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Space

Rocket Lab Unveils "Electric" Rocket Engine 2

Posted by timothy
from the partially-electric-is-still-cool dept.
New submitter Adrian Harvey writes The New Zealand based commercial space company Rocket Lab has unveiled their new rocket engine which the media is describing as battery-powered. It still uses rocket fuel, of course, but has an entirely new propulsion cycle which uses electric motors to drive its turbopumps.

To add to the interest over the design, it uses 3D printing for all its primary components. First launch is expected this year, with commercial operations commencing in 2016.
Space

The Origin of the First Light In the Universe 78

Posted by timothy
from the was-just-born-there dept.
StartsWithABang writes Before there were planets, galaxies, or even stars in the Universe, there really was light. We see that light, left over today, in the form of the Cosmic Microwave Background, or the remnant glow from the Big Bang. But these photons outnumber the matter in our Universe by more than a-billion-to-one, and are the most numerous thing around. So where did they first come from? Science has the answer.
Space

Incorrectly Built SLS Welding Machine To Be Rebuilt 121

Posted by timothy
from the but-in-a-crash-you'd-be-totally-safe dept.
schwit1 writes A giant welding machine, built for NASA's multi-billion dollar Space Launch System (SLS), has to be taken apart and rebuilt because the contractor failed to reinforce the floor, as required, prior to construction: "Sweden's ESAB Welding & Cutting, which has its North American headquarters in Florence, South Carolina, built the the roughly 50-meter tall Vertical Assembly Center as a subcontractor to SLS contractor Boeing at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

ESAB was supposed to reinforce Michoud's floor before installing the welding tool, but did not, NASA SLS Program Manager Todd May told SpaceNews after an April 15 panel session during the 31st Space Symposium here. As a result, the enormous machine leaned ever so slightly, cocking the rails that guide massive rings used to lift parts of the 8.4-meter-diameter SLS stages The rings wound up 0.06 degrees out of alignment, which may not sound like much, "but when you're talking about something that's 217 feet [66.14 meters] tall, that adds up," May said.

Asked why ESAB did not reinforce the foundation as it was supposed to, May said only it was a result of "a miscommunication between two [Boeing] subcontractors and ESAB."

It is baffling how everyone at NASA, Boeing, and ESAB could have forgotten to do the reinforcing, even though it was specified in the contract. It also suggests that the quality control in the SLS rocket program has some serious problems.
Space

Enceladus Spreads Ghostly Ice Tendrils Around Saturn 33

Posted by samzenpus
from the old-space-faithful dept.
astroengine writes A ghostly apparition has long been known to follow Saturn moon Enceladus in its orbit around the gas giant. But until now, scientists have had a hard time tracking its source. Using images from NASA's Cassini mission, the source of these tendrils have been tracked down and they originate from the icy moon's famous geysers. But even better than that, scientists have been able to track the tendril shapes down to the specific geysers that produce them. "We've been able to show that each unique tendril structure can be reproduced by particular sets of geysers on the moon's surface," said Colin Mitchell, a Cassini imaging team associate at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., and lead author of a paper published int he Astrophysical Journal. The study of these features are helping scientists understand how much ice is being transported into Saturn's E ring from Enceladus as well as helping us understand the evolution of the moon's sub-surface ocean.
Space

An Engineering Analysis of the Falcon 9 First Stage Landing Failure 110

Posted by Soulskill
from the ground-not-soft-enough dept.
schwit1 writes: AviationWeek has posted an analysis of SpaceX's latest attempt to land its Falcon 9 rocket on an ocean barge. Quoting: "SpaceX founder and chief technology officer Elon Musk tweeted that "excess lateral velocity caused it [the booster] to tip over post landing." In a later tweet that was subsequently withdrawn, Musk then indicated that "the issue was stiction in the biprop throttle valve, resulting in control system phase lag." In this statement, Musk was referring to "stiction" — or static friction — in the valve controlling the throttling of the engine. The friction appears to have momentarily slowed the response of the engine, causing the control system to command more of an extreme reaction from the propulsion system than was required. As a result, the control system entered a form of hysteresis, a condition in which the control response lags behind changes in the effect causing it.

Despite the failure of the latest attempt, SpaceX will be encouraged by the landing accuracy of the Falcon 9 and the bigger-picture success of its guidance, navigation and control (GNC) system in bringing the booster back to the drone ship. The GNC also worked as designed during the prior landing attempt in January, which ended in the destruction of the vehicle following a hard touchdown on the edge of the platform."
In related news, SpaceX is hoping to attempt its next landing on solid ground.
NASA

NASA's MESSENGER Mission To Crash Into Mercury In 2 Weeks 40

Posted by Soulskill
from the take-that,-mercury dept.
astroengine writes: NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft is in the final days of an unprecedented and unexpectedly long-lived, close-up study of the innermost planet of the solar system, with a crashing finale expected in two weeks. Out of fuel, the robotic Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging, or MESSENGER, probe on April 30 will succumb to the gravitational pull of this strange world that has been its home since March 2011. The purpose of the mission, originally designed to last one year, is to collect detailed geochemical and other data that will help scientists piece together of how Mercury formed and evolved. "MESSENGER is going to create a new crater on Mercury sometime in the near future ... let's not be sad about that," NASA associate administrator John Grunsfeld said Thursday. The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory has an excellent site for looking through the pictures MESSENGER has taken and the science it's done.
Space

Spitzer Space Telescope Finds New Planet 21

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-see-you dept.
Aspiring Astronomer sends word of the discovery of one of the farthest known exoplanets. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has teamed up with a telescope on the ground to find a remote gas planet about 13,000 light-years away, making it one of the most distant planets known. The discovery demonstrates that Spitzer -- from its unique perch in space -- can be used to help solve the puzzle of how planets are distributed throughout our flat, spiral-shaped Milky Way galaxy. Are they concentrated heavily in its central hub, or more evenly spread throughout its suburbs? 'We don't know if planets are more common in our galaxy's central bulge or the disk of the galaxy, which is why these observations are so important,' said Jennifer Yee of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a NASA Sagan fellow. Yee is the lead author of one of three new studies that appeared recently in the Astrophysical Journal describing a collaboration between astronomers using Spitzer and the Polish Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment, or OGLE."
Space

Longer Video Shows How Incredibly Close Falcon Stage Came To Successful Landing 340

Posted by samzenpus
from the close-but-no-cigar dept.
Bruce Perens writes In the video here, the Falcon 9 first stage is shown landing with a tilt, and then a thruster keeps the rocket vertical on the barge for a few seconds before it quits, followed by Kabooom with obvious significant damage to the barge. It looks like this attempt was incredibly close to success. Given fixes, a successful first-stage recovery seems likely.
Space

Hubble and the VLT Uncover Evidence For Self-Interacting Dark Matter 116

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-perfectly-natural-and-healthy dept.
astroengine writes: A new study carried out by the ESO's Very Large Telescope and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has revealed for the first time that dark matter may well interact with itself — a discovery that, at first glance, seems to contradict what we thought we knew about the nature of this invisible mass. "In this study, the researchers observed the four colliding galaxies and found that one dark matter clump appeared to be lagging behind the galaxy it surrounds. The dark matter is currently 5000 light-years (50 000 million million kilometers) behind the galaxy — it would take NASA’s Voyager spacecraft 90 million years to travel that far. A lag between dark matter and its associated galaxy is predicted during collisions if dark matter interacts with itself, even very slightly, through forces other than gravity. Dark matter has never before been observed interacting in any way other than through the force of gravity."
Space

New Horizons Captures First Color Image of Pluto and Charon 78

Posted by Soulskill
from the pictures-that-are-both-unimpressive-and-really-impressive dept.
192_kbps writes: NASA published today the first color image of Pluto and Charon captured by the New Horizons probe, revealing a reddish world. "The fastest spacecraft ever launched, New Horizons has traveled a longer time and farther away - more than nine years and three billion miles - than any space mission in history to reach its primary target. Its flyby of Pluto and its system of at least five moons on July 14 will complete the initial reconnaissance of the classical solar system. This mission also opens the door to an entirely new "third" zone of mysterious small planets and planetary building blocks in the Kuiper Belt, a large area with numerous objects beyond Neptune's orbit." The picture is blurry, but far better than the few pixels Hubble can resolve, the image whets the appetite for New Horizon's closest approach on July 14th."
Mars

Road To Mars: Solving the Isolation Problem 137

Posted by Soulskill
from the cryostasis-is-not-just-for-sci-fi-and-weekly-meetings dept.
An anonymous reader writes: As space technology matures, new missions are being funded and humanity is setting its goals ever further. Space agencies are tackling some of the new problems that crop up when we try to go further away than Earth's moon. This New Yorker article takes a look at research into one of the biggest obstacles: extended isolation. Research consultant Jack Stuster once wrote, "Future space expeditions will resemble sea voyages much more than test flights, which have served as the models for all previous space missions." Long-duration experiments are underway to test the effects of isolation, but it's tough to study. You need many experiments to derive useful conclusions, but you can't just ship 100 groups of a half-dozen people off to remote areas of the globe and monitor all of them. It's also borderline unethical to expose the test subjects to the kind of stress and danger that would be present in a real Mars mission. The data collected so far has been (mostly) promising, but we have a long way to go. The technology and the missions themselves will probably come together long before we know how to deal with isolation. At some point, we'll just have to hope our best guess is good enough.
ISS

SpaceX Dragon Launches Successfully, But No Rocket Recovery 117

Posted by Soulskill
from the trying-difficult-things dept.
New submitter monkeyzoo writes: SpaceX has successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft en route to the International Space Station with supplies (including an Italian espresso machine). This was also the second attempt to land the launch rocket on a barge, but that was not successful. Elon Musk tweeted that the rocket landed on the recovery ship but too hard to be reused. Video of the launch is available on the SpaceX webcast page.
NASA

The International Space Station (Finally) Gets an Espresso Machine 108

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-the-go-juice dept.
coondoggie writes NASA this week will be sending its first espresso making machine into space, letting astronauts onboard the International Space Station brew coffee, tea or other hot beverages for those long space days. Making espresso in space is no small feat, as heating the water to the right temperature – 208F – and generating enough pressure to make the brew are critical in the brewing process. And then getting it into a “cup,” well that’s nearly impossible in gravity-free space. NASA, the Italian space agency ASI, aerospace firm Argotec, and coffee company Lavazza have come up with en experimental machine that will deliver the espresso into what basically amounts to a sippy pouch.
Space

SpaceX Launch Postponed 77

Posted by samzenpus
from the second-time's-a-charm dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news about SpaceX's launch today and second attempt to land its Falcon 9 rocket on a platform floating offshore in the Atlantic ocean. "You can watch live as SpaceX launches its Falcon 9 rocket and attempts to recover the first stage portion via an automated, barge-based landing plan in the Atlantic ocean, with the first take-off attempted scheduled for 4:33 PM ET, provided conditions remain good and pre-flight checks go well. A big part of this mission, designated CRS-6 and designed primarily as a resupply flight for the International Space Station, is getting a second chance at recovering Falcon 9's first stage rocket. Once the second stage and the Dragon spacecraft detach from that first stage rocket, it'll undergo a controlled descent as it attempts to touch down with SpaceX's ocean-borne landing platform." Update: 04/13 21:43 GMT by S : The launch was scrubbed because of lightning in a nearby cloud. It's been rescheduled for tomorrow at 4:10PM ET.
Mars

Briny Water May Pool In Mars' Equatorial Soil 39

Posted by samzenpus
from the wet-around-the-middle dept.
astroengine writes Mars may be a frigid desert, but perchlorate salts in the planet's soil are lowering the freezing temperature of water, setting up conditions for liquid brines to form at equatorial regions, new research from NASA's Curiosity rover shows. The discovery of subsurface water, even a trickle, around the planets warmer equatorial belt defies current climate models, though spacecraft orbiting Mars have found geologic evidence for transient liquid water, a phenomenon termed "recurring slope lineae." The findings, published in this week's Nature Geoscience, are based on nearly two years worth of atmospheric humidity and temperature measurements collected by the roving science laboratory Curiosity, which is exploring an ancient impact basin called Gale Crater near the planet's equator. The brines, computer models show, form nightly in the upper 2 inches of the planet's soil as perchlorates absorb atmospheric water vapor. As temperatures rise in the morning, the liquid evaporates. The levels of liquid, however, are too low to support terrestrial-type organisms, the researchers conclude. "It is not just a problem of water, but also temperature. The water activity and temperatures are so low in Mars that they are beyond the limits of cell reproduction and metabolism," Javier Martin-Torres, with Lulea University of Technology, in Kiruna, Sweden, wrote in an email to Discovery News.
NASA

European Space Agency Invited To Contribute a Lander To NASA's Europa Clipper 33

Posted by samzenpus
from the joining-the-party dept.
MarkWhittington writes According to a story in Spaceflight Now, NASA has invited the European Space Agency to participate in its upcoming Europa Clipper project. Europa Clipper, pushed by Rep. John Culberson, the chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA, recently received backing from the Obama administration. Europa Clipper would launch in the early 2020s and would be placed in an orbit around Jupiter that would cause it to fly by Europa, a moon of Jupiter, at least 45 times during its operational life.
Space

Copenhagen Suborbitals Test Rocket Engine 9

Posted by samzenpus
from the to-infinty-and-beyond dept.
An anonymous reader writes Copenhagen Suborbitals, the amateur manned space program, is conducting a rocket engine test today. The event is being streamed Live in HD on YouTube. The rocket engine is named BPM 2 and is a prequel to a planned series of test of the BPM 5 rocket engine currently being built. The purpose of the BPM 2 test is primarily to test a newly constructed mobile test stand and to test various fuel additives before the BPM 5 test series are to begin later in the first half of 2015.
Space

Supernovae May Not Be Standard Candles; Is Dark Energy All Wrong? 199

Posted by Soulskill
from the either-that-or-it-isn't dept.
StartsWithABang writes: The accelerated expansion of the Universe — and hence, dark energy — was discovered by taking the well-understood phenomenon of type Ia supernovae and measuring them out to great distances. The results indicated that they were fainter than expected, and hence more distant, and hence the Universe's expansion must be accelerating. But new results have just come out, showing that supernovae may not be standard after all. Does this mean dark energy may not be real, or that it may just be slightly weaker than we previously thought?
Space

Stars Form Near Milky Way's Supermassive Black Hole 32

Posted by Soulskill
from the volatile-real-estate dept.
New submitter Aspiring Astronomer writes: Scientists report that stars have likely formed near the supermassive black hole in the heart of our galaxy. How does this happen, if a black hole exerts so much gravitational force that not even light can escape? Astronomers believe the black hole may actually facilitate the formation of these stars. According to study author Farhad Yusef-Zadeh, the gases and dusts constantly flowing toward black holes compress and heat up, creating enough disturbance to cause the materials to collapse and then form a star. Yusef-Zadeh speculates that in addition to stars forming near black holes, planets may form there, too. The disk around a protostar (a mass of gas and materials that form early in star formation) breaks off into clumps of matter, and when paired with the extreme force of a black hole, may cause the formation whole planets.