Archive for the ‘space travel’ category: Page 415

Jun 23, 2015

Is Photon Based Propulsion, the Future?

Posted by in categories: anti-gravity, defense, general relativity, gravity, innovation, particle physics, physics, quantum physics, science, space travel

I first met Dr. Young Bae, NIAC Fellow, at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) sponsored 2011, 100 Year Starship Study (100YSS) at Orlando, Fla. Many of us who were there had responded to the NASA/DARPA Tactical Technology Office’s RFP to set up an organization “… to develop a viable and sustainable non-governmental organization for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel viable …”

Yes, both DARPA and NASA are at some level interested in interstellar propulsion. Mine was one of approximately 35 (rumored number) teams from around the world vying for this DARPA grant, and Dr. Bae was with a competing team. I presented the paper “Non-Gaussian Photon Probability Distributions”, and Dr. Bae presented “A Sustainable Developmental Pathway of Photon Propulsion towards Interstellar Flight”. These were early days, the ground zero of interstellar propulsion, if you would.

Dr. Bae has been researching Photon Laser Thrust (PLT) for many years. A video of his latest experiment is available at the NASA website or on YouTube. This PLT uses light photons to move an object by colliding with (i.e. transferring momentum to) the object. The expectation is that this technology will eventually be used to propel space crafts. His most recent experiments demonstrate the horizontal movement of a 1-pound weight. This is impressive. I expect to see much more progress in the coming years.

At one level, Dr. Bae’s experiments are confirmation that Bill Nye’s Light Sail (which very unfortunately lost communications with Earth) will work.

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Jun 23, 2015

The Feasibility of Interstellar Propulsion

Posted by in categories: cosmology, defense, disruptive technology, general relativity, gravity, innovation, particle physics, philosophy, physics, policy, quantum physics, space travel

Recent revelations of NASA’s Eagleworks Em Drive caused a sensation on the internet as to why interstellar propulsion can or cannot be possible. The nay sayers pointed to shoddy engineering and impossible physics, and ayes pointed to the physics of the Alcubierre-type warp drives based on General Relativity.

So what is it? Are warp drives feasible? The answer is both yes and no. Allow me to explain.

The empirical evidence of the Michelson-Morley experiment of 1887, now known as the Lorentz-FitzGerald Transformations (LFT), proposed by FitzGerald in 1889, and Lorentz in 1892, show beyond a shadow of doubt that nothing can have a motion with a velocity greater than the velocity of light. In 1905 Einstein derived LFT from first principles as the basis for the Special Theory of Relativity (STR).

So if nothing can travel faster than light why does the Alcubierre-type warp drive matter? The late Prof. Morris Klein explained in his book, Mathematics: The Loss of Certainty, that mathematics has become so powerful that it can now be used to prove anything, and therefore, the loss of certainty in the value of these mathematical models. The antidote for this is to stay close to the empirical evidence.

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Jun 22, 2015

Unveiling the ancient climate of Mars By Larry O’Hanlon | Harvard Gazette

Posted by in categories: astronomy, science, space travel


“The high seas of Mars may never have existed. According to a new study that looks at two opposite climate scenarios of early Mars, a cold and icy planet billions of years ago better explains the water drainage and erosion features seen today.”

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Jun 16, 2015

Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man By Tim Urban | Wait But Why

Posted by in categories: business, energy, engineering, solar power, space travel, sustainability, transportation


Tim Urban, of Wait But Why, recently received a phone call from Elon Musk’s staff asking if he would like to write about the automotive, aerospace, and solar power industries through personal interviews with Elon Musk and his teams. Tim Urban said yes, and the first three of essays / articles are already posted on his site.

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Jun 9, 2015

3D printing just made space travel cheaper — Nyshka Chandran MSNBC

Posted by in categories: 3D printing, disruptive technology, space, space travel

Companies looking to launch satellites into space typically spend anywhere from $10–50 million per launch but thanks to 3D printing, those costs are set to drop in a big way.

For $4.9 million, businesses can use RocketLab to send small satellites into orbit. The firm’s engine, called the Rutherford, is powered by an electric motor and is the first oxygen and hydrocarbon engine to use 3D printing for all its primary components. The New Zealand company is set to begin test flights this year and aims to launch weekly commercial operations next year. Read more

May 26, 2015

The House just passed a bill about space mining. The future is here. — Brian Fung | The Washington Post

Posted by in categories: business, space, space travel

“What could the FAA, an agency whose chief concern is air travel, want with outer space? Well, the FAA is the agency that grants licenses for commercial space launches (the ones that aren’t performed for NASA or the Defense Department, anyway). This potentially gives the nation’s aviation regulators a tremendous amount of power over the fledgling private space industry.” Read more

May 21, 2015

NASA and The Planetary Society Launch the LightSail

Posted by in categories: astronomy, cosmology, education, energy, habitats, physics, science, solar power, space, space travel

The Planetary Society’s LightSail launched yesterday, May 20th, 2015.

May 9, 2015

Secret Air Force Space Plane Gets Darth Vader-Style Engine

Posted by in categories: engineering, military, space travel

By Kelsey D. Atherton - Popular Science

6 kW laboratory Hall thruster

The Air Force’s secret robot space plane is going to try out a new engine. The X-37B has so far spent a total of 1367 days tooling around in Earth’s orbit, doing classified things. Yesterday, the Air Force Research Lab announced that on its fourth flight, the X-37B will come with a new fuel-efficient engine for maneuvering in space. Read more

May 1, 2015

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin launches its first rocket

Posted by in category: space travel

Katie M. Palmer and Neel V. Patel — Wired

You’d be forgiven for forgetting, but Elon Musk and Richard Branson aren’t the only billionaire magnates at the helm of a spacecraft company, gunning to rule the future of privatized space flight. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has been flying under the radar—but at long last, the company yesterday launched its flagship suborbital spacecraft from its West Texas proving grounds in a developmental test flight.

Video released by the company shows the spacecraft, called New Shepard, blasting off to an altitude of 307,000 feet before its crew capsule separates from a propulsion module. Named after the first US astronaut in space, Alan Shepard, the craft is meant to take off and land vertically, utilizing a reusable first-stage booster—the same approach SpaceX is using in its Falcon 9 rocket. Read more

Apr 24, 2015

To be a Space Faring Civilization

Posted by in categories: astronomy, cosmology, human trajectories, innovation, science, space, space travel, transportation

Until 2006 our Solar System consisted essentially of a star, planets, moons, and very much smaller bodies known as asteroids and comets. In 2006 the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) Division III Working Committee addressed scientific issues and the Planet Definition Committee address cultural and social issues with regard to planet classifications. They introduced the “pluton” for bodies similar to planets but much smaller.

The IAU set down three rules to differentiate between planets and dwarf planets. First, the object must be in orbit around a star, while not being itself a star. Second, the object must be large enough (or more technically correct, massive enough) for its own gravity to pull it into a nearly spherical shape. The shape of objects with mass above 5×1020 kg and diameter greater than 800 km would normally be determined by self-gravity, but all borderline cases would have to be established by observation.

Third, plutons or dwarf planets, are distinguished from classical planets in that they reside in orbits around the Sun that take longer than 200 years to complete (i.e. they orbit beyond Neptune). Plutons typically have orbits with a large orbital inclination and a large eccentricity (noncircular orbits). A planet should dominate its zone, either gravitationally, or in its size distribution. That is, the definition of “planet” should also include the requirement that it has cleared its orbital zone. Of course this third requirement automatically implies the second. Thus, one notes that planets and plutons are differentiated by the third requirement.

As we are soon to become a space faring civilization, we should rethink these cultural and social issues, differently, by subtraction or addition. By subtraction, if one breaks the other requirements? Comets and asteroids break the second requirement that the object must be large enough. Breaking the first requirement, which the IAU chose not address at the time, would have planet sized bodies not orbiting a star. From a socio-cultural perspective, one could suggest that these be named “darktons” (from dark + plutons). “Dark” because without orbiting a star, these objects would not be easily visible; “tons” because in deep space, without much matter, these bodies could not meet the third requirement of being able to dominate its zone.

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