Is it possible to have a “Space Force”?

The thought of developing a space force is not new to the world. Many Presidents of the United States have shown a keen interest in the space, as a zone for non-aggressive military activities and self-defense.  However, President Donald Trump seems to have an extra bit of willingness to take these ideas to another level.

Recently, President Trump advocated for a “Space Force.” Observers are concerned about this move as this does not seem to be in the best interests of everyone. The reason is that it signifies that the U.S is considering the space as a potential war-fighting zone. Whatever the possibilities may be, but what will a space force look like?

According to researchers, it is likely that the center of this space would be the Air Force Space Command, which has controlled the U.S’s military activities since 1982. The command isn’t completely void of space technology right now. It employs above 36,000 workers and uses various kinds of military technology in space, including the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite network and a mysterious space plane. Moreover, it is believed that they spend more than $7 billion each year, that too only on unclassified space tech.

As for the power of the space force, it is believed that it would have similar functionalities as the Army and Navy, with offices and service academy just like West Point. However, it can be more elaborated upon only after corresponding laws are passed, which aren’t expected to move any time sooner. 

Military action in space still faces questions on its legality. According to legal experts, the international law would restrict the activity of space forces if they ever came online. Also, major space powers like the U.S, China, and Russia are party to the Outer Space Treaty 1967 which states that a single nation-state cannot claim any territory in outer space. This prevents storage of weapons of mass destruction, like nuclear weapons, at any place in the outer space. Adding to that, it says that no military action or weapon testing can take place on other “celestial bodies.”

The Outer Space Treaty and other space treaties may be playing their part in maintaining order, but they fail to regulate the use of conventional weapons in space stations or open space. For precedence, the Soviet Union covertly tested a cannon on its Almaz space station.

A startup named “Spinlaunch” raises $40 million

Picture credited by Wikipedia

Spinlaunch, a newly developed startup in the Silicon Valley, has raised $40 million for their innovative ideas for launching spacecraft, and payloads into orbit. They claim to use a “catapult” like structure to launch them into space which would use very less energy compared to the current systems used.

The idea has not been the unique ones. Since Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO and founder of the private space company Blue Origin had been through it in the early days of his space station venture. He had dismissed the very principle of the idea as having many glitches and “practical problems” which came from the book “Space Barons.” 

The same idea has been picked up by Spinlaunch, and it has been successful in raising $40 million for it. The investors include the massive organizations like Airbus Ventures, Google’s Venture fund (GV) and Kleiner Perkins. 

The specifics of the appearance of the project are not confirmed as yet, but the company claims to make use of kinetic energy, generated from ground-based electricity, to launch the spacecraft or payload. Since it uses regular electricity, and not rocket fuel, to power the catapult, it’ll provide a very cheap alternative for space stations. However, TechCrunch does believe that some payloads may need an additional rocket motor to enter space. 

Secondly, their technology comes from the fundamental principles of Physics, which has also attracted the interest of many around. It is the law of conservation of momentum. Spinlaunch plans to use energy to spin the small rockets in circles at about 5,000 miles per hour, which will then be flung into space. 

A partner at Kleiner Perkins, Wen Hsieh said in one of his statements that he is most intrigued by the idea of using renewable sources of energy to power the catapult, which reduces usage of highly toxic and dangerous rocket fuel. GV partner Shaun Maguire said the project is unique from the traditional rocket-based methods for space launch.

With high hopes, Spinlaunch wishes to attempt its first launch within the upcoming four years. They are also in talks with four different states to construct launch sites for their catapults. 

This new budding company has successfully raised a considerable amount of capital, but the information regarding its project is still not entirely public. Their website does have pinches of information, but it is unknown how the catapult will look like.

Meteorite Impact Triggers Dust Avalanche on Mars

NASA captured astonishing views of Mars crater, caused by a small space rock crashing onto the planet and triggering a dust avalanche with its impact.

Likely caused by the meteorite impact within the last ten years, the new crater on Mars was spotted by NASA’s MRO, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter from the orbit, and the agency released relevant images on 15th June. 

The crater is around 16.5 feet (5 meters) across, with 1 km long streak that it started, as quoted by NASA officials. Officials also mentioned that these slope streaks get created by dust avalanches that leave behind dark swaths on the dusty Martian hills. Along the side of the new darker stripe, a faded scar from an old rockslide is also spotted. 

The collision of the meteorite caused destabilization of the slope that it collided with, thereby generating an avalanche of Martian dust, sand, and dirt. This avalanche left behind a dark streak, also known as slope streak, on the surface of the planet. And as pointed out by NASA, the impact of the crater may be tiny, but as seen in the image, the mark it left is massive. Also, the picture shows the scar from an old avalanche near to it. 

Long and dark streaks are not an uncommon sight on the surface of the planet, and researches also confirm that all these dark slope streaks are a result of dust avalanches.  

Meteorites are small pieces of rocks in the space, and when they enter the atmosphere, they flare up and called as meteors. Any part that reaches the surface is known as meteorites. The surface of the Red Planet is covered in dirt, dust, and granules, and the planet is well known to have storms and hit by meteorites.  

Scientists for years have investigated the origin of these marks. Initially, researches claimed that these dark streaks could be the result of the transient flow of briny water, somehow indicating that the planet is habitable, that may have been suspected. Researchers’ gauged subterranean water may have risen to the surface and caused the streaks. This conclusive theory was then supported when MRO was able to detect hydrated salts in such stripes on the planet. Many even had the opinion that seasonal carbon dioxide frosts have caused these streaks. Among all these, in a study published in the journal Nature Geoscience, last spring, indicated avalanches on the planet as the leading cause behind the streaks. 

Using High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), developed by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., of Boulder, Colorado and operated by University of Arizona, MRO took spectacular some new impact images of the crater. These are some of the most outstanding and detailed photographs taken by HiRISE till the date of the Martian surface. 

Sweat for Science

German astronaut, Alexander Gerst, at a training session at the European Astronaut Centre in Germany in spring 2018, will test special cooling shirts on Earth and in space and is all set to sweat for the project SpaceTex2. On June 6, Gerst arrived at the International Space Station as part of the European Space Agency’s Horizons and will help conduct the first experiments to explore how the human body, clothing, and climate interact, about comfort, under zero-gravity conditions. In the study, the examination of the three shirts would take place. Each shirt with a different cooling performance was developed following the SpaceTex experiments on the space station in 2014.

For Jan Beringer, a functional-textiles expert at Germany’s Hohenstein Institute, which is managing the project, the examination of three shirts in space makes them highly excited about the results. To examine the shirts, Gerst will have to perform six training sessions on the ergometer (space bicycle) or the treadmill while wearing the functional shirts. These sessions will happen outside of the 2 hours of exercise; space station astronauts undergo daily to prevent bone and muscle loss. The information regarding Gerst’s respiratory flow, heart frequency, and oxygen saturation back to Earth via a data downlink will be piped using wearable sensors provided by the Institute of Aerospace Engineering at TU Dresden.

Beringer finds the task not very easy as Gerst has to sweat quite a lot in space to activate the cooling performance of the functional shirts. In normal gravity, warm air descends and draws cold air from the bottom(convection) while in zero gravity body heat form a warm aura and sweat does not drip down, it stays where it occurs which means there is no loss of heat due to convection when in space. 

Also, during any physical activity, heat thus builds up quicker than on Earth, and this results in core body temperature to rapidly climb up the values that are too high to be healthy. In microgravity, sweat and heat transport away from the body very differently than on Earth. Sweating in space doesn’t work quite the same way it does on Earth and therefore the shirts there are necessary as conduits for heat exchange. Although an active human body will still attempt to cool itself through perspiration, sweat doesn’t evaporate in the absence of gravity, and heat itself doesn’t rise off the body. So, to find the right material to wick away sweat and to keep the body cool becomes vital for proper functioning in microgravity. 

 According to the Hohenstein Institute, which is collaborating with the medical department of Charité University in Berlin, the German Aerospace Centre and ESA are on the research where such findings will help scientists create optimized garments for intravehicular activity which would be the clothing worn inside the space station. The institute also noted that the study could also provide valuable insight into the development of functional textiles for extreme climate and physiological conditions here on Earth, such as those potentially brought about by global warming.

Satellite Internet Business known as Starlink to be introduced shortly by SpaceX

According to the 2018 report, the rationale decision of SpaceX to accelerate its business into the operation and construction of a massive internet business is known as Starlink. This was brought into sharp contrast, introducing how tiny the orbital market launches is compared with the markets, which makes the same entry. 

It should be acknowledged that SpaceX strives to launch vehicles over the decades and have been interestingly focused on reducing the orbit access cost. In fact, the underlying economy suggests increasing the orbital access growth. If the buying cost of the goods would be less, people could be able to buy it. The launch market is alike, but the only difference is that  reaching orbit has no inherent value of its own. The satellites, payloads, and humans, which are delivered there, make it more valuable. 

The launch market needs to decrease the cost of the satellites. Besides, SpaceX desires to do with reusability of the orbit access cost. Anyhow, the cargo cost being placed, where there would be no reason to increase the demand for launches. The internal effort of SpaceX is to enter Starlink and develop it from scratch. The vast majority of cheap and reliable mass- producible satellite operates the software and hardware and also orbits within the broadband network. The comparable companies such as Oneweb focused on introducing a new generation of miniaturized satellites. This is created to set for the future where the price of orbital payloads decreases just as the cost of launching them.    

SpaceX will be launching a constellation of four,425 Ka/Ku, low earth orbit satellites in the year 2019. Starlink will offer broadband speeds same as optic fiber networks. The satellites will provide new shoppers Wi-Fi connections directly. According to FCC chairman Ajit Pai, Starlink is such a dynamic innovation which could supply high-speed web to rural people. The license would enable SpaceX for six years to install all of the satellites through FCC. 

According to SpaceX, CEO Elon Musk, Starlink would perform as an excellent enabler for the rural people. The microstat 2b and 2a satellites will validate the performance and design of the platform, which is expected to be tested for 20 months. SpaceX is also checking three-floor stations and six-floor stations, which is fixed throughout the US. Starlink will be keeping its paper works with FCC. 

Amidst Growing Trade War, Boing 737 up against China’s Spacecraft

As unveiled by the Trump lead, US administration, Chinese spacecraft faces new steep tariff challenges. It is also the same with large airlines like Cornac C919 and ‘turbojet’ engines. 

The biggest challenge here is that the U.S. does not import any of these, and simultaneously the Chinese companies making them are just at the initial stages of establishing their foothold on a global platform. According to the aerospace analyst, Richard Aboulafia – the list item that has been newly included in the tax bracket appears to be aimed for years, or maybe decades, into the future, by when China might be expected to pose a threat for the Boeing Co. and the Airbus. 

As of now, the measures taken to protect U.S. trade would more likely harm aerospace commerce amongst both the nations which is already in big favor of America – at a ratio of about 17 is to 1. And all these attributing towards Boeing’s high aircraft sales to China’s airlines’ sector, which has been on rapid growth. 

Aboulafia also mentioned in his statement that, all of these have one significant risk and that will be retaliation. 

Advantage U.S.

According to Teal Group’s analysis of International Trade Commission data, a whopping total of $16.3 billion towards U.S aerospace exports has been recorded in the last fiscal year as compared to imports of only $956 million in parts. Further, as per the data, this favorable U.S. balance is going to dip, if China chose to expand its levies on 737 jetliners, Boeing’s largest profit source, and the most significant U.S. exporter. 

In an email statement, Boeing said that it has been analyzing the impacts of the tariffs and any such conditions of China’s reciprocal actions. It mentioned that the company would continue to be engaged with leaders of both the countries and urge forward for any productive dialogue possible to resolve any trade indifference. 

On the other hand, China had issued a warning that in an action of response to U.S. tariff threats it would impose 25 percent tariff on the U.S. aircraft weighing between 15,00 to 45,000 kgs when empty. This category range includes the U.S. Gulfstream luxurious jets and other smaller and older 737 models but just shied from penalizing 737 Max 8 – the new and best-selling Boeing model.  

Warning Lines 

As China retaliated on the levies on numerous items from hybrid cars to whiskey, aircraft was not the only among the U.S. goods. As per George Ferguson, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, there may be many other ways that the Chinese government may convey its displeasure on the U.S. for aiming the aerospace sector. 

According to Ferguson – there are chances that Chinese carriers could shake up Boeing investors by canceling or by deferring a couple of orders of aircraft. Or maybe could build up strategized issues for Boeing by placing their order with other competitors and breathe in fresh life to the Airbus’s low selling  A330neo family or the C Series, a narrow body which the European company is going to manufacture with Bombardier Inc. of Canada. 

The only relief count is that China would need more Boring crafts to continue on their growth run. The country’s airline sector cannot just subside Boeing for Airbus, as the popular French A350 widebodies and A320neo jets are majorly sold out till the early 2020s. 

330 Light- Years from Earth, the Newborn Star is found to have hidden baby planets orbiting it, as per the latest findings

It came as a challenge for scientists and a team of international astronomers, through a modern technique which discovered three baby planets around a newborn star. Since the 1990s, scientists have found many exoplanets that orbit distant stars, but this latest discovery of the infant protoplanets that are embedded in stellar expanses of dust and gas is an incredible discovery that affirms age-old assumptions of planet formations.  

Under normal circumstances, exoplanets get detected as they come in front of the host star, which results in dimming effect, or at times when the gravity of these exoplanets makes the host star to jiggle slightly. These techniques do not allow so well to study the protoplanetary disk (the dull and hazed expanses that are full of dust, gases and rocks). As per theory, within these disks, planets are formed, but ironically astronomers have never seen this happening, neither have ever they found any baby planet in these dust filled incubators. This stands as an issue as scientists are very much keen on detecting protoplanets. But now with the findings of the latest discoveries that were published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, the picture is much more transparent.

Three baby planets were detected by two teams of astronomers, using ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimetre Array} in Chile, around the young star – HD 163296, which is at a distance of 330 light years from the Earth. This star may be twice in size of the sun, but almost one-thousand times younger the suns age, at just four million years. The astronomers used new technology to detect these infant planets. A technique that finds out anomalous patterns of gas flows within the disks that form planets. 

Richard Teague, the astronomer with the University of Michigan, led the team that found two protoplanets of the Jupiter mass located at about 12 billion km (7.4 billion miles) and 21 million km (13 billion miles) away from the host star. It’s almost 80 and 140 times respectively the distance from the Earth to the sun. 

In another independent finding by Christopher Pinte, at the Monash University of Clayton, Australia, he and his team observed a planet a little more distant at about 39 billion km (24 billion miles) away from the host star. The findings confirmed that all the three planets are embedded firmly within the protoplanetary disk of HD 163296.

It has been an encouraging outcome that highlights ALMA’s capabilities to hunt for infant planets. With the success of the new technology, it also confirms that many other protoplanetary disks can be studied similarly.  

The Interstellar Comet Dust Has The Secret Of The Solar System

A simple trail of the interstellar dust can take us back to the origin of the solar system. Just like every other star and planet systems of the different galaxies, our solar system started as a cloud of interstellar dust and gas. Some of those pre-solar dust particles are still preserved in certain cosmic objects like the comets and asteroids. Tons of such cosmic specks of dust fall on the Earth’s atmosphere every year. The scientists are following a trail of such interstellar dust to go back in time to discover more details about the formation and transformation of our solar system. 

NASA Is Analyzing Such Pre-Solar Cosmic Dust –

NASA uses a special aircraft with a sticky collector to catch the falling interstellar specks of dust onto the Earth’s atmosphere at a very high altitude. The lower the specks of dust come down, they get contaminated by the materials present on our planet. Hope Ishii is leading a team of researchers to study and analyze an exceptionally ancient type of interplanetary dust particles collected by the aircraft. These dust particles are composed of grains of glass, metals, and sulfides. The origin of the dust particles is dated back to the pre-solar days. They have survived the building phase of our solar system. In other words, they are the surviving dust particular of our solar system that did not transform into planets and stars. 

Digging Deeper To Go Back In Time – 

The composition of the cosmic dust particles that Hope Ishii and his team are analyzing for years has been termed as GEMS. GEMS stands for Glass Embedded On Metal and Sulfides. GEMS are surrounded by carbon atoms of different types that decompose at a very low temperature. Therefore, the team has assumed that these cosmic specks of dust have come from a rather cold inner solar nebula. But going by their age, how these dust particles have survived the extreme interstellar conditions without decomposing is still a mystery. 

The scientists are digging deeper to understand the condition under which the solar system started its formation of the sun and the planets and satellites. They are hopeful that sooner than later they will have an exact understanding of the process of formation of our solar system and how the cosmic materials were altered to bring about the formation of stars and planets. NASA is continuously collecting cosmic clouds of dust falling on the Earth in search of more primitive particles that could reveal more about the formation of the entire universe.