magnetoplasmadynamic (MPD) thruster (MPDT) is a form of electrically powered spacecraft propulsion which uses the Lorentz force (the force on a charged particle by an electromagnetic field) to generate thrust. It is sometimes referred to as Lorentz Force Accelerator (LFA) or (mostly in Japan) MPD arcjet.

Generally, a gaseous material is ionized and fed into an acceleration chamber, where the magnetic and electrical fields are created using a power source. The particles are then propelled by the Lorentz force resulting from the interaction between the current flowing through the plasma and the magnetic field (which is either externally applied, or induced by the current) out through the exhaust chamber. Unlike chemical propulsion, there is no combustion of fuel. As with other electric propulsion variations, both specific impulse and thrust increase with power input, while thrust per watt drops.

There are two main types of MPD thrusters, applied-field and self-field. Applied-field thrusters have magnetic rings surrounding the exhaust chamber to produce the magnetic field, while self-field thrusters have a cathode extending through the middle of the chamber. Applied fields are necessary at lower power levels, where self-field configurations are too weak. Various propellants such as xenon, neon, argon, hydrogen, hydrazine, and lithium have been used, with lithium generally being the best performer.

According to Edgar Choueiri magnetoplasmadynamic thrusters have input power 100-500 kilowatts, exhaust velocity 15-60 kilometers per second, thrust 2.5-25 newtons and efficiency 40-60 percent.

One potential application of magnetoplasmadynamic thrusters is the main propulsion engine for heavy cargo and piloted space vehicles (example engine a^2 for Manned mission to Mars)

A plan, proposed by Bradley C. Edwards, is to beam power from the ground. This plan utilizes 5 200 kW free electron lasers at 0.84 micrometres with adaptive optics on the ground to beam power to the MPD-powered spacecraft, where it is converted to electricity by GaAs photovoltaic panels. The tuning of the laser wavelength of 0.840 micrometres (1.48 eV per photon) and the PV panel bandgap of 1.43 eV to each other produces an estimated conversion efficiency of 59% and a predicted power density of up to 540 kW/m2. This would be sufficient to power a MPD upper stage, perhaps to lift satellites from LEO to GEO

European space agency will use four larger ion thrusters

The European Space Agency has a flagship mission to Mercury powered by ion drives. BepiColombo will provide the best understanding of Mercury to date. It consists of two individual orbiters: the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) to map the planet, and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO) to investigate its magnetosphere.

BepiColombo mission is based on two spacecraft:

  • a Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO); and
  • a Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO)

BepiColombo Mercury Transfer Module

Among several investigations, BepiColombo will make a complete map of Mercury at different wavelengths. It will chart the planet's mineralogy and elemental composition, determine whether the interior of the planet is molten or not, and investigate the extent and origin of Mercury’s magnetic field.

Only NASA's Mariner 10 and Messenger have visited Mercury so far. Mariner 10 provided the first-ever close-up images of the planet when it flew past three times in 1974-1975. En route to its final destination in orbit around Mercury in 18 March 2011, Messenger flew past the planet 3 times (14 January 2008, 6 October 2008, and 29 September 2009), providing new data and images. Once BepiColombo arrives in late 2024, it will help reveal information on the composition and history of Mercury. It should discover more about the formation and the history of the inner planets in general, including Earth.

The eerie blue exhaust trail of an ion thruster during a test firing. A quartet of these highly efficient T6 thrusters is being installed on ESA’s BepiColombo spacecraft to Mercury at ESA’s ESTEC Test Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

The Mercury Transfer Module will carry Europe’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter and Japan’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter together to Sun’s innermost planet over the course of 6.5 years.

T6 Ion Thruster Firing

“BepiColombo would not be possible in its current form without these T6 thrusters,” explains ESA propulsion engineer Neil Wallace.

The twin 'QinetiQ T6' ion thrusters operate at maximum combined throttle of 290 mN

The Mercury Planetary Orbiter will have a mass of 1,150 kilograms (2,540 lb) and will have its sides covered with solar cells providing 150 Watts at perihelion.

“Standard chemical thrusters face a fundamental upper limit on performance, set by the amount of energy in the chemical reaction that heats the ejected propellant producing the thrust.

“Ion thrusters can reach much higher exhaust speeds, typically an order of magnitude greater, because the propellant is first ionised and then accelerated using electrical energy generated by the solar panels. The higher velocity means less propellant is required.

“The down side is that the thrust levels are much lower and therefore the spacecraft acceleration is also low – meaning the thrusters have to be operating for long periods.

“However, in space there is nothing to slow us down, so over prolonged periods of thrusting the craft’s velocity is increased dramatically. Assuming the same mass of propellant, the T6 thrusters can accelerate BepiColombo to a speed 15 times greater than a conventional chemical thruster.”

The 22 cm-diameter T6 was designed for ESA by QinetiQ in the UK, whose expertise in electric propulsion stretches back to the 1960s.

It is an scaled-up version of the 10 cm T5 gridded ion thruster, which played a crucial role in ESA’s GOCE gravity-mapping mission by continuously compensating for vestigial atmospheric drag along its extremely-low orbit.

First drone command center installed on a Aircraft Carrier

The USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) marked a historical milestone April 13 after installing the first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) command center aboard an aircraft carrier.

Capt. Beau Duarte, program manager of Unmanned Carrier Aviation program office (PMA-268), inspected the site and recognized Carl Vinson Sailors instrumental in the security, logistics and installation of the UAV suite.

"This marks the start of a phased implementation of the MQ-XX system on an aircraft carrier," said Duarte. "The lessons learned and ground-breaking work done here will go on to inform and influence future installations on other aircraft carriers."

Previous Uclass drone fighter

The Navy is also sticking to its plans to field an unmanned MQ-XX Stingray platform with just tanking and surveillance capabilities to start with, while the Marine Corps is experimenting with the MQ-8C Fire Scout to help inform its path forward for amphibious assault ship-based unmanned aviation, officials said Wednesday.

The MQ-XX, formerly known as the Carrier Based Aerial Refueling System, will only include tanking and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) as primary missions.

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