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NRL has been studying space-based solar-power systems for several years. It has identified a number of possible applications including supplying power to forward bases, synthfuel production, and powering bistatic radars, sensors, and UAVs.
The military, which often pays much higher prices for energy than civilian customers, especially in remote areas, is seen as a possible anchor tenant for space-based solar power.
The IAU gives official scientific names to craters, but it has only bothered with craters that have "scientific significance." The science-funding platform Uwingu has launched a campaign to come up with popular names for the remaining craters. For as little as $5, a member of the public can name one of the craters on Uwingu's map, with the proceeds going to fund space science and education.
This caused the IAU to issue a statement condemning such crowdsourcing efforts. The IAU pointed out that it did allow the public to vote on names for two of Pluto's moons, in the past. In that case, however, the IAU rejected the winning name (Vulcan).
Sierra Nevada Corporation is developing the Dream Chaser to support the International Space Station as part of NASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo program. It is not yet known what effect the mishap will have on Dream Chaser development.
A number of rocket vehicles have suffered landing-gear mishaps in the recent past. Several years ago, concerns over spacecraft gear design led to a call for NASA to fund a technology prize for robust, light-weight landing gear concepts.
" A plane that can take off horizontally, burning atmospheric air while accelerating and climbing, which then switches to using its own on-board oxygen in order to reach orbit makes a lot of sense."
Until you look at the physics/economics. Extracting oxygen from the atmosphere isn't free. It shows up as drag, which requires more fuel to overcome. The liquid oxygen in a rocket's propellant tank has already had kinetic energy added to it. The oxygen you get from the atmosphere is at a much lower energy state, so you have to add energy to it. This makes high-speed airbreathers very difficult.
The "massive amounts of oxygen" you are saving are actually quite cheap. Liquid oxygen is one of the cheapest fluids you can buy. Cheaper than bottled water. The idea that it's going to be cheaper to manufacture it in flight than on the ground is inherently flawed. What you save in LOX, you lose in additional fuel. Moreover, the fuel needed to make these schemes work is not hydrocarbon (cheap) but liquid hydrogen (expensive). The structures needed to contain LH2 are also expensive, due to the low propellant density. These factors make airbreathing a non-starter.
"I reckon the "real" purpose of the program is to develop a mach-10 air-breathing aircraft"
Certainly not. Hypersonic airbreathers are extremely difficult, and there's an enormous difference between cruise missions (airliners) and acceleration missions (space launch). Airbreathers tend to perform well at a specific velocity (cruise speed) while rockets must perform well over a wide range of speeds.
Jess Sponable knows that, have seen what happened in the X-30 NASP program, and will not go down that route.
The XS-1 program is complementary to the Air Force's Boeing X-37, which is a reusable upper stage. The X-37 is currently launched by an expendable Atlas rocket but could be launched by a vehicle derived from XS-1 in the future.
Military planners have dreamed of a two-stage, fully reusable Military Spaceplane (MSP) for several years, but funding has not materialized up to now.
XCOR still plans to move its headquarters to Midland, Texas later this year, but Midland may not be the only suborbital spaceport in the Lone Star state. On Wednesday,the Houston Airport System revealed renderings of its proposed spaceport at Ellington Airport, near Johnson Space Center just south of Houston. Citizens in Space (also based in Texas) has begun training five citizen astronauts to fly as payload operators on the XCOR Lynx and evaluating biomedical sensors for use on the flights. Details of those astronaut activities were also released this week.
Well, some people think that global monitoring of crop patterns, rainfall, land usage, climactic shifts, etc. is useful science.
If you don't, that's okay.
radiation hardening does NOT mean long lead times or ultra expensive components.
NASA are not idiots you're right, they also don't build microsatellites with off the shelf arduinos.
You need to do some research. NASA just successfully launched two PhoneSat satellites this year, which use Arduino as part of a watchdog circuit. They plan on flying more in the future.
Planet Labs was founded by two of the lead engineers who built PhoneSat. The founders of Nanosatisfi worked at NASA Ames, where PhoneSat was built, and EADS Astrium, a major satellite manufacturer.
Just because something appears in a parts catalog doesn't mean it's available for overnight shipping. You'll find that out if you actually try to order them.
The fact that someone is doing something differently than you would doesn't necessarily mean they are stupid or know less than you do. They may have good reasons for what they are doing, because they spent more time thinking about the problem than you did composing your Slashdot flame. Not to mention building actual hardware and testing it. If you believe you can do better, great -- build your own satellite.
NanoSatisifi, also based in San Francisco-based company, is developing the Arduino-based ArduSat, which carries a variety of sensors. NanoSatisifi plans to rent time on ArduSats to citizen scientists and experimenters, who will be able upload their own programs to the satellites. The first ArduSat is scheduled for launch August 4 on a Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle carrying supplies to the International Space Station.
The cost of orbital launches remains a limiting factor, however. As a result, Infinity Aerospace has developed the Arduino-based ArduLab experiment platform, which is compatible with new low-cost suborbital spacecraft as well as higher-end systems such as the International Space Station.
The non-profit Citizens in Space has purchased 10 flights on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft, which will be made available to the citizen-science community. Citizens in Space is looking for 100 citizen-science experiments and 10 citizen astronauts to fly as payload operators. To help spread the word, it is holding a Space Hacker Workshop in Dallas, Texas on July 20-21. Infinity Aerospace will be on hand to teach Arduino hardware and software.
Companies such as Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace hope that suborbital spacecraft will make spaceflight routine and affordable for researchers and citizen space explorers. Customers are already lining up for the new vehicles. Hundreds of scientists are expected to attend the Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in June. Hardware hackers who wish to become citizen scientists or citizen astronauts are preparing to attend the first Space Hacker Workshop for Suborbital Experiments this weekend (May 4-5).
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