Featuring a host of links to space exploration, physics and astronomical news, the very latest Carnival of Space has been posted.
The Principal Investigator for the project, Dean Ahorn, has let Kentucky Space know that Nanosail-D has been resurrected and is being readied to fly on the FASTSAT-HSV1 satellite later this year. Similar in concept to the Planetary Society's Lightsail project, the 3U (unit) Cubesat packs an unbelievable amout of fabric into its diminutive body.
Use the radiation pressure of light from the stars or a laser to propel themselves forward, solar sails can in theory reach very high speeds over time.
The two spacecraft are among the very first to test the material and sails that could form the basis for a technology first envisioned by writers in the 1960s, as well as push the technology boundaries of what's possible using the Cubesat platform.
This video demonstrates how Nanosail-D will unfurl its sails.
Pointing to a paper recently accepted for publication, Paul Gilster explains how the best ideas for fast space travel must cope with another, non-technological, constraint.
For example, while "sundiving" missions designed to place a solar sail-powered craft near the sun for maximum outward acceleration - one study suggests that deployment at .1 AU could send such a craft to 200 AU in only 2.5 years! - might be accomplished, designers would have to account for General Relativistic effects in their craft's navigation or find it potentially millions of kilometers off course by the time it reaches the Oort Cloud. As one commenter points out, MESSENGER's flight calculations have also taken General Relativity into account. And another points to this Technology Review blog entry on "relativistic navigation."
Working with the Space Systems Design Studio at Cornell, graduate student Joseph Shoer demonstrates the properties of magnetic flux pinning, which, as he suggests, could be used to build highly reconfigurable modular spacecraft. In the past year, it's been suggested that CubeSats might be used to demonstrate these properties in space.
Joseph, we'd love an update on that idea!
David Chandler writes that NASA is accepting applications for "conceptual studies" describing how relatively cheap access to near-space made available by a raft of new commercial vehicles might be exploited on behalf of science. According to David, NASA adds a "wrinkle":
As NASA describes it, 'The imminent emergence of human suborbital flight for commercial purposes offers an opportunity for a new mode of research for the scientific community: human-tended suborbital investigations for cases where having a human in-the-loop would increase the scientific return of flight experiments.'
NASA will award about $400,000 for these research proposals, and expects to award about 8 such grants.
Proposals are due October 8. Details are here. Thanks, David, for the pointer!
Space Systems Design Studio has redone its web site or I just haven't been there in a while. There is now a nice section on its flux-pinned modular spacecraft research and applications for the technology, as well as some video of flux pinning in action.
The lab, as pointed out recently, has also experimented with Lorentz-force technology, which might enable satellites to use the Earth's magnetic field to orbit the planet. The technology, according to Discovery News, has the potential to dramatically alter space physics and economies.