by Jennifer Hurst
June 26, 2018

Boeing unveils hypersonic 4,000mph airliner capable of New York to London in TWO HOURS

Aerospace firm Boeing has joined the race for a new Concorde as they announced the development of the aircraft at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, a new hypersonic airliner capable of flying from New York to London in two hours – and that is nearly three times faster than the Concorde.

The unnamed aircraft is theoretically capable of flying at speeds of Mach 5 – which is nearly 4,000mph. And this is almost three times faster than the legendary supersonic Concorde, which was decommissioned in 2003.

Boeing’s new plane would be able to cruise at 95,000ft, which is also 30,000ft higher than the Concorde. It is estimated the aircraft would be able to cross the Atlantic in two hours, and the Pacific in just three.

Kevin Bowcutt, Boeing’s chief scientist for hypersonics said: “When you look at the problem of getting from Point A to Point B anywhere in the world, the question is how fast do you want to go and how fast is fast enough? Supersonic isn’t really fast enough to go overseas and back in one day. For the business traveler or the military, where time is really important, that’s an interesting point. Mach 5 is where you can do that.” — Daily Star

Boeing debuts first passenger-carrying hypersonic vehicle concept


Video Shows True Size of SpaceX Rockets

Elon Musk has shared a video that helps visualize the sheer scale of SpaceX’s rockets, and the results are awe-inspiring. The CEO retweeted a video on Wednesday from YouTube channel Corridor Crew, which uses visual effects to show the size of the Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, and BFR rockets in real-life situations. The video, which uses 3D models produced by Reese Wilson, shows the sheer scale of the company’s rockets that it’s using to fulfill its space exploration ambitions. — Inverse


Virgin Orbit Readies LauncherOne Rocket for Maiden Flight

Virgin Orbit is just months away from the first launch of its LauncherOne rocket. The company is currently undergoing an extensive test campaign to ensure that the vehicle will function correctly on its maiden flight. One major hurdle remaining in the test campaign is a captive carry test. This milestone will see Cosmic Girl carry a LauncherOne rocket during a flight. This test will validate that all systems work as expected when in the launch configuration. Preparations for the test are currently underway, and it is expected to occur in the coming weeks.

Cosmic Girl will carry the rocket beneath her left wing. 747’s were originally designed with the ability to ferry a fifth engine. Virgin Orbit has modified that location to support the rocket. During a mission, the fuel onboard the 747 will be redistributed to balance the aircraft, as LauncherOne is offset to one side. Once Cosmic Girl is ready to launch LauncherOne, she will bank upwards to at least 25 degrees. Then, Cosmic Girl will release the rocket. LauncherOne will fall for approximately 4-5 seconds before igniting the first stage. — Nasa Space Flight

A graphic of the LauncherOne rocket. Credit: Virgin Orbit


What Would the Mission of the United States Space Force Be?

Going beyond protecting American space assets and attacking those of an enemy, a number of other missions for a USSF present themselves. For example, the problem of cleaning up space junk, which would become a major problem in the event of a space war, would constitute a good peacetime task. Cleaning up the debris left by dead satellites would not only ensure that near Earth space remains navigable; it would constitute excellent practice for operating in space.

Farther down the line, with the United States and other countries as well as private industry heading back to the moon, a Space Force could take on the functions of a space-faring version of the Coast Guard, providing rescue services, enforcing the law, and helping to arbitrate disputes among nations and private entities beyond the Earth.

Finally, a United States Space Force could provide the ultimate defense against a threat that could arrive from deep space that could end civilization, if not the human species. Sixty-five million years ago, an asteroid hit the Earth in the region of the Yucatan, ending the reign of the dinosaurs and ensuring the rise of mammals as the dominant species on Earth. — Space News

“We are going to have the Air Force, and we are going to have the Space Force. Separate but equal. It is going to be something,” President Donald Trump said during a June 18 meeting of the National Space Council. “I’m hereby directing the department of Defense and the Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. That’s a big statement.” Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls


Solicitation Readied for Lunar Gateway Component

NASA has issued the draft solicitation for the first element of its planned Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway. The solicitation for the Power and Propulsion Element follows the guidance the agency had previously offered for the vehicle, including the use of a public private partnership to develop and procure the spacecraft. The element is designed to produce 50 kilowatts of power and be equipped with electric propulsion to maneuver the Gateway in cislunar space. An industry day is scheduled for July 10 at the Glenn Research Center, and a final solicitation is expected to be released later this summer. — Space News


Long Held Theory About the Moon Holds Water

A team of Japanese scientists led by Masahiro Kayama of Tohoku University’s Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences, has discovered a mineral known as moganite in a lunar meteorite found in a hot desert in northwest Africa. This is significant because moganite is a mineral that requires water to form, reinforcing the belief that water exists on the Moon. — Tohoku University


Blue Origin Suborbital Tickets On Sale Next Year

Blue Origin plans to start selling tickets for commercial suborbital spaceflights next year. In a speech earlier this week, Rob Meyerson, a senior vice president at the company, said test flights of Blue Origin’s New Shepard would start carrying people “soon” with the company beginning ticket sales next year. New Shepard has flown eight suborbital test flights to date, most recently in April. The company has offered few details about when it would sell tickets for flights on the vehicle or an estimated cost. — Space News

Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle on the pad prior to an April 29 launch. Credit: Blue Origin


SpaceX’s Dragon: First Private Spacecraft to Reach Space Station

The Dragon spacecraft, operated by SpaceX, carries cargo to the International Space Station under commercial agreements the company has with NASA. It was the first private spacecraft to berth with the ISS. SpaceX is also developing a human-rated version to eventually bring astronauts to the space station.

The company made its first cargo demonstration flight to the station in May 2012, and then began commercial fights that fall. SpaceX is currently contracted with NASA to do 12 robotic supply flights to the station.

While SpaceX is busy ferrying cargo to and from the station, the company is also working on a plan to put astronauts on the Dragon spacecraft. In 2014, the company received $2.6 billion from NASA for the latest phase of the Commercial Crew Program, which aims to fly astronauts on American spacecraft. SpaceX currently plans to run its first test flight in late 2018. —


Smart Robots Are the Secret to Spaceflight’s Future

Smart robots building space stations in orbit may be in the future, but there are plenty of other examples of how smart robots and automation are becoming critical to the future of spaceflight. The nation’s busiest launch centers in Florida and California are expecting exponential increases in launch tempo as communications companies loft constellations of small satellites and new generations of air-launched rockets and spaceplanes come of age.

This steady increase of space launches is about revolutionize Cape Canaveral, but there’s one place where it’s prompting hair-pulling and hyperventilation: the Federal Aviation Authority. FAA manages America’s airspace, and airplanes must be rerouted to avoid space launch or reentry operations. Currently, plotting the closures is done manually. It’s a lot to account for, and all this can cause mistakes and delays.

The FAA sees automation as a critical tool in navigating a future with more launches. Such an automated system would automatically determine and carve out the appropriate airspace, and transmit that to the community of air traffic controllers. It would be as easy as filing a flight plan. — Popular Mechanics


This Floating Robotic Factory Will Build Satellites and Spaceships in Orbit

The founders of Made in Space say 3-D printing is the key to colonizing space. That’s why they are developing the Archinaut, a floating factory to manufacture heavy equipment, even full satellites, in orbit.

The Archinaut is comprised of an industrial sized 3-D printer, cartridges full of plastics and alloys, and robotic arms programmed to assemble the big items extruded by the printer without any human supervision. All of the Archinaut’s components are rugged enough to survive in microgravity and harsh conditions like lunar dust storms and extreme temperatures. — CNBC


Has This Startup Cracked the Secret to Fusion Energy?

The ongoing joke in the world of physics is that commercially viable fusion energy has been just on the horizon — 30 years away at most — for the past eight decades. Now, a new Washington-based startup, Agni Energy Inc., has a plan for a fusion reactor the company said could be closer than “just on the horizon.”

Existing nuclear reactors use a process called fission, which releases energy by breaking atoms apart. But fission creates radioactive byproducts that must be collected and stored. Fusion, the opposite of fission, means joining things together — in this case, atoms.

Fusion reactors slam atoms together and thereby release energy. But scientists haven’t yet been able to create a useful fusion reactor — one that creates more energy than is put in. If scientists ever reach “the horizon” of fusion energy, these reactors would create a whole lot more energy than fission, without the harmful byproducts. After all, this process is what powers the sun. —

Image Credit: Shutterstock


CubeSats: Tiny Payloads, Huge Benefits for Space Research

CubeSats reduce launch costs in two fundamental ways. They don’t weigh that much, which means a rocket doesn’t need a lot of fuel to heft them. In most cases, they also share a rocket with a larger satellite, making it possible to get to space on the coattails of the heavier payload.

There are some design challenges with CubeSats, however. The electronics are smaller and are therefore more sensitive to radiation. Because they are small, they cannot carry large payloads with them. Their low cost also means they are generally designed to last only a few weeks, months or years before ceasing operations (and for those in low Earth orbit, falling back into the atmosphere.) —


Lunar Eclipses: What Are They & When Is the Next One?

Lunar eclipses occur when Earth’s shadow blocks the sun’s light, which otherwise reflects off the moon. There are three types — total, partial and penumbral — with the most dramatic being a total lunar eclipse, in which Earth’s shadow completely covers the moon. The next lunar eclipse will be a total lunar eclipse on July 27, 2018.

Lunar Eclipse 2018 Guide: When, Where & How to See the Blood Moon 
Missed the Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse? Here’s When the Next One Is!
Super Blue Blood Moon 2018: Here Are The Best Photos and Videos

Throughout history, eclipses have inspired awe and even fear, especially when total lunar eclipses turned the moon blood-red, an effect that terrified people who had no understanding of what causes an eclipse and therefore blamed the events on this god or that. Below, you’ll find the science and history of lunar eclipses, learn how they work, and see a list of the next ones on tap. [See also our guide to Solar Eclipses.] —


Launching Plants Into Orbit May Yield New Medicines

The test tubes didn’t look much like planet Earth. There were four of them stuck into a white, 3-D printed frame, each one home to a spindly plant sprouting from a dab of lab-made jelly. It was to a garden what Soylent is to confit de canard with fingerling potatoes and mesclun greens.

But once inserted into an aluminum metal box, propelled out of our atmosphere, and plugged into the International Space Station, this arrangement was supposed to mimic everything about our world — except for one important detail. There would be almost no gravity. A team of biologists and chemists hopes that this alien environment might prod these floral cosmonauts into producing new and improved molecules for drugs. — STAT


A Space Tango CubeLab, a box that mimics conditions on Earth floats inside the International Space Station before being inserted into a locker.

A type of grass, Brachypodium distachyon, growing in a CubeLab aboard the space station.