Tag: spacecraft

Asgardia: la nascita della nazione?

Mi ci ero già imbattuto qui. Ma la cosa mi continua ad affascinare molto più di qualunque nazione “con i piedi a terra” (dicitura la cui interpretazione può dipendere molto dalla nazione in questione). Ad ogni modo l’idea della prima nazione spaziale è andata avanti (il che conferma, qualora ce ne fosse bisogno, la potenza dei soldi; non dimentichiamo che l’idea parte dalla mente dello scienziato e miliardario russo Igor Ashurbeyli…).

In data astrale 12.11.17 è stato lanciato il primo satellite della nazione spaziale. E questo, già di per se, è un indubbio successo. Praticamente un cubotto di meno di 3 kg che rappresenta il 100% del territorio asgardiano e la stessa percentuale dei suoi sogni.

media-26197-w600-q80.jpg

Fuori da qualunque vincolo (e questo è potenzialmente un bene ed un male) con le nazioni terrestri, Asgardia è la terra di tutti (open, libera, pacifica, etc. etc.), ma per il momento, di nessuno.

Il satellite è partito dalla base Nasa, Wallops Flight Facility come compagno della (estremamente più grande e… quella che pagava sostanzialmente il lancio) Cygnus destinata a rifornire la ISS; Asgardia-1 sarà rilasciato prima dell’attracco alla ISS.

Il satellitino contiene praticamente solo dati, circa mezzo tera dato che i primi 100000 abitanti della fanta-spazio-nazione avevano la possibilità di caricare fino a 500 kB ciascuno di foto, testi, immagini, e cose del genere (ai successsivi 400000 lo spazio era ridotto a 200 kB).

Praticamente una bandiera virtuale per mettere un segnaposto, piccolo ma pur sempre spaziale, al nostro sogno di liberà.

 

WU

Annunci

LAGEOS, the time capsule

Laser Geodynamics Satellites (LAGEOS) is a couple of (artificial… of course) satellites orbiting around our Earth. Their original aim was to provide an orbiting laser ranging benchmark for Earth geodynamical studies. It was back in the 1976 when LAGEOS-1 was launched by NASA followed in 1992 by LAGEOS-2 (NASA and ASI…). Two launches without too much claim and advertising for one of the most long-lasting missions ever conceived.

Both satellites are actually two balls (looking like golf balls) made of high-density passive laser reflectors. More in detail, they are brass spheres covered with aluminium of 60 cm diameter and 400-410 kg mass. Spread over they surfaces there are 426 reflectors made of glass and germanium. Measurements can be made by transmitting from Earth ground stations pulsed lasers toward the satellites that reflect the pulses and measuring the travel times. In addition the shape, attitude-independent measurements and the orbit allows for using the satellites also for determine the geoid shape, the tectonic plate movements, and the distortion predicted by the general relativity caused by a rotating mass.

In the end the two satellites are completely passive, without any attitude control means and without any electronic on board. In order to provide a stable reference for geodynamical studies (which means an extremely high accuracy in determining the positions of points on the Earth), the golf balls have been placed in very stable medium altitude orbits at about 5900 km altitude.

As a consequence of the orbital altitude, shape and mass of the satellites, LAGEOS-1 (LAGEOS-2 has very similar features…) is doomed to reentry on Earth in … 8.400.000 years! At some point in more than 8 millions years some of our descendant (…or any other species enough intelligent to survive to us) will see a ball coming from the past.

A real time capsule.

This was luckily clear already at the time of launch. LAGEOS-1 indeed carries a plaque, made by C. Sagan (of course…) indicating the future of the humanity expected at the time of satellite launch.

LAGEOS1.png

The plaque includes the numbers 1 to 10 in binary. In the upper right is the earth with an arrow pointing to the right, indicating the future. It shows a #1 indicating 1 revolution, equaling 1 year. It then shows 268435456 (in binary; 228) years in the past, indicated by a left arrow and the arrangement of the Earth’s continents at that time. The present is indicated with a 0 and both forward and backward arrows. Then the estimated arrangement of the continents in 8.4 million years with a right facing arrow and 8388608 in binary (223). LAGEOS itself is shown at launch on the 0 year, and falling to the Earth in the 8.4 million year diagram.

I’ll never see the satellites with my own eyes (well… I guess), and I can imagine the astonishment of anyone seeing that plate in millions of years (it si much more than a fossil we can discover nowadays!) .

My hope, as per today, is that the satellites will be still checked (even form time to time) for the millenniums to come, to avoid that far from eyes the satellites will be forget while they can still be considered as alive.

WU

AAA: 2014 MU69 cercasi nome

Sappiamo solo che li c’è qualcosa. Nascosto nelle profondità del cosmo, ghiacciato, piccolo, inesplorato (finora) si trova un bel sassone che ha avuto la sola (s)fortuna di trovarsi sul cammino di New Horizon (… proprio lei!)

Scoperto nel 2014, si tratta di un asteroide della fascia di Kupier, a 6.5 miliardi di km da noi. Per puro caso, il masso ha occultato lievissimamente una stella proprio mente una rete terreste di 24 telescopi la stava osservando. Tanto (e parecchia fortuna per quanto riguarda la traiettoria) è bastato per mettere l’asteroide nella tabella di marcia della sonda.

2014 MU69, non decisamente un nome accattivante per il corpo celeste più lontano mai esplorato. Ma in attesa di arrivarci la NASA ha lanciato un sondaggio/concorso: come chiamereste il mondo di ghiaccio?

Nominations can be serious or whimsical, or anything in between.
[…] It’s a good idea to propose two or more names that go together. The reason is that we don’t know how many bodies to name! Some observations suggest that MU69 might be a binary—two objects tied together by their mutual gravity. If the two bodies are touching, a “contact binary”, then we will only need one name. However, if they are separated by empty space, we will need two names. Of course, there may be more bodies—perhaps small moons—orbiting out there as well. That’s what exploration is all about—after all, New Horizons is flying into the unknown.

Ecco sotto lo stato dei nomi proposti e più votati ad oggi.

2014 MU69vote

Ho appena votato per “Tangotango & Tawhaki“; dio della creazione Maori e sua moglie, così se New Horizon trova anche qualche altra piccola luna gli diamo il nome dei figlioletti (se non ne avevano mi lascio la porta aperta sostenendo che qualunque entità del creato possa essere loro figlio).

Data di scadenza 01.12.17; nome “ufficiale” comunicato il 30.01.18.

WU

PS. Tutto bellissimo, ma, spulciando nelle Rules, mi cade l’occhio su:

  • The SETI Institute and NASA’s New Horizons project have the sole right to determine which nominations are added to the ballot.

  • The New Horizons Team and NASA will take into consideration the results of the voting, but those results are not binding.

Fidget Spinner: spaziale

Ovviamente ci siamo già soffermati a sproloquiare sulle trottoline 4.0 (… sono figlie dell’industria 4.0, no?). E non ditemi che non vi siete ancora chiesti: “si, ma in assenza di gravità come funzionerebbero?”. Come se la prima cosa che venisse in mente quando facciamo un giochino è come questo possa reagire ad una situazione in cui difficilmente (mai?) ci troveremo.

Ad ogni modo, se me lo chiedo io, sono un cretino come tanti (anche se non a questi livelli…), se a chiederselo è la NASA, allora le cose stanno diversamente. E soprattutto i fondi per scoprirlo: vai dai cinesi, ne compri una decina, ci metti il logo NASA e le dai ad u po’ di astronauti giocherelloni sulla ISS. Il risultato (quale?) è assicurato.

 

Sostanzialmente girano molto più a lungo, per via dell’attrito ridotto (e lo sarebbe ancor di più se la trottolina fosse usata fuori dalla ISS ove anche “l’atmosfera” è assente. Il moto viene trasmesso anche al “povero” astronauta che si mettere a far parte esso stesso del fidget spinner (sulla tessa l’attrito, figlio della gravità, vi salva dal vorticoso moto) ed al centro della trottolina che dopo un po’ pare ruotare assieme a tutto il resto.

WU

PS. Video perfetto, specialmente se decontestualizzato, per gli avversatori della ricerca spaziale: “tanto li paghiamo per andare a giocare nello spazio!”. … parzialmente, ma solo parzialmente, vero.

Itsy bitsy spacecraft

Your smartphone is something like one third of what you had only ten years ago (… yes, mobile phones are around for more than a decade now). A laptop nowadays has much more computing power of a computer of some thirty years ago taking up one room.

I’m not the first one (and I’m not a magician) to underline that we live, since years, in the era of miniaturization. Just a few stuffs make exception. The most remarkable ones, belonging to the class “the larger the better”: yachts, optical lens, televisions, forsurealotofotherstuffs, spacecraft.

Well, the last category… maybe and may be not. Of course (Actually, this holds in general), it depends of the mission goal. And mission budget.

In any case an idea like this one seems to me definitely disruptive.

We are not talking about reducing sizes, we are now talking about making an entire spacecraft over a single PCB. Practically no more “mass” and all issues related to it: costs, launch constraints, shock and vibration problems, mechanical structures, interfaces, etc.

Sprites.png

Bit-sized spacecraft. Yet working.

Thousand and thousand smaller than any spacecraft known, cubesat including, still maintaining the basic functionalities (of course we are looking at small and functional aspects, not performances…).

A Sprite is only 3.5 centimeters square and weighs four grams, but packs a solar panel, radio, thermometer, magnetometer for compass capabilities and gyroscope for sensing rotation.

And in future the spacecraft will be completed by cameras (…yes, the one of your smartphone might be sufficient) and MEMS sized thrusters.

In principle each Sprite is independent, but for the first demo flight these spacecraft will hitch a ride into a low Earth orbit on Max Valier and Venta-1 satellites (… yes some radio contact with the main probes are undergoing…)

Now we are definitely on the way of sending something to another star, in the STARSHOT fashion.

In the last decade and a half, rapid technological advances have opened up the possibility of light-powered space travel at a significant fraction of light speed. This involves a ground-based light beamer pushing ultra-light nanocrafts – miniature space probes attached to lightsails – to speeds of up to 100 million miles an hour.

Yes, IMHO, the very only chance that we have to send something really far from us, without thinking of using wormholes or teletransport, is to make is small and small and provide enough energy sufficient to reach some tens percent of the speed light.

WU

PS. A sort of evolution of the past space needles of the West Ford (here).

PPSS. And, in between the “attached chip satellite” version and the interstellar trip, the Sprite satellites are planned to the part of the KickSat project. A NASA project (started with Kick Starter and now part of the ELaNa program) planned to be a technology demonstration mission

It is a 3U CubeSat that will house a 1U avionics bus and a 2U Sprite deployer. KickSat […] will carry over 100 Sprites into an orbit with an altitude between 300 and 350 kilometers where they will be released as free-flying spacecraft.

Propulsion principles

During Eighties the modern aerospace principles were set. Before they were still the same defined by the ancient Chinese, since the black powder discovery. All of these principle rely on a single, consolidated, sacrosanct dynamic law: the reactive force..

Based on these principle we arrived, somehow to atmospheric supersonic propulsion and satellites send here and there in our solar system (and beyond).

Still during Eighties, the Russian engineer Tsiolkowsky (which, by the way was the same to define the propulsion principles actually allowing us to fly still today) defined the 15 steps required for the “cosmonaut development program”:

  • Arranged rocket for flight training on it.
  • Subsequent aircraft wings are reduced, speed increase.
  • Penetrate very close atmosphere.
  • Flights above the atmosphere and low-gravity planning.
  • Create satellites that return to Earth after the flight.
  • Satellites are settled around the Earth, but can come back to Earth.
  • Provide breathing and feeding cosmonauts by plants.
  • Landing modules, satellites for broadcasting and connection.
  • Widely used greenhouses to ensure the independence of man from the Earth.
  • Arranging of extensive settlements around the Earth.
  • Use solar energy, not only for a comfortable life, but also to move through the solar system (Solar sails).
  • Founded the colony in the asteroid belt and other places of the solar system.
  • Develop and expand the number of space colonies.
  • The population of the Solar system is multiplied. Settling around the Milky Way starts.
  • Sun is cooling down. Mankind is removed to other Suns.

As usual below my humble, free and lovely useless comments:

  • Done. The concept of flight training is now a sort of video gaming…
  • Done. Two or more wings planes are not common any more and supersonic planes have relatively reduced wings
  • Done. Almost at any altitude and also with or without planes…
  • Done. Should I mention any manned low Earth orbit mission?
  • Done. Should I mention the space shuttle?
  • Done. Should I mention the MIR, Space Station or the Tiangong?
  • Almost done. We are working on it. Astronauts do not yet eat plants, but they cultivated them in space.
  • Done. Done. Done. Extensively.
  • Not done. Actually from now our achievements did’t reach yet the Tsiolkowsky’s targets. We are still far from reaching any of the following points and even working on them, with our current propulsion principles knowledge, it seems unrealistic to target all of them.

Let’s say that we have rather good chances of setting up space colonies and use solar sails, but I’m rather skeptical that we have any other option (at the moment?) than staying around our Sun. The last two points, in particular, do not seem to me (only?) actually feasible within a human being lifetime (… unless we reach such evolution stages).

I can not avoid, however, to note how accurate the Tsiolkowsky predictions were until today (I’m talking about someone which was able to tell these stuffs in a century when noting man-made wasn’t moving above our heads), thus I should at least assume that he can not be completely wrong regarding what will happen in future.

This is the only reason motivating me to leave a glimmer in believing in propulsion systems other than action-reaction (here I should list a rather long list of potential/Iwanttobelieve/flyingsaucer/bullshit/semi-bullshit ideas and technologies).

WU

Flying ravioli

I have to admit that such a strange shape recalls me some sort of fried egg (and here it seems not just to me…), but when you see it with the deep, black space in background it is worth spending at least a second asking yourself if we are talking about Photoshop.

Well, it seems (I haven’t seen it with my own eyes) that we have new, astonishing close-ups (authored by Cassini, in March 2017, close the end of the mission 😦 ) of Pan. Of course, although it would be nice to image, it is not the god of the wild of Greek mythology, but the bizarre Saturn moon.

Fascinating, absolutely fascinating.

22 x 14 miles wide with a number of small, parallel ridges and groves along the whole frozen surface. Besides these already odd striations also its thin equatorial ridge is so intriguing. It is the second inner moon of the Saturn system, well inside the Encke Gap (the outer A-ring gap). Actually it is right the moon that maintains such a gap which is shared with several diffuse ringlets from which it may still be gathering additional material around its equatorial ridge. It is still unknown if this material (basically ice and debris) is free of moving around the moon surface or it is a compact mass attached to the moon surface.

Moons embedded in the rings, indeed, keep these gaps clear by creating new ringlets and rising a sort of waves of materials out of the ring plane. Once again a weird caused by the most common and mysterious force: the gravity.

WU