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DARPAMOIRE

Image Credit : DARPA

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the military’s futuristic research agency, is ready to “break the glass ceiling” of space telescopes by aiming for a new design into orbit that’s made of plastic instead of traditional glass and unfolds into a mammoth space telescope.

DARPA’s new program is called Membrane Optical Imager for Real-Time Exploitation (MOIRE). The new orbital telescope will be bigger and lighter than previous imaging satellites, making it easier to spy on larger areas and for longer periods of time.

DARPA’s MOIRE CONCEPT

This giant telescope could view approximately 40 percent of the earth’s surface at once.

It will be a tightly packed cluster of petals having diameter of 20 feet. MOIRE stretches to 68 feet across. After its launch it will be placed 22,000 miles above the earth. From orbit, this giant telescope could view approximately 40 percent of the earth’s surface at once. It will be able to record high resolution images and video, making it the ultimate spying satellite. However it could also be beneficial in weather forecasting and disaster response.

High resolution imagery was not possible with the traditional large diameter mirrors because of its thickness and weight. Also it was quite expensive to implement such technology in Space Telescopes. According to DARPA – “The glass mirrors are rapidly approaching the point where they will be too large, heavy and costly for even the largest of today’s rockets.”

“Membrane optics could enable us to fit much larger, higher-resolution telescopes in smaller and lighter packages,” said Lt. Col. Larry Gunn, Darpa program manager, in a statement. “In that respect, we’re ‘breaking the glass ceiling’ that traditional materials impose on optics design.”

DARPAMOIRESIZECOMPARISON

Size Comparison of Different Telescopes | Concept Image | Image Credit : DARPA

Instead of reflecting light with mirrors or refracting it with lenses as traditional space telescopes do, MOIRE’s membrane uses concept of optics diffraction. And because MOIRE is so much lighter and smaller at launch, budget wise it will be much more efficient.

“We’re hoping our research could also help greatly reduce overall costs and enable more timely deployment using smaller, less expensive launch vehicles,” said Gunn.

According to DARPA, the MOIRE program is in its second and final phase and recently demonstrated a ground-based prototype.

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phonesat

NASA has managed to create a fully functional super cheap tiny satellite made out of off-the-shelf Android hardware. NASA has named it “PhoneSat”. It has managed to dial home from orbit, meaning all systems are working.

IT COST THE SPACE AGENCY JUST $7,500

PhoneSat 2.4, a cube approximately four inches square, weighs only about 2.2 pounds, and was developed at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. PhoneSat uses a Nexus S smartphone made by Samsung Electronics running Google’s Android operating system. Using two-way S-band radio, it enables engineers to command it remotely. It’s part of NASA’s effort to explore cheaper satellite technology.

“The smartphone provides many of the functions the satellite needs to operate, such as computation, memory, ready-made interfaces for communications, navigation and power, all assembled in a rugged package before launch,” says NASA.

The tiny satellite PhoneSat 2.4 was launched two weeks ago. It will test a system for changing the satellite’s orientation in space as well as measure how well off-the-shelf components perform over the course of a year.

It is part of NASA’s next Small Spacecraft Technology mission, the Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN). This mission is composed of eight identical PhoneSats that will be deployed during a launch from Kauai, Hawaii in 2014.

“This mission will demonstrate the concept of using many small spacecraft in a coordinated cluster to study the space environment and space-to-space communications techniques. During EDSN, each cubesat will make science measurements and transmit the data to the others while any one of them can then transmit all of the collected data to a ground station. This versatility in command and control could make possible large swarms of satellites to affordably monitor Earth’s climate, space weather and other global-scale phenomena.” – NASA

The first batch of PhoneSats launched in April and the next version is scheduled for February.

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urthecast

Recently a couple of high-definition cameras have been delivered to the International Space Station thanks to Urthecast.  So ISS will soon start broadcasting near-live images of Earth for free. According to Urthecast, the magnification will be so high that you will be able to see vehicles and crowds.

Urthecast is a Canadian company that plans to start its free broadcast in early 2014. The cameras can see everything from 51 degrees north to 51 degrees south. It means Alaska, Scandinavia, and most of the UK won’t be featured. Everyone else will be able to see their neighborhood at surprisingly high resolution. The ISS orbits the Earth 19 times a day that’s why the feed is described as “near live” on the website with a delay of around 45 minutes to two hours before the images show up on your screen.

Virtually travel to your favorite places, plan events around an ISS pass-over, or watch how places change over time.

The still camera can see up to a resolution of five meters per pixel. At such resolution the cameras will be able to generate images that are 40 km wide. The video camera can see much more clearly at an ultra-crisp 4K resolution. At such insane resolution Urthecast expects to download 200GB of pictures and videos from the ISS every day.

The feed is free on Urthecast’s website. You just need to request for an invite. A separate premium service is also available for businesses intelligence, monitoring assets and real time monitoring of strategic locations.

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seaorbiter

Image Credit : seaorbiter

The ocean is still a vastly unexplored world that is full of mysteries, and with the growing technology, we frequently discover more oddities and fascinating creatures from its depths. Such research attempts are soon going to have a massive boon in the form of an ocean-based research laboratory called the SeaOrbiter. The station will have laboratories, workshops, living quarters and a pressurized deck to support divers and submarines.

“SeaOrbiter is the only vessel in the world allowing a 24/7 exploration on long-term missions of the open sea and the abyss.”

The SeaOrbiter, which seems to be an amazing spaceship like structure, is the work of Jacques Rougerie, a sea architect, and various experts, among them being the former NASA head Daniel Goldin.  The cost is expected to be around $52.7 million. On completion the project will result in a vessel that is basically the ISS of the ocean, able to hold up to 22 researchers and crew members initially.

The laboratory is semi-submersible vessel and weighs 1000 tons. It has a total height of 51 meters with 31 meters below sea level., and will harvest renewable energy from wind, sun, and waves. It is designed to float vertically and drift with the ocean currents but has two small propellers allowing it to modify its trajectory and maneuver in confined waters. Underwater robots can be sent from the laboratory to explore the seabed. The hull is made of an alloy comprising aluminum and magnesium is five times thicker than that of a conventional vessel.

Its vertical alignment in the sea will leave a small part visible above the surface with much larger accommodation and laboratories below the sea’s surface. Some levels will have a cabin pressure equal to the external water pressure allowing divers to live for extended periods at depth and make frequent excursions.

Rougerie said in a message to the folks at Fast Company: “The SeaOrbiter is the synthesis of everything that we have been able to do at sea: it is at the same time a moving habitat and a dynamic launching point for submarine research and exploration. It will not replace oceanographic boats or exploratory submarines. Instead, it’s another way to explore and better comprehend the underwater universe and bring human life at sea to another level on a 24/7 basis and over long periods.”

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mars

“India’s mission to Mars has overcome a technical problem and appears to be back on track”, India’s space research agency ISRO says.

The problem occurred on Monday when a planned engine burn failed to raise the spacecraft’s orbit around Earth  from 71,623km to 100,000km. A problem with the thruster caused the Mars Craft to fall short of the mark. As a solution, the Mars-craft used an additional thruster firing to make up for the shortfall early on Tuesday.

The Indian Space Research Organisation – ISRO has now pushed the spacecraft to a higher velocity as planned.

“The final orbit will be known in a few hours”

Speaking to Indian news channel NDTV, ISRO’s chairman K Radhakrishnan said: “All is well and operations completed as planned. The final orbit of the spacecraft will be known in a few hours.”

Mr Bagla told BBC News that the “spacecraft has been put on required velocity and seems to be on track”.

Instead of flying directly to Mars, the Mars Craft is scheduled to orbit Earth for nearly a month, building up the speed to “slingshot” its way out of the earth’s gravitational pull to reach its destination – The Red Planet.

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space

There is still lot to be explored about outer space by modern science, but of that little we do know, there are some extraordinarily amazing things. This is a list of the top 10 most Interesting facts about Space:

  1. If you put Saturn in water it would float. Actually the density of Saturn is so low that if you were to put it in a giant glass of water it would float. The actual density of Saturn is 0.687 g/cm3 while the density of water is 0.998 g/cm3.
  2. If luckily, you get chance to visit moon, your footprints will remain there forever. Its because Moon has no weather or wind.
  3. Commonly known as carbon planet or carbide planet is full of diamonds. Astronomers discovered this planet in 2004.
  4. If two pieces of metal touch in space, they become permanently stuck together. This may sound unbelievable, but it is true. Two pieces of metal without any coating on them will form in to one piece in the vacuum of space. It is called cold welding.  Its a rare way to bond two metals.
  5. The rotation of our earth is getting slow by 0.001 to 0.002 seconds every century. Due to this slower rotation the length of the days are increasing.
  6. We are moving through space at the rate of 530 km/second. Our Galaxy – the Milky Way is spinning at a rate of 225 kilometers per second. In addition, the galaxy is travelling through space at the rate of 305 kilometers per second. This means that we are traveling at a total speed of 530 kilometers (330 miles) per second.
  7. If you can calculate one star per second then you can count all the stars in 3000 years.
  8. There is no air in space so you can’t hear anyone even if he/she shouts in front of you.
  9. The rotation of Pluto completes in 6 days and 9 hours approximately. So the length of Pluto’s day is equal to one week of Earth.
  10. The bird’s can’t survive in space because they need gravitational force to swallow and there is no gravity in space.

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mars

If all goes according to plan, India will soon join an elite handful of countries that have successfully sent a spacecraft to the red planet.

 Today India will launch the unmanned Mars Orbiter Mangalyaan (Mars Craft). It will be launched from SHAR (Satish Dhawan Space Centre) with the help of PSLV. It is expected to take 10 Months for the orbiter to reach its destination – The Red Planet. If this $73 million mission goes well, India would also become the only country to have succeeded in its first try at sending a spacecraft to Mars as two third missions to send space crafts to Mars have been failed.

“We have a lot to understand about the universe, the solar system where we live in, and it has been humankind’s quest from the beginning,” said K. Radhakrishnan, chairman of the ISRO (Indian Space and Research Organization). “We want to use the first opportunity to put a spacecraft and orbit it around Mars and, once it is there safely, then conduct a few meaningful experiments and energize the scientific community.”

Using solar power instruments, this orbiter will map the planet’s surface. It will collect data about weather and look for the presence of Methane to find out if the Red Planet can sustain life. The research is expected to collaborate with NASA’s Maven probe, which will launch later this month.

If, because of any reason, ISRO will not be able to launch this by November 19th, this project will be delayed by almost 5 years due to Earth’s rotation & Mars’ position in our Galaxy.

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space capsule

Image Credit : World View

Want space travel but don’t have deep pockets. You may soon have a less expensive way to get into space. A balloon trip to  space and back might just be the answer. Arizona-based space travel company World View Enterprises is planing to offer a trip to the edge of space in a luxurious eight-seat capsule for $75,000 per ticket. Its not a small amount but still affordable. This pressurized capsule will be lifted by high altitude balloon upto 30 kms and will stay afloat for almost 2 hrs before piloting down back to Earth.

space balloon

Image Credit World View

Technically the capsule will not be in space but the passengers will be able to see the majestic views, company promised. Usually the commercial flights take you to heights of about 9-10 kms.

As per the company’s statement:

“Passengers will be among the few to have seen the curvature of the Earth with their own eyes,”

“They will be able to gaze at the astounding views, the blackness of space, the brilliance of stars and the thin veil of atmosphere enveloping our planet.”

Trips are expected to start as soon as 2016. For the time being we are leaving you with this concept video.

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sun

Eight planets (As Pluto is not lucky enough to be considered as a planet anymore) and their moons, tens of thousands of asteroids revolve around the sun. One of these is our Earth, orbiting the sun at an average distance of about 92,960,000 miles (149,600,000 kilometers). The sun is a huge, glowing ball that provides light, heat, and other energy to our Earth. Sun is already doing its thing for almost 4.5 Billion Years. So how many years is left before the sun dies?  According to NASA almost 4.5 billion.

So What if our Sun dies?

If you put a steamy cup of coffee in the refrigerator, it wouldn’t immediately turn cold. Likewise if the Sun turns off, which is physically impossible, Earth will still stay warm for millions of years. But not at its surface.

In a year its surface temperature would dip to –100° F. The top layers of the oceans would freeze. But that ice would insulate the deep water below and prevent the oceans from freezing solid for hundreds of thousands of years. Millions of years after that, our planet would reach a stable –400°, said David Stevenson, a professor of planetary science at the California Institute of Technology.

Only some microorganisms living in the Earth’s crust would survive but most of the life will end soon after the Sun going dark. Most of the plants would die in few weeks as photosynthesis would halt immediately. So all the food chain depending upon greens will die and same will happen to others.

Humans could live in submarines in the deepest and warmest parts of the ocean or there  might be nuclear- or geothermal-powered habitats, where people could continue harnessing volcanic heat for hundreds of years. But these are all the theories.

The sun doesn’t merely heat the Earth; it also keeps the planet in orbit. If its mass suddenly disappeared (this is equally impossible, by the way), our planet would fly off from its orbit.

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asteroid

According to NASA “Newly discovered asteroid 2013 TV135 made a close approach to Earth on Sept. 16 when it came within about 4.2 million miles (6.7 million kilometers). The asteroid is initially estimated to be about 1,300 feet (400 meters) in size”. It was discovered on Oct. 8, 2013, by astronomers working at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory in the Ukraine.

This asteroid could be back in the Earth’s neighborhood in 2032. And its impact could create explosion equivalent to 50 times the greatest nuclear bomb ever detonated. But according to NASA the probability of this asteroid hitting Earth is only 1-in 63,000 that’s about 99.998% and even those odds are fading fast, as scientists find out more about the asteroid.

Though it seems Earth is safe for now. Scientists says that asteroids like the earth crusher asteroid that wiped out dinosaurs millions of years ago only turn up once every “few million years.”

That may give humanity some time to find a way of dealing with it.

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