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Submission + - A programming language for living cells (phys.org)

FullBandwidth writes: MIT biological engineers have created a programming language that allows them to rapidly design complex, DNA-encoded circuits that give new functions to living cells.

Using this language, anyone can write a program for the function they want, such as detecting and responding to certain environmental conditions. They can then generate a DNA sequence that will achieve it.

"It is literally a programming language for bacteria," says Christopher Voigt, an MIT professor of biological engineering. "You use a text-based language, just like you're programming a computer. Then you take that text and you compile it and it turns it into a DNA sequence that you put into the cell, and the circuit runs inside the cell."

Submission + - How close Atlas V came to Failure in this Week's Cygnus Launch (spaceflight101.com)

FullBandwidth writes: The folks over at Spaceflight101.com did some post-processing on publically-available telmetry, and concluded that "Atlas V dodged a bullet earlier this week when launching the Cygnus OA-6 cargo craft on a resupply mission to the International Space Station, coming much closer to a launch failure than initially let on by launch vehicle manufacturer and operator United Launch Alliance."

Submission + - Atlas launches Cygnus cargo spacecraft to space station (spacenews.com)

FullBandwidth writes: A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 successfully launched a Cygnus cargo spacecraft on a mission to the International Space Station March 22, the second such mission in less than four months. The Cygnus is carrying more than three tons of cargo for the International Space Station, including crew supplies, vehicle hardware and experiments. That payload includes experiments ranging from an advanced 3-D printer to a flammability test that will be performed in the Cygnus after it leaves the station.

Submission + - Orbital ATK cracks the Takata airbag mystery (wtop.com)

FullBandwidth writes: Orbital ATK, which makes rocket propulsion systems, has determined the cause of the exploding Takata air bags blamed for at least 10 deaths and 139 injuries worldwide. The culprit is a combination of the propulsion chemical used, high humidity and moisture. Specifically, the Orbital ATK team determined the factors contributing to the air bag ruptures are the following:

        The presence of pressed phase stabilized ammonium nitrate propellant that does not contain a moisture-absorbing component;
        Long term exposure to high temperatures;
        Air bag assembly that does not adequately prevent moisture intrusion in high humidity.

“Orbital ATK’s root cause analysis is backed by 20,000 hours of testing and analysis by experienced engineers, scientists and technicians,” said Bob Wardle, senior director of technology programs in Orbital ATK’s propulsion Systems Division.

Submission + - NASA Awards ISS Commercial Resupply contracts to two incumbents and one newcomer

FullBandwidth writes: ASA has awarded three cargo contracts to ensure the critical science, research and technology demonstrations that are informing the agency’s journey to Mars are delivered to the International Space Station (ISS) from 2019 through 2024. The agency unveiled its selection of Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia; Sierra Nevada Corporation of Sparks, Nevada; and SpaceX of Hawthorne, California to continue building on the initial resupply partnerships with two American companies.

Comment Partitioning (Score 2) 31

Hopefully they know the lesson we've learned in aerospace (e.g. ARINC-653), to partition critical and non-critical assets into separate computing units (hardware and/or software). That way some yahoo can't hack your in-car Facebook app to disable your brakes. Don't these guys watch Battlestar Galactica?

Comment Majorana was his own antiparticle (Score 1) 99

As good a time as any to recommend my nominee for the most lively biography of one physicist written by another physicist, to wit "A Brilliant Darkness: The Extraordinary Life and Mysterious Disappearance of Ettore Majorana..." by Joao Magueijo. A bit of physics, a bit of scandal, a bit of gossip, just enough foul language, plus some honest, original biographical research.

Submission + - Safer cycling via traffic camera data (wamu.org)

FullBandwidth writes: Urban planners in Virginia are trying to make bicycling safer, but they're hampered by a lack of statistics about who's riding where. Alec Gosse rides his bike to work at a Charlottesville company that analyzes data, and he recently completed a PhD in civil engineering. He and other graduate students created software that could review video from those ubiquitous traffic cameras, identify and count bikes. Gosse suspects this software could be refined to make cycling safer by recording close calls and fixing problems with road design and signage to reduce the risk of accidents.

Submission + - ATK to Merge with Orbital Sciences Corp (washingtonpost.com)

FullBandwidth writes: Two Virginia aerospace players, Arlington-based Alliant Techsystems and Dulles-based Orbital Sciences, are merging to create a $5 Billion (US) venture. The companies announced the merger in a joint announcement Tuesday. ATK is also spinning off its lucrative hunting gear segment into a separate company.

Comment Re:Docking with the International Space Station? (Score 2) 44

Yes, but for a geosynchronous vehicle to be in its station-kept orbit might be precision of something like 0.05 degrees (http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/S/station-keeping.html). Cygnus had to hold at 30m and again at 10m distance (see http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasa2explore/sets/72157635370456732/show/, slide #11) for go/no-go decisions prior to moving to the docking position. Totally different orders of magnitude.

Comment Re:Historic? (Score 4, Informative) 44

Think you might want to check (and cite) those numbers again. I think you've confused launch mass with cargo mass. http://www.spacex.com/news/2013/03/03/happy-berth-day - Dragon delivers 2300 lbs (1045 kg) cargo to ISS. http://www.orbital.com/NewsInfo/Publications/Cygnus_fact.pdf - Cygnus delivers 2000 kg (standard) or 2700 kg (enhanced) to ISS. The vehicles serve two very different purposes upon reentry. Dragon brings back garbage and recoverable cargo, Cygnus just takes out the trash. That's one of the reasons that Cyngus carries a much greater payload to the ISS. So if you are going to do any kind of back-of-the-envelope calculation about which one is a better value for NASA, then you have to include the value of bringing the wanted & unwanted cargo back versus disposal. Your argument reminds me of the old "which is better, Mac or PC" arguments we used to have in the 20th Century. The answer is "two players are always better than one." Now, how can we extend that analogy to SLS ... "which is better, Mac, PC, or IBM/370 running MVS?" Hmm, IBM/370 may still be considered a lightweight compared to SLS... And what exactly do you mean by "stuck in orbit?" A functioning space vehicle that maneuvers and allows another visiting vehicle (Soyuz) to rendezvous, before making its own approach, hardly sounds "stuck."

Comment Re:Antares: an outsourced rocket (Score 2) 85

Not to denigrate the fine contribution of lobbying and paperwork to any successful endeavor, but you might find that turning a collection of components into an integrated system - even for something as trivial as a space launch - is a little more complicated than clicking Legos together. Besides, only the first and second stages were delivered as components. That still leaves the fairing, separation systems, launch vehicle interface to the ground systems, the ground systems themselves (1st stage is liquid), etc. etc. etc.

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