There is an experiment happening on the International Space Station called, Materials International Space Station Experiment - 7 (MISSE7). During the experiment several nanocomposite materials are being tested for endurance in the high radiation and extreme temperature ranges of space. The experiment is being led by the US Air Force in conjunction with several US Universities.
Materials Being Tested
According to NASA, there are 'over 700 new and affordable materials' being tested under the auspices of MISSE7. 'Specimens include solar cells and candidate spacecraft materials'. These materials are expected to be useful in the design of 'solar cells, optics, sensors, electronics, power, coatings, structural materials and protection for the next generation of spacecraft'
More specific examples of the materials being tested are :
A brief summary of the current status of buckypaper in terms of feasibility, commercial availability, and product potential.
Several months ago, buckypaper was in the mainstream news. I would have thought that buckypaper would have made Aceize at that time, but looking back it looks like an article that I skipped. I haven't heard anything since, so I figured that I would look into the subject.
What is buckypaper?
Buckypaper is a solid collection of single walled nanotubes (SWNT). These nanotubes are held together through means of filtering a nanotube suspension. Nanotubes are placed in a suspension of non-ionic surfactants, such as Triton X-100 and Sodium lauryl sulfate. The resulting dispersion is then filtered and pressed to make buckypaper. Dr. Richard Smalley is credited with the first application of this method.
The Planetary Society is planning a series of solar sail trials under the heading of 'LightSail'. LightSail-1 will be constructed of 3 CubeSat modules which will contain folded mylar sails able to unfurl to about 31 sq. meters (340 sq. ft). This first launch will operate for a few days at an orbital around 800 km (500 miles). LightSail-1 will test controllability and measure acceleration. The total mission cost will be around $1.8 million.
Each CubeSat module is about 10 sq. cm (4 sq in). So the total packaged volume of the LightSail is about half the size of a file box from staples. Or, according to Louis Friedman, 'bigger than a toaster, smaller than a breadbox'. The whole thing will weigh about 5kg (11 lbs).
Louis D. Friedman is a co-founder of the Planetary Society and also the current executive director.
Stellar Exploration, Inc. will construct the LightSail-1.
The Planetary Society's first attempt to test solar sails ended with a launch failure. Their payload, Cosmos 1, landed in the ocean.
Successive projects, LightSail-2 and LightSail-3, will launch to higher altitudes and deeper space.
NASA has been analyzing the data from the LCROSS impact. The reflected light and spectrometer analysis 'unequivocally confirm the presence of [water] on the lunar surface, but also reveal that the entire lunar surface is hydrated during at least some portions of the lunar day.' Quote from a research paper by the Deep Impact Team led by .
The spectrometer readings apparently also show 'hints' of other interesting substances. According to Anthony Colaprete, the deep cold of the crater acts like "cold traps, collecting and preserving material over billions of years."
The Galactic Suite Space Resort is set to accept visitors in 2012. Assuming everything works, there will be a $4.4 million reservation fee for a three night stay and an eight week training course. As of Nov 1, 2009 Galactic Suite Ltd. reports that 43 people have already reserved rooms.
Currently the hotel construction appears similar to Bigelow Areospace's modular hotel. Guests will take off from the New Mexico space port for a 1.5 day journey to the orbiting platform. Additionally, the Galactic Suite hotel will have velcro walls and velcro suits for the visitors. This will allow people to move around more easily (or more comfortably) in zero gravity.
How are they funding this project? A $3 billion investment from an anonymous billionaire.
A couple days ago I read a cheeky article about NASA's plans to use 'Star Trek' replicators to create parts and tools in space (No offense meant, Mr. Hsu -- although the phrase was from Karen Taminger, anyway). The technology is a portable electron beam freeform fabrication (EBF3) device. Basically the EBF3 uses an electron beam to create a molten pool in a metallic substrate. The whole object is moved so that the fixed electron beam deposits material in the desired pattern. Doing this, they are able to create objects using a layer additive process. The concept is similar in general concept to the FAB@home projects.
Non-portal EBF3 has been used previously in the welding industry. Companies such as Sciaky create big machines that use a similar process.
Here's a neat video describing the work that Karen Taminger has done with portable EBF3.
A team took home a $900,000 prize for work related to the space elevator. LaserMotive's device used a ground based laser to provide power to the climbing vehicle. Their device was able climb up a 2,950ft cable suspended below a helicopter in 3 mins and 48 seconds. LaserMotive's laser based power used photovoltaic cells to convert the laser energy into power that can be used by remote or inaccessible machines.
Two other teams also entered the competition, but did not succeed in climbing to the top of the cable, KC Space Pirates of Kansas City, Mo., and the University of Saskatchewan's Space Design Team.
There are some videos available on youtube -http://www.youtube.com/user/SpacewardFoundation
What is the potential for fusion reactors to be an integral part of the global energy supply?
There are two types of Helium 3 fusion reactions that people talk about. Deuterium + Helium 3, Helium 3 + Helium 3.
The D-He reaction produces a helium atom and a single proton. However, during the reaction process a small amount of radioactivity is generated. He-He reaction generates a helium atom and two protons.
Since the output of these reactions is a simple proton, the energy produced by the reaction can be directly used as electricity. This is accomplished using electrostatic or electromagnetic containers. This means that these reactors run at much higher efficiencies that other fusion reactors which needs to convert the heat generated by the reaction into electricity.
Okay, so far everything sounds awesome. We have two potential sources of power which generate little to no radioactivity and which can generate more efficient electricity than current fission or fusion reactors. But how much He3 is needed? And how do we get it?
I was about to got through the list of Google Lunar X Prize contestants and post them on aceize. I may still do that. But for the moment, Google has a nicely published list at http://www.googlelunarxprize.org/lunar/teams.
There are twenty teams involved in the competition today. Some are pretty interesting! One of the teams is called 'CHANDRA' for instance. It is clearly a team of one guy. From the description :
CHANDAH (meaning “Moon” in Sanskrit) is a personal initiative born out of a chance reading of the Google Lunar X PRIZE press release about 6 weeks back. After reading the press release I got very excited and started my research in earnest– which ultimately led me to request this package. Subsequently, I have ordered about 25 books on the technical, commercial, and regulatory aspects of the space industry and various initiatives that are in the process of being unveiled by NASA and the private companies, both in US and abroad.
There is a team from Romania with a spherical robot design. Aeronautics and Cosmonautics Romanian Association (ARCA). At least I hope their robot is spherical. Their robot is pictured. These folks were also involved in the Anasari X-Prize. For this lunar mission, the ACRA folks are using a balloon launched rocket. Their original rocket for that launch is called the Haas. It is pictured below. They have replaced the rocket with a more aerodynamic cylindrical shape.
Japan's space exploration agency, JAXA is running their first launch of the H-2 Transfer Vehicle (HTV) about their new H-2B rocket. This first launch will carry 3.5 tons of supplies to the International Space Station.
The H-2B rocket can launch up to 8 tons into a geostationary orbit.
The HTV can carry 6 tons. It has been designed for lower orbit flights, such as flights to the space station. The HTV is not currently built to be re-usable.
An auspicious beginning. The smooth metallic sphere circumscribed with cylindical ports looks like something out of a Victorian flash back or a steam-punk comic book. But it is the invention of Jacques Guigne, and it is called Space-DRUMS. Space-DRUMS (Dynamically Responding Ultrasonic Matrix System) uses sound waves to manipulate materials. The use of sound waves means that the material being handled does not come in contact with the container, or any manipulative devices. This means that Space-DRUMS can create 100% pure materials and manipulate those materials into needed shapes.
On earth this process can create samples in the millimeter size range. But, this process works even better in zero gravity, where energy is not needed to levitate the sample. Our friend Jacques also knows this, and is sending his Space-DRUMS to live on the International Space Station. It is estimated that in a zero gravity environment, the samples will be able to reach the size of golf balls or baseballs.
The first materials produced are likely to be semi-conductors. The sale price is estimated to be in the "hundreds of thousands of dollars".
Images Here. Boston Big Picture published a bunch of photographs used in recent news stories and press releases.
Pictured with this story is Honda's brain-machine interface which is being used to control an Amiso robot. I found this image at http://syscone.net/
The Indian Space Research Agency reports that Chandrayaan-1 is no longer receiving ground based commands. Chandrayaan-1 has been orbiting the moon and taking pictures of the lunar surface. Sunday attempts to send directional and speed changes as well as camera re-focusing were not received by the satellite.
This communication failure follows on the heels of a sensor issue in mid-July. On July 17th, Chandrayaan-1's 'star sensor' failed. The star sensor was used to keep the satellite correctly oriented in space. Since this sensor failure, the satellite has been using a backup gyroscopic system for orientation.
A few students in a graduate program at the College of London and London's Royal Academy of Art put together a detailed layout for a space hotel suite. The amenities include an exercise wall, showers, hygienic clothing, and a robotic table for organizing and delivering food choices in micro gravity.
The New Scientist blog posted this nifty piece as a primer for thinking about multiple dimensions.
The article covers most of the first 10 dimensions, takes a pit stop at 1.5 dimensions. There are links which explain why thinking in terms of, for instance, 6 dimensional space. One of the quick things that I learned was that thinking in 5 dimensional space it is possible to prove that electromagnetism and gravity are two aspects of the same force.