Page 11234..»

Category Archives: Space Exploration

Space Exploration – WGN Radio

Posted: February 25, 2017 at 3:33 pm

UNSPECIFIED: In this NASA digital illustration handout released on February 22, 2017, an artist’s concept shows what the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system may look like, based on available data about the planets’ diameters, masses and distances from the host star. The system has been revealed through observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope as well as other ground-based observatories, and the ground-based TRAPPIST telescope for which it was named after. The seven planets of TRAPPIST-1 are all Earth-sized and terrestrial, according to research published in 2017 in the journal Nature. TRAPPIST-1 is an ultra-cool dwarf star in the constellation Aquarius, and its planets orbit very close to it. They are likely all tidally locked, meaning the same face of the planet is always pointed at the star, as the same side of our moon is always pointed at Earth. This creates a perpetual night side and perpetual day side on each planet. TRAPPIST-1b and c receive the most light from the star and would be the warmest. TRAPPIST-1e, f and g all orbit in the habitable zone, the area where liquid water is most likely to be detected. But any of the planets could potentially harbor liquid water, depending on their compositions. In the imagined planets shown here, TRAPPIST-1b is shown as a larger analogue to Jupiter’s moon Io. TRAPPIST-1d is depicted with a narrow band of water near the terminator, the divide between a hot, dry day and an ice-covered night side. TRAPPIST-1e and TRAPPIST-1f are both shown covered in water, but with progressively larger ice caps on the night side. TRAPPIST-1g is portrayed with an atmosphere like Neptune’s, although it is still a rocky world. TRAPPIST-1h, the farthest from the star, would be the coldest. It is portrayed here as an icy world, similar to Jupiter’s moon Europa, but the least is known about it. (Photo digital Illustration by NASA/NASA via Getty Images)

Craig and Cody discuss the rise of UFO sightings and the recent discovery of 7 new planets announced by NASA. Craig wonders if we explore new planets would end up being over lords?

More here:

Space Exploration – WGN Radio

Posted in Space Exploration | Comments Off on Space Exploration – WGN Radio

Should Humans Leave Space Exploration To Robots? – Forbes

Posted: February 24, 2017 at 6:39 pm


Forbes
Should Humans Leave Space Exploration To Robots?
Forbes
Should humans avoid space and leave it to our robots? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. Answer by Yousif Al-Dujaili, Head of Growth @ Boom …

Visit link:

Should Humans Leave Space Exploration To Robots? – Forbes

Posted in Space Exploration | Comments Off on Should Humans Leave Space Exploration To Robots? – Forbes

Why Does NASA Suddenly Want Humans On New Spacecraft’s First Flight? – Vocativ

Posted: at 6:39 pm

NASA officials confirmed Friday that they are exploring the feasibility of putting astronauts on the first flight of the Orion spacecraft, the agencys successor to the space shuttle program.If NASA does make the move, it wont come without risk, as Orion and its rocket system will need serious upgrades to make them capable of safely carrying astronauts and the agency may only have a year or two to make all the necessary changes.

This request appears to have come from the Trump administration, though NASA officialsin a Friday press call left unclear the White Houses motivationsandwhether itis seriously prepared to provide the funding necessary tomake Orions first flight a crewed mission.

NASA Watch, alongstanding agency watchdog news site, reported the details of what it described as a hastily-arranged 30 minute media briefing to discuss this potential change of plans. Agency officials Bill Gerstenmaier and Bill Hill stressed this was purely an exploratory study, and they had no opinion yet on whether this was a goodor plausible idea the basic tenor of the call appears to have been that NASA is just asking questions, and concrete answers about the missions future wont be possible until the study is completed later in the spring.

That the call was barely announced andheld on a Friday afternoon suggests NASA may not have wanted the announcement to get much attention, particularly when just two days before the agency captured the public imagination with a major exoplanet discovery.

The Orion spacecraftand its accompanying rocket, the Space Launch System, are designed to let NASA pursue human space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit for the first time since the Apollo program. The current plan calls for the first uncrewed mission in September 2018, with a three-week circuit around the moon. The next flight would carry astronauts for a similar lunar flyby sometime between 2021 and 2023, potentially marking the first such journey sinceApollo 17 in 1972. While an uncrewed dress rehearsal isnt always necessary the first orbitalspace shuttle flight, for instance, carried two astronauts such a major pivot in plans so soon before the planned launch date would leave NASA with precious little time to ensure the crews safety.

The potential plan under discussion would send two astronauts on an eight- or nine-day mission. The addition oflife support, emergency abort systems, and other significant upgrades to the SLS rocketneeded to make the mission capable of carrying humans would likely be both extensive and costly. The officials said the White House had at least indicated a willingness to push back the launch date if the results of the feasibility study were positive.

While this news initially appears to track with the Trump administrations previously reported preference to scrap NASAs scientific research in favor of a greater emphasis on space exploration and human space exploration in particular an earlier analysisby NASA Watch founder and former agency scientist Keith Cowing calls that into question. In his view,the priority of Trumps top space advisers like former congressmen Newt Gingrich and Robert Walker is actually on commercial space exploration.

Orion and SLS are a top priority not for them, but for a group centeredat the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, where the spacecraft are being built, who favor the more traditional, government-backed approach that Orion represents. As Cowing suggests, bumping up the timeline for the first crewed mission could be an effort by the Marshall contingent to make Orion more appealing to the new administration, increasing the odds of its survival.

NASAs acting administrator Robert Lightfoot, who announced the feasibility study, is himself a former director of Marshall. Trump has yet to nominate a permanent NASA administrator. Until then, the future of space exploration under Trump remains uncertain. At least with Orion, more clarity should come with the release of the study later this spring.

The rest is here:

Why Does NASA Suddenly Want Humans On New Spacecraft’s First Flight? – Vocativ

Posted in Space Exploration | Comments Off on Why Does NASA Suddenly Want Humans On New Spacecraft’s First Flight? – Vocativ

Editorial: Exploring other planets can help us understand our own – Longmont Times-Call

Posted: at 6:39 pm

Wednesday’s announcement of the discovery of seven planets that might sustain life, founding orbiting a dwarf star, should give a boost to interest in space exploration.

Astronomers say the planets, each about the size of our Earth, could be at the right temperature to sustain oceans of water. And they are about 40 light-years away, which sounds far but is close enough to allow study.

Scientists heralded it for its potential to help determine if there is life out there.

It comes on the heels of Sunday’s successful launch of a SpaceX rocket, which sent into space a payload bound for the International Space Station. The first stage of the rocket safely returned to the launch pad in Florida, the same Kennedy Space Center pad from which Apollo astronauts bound for the moon left in the 1960s and 1970s. Watching the booster return and touch down on the launch pad may have been even more interesting than the launch.

The SpaceX Dragon is expected to send an unpiloted crew capsule on a test flight later this year, preparing to carry astronauts next year.

NASA, on its website, noted: “The intangible desire to explore and challenge the boundaries of what we know and where we have been has provided benefits to our society for centuries.”

And while the space race of the 1960s was rooted in competition between the United States and the Soviet Union, today space exploration helps “foster a peaceful connection with other nations,” the agency said.

That earlier space race pushed scientists to solve myriad challenges to sending a human into space, creating many new technologies and inventions. It advanced interest in the sciences.

Today’s interest in space has focused far beyond the moon, to the possibility of putting humans on Mars or returning them to the moon, but at the International Space Station research also is looking into matters that could help us on Earth human physiology, plant biology, materials science and physics.

“This is the beginning of a new era in space exploration in which NASA has been challenged to develop systems and capabilities required to explore beyond low-Earth orbit, including destinations such as translunar space, near-Earth asteroids and eventually Mars,” the NASA website said.

There are some who say we must leave the Earth in order to understand it.

Study of these seven newly found planets as well as the work taking place on the International Space Station may help us better understand the planet we call home.

See the rest here:

Editorial: Exploring other planets can help us understand our own – Longmont Times-Call

Posted in Space Exploration | Comments Off on Editorial: Exploring other planets can help us understand our own – Longmont Times-Call

NASA selects new technologies for flight tests for future space exploration – Space Daily

Posted: February 23, 2017 at 1:27 pm

NASA has selected five space technologies to test on low-gravity-simulating aircraft, high-altitude balloons or suborbital rockets. The opportunity to fly on these vehicles helps advance technologies closer to practical use by taking them from a laboratory environment to the real world.

The selections were made for NASA’s Flight Opportunities program which organizes chances to fly and selects experiments for NASA support twice each year. The program selects promising space technologies to test through relatively low-cost ways that simulate spaceflight or just reach the edge of “space” on commercial suborbital launch vehicles, reduced gravity aircraft and high-altitude balloon flights.

“These selections allow companies and academia to demonstrate technologies of interest to NASA in a much more realistic environment than what they could get in ground-based simulation facilities,” said Stephan Ord, the program technology manager for NASA’s Flight Opportunities program.

This program is a valuable platform for NASA to mature cutting-edge technologies that have the potential of supporting future agency mission needs.”

Two topics were included in this call for research. Under the first topic, which requested demonstration of space technology payloads, NASA selected four proposals:

+ Protein-Drop Pinning in Microgravity Amir Hirsa, principal investigator, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York Demonstration of a system for maintaining protein solutions in liquid samples involved in the study of diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s without using a container, which often influences scientific measurements.

+ Rapid Calibration of Space Solar Cells in Suborbital Environments Justin Lee, principal investigator, The Aerospace Corporation, Los Angeles Demonstration of an automated solar cell calibration platform, using a device attached to a high-altitude balloon to capture the solar spectrum and characterize the performance of the solar cells at high altitude up to 22 miles.

+ Guided Parafoil High Altitude Research II Garrett “Storm” Dunker, principal investigator, Airborne Systems, Pennsauken, New Jersey Demonstration of a new parafoil design that can be used for precision delivery or mid-air retrieval of scientific payloads, tested from a high-altitude balloon. Once the parafoil is deployed at 60,000-foot altitude, it will select its landing point and perform an automatic precision landing.

+ Strata-S1 – Refining a Testbed to Evaluate the Behavior of Regolith Under Microgravity Conditions Adrienne Dove, principal investigator, University of Central Florida, Orlando Demonstration of a regolith compression mechanism with transparent tubes, which contain beads and pebbles that simulate regolith, to evaluate behavior at various gravity levels during suborbital flights.

Under the second topic, demonstration of vehicle capability enhancements and onboard research facilities for payload accommodation, NASA selected one proposal:

+ BioChip SubOrbitalLab: An Automated Microfluidic and Imaging Platform for Live-Cell Investigations in Microgravity Daniel O’Connell, principal investigator, HNU Phototonics LLC, Kahului, Hawaii Demonstration of an automated platform to visualize in real time how live cells will react to the different phases of a rocket launch. Cell cultures with fluorescent genes will be pumped through channels and recorded by an optical microscope camera during flight.

Awards will be made for payload integration and flight costs, as well as limited payload development costs.

These investments take technologies from the laboratory to a relevant flight environment, facilitate technology maturation, validate feasibility and reduce technical risks and enable infusion of key space technologies into multiple future space missions. The next call for proposals in this series, called the REDDI Flight Opportunities, will be released by the spring of 2017.

The Flight Opportunities program is funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington and managed at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. NASA’s Ames Flight Research Center in Moffett Field, California, manages the solicitation and selection of technologies to be tested and demonstrated on commercial flight vehicles.

Read more here:

NASA selects new technologies for flight tests for future space exploration – Space Daily

Posted in Space Exploration | Comments Off on NASA selects new technologies for flight tests for future space exploration – Space Daily

Nuclear reactors to power space exploration – Los Alamos Monitor

Posted: at 1:27 pm

BY DASARI V. RAO, PATRICK MCCLURE AND DAVID I. POSTON Los Alamos National Laboratory

For the past five decades from the Apollo-era lunar science experiments to the Mars Curiosity and the New Horizons missions Pu-238 Radioisotope Thermal Generators (RTG) have served as a power source. While some of the NASAs forays will continue to rely on these RTGs, others will require larger power sources to enable human space and planetary exploration and establish reliable high bandwidth deep-space communications. Solar power cannot handle this goal. A larger nuclear-based power source is required. In a recent Washington Post article, Jeff Bezos, founder of amazon.com and creator of Blue Origin space project said, I think NASA should work on a space-rated nuclear reactor. If you had a nuclear reactor in space especially if you want to go anywhere beyond Mars you really need nuclear power. Solar power just gets progressively difficult as you get further way from the sun. And thats a completely doable thing to have a safe, space-qualified nuclear reactor. Calls for space nuclear power are not new. In fact, numerous reactor concepts have been proposed in the past. Their development is often dampened by the perception that nuclear is too hard, takes too long and costs too much.

Inherently safe design

During steady state, a reactor operates with a neutron multiplication factor of 1.000; that is, the number of neutrons in the core remains unchanged from one generation to the next generation. Almost every perturbation in a reactors operation ultimately translates into either a positive or a negative reactivity insertion incident, defined as the state in which the core neutron multiplication factor deviates from its steady state value. Sudden and significant positive reactivity insertion can lead to runaway reactor kinetics, wherein temperatures can exceed thermal limits very rapidly. Past development approaches relied on sophisticated control systems to reduce or eliminate such a likelihood. Luckily, reactors also have an inherent ability to self-correct via negative temperature reactivity feedback; reactor power automatically decreases as core temperature increases, and vice versa. It has been known that strongly reflected small compact fast reactors, such as kiloPower, can be designed to maximize these mechanisms to a point of being totally self-regulating. Our objective is to design-in self-regulation as the front-line feature in order to minimize technical and programmatic risk and to demonstrate via testing that self-regulation is both reliable and repeatable. To that end, multi-scale and multi-physics simulations are relied upon to perform high fidelity design studies that explicitly examined (a) how choices related to fabrication, alloying and bonding techniques would affect the internal crystalline structure of each nuclear component and in turn (b) how that morphology affects that components thermal, mechanical and nuclear performance at conditions of interest. Nevertheless, reactor recovers from this perturbation and regains steady state, assuring us that there is no need for advanced autonomous control system. Rapid prototyping and engineering demonstration

A key objective of the affordable strategy is that the nuclear components can be fabricated to the exacting tolerances demanded by the designers. This includes not only the physical dimensions, but also density and crystalline phase of the alloys. The materials characteristics determine thermal and mechanical performance of the core, which in turn affects its nuclear performance. After several joint efforts, an exact replica of the kiloPower core was fabricated at Y-12 with depleted uranium. This provided needed experience and data on casting, machining and material characteristics of the reactor core. The second phase involved engineering demonstrations where the DU core is assembled together with the rest of the system (including the heat pipes and Stirling engines) in the configuration needed for a flight space reactor. Finely controlled resistance heaters were used to closely mimic the nuclear heat profile that is expected in the nuclear core during regular operation. These tests were performed in a vacuum chamber to simulate the environment in outer space. Data collected during these tests confirmed the predictions of computer simulations of the reactor. The data showed a well-characterized thermal response of the system including demonstrating that the Stirling engines could meet the required electrical output. Other data, like the thermal expansion of the reactor core, were measured as input to computer simulations of the nuclear kinetics and system dynamics. These data were then used to help complete the design for the nuclear demonstration experiment that is planned for later in 2017. Los Alamos National Laboratory, in partnership with NASA Research Centers and other DOE National Labs, is developing and rapidly maturing a suite of very small fission power sources to meet power needs that range from hundreds of Watts-electric (We) to 100 kWe. These designs, commonly referred to as kiloPower reactors, are based on well-established physics that simultaneously simplifies reactor controls necessary to operate the plant and incorporates inherent safety features that guard against consequences of launch accidents and operational transients. Equally important, designers have taken a fundamentally different approach for rapidly maturing the concept from design to full-scale demonstration. Feasibility of the design was demonstrated in 2012 and since then designers have focused on successfully overcoming the remaining R&D challenges driving towards a full-scale demonstration in 2017.

Full-scale nuclear test

The nuclear demonstration test will occur in late summer or early fall of 2017. The test will be conducted at the Device Assembly Facility at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS). It will be comprised of a ~32 kilogram enriched uranium reactor core (about the size of a circular oatmeal box) made from uranium metal going critical, and generating heat that will be transported by sodium heat pipes to Stirling engines that will produce electricity. The test will include connecting heat pipes and Stirling engines enclosed in a vacuum chamber sitting on the top of a critical experiment stand. The critical experiment stand has a lower plate than can be raised and lowered. On this plate will be stacked rings of Beryllium Oxide (BeO) that form the neutron reflector in the reactor concept. A critical mass is achieved by raising the BeO reflector to generate fission in the reactor core. Once fission has begun, the BeO reflector will be slowly raised to increase the temperature in the system to 800 degrees Centigrade. The heat pipes will deliver heat from the core to the Stirling engines and allow the system to make ~250 watts of electricity. For the purpose of testing only, two of the eight Stirling engines will make electricity, the others will only discard heat. The data gained will inform the engineers regarding startup and shutdown of the reactor, how the reactor performs at steady state, how the reactor load follows when Stirling engines are turned on and off and how the system behaves when all cooling is removed. This data will be essential to moving forward with a final design concept. Potential for missions to Mars

Once the nuclear demonstration testing has been completed, the path to putting a nuclear reactor on a NASA mission to deep space or the Mars surface is still several years away. A finalized design must be completed along with rigorous testing of the system for reliability and safety. The most recent NASA studies have focused on the use of KiloPower for potential Mars human exploration. NASA has examined the need for power on Mars and determined that approximately 40 kilowatts would be needed. Five 10-kilowatt KiloPower reactors (four main reactors plus one spare) could solve this power requirement. The 40 kilowatts would initially be used to make oxygen and possibly propellant needed by the Mars Ascent Vehicle to send astronauts back into Martian orbit. After making oxygen or fuel, the power would then be available to run the Martian habitat or provided power to Martian rovers all needed by the astronauts during their stay on Mars. Nuclear power has the advantage of being able to run full time day or night, as well as being able to operate closer to the Martian poles where it is believed water exists in substantial quantities.

Lessons learned

Lessons learned from the kiloPower development program are being leveraged to develop a Mega Watt class of reactors termed MegaPower reactors. These concepts all contain intrinsic safety features similar to those in kiloPower, including reactor self-regulation, low reactor core power density and the use of heat pipes for reactor core heat removal. The use of these higher power reactors is for terrestrial applications, such as power in remote locations, or to power larger human planetary colonies. The MegaPower reactor concept produces approximately two megawatts of electric power. The reactor would be attached to an open air Brayton cycle power conversion system. A Brayton power cycle uses air as the working fluid and as the means of ultimate heat removal. MegaPower design and development process will rely on advanced manufacturing technology to fabricate the reactor core, reactor fuels and other structural elements. Research has also devised methods for fabricating and characterizing high temperature moderators that could enhance fuel utilization and thus reduce fuel enrichment levels.

This story was written by: Dasari V. Rao, director of the Office of Civilian Nuclear Programs, Patrick McClure, System Design and Analysis, of Los Alamos National Laboratory, and David I. Poston of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Read and share your thoughts on this story

Read more:

Nuclear reactors to power space exploration – Los Alamos Monitor

Posted in Space Exploration | Comments Off on Nuclear reactors to power space exploration – Los Alamos Monitor

Sen. Nelson Talks Space Exploration At Florida A&M University – WFSU

Posted: February 22, 2017 at 4:25 am

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson spoke to Florida A&M University students Monday about his experience in space. He also promoted taking STEM subjects. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Nelson said he hopes the movie Hidden Figures inspires students at the historically black college. The movie highlights the work of African American women who worked as skilled mathematicians during the early years of the U-S space program.

Theres a happy ending to this story because Katherine Johnson lived to see an African American president,” he said. “Shortly after he was sworn in as president, he presented the presidential Medal of Freedom to Katherine Johnson. She was about 95 at the time.

As a Congressman, Nelson orbited Earth for almost a week in 1986. He landed just before the space shuttle Challenger exploded ten days later, killing all on board.

We were the most delayed flight ever,” he said. “We scrubbed four times on the pad over a month before we finally launched on the fifth try into an almost flawless six-day mission.

The U.S. Senate recently approved Nelsons legislation giving $19.5 billion dollars to NASA to travel to Mars. Nelson said the plan to go to Mars in 2023 is doable.

NASA goes for deep space exploration and the commercial rockets take us into low-Earth orbit to and from the International Space Station, he said.

Nelsons legislation requires NASA to establish a human colony on Mars. It now moves to the House.

Visit link:

Sen. Nelson Talks Space Exploration At Florida A&M University – WFSU

Posted in Space Exploration | Comments Off on Sen. Nelson Talks Space Exploration At Florida A&M University – WFSU

Space exploration programs must continue – The Eagle

Posted: at 4:25 am

By Olivia Richter | 18 hours ago

There have been few events in world history that have successfully connected people from all around the planet regardless of country or culture. In 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first human beings to set foot on the moon, the world watched in awe of the scientific and technological feat that so closely resembled a miracle.

The moon is a constant for every human being; no matter where you live, you look to the same moon as the seven billion other inhabitants of Earth. On July 20, 1969, everyone was united in the unprecedented, incredible space adventure of three American astronauts. At that time, the United States was far ahead in the international space race, and we intended to keep it that way.

Over many decades and eleven presidents, we have grown less and less involved in our efforts to understand and explore space. Today, many people argue that NASA is dying; some believe it is not worthy of any further government funding.

Our slowed exploration in comparison to other nations like China and Russia has taken away our old and proud status as the most committed space pioneers. American astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson explained, In America, contrary to our self-image, we are no longer leaders but simply players. Weve moved backward just by standing still. It is time we start moving again.

I dont believe that winning the so-called space race should be the real reason why the United States should increase its funding for NASA and get back its motivation to explore space. The true reason lies within the spirit of the United States.

This is not easily explained as a matter-of-fact concept, like saying that it would be good for our economy or that it would create jobs (although research points that way). The mystery of space is heavily ingrained in our popular culture through timeless films and television shows like Star Wars and Star Trek, and more recent blockbusters like Passengers, Gravity, The Martian and Interstellar.

Space is just inherently cool, reaching across cultural and personal lines and infatuating us all with its mystery. That may not be a good enough reason to pour more money into the U.S. space program, but the passion and the spirit of adventure that the U.S. prides itself on should be considered a great reason for space exploration.

Though you may not need reminding, the United States is in a huge amount of debt. Increasing the funding of NASA may seem like an extra or a want, not a need, that we just cant afford right now. In the fiscal year 2015, only .47 percent of the US budget went to NASA, the lowest it has ever been since 1960.

These cuts are counterproductive. Even though they save money in the budget, spending more on a program like NASA and enabling it to flourish stimulates the economy, improves upon our technological abilities and creates jobs for Americans.

When NASAs Discovery space shuttle was retired in 2011, an estimated 4,600 jobs were lost. The work that NASA does has even improved the success of other businesses. Many private companies have gained immense success by working with products developed by NASA including the very popular Tempurpedic mattress, which is made using the memory foam technology NASA originally created for its astronauts during space travel.

NASA and its groundbreaking work represents good old-fashioned American innovation. The folks that work there are the pioneers of the smartphones in our pockets and the GPS systems that get us where we want to go, along with countless other technological advancements that today seem so commonplace. Space travel, though many would argue to be the most exciting part, is only a piece of the work that NASA does in advancing science and technology.

The next frontier that astronauts look to explore is Mars. NASA is developing the technology and advanced spacecrafts to send human beings farther into our solar system than ever before. The goal now is to successfully get the first human being to Mars.

Perhaps in our lifetimes, we will huddle around the television like our relatives did in 1969 to watch the first human being set foot on the surface of the red planet. NASAs work is well worth our funding. Not only is it good for our economy and good for our technology, it is good for the American spirit of adventure and connectedness. Something, I daresay, we could use more of these days.

Olivia Richter is a junior in the School of Communication and a columnist for The Eagle.

orichter@theeagleonline.com

Excerpt from:

Space exploration programs must continue – The Eagle

Posted in Space Exploration | Comments Off on Space exploration programs must continue – The Eagle

Space Startups Are Booming | Fortune.com – Fortune

Posted: at 4:25 am

VIEW GALLERY | 13 PHOTOS

… VIEW MORE

Inside a series of nondescript buildings in the driest desert in North America, an entrepreneurial enclave is chasing the next frontier of commerce. Explosions are routine. The science is complex. Brain power and ambition are high, as is danger. This cluster of 17 young companies at the Mojave Air and Space Port, 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles, is shooting for the moonand beyond.

The startups there are building the components, engines, materials, and rockets that are dispatching a new generation of cell-phone-size satellites and more into space. These so-called NewSpace companies have sprung up around a former military base in the California desert. The remoteness of Mojave and the permissive attitude toward, say, detonation and flamesthe airports slogan: We eat explosions for breakfastmake it the ideal location for companies aiming to reach the heavens.

Mojave is the Silicon Valley of space exploration, says Mark Bnger, who follows the sector at Lux Research. Mojave isnt alone, as galactic entrepreneurship is also burgeoning in Seattle, Tucson, and Silicon Valley itself. Says Sunil Nagaraj of Bessemer Ventures: 2017 will be the year that NewSpace startups will hit their stride.

It used to be that space projects were so daunting and expensive that only governments and their massive corporate partners could take them on. Then, in the past decade or so, a cadre of billionairesthink Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Bransonentered the arena with what first seemed like eccentric pet projects. Today, in the wake of their successes, theres a third generation: minnows that service those private companies and leverage the growing economies of scale such that a startup without extraordinary resources can now contemplate a voyage to another planet.

Plenty of factors are making space missions cheaper and more feasible: the miniaturization of electronics, the development of stronger and lighter materials, better engineering, and new standards that make it easier to build mini-satellites and send them up as hitchhikers on a larger launch. A traditional low-earth-orbit satellite, for instance, weighs three tons, stands two-stories tall, and costs tens of millions of dollars to build. Today there are microsatellites between 22 and 220 pounds and even nanosatellites under 22 pounds. A so-called cubesat, for example, weighs around two pounds, is about the size of a fist, and costs less than $100,000 to build. Some 60 companies now sell them, allowing small governments and companies to put a tiny probe into orbit for precision agriculture, oil spill monitoring, or security systems.

Of the 115 space-related companies started in the past decade and backed by investors, 84 focus on satellites, according to the Tauri Group, which tracks space investments. Just last year, those companies launched 100 microsatellites, up from 25 in 2011. Tauri projects that 2,400 nano- and microsatellites will launch between 2017 and 2023.

Investment is starting to take off. Venture capitalists have put $8.2 billion into space companies over the past five years, according to Tauri, most of it into rockets and satellites.

Mojave has become an oasis of billionaires, scientists, vendors, and service providers. Bransons Virgin Galactic has 500 people there building and testing propulsion systems and a suborbital spaceship, according to CEO George Whitesides. Paul Allens Vulcan Aerospace is nearing completion of its massive Stratolaunch airplane. NASA officials scout Mojave for technology and commercial space partners, and rockets are launched by small companies like XCOR and Masten Space Systems, which are assembling light, reusable launch vehicles to drastically reduce the cost of spaceflight. All that activity has drawn even smaller operations, including a school for test pilots and tiny vendors that provide everything from industrial coatings to ancillary offerings like financial services and a gym.

The biggest driver has been the deep pockets and confidence of Musk, Bezos, and others, including dotcom entrepreneur Naveen Jain and hotel mogul Robert Bigelow, who have been funding startups through venture investments and contests like the Google XPrize. Musks SpaceX slashed tens of millions of dollars from rocket prices, helping land the company a $1.6 billion deal with NASA to fly 12 cargo missions to the International Space Station. Musk and Bezos are now, separately, planning missions to Mars. They were the primer to the pump for this new resurgence, says Jay Gibson, CEO of XCOR.

Moon Express, funded by Jain, plans its maiden voyage to the moon later this year, vying for the Google Lunar XPrize, a $20 million award to the first company to land a robotic spacecraft on the moon and accomplish several technical challenges. Once there, Moon Express plans to extract iron ore, water, minerals, and precious metals, as well as nitrogen, hydrogen, and more. Ultimately, Jain thinks, the moon could become a fuel depot where spacecraft can stop before continuing longer journeys. Entrepreneurs have the potential to change the trajectory of how humanity lives, he says, where the moon becomes the eighth continent and a great place to live.

Needless to say, the challenges remain immense. I sound like a curmudgeon, but people always say this will be the year, says Gary Hudson, an industry veteran and the president of the Space Studies Institute. Everything costs more and takes longer than you think, and people die if you screw up.

The difficulty hasnt curbed enthusiasm at Interorbital Systems, a 12-person operation in Mojave. Cofounders Roderick and Randa Milliron started their business two decades ago with a goal of eventually living on the moon. Interorbital sells satellite kits and says it will launch 137 satellites in 2017 and 2018 with its modular rocket, whose size can be adjusted depending on the mission. The revenue from satellite and launch sales, space-testing missions, and more should help it reach its goal of using its rocket to get to the moon this year, as part of a team competing for the Lunar XPrize.

Perhaps the ultimate evidence that space technology is catching on is that it is even filtering down to hobbyists. A hacker space called Mojave Makers allows individuals to, say, build their own 3D-printed rocket motors. Says Bessemers Nagaraj: You now have people tinkering with space just as the previous generation tinkered with computers.

A version of this article appears in the March 1, 2017 issue of Fortune with the headline “Rocket Boom in the Desert.”

Read more:

Space Startups Are Booming | Fortune.com – Fortune

Posted in Space Exploration | Comments Off on Space Startups Are Booming | Fortune.com – Fortune

Mass Effect: Andromeda is About Building Meaningful Relationships and Space Exploration – SegmentNext

Posted: at 4:25 am

Mass Effect: Andromeda is on the verge of release, only a handful of weeks before we get to experience what the new chapter holds for us. Andromeda brings some of the core staples of the franchise including being able to build relationships with different races and characters.

Also See: Mass Effect: Andromeda Difficulty Levels Will Be Unlocked From The Start, says BioWare

Andromeda will stay true to the original trilogy and according to Bioware producer Fabrice Condominas, Mass Effect: Andromeda is all about building meaningful relationships and exploring a vast universe.

Mass Effect: Andromeda will allow players to have strong relationships with different characters. The system revolves around in-depth conversation options and of course, you may have to prove your loyalty to certain races.

Be it gameplay, story, to graphics, Andromeda looks fantastic so far. Mass Effect Andromeda is a massive game and in those 5 years, EA made sure that the development team at Bioware delivers the best possible experience. Mass Effect Andromeda development has gone smoothly as far as we know, Bioware is ready to deliver copies to retail across the globe.

Mass Effect: Andromeda is releasing on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and EA Origin PC on March 21. The title will also be available on PS4 Pro and may be ported to Project Scorpio in the future with enhanced visuals.

EA will release the game for the standard $60 price point and many of the post-release updates will be free for the consumers. The company confirmed that there wont be any season pass for Andromeda but we can expect to see paid expansions in the future.

For more on Mass Effect: Andromeda, stay-tuned!

Source: Bioware

View original post here:

Mass Effect: Andromeda is About Building Meaningful Relationships and Space Exploration – SegmentNext

Posted in Space Exploration | Comments Off on Mass Effect: Andromeda is About Building Meaningful Relationships and Space Exploration – SegmentNext

Page 11234..»