Tag: space

Chinese get EM drive to work

1413849918201_wps_10_Star_Trek_Tractor_BeamA radical breakthrough which could shake up long distance space flight has been confirmed by Chinese boffins.

The Electromagnetic Drive (EM) drive is a method of propulsion which is so clever scientists have not figured out why it works as it appears to break the law of conservation of momentum.

The “reactionless” Electromagnetic Drive, or EmDrive for short, is an engine propelled solely by electromagnetic radiation confined in a microwave cavity. It generates mechanical action without exchanging matter which is technically impossible.

Since 2010, both the United States and China have been pouring serious resources into it and the results seem promising. Now China claims it has made a key breakthrough.

Dr. Chen Yue, Director of Commercial Satellite Technology for the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) announced that China had successfully tested EmDrives technology in its laboratories and its proof-of-concept is currently undergoing zero-g testing in orbit.

This test is taking place on the Tiangong 2 space station. If China can install EmDrives on its satellites for orbital manoeuvring and altitude control, they would become cheaper and longer lasting.

Li Feng, lead CAST designer for commercial satellites, states that the current EmDrive has only a thrust of single digit millinewtons, for orbital adjustment; a medium sized satellite needs 0.1-1 Newtons. A functional EmDrive would open new possibilities for long range Chinese interplanetary probes beyond the Asteroid belt, as well freeing up the mass taken up by fuel in manned spacecraft for other supplies and equipment to build lunar and Martian bases.


Space X wants to build a satellite internet

pigs in spacePrivate rocket outfit SpaceX is asking the US government to approval its cunning plan to operate a massive satellite network that would provide high-speed, global internet coverage.

According to its US Federal Communications Commission application, Space X plans an orbiting digital communications array that would eventually consist of 4,425 satellites.

The project, which Musk previously said would cost at least $10 billion, was first announced in January 2015. Signed up to the project are Google and Fidelity Investments, which together have contributed $1 billion to Musk’s space launch firm.

The proposed SpaceX network would begin with the launch of about 800 “care sized” satellites to expand internet access in the United States, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

“The system is designed to provide a wide range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, government and professional users worldwide,” SpaceX said in technical documents accompanying its filing.

It is not the only outfit planning this. Similar internet-via-satellite arrays are under development by privately owned OneWeb and by Boeing.

The system would provide a space-based alternative to cable, fibre-optics and other terrestrial internet access currently available. However, it will be more expensive and probably require higher powered phones.
SpaceX did not say when its launches would occur. The satellites would be launched into orbits ranging from 714 miles to 823 miles above the planet.

Samsung wants an internet in space

pigs in spaceSamsung is mulling over a ‘space internet’ network consisting of 4,600 micro-satellites that could act as backhaul for terrestrial cellular networks and bring low-cost internet to “everyone in the world”.

The proposal is contained in an academic research paper by president of Samsung R&D America Farooq Khan.

The idea follows Google, which has separate proposals for satellite and balloon-based internet – SpaceX, OneWeb and Internet.org.

Samsung’s own proposal is partly driven by fears that initiatives to solve mobile data traffic growth won’t be cost effective.

“By the year 2028, both cellular and wi-fi will be carrying data traffic in excess of one zetabyte/ month,” Khan said.

“Our goal here is to design a space internet with similar capacity. This space internet can then provide backhaul for cellular and wi-fi as well as direct communication with the satellite connecting the world’s population currently without internet access.

“With the satellite-based backhaul, cellular and wi-fi deployments become practical in remote regions of the earth where there is no wired Internet infrastructure.”

Khan’s plan is to send about ,4600 micro-satellites into low earth orbit – in a range between 160km and 2000km in altitude.

The sheer number of satellites is required to ensure continuity of service.

Each satellite needs to be capable of data rates of at least one Terabit/s “or higher”.

Khan said that the response times for traffic “to go halfway around earth” would be similar for space internet and fibre optic links.

If it worked then Samsung’s vision could offer 200GB/month for five billion users worldwide with signal latencies comparable to those offered by ground based systems.

Facebook and Google quit space race

neilarmstrongAFP-1345922214-299-640x480It was one small step for man, but getting into space is proving to be too much for internet outfits Facebook and Google.

Both companies are shelving their ambitious plans for satellite internet. Facebook’s plans for a geo-stationary satellite has been abandoned over concerns that it will not recoup costs. Google, which hired satellite entrepreneur Greg Wyler to prepare a satellite constellation in 2014, backed out of that plan earlier this year.

The problem was that the two were far too ambitious. Such schemes have been planned and abandoned before. Satellite-internet services today are fairly expensive, and offer slow data speeds.

Constellation satellites which are made up of many small satellites could have offered a faster service, since they are closer to earth than the typical communication satellites and they would cost less.

However experts say that the technical challenges to flying and operating a full-fledged constellation of them may still prove too difficult.

Google also still owns Skybox, a satellite imaging start-up and last we heard had not given up on its other internet distribution projects.

The universe might be a hologram

For a while now number crunching physicists have been working on a theory that everything around us is just a hologram.

Now, two papers posted on the arXiv repository, Yoshifumi Hyakutake of Ibaraki University in Japan and his colleagues now provide, compelling evidence that the theory might be true.

In 1997, theoretical physicist Juan Maldacena came up with a model of the universe in which gravity arises from infinitesimally thin, vibrating strings and could be reinterpreted in terms of well-established physics.  As you do.

He thought that a mathematically intricate world of strings, which exist in nine dimensions of space plus one of time, would be merely a hologram.  Anything that was really happening took place in a  flatter cosmos where there was no gravity and was projected onto this space where we see it all as being reality. It solved apparent inconsistencies between quantum physics and Einstein’s theory of gravity.   The problem is that it is difficult to prove.

Hyakutake looked at the internal energy of a black hole, the position of its event horizon, its entropy and other properties based on the predictions of string theory as well as the effects of so-called virtual particles that continuously pop into and out of existence.

In the other, he and a mate worked out the internal energy of the corresponding lower-dimensional cosmos with no gravity. The two computer calculations match.

Maldacena said that the numbers were right and an interesting way to test many ideas in quantum gravity and string theory.

Leonard Susskind, a theoretical physicist at Stanford University in California who was among the first theoreticians to explore the idea of holographic universes said that they have numerically confirmed that the thermodynamics of certain black holes can be reproduced from a lower-dimensional universe.

Nevertheless, says Maldacena, the numerical proof that these two seemingly disparate worlds are actually identical gives hope that the gravitational properties of our Universe can one day be explained by a simpler cosmos purely in terms of quantum theory.

The way we see it, it explains why two-dimensional structures such as Apple, reality television and PR people have such an impact in 3D space which is out of proportion to their mass.  If three dimensional space is controlled by 2D space then it means that all of them have more authority than anything with depth. 

Don't fear floating space brains

Scientists have put to bed a theory about space brains, which will be a great relief to those who have trouble sleeping over such matters.

According to the New Scientist there are physicists who claim that there is good evidence that a legion of floating space brains are not spontaneously bursting into existence throughout the universe.

For the last decade it was postulated that space might be full of floating brains, which were dubbed Boltzmann brains.

The idea was that since space was jolly big, there was a likelihood that consciousness big enough to form a brain could evolve. These space brains, made out of different components of space matter would float around the galaxy doing whatever brains do, and certainly not inventing reality television.

One scientist, who clearly did not get out enough, worked out that most physics theories would come unstuck if the number of space brains was higher than those of human brains.

If Boltzmann brains outnumber humans, then theories of space and time will be compromised because humanity would no longer be ‘typical’ observers. Instead the watchers of the universe might be these space brains who might perceive things a little different from us.

For example, instead of heaven and hell, they might perceive religion as being an itch which is impossible to scratch because they don’t have hands.

Fortunately, according to the New Scientist, there are physicists who claim that there is good evidence that a legion of floating space brains are not spontaneously bursting into existence throughout the universe.

New understandings of string theory and the theory of multiple universes might just save us from wasting our time worrying about space brains.

Physicists Claire Zukowski and Raphael Buosso at Berkely say that the key to this balance between human and space brains is whether or not universes expand forever and linger for much longer than creatures like humans can survive.

However, using two models of the universe it now seems less likely that reality as we know it is dominated by space superbrains. So now you can all get some sleep knowing that we are still the best observers of the universe that we know of. 

US will not need drones to spy on people

The belief that the US government will be using drones to spy on its citizens might not have any basis, as its security forces move towards satellite spying instead.

In September, the US government will fire into orbit a two-stage rocket from a Virginia launchpad. According to official reports, the mission is scientific one, designed to improve America’s ability to send small satellites into space quickly and cheaply.

However, according to Wired, the launch will help the elite forces of US Special Operations Command hunt down people considered to be dangerous to the United States and its interests.

For a while now the US has clandestinely tagged people they want to bump off and used satellites to relay information from those beacons. But since a lot of people that special forces want to hit hide in areas where the satellite coverage is thin, and there aren’t enough mobile towers to provide an alternative, they need something better.

According to Wired, eight miniature communications satellites, each about the size of a water jug, have been installed on top of the Minotaur rocket that’s getting ready to launch from Wallops Island, Virginia. They’ll sit more than 300 miles above the earth and provide a new way for the beacons to call back to their masters.

Some of the beacons use infrared flashes to signal their location and they are used to hit with drone strikes. Others are implanted into commercial electronics.

All jolly clever stuff, but it could also easily be turned into effective and quiet monitoring devices of US citizens without too much imagination. 

North Korea propaganda video shows US city under attack

North Korea is apparently planning to conduct another nuclear test and the hermit kingdom is also stepping up its propaganda offensive against the west, namely the United States.

Its latest effort seems harmless enough, it’s a YouTube video which had gone viral for all the wrong reasons.

The video depicts a young Korean man dreaming of glorious future for the DPRK, which involves some sort of space shuttle orbiting the earth, a rocket launch followed by a US city in flames and a lot of other cheap 3D nonsense. Who ever came up with the video has a rather unusual taste in music, as the nuclear attack unfolds to the tune of “We are the world.”

Needless to say, the captions are unflattering and equally tasteless.

“Somewhere in the United States, black clouds of smoke are billowing,” the man dreams. “It appears that the headquarters of evil, which has had a habit of using force and unilateralism and committing wars of aggression, is going up in flames it itself has ignited.”

It is all a bit disturbing even by North Korean standards. Luckily, the US is in good hands. The video was promptly yanked from YouTube after a complaint from Activision. The video features scenes of Manhattan in flames from “Call of Duty,” so it had to go.

Apparently, even a nuclear armed despotic regime with the fourth largest standing army in the world is no match for Big Content.

Ahmadinejad wants to be first in space

Comedy president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has announced that he is “ready to be the first man in space”.

Ahmadinejad, who apparently has not heard of Yuri Gagarin, would not be the first world leader to be an Astronaut. According to the North Korean press, Kim Jong-il has also done a turn or two in space, landed on the moon, and kicked over the Americian flag. Kim would have flown further but had to return to save his people from a giant imperialist badger which was threatening the country.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, despite being a world pariah and not having much cash, Ahmadinejad has insisted that Iran run an ambitious program which aims to send a human into orbit by 2020.

“Our youth are determined to send a man into space within the next four, five years, and I’m sure that will happen,” he said during a ceremony in Tehran where two new Iranian-made satellites were unveiled, according to the ISNA news agency.

He added that he is ready to be the first Iranian to be sacrificed by the scientists of his country and go into space, even though he knows there are a lot of candidates. Recently, a monkey volunteered for the sacrifice, but made it back to earth unscathed.

Judging by Ahmadinejad’s popularity both at home and in the rest of the world, we are sure a few world leaders will chip in to send him on an exploration of the surface of the sun using a revolutionary new tin foil space suit.

He said he was willing to “auction himself and donate” the money to the Iran’s space program. Although we doubt he would find many takers, even for parts.

The presidency website showed pictures of Ahmadinejad at the ceremony with what was purportedly Pishgam (pioneer), the monkey claimed to have been sent into orbit by Tehran last week.

Iran’s space program is believed to be a cover for the development of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, despite denials from Tehran.

The UN Security Council has imposed an almost total embargo on the export of nuclear and space technology to Iran since 2007. 

Iran sends monkey into space

Iran has reportedly managed to put a monkey into space, and has safely brought it back to earth.

Iranian state TV reports that the space-ape was sent on top of the Pishgam (Pioneer) launch vehicle. The sub-orbital launch reached an altitude of 120 kilometers and the fortunate primate was recovered alive and well, oblivious of any geopolitical implications. His predecessor wasn’t as lucky. In 2011, Iran also tried to put a monkey into space, but the launch failed. No official explanation was ever given.

Iran also managed to successfully launch other biological specimens in the past, including a mouse, some worms, and turtles. Earlier this year, Iran said it would try to put a monkey into orbit as part of its preparations for a manned mission, scheduled for 2020.

However, Iran’s space program is not very popular in the West. Many believe Iran is basically using its civilian space program as a cover for ballistic missile development, with the aid of North Korean rocket scientists. Iran’s nuclear program is another source of concern and the fear is that sooner or later Iran will manage to develop a viable delivery system for nuclear warheads.

Iran is still years away from developing long range ballistic missiles with enough throw-weight to deliver a warhead. Even if the rogue nation manages to develop a nuclear device, it will have to spend more time, effort and money before it can weaponise it.

The United States detonated its first nuclear device in July 1945 and the first thermonuclear devices were tested in the early fifties, but it took the US more than a decade to develop viable intercontinental ballistic missiles, tipped with thermonuclear warheads. First generation American and Soviet ICBMs were huge and took days to set up for launch, making them extremely vulnerable to attack. It took more than a decade to go from these behemoths to solid fuel missiles with multiple reentry vehicles, like the Minuteman III and Trident II we all know and love today.