Though this is just a test, paid for by a campaign on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website, and launched gratis by NASA, SpaceX’s customer for the resupply mission, Mr Manchester thinks clouds of sprites could have real applications. Swarms of magnetometer-armed sprites might, for example, be a cheaper and more comprehensive way than existing satellites of monitoring the ebb and flow of charged particles that constitute space “weather”, which sometimes interferes with telecommunications back on Earth.
For non-astronomers, stargazing may seem simple: Just plop down a scope, and peer toward the heavens. It’s usually not quite that easy. Scopes can be tricky to set up and celestial objects elusive. The Celestron Cosmos 90 GT uses a Wi-Fi connection with a smartphone to do the hard work for you. To align it, users point it at any three bright objects in the sky; the scope uses them to triangulate its precise location. Through an app, users then select the celestial body they want to see from Celestron’s 120,000-entry database. Motors in the base position the scope in seconds.
Technology at the UK company which has gained notoriety during the search for MH370...
“Each Global Xpress satellite costs about $400m and is the size of a London bus. The new generation can run 100 times faster than the old technology and the potential size of new markets is said to be worth $3bn a year across maritime, aviation, energy, government and commercial fields.
In aviation, where Inmarsat's broadband service is already on 5,000 planes, it could mean high-quality 3D pictures being received by passengers on planes. Business people flying across China could be able to join video conferences hosted in the US. "That's the era that's coming," says Pearce.
The new technology will also be capable of streaming critical positioning and cockpit data from aircraft in real time, reducing the urgency of finding the black box in cases like MH370. “
In the past 15 years or so, astronomers have discovered more than 4,200 potential exoplanets—planets orbiting distant stars—and confirmed the existence of more than 1,050 of them. In a galaxy with 300 billion stars, there are surely untold billions of other planets out there. Is anyone home on any of them?
Few astronomers are approaching that question as creatively as Lisa Kaltenegger, 36, an exoplanet investigator who is a lecturer at Harvard University and leader of a research group at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, in Heidelberg, Germany. The focus of her work is not discovering exoplanets, most of which have been detected by the Kepler space telescope. Rather, she and her team are modeling them—hoovering up massive amounts of data from Kepler, the Hubble Space Telescope and various ground telescopes and processing it through computer models to determine which worlds could harbor life. These days, so-called Big Data is inescapable, from algorithms that predict what you'll buy to government surveillance. Now it seems Big Data may also be the key to finding extraterrestrial life.
“As part of my research (for the Iron Man project), I wanted to interview two people: John Underkoffler [the chief scientist at computer interface company Oblong] and Elon. I thought it was really interesting that he literally had decided to become a rocket scientist. And although the similarities kind of end with a certain -- what would you say? -- just an amazing self-agency, you know, that I think Elon really embodies. I was looking to Underkoffler for straight technology [advice]. You remember in Minority Report, the character is wearing those gloves and moving the screens around? He and his company built that into a reality, so I was taking some cues from him: If Tony had designed his own software and his own programs and the machinery to operate them, what sort of language would he design to be able to manipulate his environment? And over the course of all these movies, that's been as much a part of Tony's character as anything else. The spirit of Elon was really inspiring to me because Tony goes from doing one thing so well and so successfully, and goes to do something that's a lot more risky and much more far reaching.”
The company, called Planet Labs, flew four prototype satellites in 2013. Those proved successful, enabling the firm to quickly follow up with production of a 28-member network that already is aboard the International Space Station and awaiting launch.
The constellation, called Flock 1, is comprised of 4 inch-sided, cube-shaped satellites stuffed with mostly off-the-shelf consumer electronics components, including imagers.
“Things that were once the province of huge 10-ton satellites are now in these tiny things. That’s what enables us to generate a data set that is unprecedented in terms of coverage and cadence,” company co-founder and chief executive Will Marshall told Discovery News.
Regularly scheduled flights for customers doing research and development would be a major leap beyond what government programs had offered the private sector in the past, says Sean Casey, the managing director of the Silicon Valley Space Center, which advises space startups. “Researchers have been turned off by NASA’s traditional time scale,” he says. “With Xcor, you can spend $1 million to $2 million and do 10 flights each with about six minutes of microgravity and make sure your experiments are working.” Blue Origin (logo on left) business development manager Erika Wagner said during the recent space conference that the company’s goal is spaceflight at a moment’s notice. “We will roll out of the garage,” she said. “This is gas and go.”
Now, up in space, comes an impressive low-tech improvisation after an Italian astronaut almost “drowned” in July from moisture flooding his helmet during a space walk.
From Space.com (thanks to reminder from Andrew McCarthy)
"This is your last resort," Bolinger explained, holding up a makeshift snorkel. "If water is encroaching your face, as similar to what happened with Luca in the last EVA, the crew member can lean down and use this to breath fresh oxygen from down near his midsection."
Not that NASA had snorkels just floating around the space station. The astronauts had to "MacGyver" the apparatus that is more commonly associated with ocean divers than spacewalkers.
"We had the crew fabricate these on orbit," Bolinger said. "They basically cut apart the plastic tubing on a water-line vent tube and then attached hook-line Velcro on one side and pile Velcro on the other."
Normally, these tubes are used for piping water to provide cooling around the astronauts' bodies, but team members were inspired by the size of the plastic lines.
"Some smart engineers on the ground were able to figure out, 'Hey! This is a similar diameter to a snorkel that you have for scuba diving,'" Bolinger recalled. "They were able to come up with this ingenious idea."
So Alonso and other research teams at the FAA’s Center for Excellence in Space Transportation are hard at work crunching numbers and simulating flights, trying to estimate space and air traffic levels in the near future – all to determine how to most equitably divvy up the national airspace. The timing is good for space traffic control, because the FAA is in the midst of a $40 billion transition from the ground-based, radar-based air traffic control system that exists today to a satellite-based system called NextGen. GPS units in planes will update air traffic control once per second, rather than once every several seconds, as radar does. And in the event of a crisis, like an exploding rocket and ensuing cloud of flaming debris, air traffic controllers using NextGen will be able to send electronic re-routing information directly to the plane’s flight management program, rather than requiring instructions to be given verbally over the radio.
Alonso and his colleagues have access to NASA's special airspace simulation tool, called FACET (graph below)"It allows us to run back a day in the life of the air-traffic control system," says Alonso.
So Alonso has been running tens of thousands of simulations, taking into account weather variables, air traffic, and frequency of space launches. He models different distributions of flights when there might be a mere one launch a month, or as many as 6 orbital launches per week from different locations like New Mexico, California, Florida, and Colorado. In fact, the FAA has already licensed 8 different locations around the country as spaceports, and is reviewing applications for more. Not all of these spaceport aspirants will survive, but to model the future, Alonso has to create data for each of them.
Digital Globe, a leading provider of high-resolution Earth imagery products and services is holding a contest for readers to vote on 20 of its (spectacular) images on its Facebook page. Click here to admire and to vote.