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Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Robot crewed space stations, a picture worth 1000 papers, and more....

US military developing robot run deep space 'hub' for deeps space satellite servicing:

The US military definitely has an interest in space - as well as their surveillance satellites and whatever else they have up there they run a small fleet of robotic reusable space planes called the X37-B's.
Above: An X37-B coming in to land. Courtesy fo the USAF.
Now DARPA is looking to begin development on robotic arms, which will be used as part of an in-space repair, construction, and servicing hub, located in geostationary orbit. The robot run space station would be part of a "a vibrant, robust ecosystem that involves transportation, repair, refuelling, upgrading, [and] in situ construction"  officials said.

Gigantic nitrogen crystals on Pluto: 

The surface and near subsurface of Pluto is dominated by solid (and possibly liquid) nitrogen, which does some weird stuff, as the video below shows....

Above: Liquid nitrogen freezing solid does some weird, and explosive, stuff....

... but the paper linked to in the title suggests that it might grow into monstrous crystals over a meter big. Plus the New Horizons team report they have seen a picture worth 1000 scientific papers from their space craft, which has led space geeks like myself to go on forums and type comments like:  "What have they seen?  WHAT HAVE THEY SEEN!"

Interior of the new SpaceX crewed Dragon spacecraft revealed:

Growing star inside cocoon seen for the first time:

An embryonic star and planet have been spotted growing deep inside their cocoon of dust and gas.

Huge amounts of low latitude ice on Mars? 

Mars is an icy planet, but new information suggests it's even icy-er than we thought: A new analysis suggests that there's a massive block of ice buried beneath the martian surface at low latitudes, possibly an remnant of a more habitable climate.
Above: The Martian surface: Red, dry, rocky... and perhaps hiding massive amounts of water as ice... Image courtesy of JPL/NASA

New mathematical tricks find new moon quakes :

You can't teach an old dog new tricks, but you can get new information out of very old data it seems. A team from the American Geophysical Union has gone back over seismograph data from the Apollo era with new analysis techniques, and found that the Moon has more quake than previously thought.
Above: The Moon - a world with with a bit more shake rattle and roll than previously thought. Image courtesy of NASA.

Virgin galactic offering to put 200kg into interplanetary space for under $10,000,000 :

Although they're famous for developing a way to launch people into (sub-orbital) space, Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic will also be offering a launch service for robotic spacecraft. Launcher1 will send payloads all the way out to a Sun-synchronous orbit. Virgin Galactic CEO George T. Whitesides said: "The market has spoken, and we have listened: we have roughly doubled the payload for our customers without increasing the price. LauncherOne will be ready to meet the rapidly expanding needs of satellite startups, space agencies, and research institutions thanks to the investments we've already made in our engines, tanks, avionics, and our production infrastructure. Demand has become so significant that LauncherOne will have its own dedicated aircraft. Small satellites are big business, and we look forward to supporting satellite innovators to make history in space and to improve lives here on Earth."

Above: Artwork depicting Launcher 1, courtesy of Virgin.

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