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Archive for the ‘space’ category: Page 535

Oct 9, 2007

Inflatable Mirrors on spacecraft would move asteroids fastest

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, defense, existential risks, lifeboat, space

New Scientist reports on a new study by researchers led by Massimiliano Vasile of the University of Glasgow in Scotland have compared nine of the many methods proposed to ward off such objects, including blasting them with nuclear explosions.

The team assessed the methods according to three performance criteria: the amount of change each method would make to the asteroid’s orbit, the amount of warning time needed and the mass of the spacecraft needed for the mission.

The method that came out on top was a swarm of mirror-carrying spacecraft. The spacecraft would be launched from Earth to hover near the asteroid and concentrate sunlight onto a point on the asteroid’s surface.

In this way, they would heat the asteroid’s surface to more than 2100° C, enough to start vaporising it. As the gases spewed from the asteroid, they would create a small thrust in the opposite direction, altering the asteroid’s orbit.

Continue reading “Inflatable Mirrors on spacecraft would move asteroids fastest” »

Aug 6, 2007

NASA designs nuclear asteroid deflector

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, existential risks, lifeboat, space

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has designed a nuclear-warhead-carrying spacecraft, that would be boosted by the US agency’s proposed Ares V cargo launch vehicle, to deflect asteroids.

The Ares V launch vehicle is scheduled to first fly in 2018. It would launch 130 tons to LEO.

I welcome this study for providing a clearer analysis of the deflection options and the analyzing costs of searching for threatening asteroids.

The 8.9m (29ft)-long “Cradle” spacecraft would carry six 1,500kg (3,300lb) missile-like interceptor vehicles that would carry one 1.2MT B83 nuclear warhead each, with a total mass of 11,035kg.

Continue reading “NASA designs nuclear asteroid deflector” »

Jun 19, 2007

The Missile Shield and the Race for Space Awareness

Posted by in categories: defense, existential risks, geopolitics, military, nuclear weapons, open source, space

The US-led effort to expand the military BMEWS (ballistic missile early warning radar system) to Poland and the Czech Republic provoke Russian military strategists. Putin has proposed using their already operative radar base in Azerbajian (See “Azeri radar eyed for US shield”, BBC) in exchange for information from the US system. The US/NATO proposed TMD (theater missile defense) will also integrate early warning systems for short-range missiles in southern Europe. Is the race for space awareness and the weaponization of space inevitable?

The justification for the missile shield is the potential threat of long range missiles from Iran and North Korea (See “N-Korea test fires missile”, BBC). Military experts predict that with the current progress of nuclear research and missile technology available to Iran they will pose a threat to the US in 2015. NATO and Russia co-operate in certain military matters through the Russia-Nato Council but has increasingly been in conflict over the Iranian nuclear program and the European missile shield. (See “Russia-NATO: A marriage of convenience”, RIA Novosti). Russia has also demonstrated the ineffectiveness of the missile shield by launching their RS-24 multiple missile system carrying 10 warheads (See “RS-24 Missiles to replace old systems within next few years”, Interfax).

Terrestrial radars need to be complemented by satellites to keep track of missile launches across the planet (so called “boost phase interceptors”, see “Missile defense, satellites and politics”, The Space Review) to ensure complete space awareness. The Chinese Space Agency tested an anti-satellite missile earlier this year (See “Pentagon says China’s anti-satellite test posed a threat to nations”, AP). The move towards a hot space war could be imminent. The official press release was the only information given from Chinese authorities. The secrecy surrounding space capabilities was recently challenged by French authorities when they discovered 20–30 unregistered US surveillance satellites. (See “French says ‘non’ to U.S. Disclosure of Secret Satellites”, Space.com).

Continue reading “The Missile Shield and the Race for Space Awareness” »

May 15, 2007

Could Anti-Radiation Drug Protect Us On Earth…And Mars?

Posted by in categories: biological, space

If humanity ever meets lifeforms beyond Earth (or discovers our solitude in our galaxy) one thing will be sure–galactic historians will remark how interesting it must have been living in the nuclear age that “we now enjoy” (assuming we survive of course).

Speaking of nuclear, it seems that some scientists are utilizing a new drug that is showing major promises of fighting against radiation exposure, ensuring that victims not only survive, but remain “semi-healthy” as well.

(Space War) But now researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis report they have developed an agent that protects cells from the lethal effects of radiation, regardless of whether it is given before or after exposure.

Using this agent in mice, the investigators found that the treatment helped shield rapidly dividing cells that are most vulnerable to radiation-induced death, providing proof in principle that it is possible to fend off radiation damage, according to a study published in the April issue of Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications.

Continue reading “Could Anti-Radiation Drug Protect Us On Earth...And Mars?” »

Mar 28, 2007

Dr. Vinge: We Must Reduce Launch Costs Now

Posted by in category: space

Mathematician and science fiction author Vernor Vinge, who coined the term “Singularity”, is an advocate of the Lifeboat Foundation’s mission: get some people off the Earth and get them self-sustaining as soon as possible, as an insurance policy against existential risk. In his “What if the Singularity does not happen?” talk for the Long Now Foundation in San Francisco, Vinge calls the continuing pursuit of space under current-day launch costs as a “sham”:

Well, launch to LEO still runs $5000 to $10000/kg. As far as I can tell, the new Vision for Space Exploration will maintain these costs. This approach made some sense in 1970, when we were just beginning and when initial surveys of the problems and applications were worth almost any expense. Now, in the early 21st century, these launch costs make talk of humans-in-space a doubly gold-plated sham:

    • First, because of the pitiful limitations on delivered payloads, except at prices that are politically impossible (or are deniable promises about future plans).
    • Second, because with these launch costs, the payloads must be enormously more reliable and compact than commercial off-the-shelf hardware — and therefore enormously expensive in their own right.

I believe most people have great sympathy and enthusiasm for humans-in-space. They really “get” the big picture. Unfortunately, their sympathy and enthusiasm has been abused.

Continue reading “Dr. Vinge: We Must Reduce Launch Costs Now” »

Mar 27, 2007

China, Indonesia, India, Japan and the US most vulnerable to asteroids

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, defense, existential risks, lifeboat, space

Using maps of population density, the researchers charted the places likely to suffer the most casualties from asteroids. As might be expected, countries with large coastal populations turned out to be most vulnerable, with China, Indonesia, India, Japan and the US in the top five spots.

The team focused on smaller asteroids because they hit the Earth more frequently. An asteroid a few hundred metres across hits the planet about once every 10,000 years, on average, while those larger than 1 kilometre hit only every 100,000 years or so. Small asteroids are also harder to spot. They considered a range of impact energies corresponding to asteroids between 100 and 500 metres across, striking with typical solar system speeds of about 20,000 kilometres per second.


Simulations show the asteroid impact locations that would produce the most casualties in red. The Pacific coast of Asia is a particularly deadly place for an asteroid to strike because of tsunamis, while a direct strike on some densely populated inland areas could also cause a heavy toll (Illustration: Nick Bailey et al/University of Southampton)

The US faced the worst potential economic losses, since it has a lot of infrastructure on coastlines facing two different oceans. China was second, followed by Sweden, Canada, and Japan.

Continue reading “China, Indonesia, India, Japan and the US most vulnerable to asteroids” »

Mar 26, 2007

New Mexico Gets Ready for Spaceport America

Posted by in category: space

From Physorg.com:

New Mexico’s governor Bill Richardson worked with the southwest desert state’s legislature to secure 33 million dollars for the final design of “Spaceport America,” the world’s first commercial spaceport.

Now the voters in the Dona Ana County municipality where the project is to be located will weigh in, in a referendum scheduled for April 3 on a new sales tax to fund the project.

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Mar 5, 2007

United States unwilling to spend $300 million for asteroid location

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, defense, existential risks, lifeboat, space

NASA estimates the cost to find at least 90 percent of the 20,000 potentially hazardous asteroids and comets by 2020 would be about $1 billion, according to a report NASA will release later this week. It would cost $300 million if a asteroid locating telescope was piggybacked on another vehicle. The report was previewed Monday at a Planetary Defense Conference in Washington.

The agency is already tracking bigger objects, at least 3,300 feet in diameter, that could wipe out most life on Earth, much like what is theorized to have happened to dinosaurs 65 million years ago. But even that search, which has spotted 769 asteroids and comets — none of which is on course to hit Earth — is behind schedule. It’s supposed to be complete by the end of next year.

A cheaper option would be to simply piggyback on other agencies’ telescopes, a cost of about $300 million, also rejected, Johnson said.

Continue reading “United States unwilling to spend $300 million for asteroid location” »

Mar 1, 2007

Superconducting Maglev Launch Technology

Posted by in category: space

From Physorg.com:

With a typical launch cost for a spaceship around $20 million, it’s difficult to practically conceive of a space industry beyond federally funded agencies. Nevertheless, many people believe that expanding space travel—whether for research purposes, entertainment, or even colonization—is not impractical. Bridging the economic hurdle may be technologies such as the maglev launch assist. According to an analysis, the cost of launching payloads into the low earth orbit with maglev may be achieved with only hundreds of dollars per pound (John Olds and Peter Bellini).

Most recently, researchers in a group including Wenjiang Yang and his colleagues from the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have investigated the possibility of the “Maglifter,” a maglev launch assist vehicle originally proposed in the 1980s. In this system, a spaceship would be magnetically levitated over a track and accelerated up an incline, lifting off when it reaches a velocity of 1,000 km/hr (620 miles/hr). The main cost-saving areas would come from reduced fuel consumption and the reduced mass of the spaceship.

Continue reading “Superconducting Maglev Launch Technology” »

Mar 1, 2007

9th Nanoforum Report on Nanotechnology in Aerospace

Posted by in categories: nanotechnology, space

“The importance of the space sector can be emphasized by the number of spacecrafts launched. In the period from 1957 till 2005, 6376 spacecraft have been launched at an average of 133 per year. The has been a decrease in the number of spacecrafts launched in the recent years with 78 launched in 2005. Of the 6378 launches, 56.8% were military spacecrafts and 43.2 were civilian. 245 manned missions have been launched in this period. 1674 communication or weather satellites were also launched. The remaining spacecraft launches has been exploration missions.”

Read the entire report here (requires free registration)