Airbus wants to harpoon a satellite and bring it back to Earth

March 19, 2018 by  
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The aeronautics company Airbus is currently testing a three-foot harpoon they hope will catch the nonfunctional satellite Envisat and pull it back to Earth. This particular proposal may also address the rising problem of space debris. “If we can design a harpoon that can cope with Envisat, then it should be able to cope with all other types of spacecraft including the many rocket upper-stages that remain in orbit,” project engineer Alastair Wayman told the BBC . Prior to launch, the harpoons are being tested by being shot at high speeds into various materials that are used to build satellites. “The harpoon goes through these panels like a hot knife through butter ,” said Wayman. “Once the tip is inside, it has a set of barbs that open up and stop the harpoon from coming back out. We’d then de-tumble the satellite with a tether on the other end.” In the end, the ancient technology of the harpoon may prove more effective than robotic arms in space. “Many of these targets will be tumbling and if you were to use a robotic arm, say, that involves a lot of quite complex motions to follow your target,” explained Wayman.”Whereas, with the harpoon, all you have to do is sit a distance away, wait for the target to rotate underneath you, and at the right moment fire your harpoon. And because it’s a really quick event, it takes out a lot of the complexity.” Related: Space Scientists Develop Harpoon System to Capture Rogue Satellites and Clean up Space Junk Prior to its sudden death in 2012, Envisat, operated by the European Space Agency (ESA), was the world’s largest civilian Earth observation satellite. The ESA hopes to bring it back home, starting with a scaled-down harpoon expedition known as the RemoveDEBRIS Mission. The RemoveDEBRIS demo satellite will bring its own debris into space, then attempt to catch it. This experiment will also test a net-based system. Via BBC Images via European Space Agency and  RemoveDEBRIS Mission

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Scientists create protein-packed mats that fight pollution

March 19, 2018 by  
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Researchers have created a mat composed of active proteins that have the ability to absorb chemical pollution. In a study published in Science , scientists document how they successfully extracted an active protein from a cell without killing the former — a breakthrough that could pave the way to a new class of pollution-fighting technology. “We think we’ve cracked the code for interfacing natural and synthetic systems,” study author and professor at the University of California , Berkeley Ting Xu told Futurity . Previous attempts to remove proteins from their native environments without harming or killing them were marked by limited progress. The research team observed trends in sequences and surfaces before developing a synthetic polymer that is ideal for hosting proteins. “Proteins have very well-defined statistical pattern, so if you can mimic that pattern, then you can marry the synthetic and natural systems, which allows us to make these materials,” study first author  Brian Panganiban told Futurity . The team conducted advanced molecular simulations to ensure their polymer would effectively serve the protein’s needs. Related: Researchers shocked to discover protein that conducts electricity The experiment received funding from the United States Department of Defense, which is specifically interested in the technology’s bio-remediation potential against chemical pollution . The end result is capable of degrading insecticides and weaponized chemicals. Given its effectiveness, this bio-technology may soon be used in war zones and other contaminated areas to clean-up the mess that humanity has made. This technology can also be customized to meet the needs of a particular mess. Xu believes that his team’s approach could be used with other enzymes, which could someday lead to the creation of portable chemistry labs capable of responding effectively in the field to varied environmental challenges. Via Futurity Images via Deposit Photos , Christopher DelRe and Charley Huang/UC Berkeley

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ESA unveils magnetic space tug to corall broken satellites drifting in space

June 28, 2017 by  
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Japan’s experiment to clean up space debris earlier this year may have ended in failure , but the world’s space agencies haven’t given up on the problem yet. The European Space Agency (ESA) recently proposed using a magnetic space tug to sweep up some of the junk that has accumulated in space. The magnetic tug would specifically corall derelict and broken satellites , and hopefully put a dent in the space junk problem. Could magnetic forces be the key to cleaning up space trash? Scientists at the Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace at France’s University of Toulouse hope to find out. They’re exploring magnetic attraction or repulsion as part of their investigation into the most effective way to keep satellites in formation out in space. Related: Japan’s experimental mission to clean up space junk ends in failure Researcher Emilien Fabacher explained it this way: “With a satellite you want to deorbit, it’s much better if you can stay at a safe distance, without needing to come into direct contact and risking damage to both chaser and target satellites. So the idea I’m investigating is to apply magnetic forces either to attract or repel the target satellite, to shift its orbit or deorbit it entirely.” Many satellites are already equipped with what are called magnetorquers, or electromagnets that can use the magnetic field of the Earth to change the satellite’s orientation. So a magnetic space tug could simply target those magnetorquers. The chaser satellite would need a strong magnetic field, but that could be generated with superconducting wires cooled to cryogenic temperatures, according to ESA. The chaser satellite could even catch multiple derelict satellites and position them in formation. Over 100 million pieces of space trash now orbit Earth, and 29,000 of them are large enough to cause damage. Fabacher is working on the project as part of his PhD research, which is supported by ESA’s Networking/Partnering initiative. Via Digital Trends and the European Space Agency Images copyright Philippe Ogaki and copyright Emilien Fabacher/ISAE-Supaero

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This high school in California embodies sustainability at every possible level

June 28, 2017 by  
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The new Center for Environmental Studies (CES) at Bishop O’Dowd high school in California is one of the greenest classrooms we’ve ever seen. Siegel & Strain Architects designed the building to support sustainability at every level while providing a flexible space for learning. It paid off – the classroom has achieved both Zero Net Energy and LEED Platinum certification. The new facility is located at Bishop O’Dowd, a college preparatory high school in the Oakland Hills in California . Its goal is to prepare students for careers in renewable energy, resource management and environmental engineering and inspire them to become innovators in tackling environmental challenges. Related: Sprout Space is an Award-Winning Prefab Modular Classroom by Perkins + Will Passive design strategies minimize the building’s energy use. A deep overhang and low-emissivity dual glazing protect south-facing clerestory windows from unwanted solar gain , while a large porch wraps around the building and shades its west side. Related: Project FROG’s Zero Energy Modular Classrooms Rainwater is collected in a series of large cisterns for use in toilets and irrigation, while low-flow water fixtures reduce the use of potable water by 60% over USGCB-estimated baseline water usage for a building of similar type and size. In order to create a healthy environment, the architects used natural, non-toxic, renewable, recycled and environmentally friendly building materials. + Bishop O’Dowd High School + Siegel & Strain Architects Photos by David Wakely

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Japan successfully orbits giant space junk collector

December 12, 2016 by  
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Around 100 million pieces of trash cast off from satellites and rockets are circulating in space, causing hundreds of potentially dangerous collisions each year. Now Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) just blasted into orbit a space garbage collector, constructed with the help of a 106-year-old fishing net manufacturer, to help remedy the mess we humans have created. Secure aboard the HTV6 or KOUNOTORI6 vessel, the space trash collector reached its destination successfully Friday. Now the world waits to see just how well the garbage gatherer works. Made of an aluminum and stainless steel mesh with the help of fishing net manufacturer Nitto Seimo , the gatherer’s tether should generate electricity as it passes Earth’s magnetic field to slow junk. Scientists think this action will cause the junk to move into lower orbits so it can burn up in our planet’s atmosphere without harming anyone on Earth. Related: Japan Prepares to Launch Giant Net into Orbit to Sweep up Space Debris The tether made with Nitto Seimo’s fishnet plaiting technology is 2,300 feet long. But engineer Katsuya Suzuki said ultimately such a tether would need to be much longer – as much as 16,400 to 32,800 feet long – “to slow down the targeted space junk.” For now, the shorter tether will test how the design functions, with more trials likely to follow. A JAXA spokesperson said they hope to start regularly using the trash collector by 2025. Garbage can rocket through space at as much as 17,500 miles per hour, damaging expensive equipment and putting astronauts at risk, as harrowingly depicted in the 2013 movie Gravity . JAXA researcher Koichi Inoue told Bloomberg, “We need to take action on this massive amount of debris. People haven’t been injured by the debris yet, but satellites have. We have to act.” The cargo ship carrying the innovative trash collector also ferried drinking water and six lithium-ion batteries to replace nickel-hydrogen batteries that currently store energy from the International Space Station’s solar array. Via Phys.org and Bloomberg Images via JAXA ( 1 , 2 )

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This new rocket thruster is powered by space junk

October 4, 2016 by  
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What do Australia, space junk, and the journey to Mars have in common? Well, that sort of remains to be seen. Over the next year, the International Space Station will be testing rocket propulsion technology developed by an Australian team that is fueled by space debris and could—someday—help us get to Mars. This new innovation centers on an ion thruster that could replace current chemical-based rocket propulsion technology. Since it is designed to make use of abundant space junk as a fuel source, it is not only efficient but potentially cost effective (with the handy side effect of cleaning up of some of that celestial garbage in the process). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TVipU98g9s Dr Patrick “Paddy” Neumann is a graduate of the University of Sydney and he partnered with two professors from the college to develop an ion thruster (aptly dubbed the Neumann Drive) that aims to give current rocket propulsion technology a run for its money. The invention led to his founding of Neumann Space , a start-up working to further develop and advance the technology. The Neumann Drive uses solid fuel and electricity to produce thrust, in “a ‘wire-triggered pulsed cathodic arc system’ that works kind of like an arc welder,” according to the company’s website. Related: Elon Musk reveals his big plans for colonizing Mars This addresses one of the key issues SpaceX CEO Elon Musk mentioned last week during his detailed unveiling of his Mars plan: the need to refill while in orbit. Chemical-based rockets require enormous amounts of fuel to travel the long distance to Mars, so it isn’t logistically possible for a rocket to carry all its own fuel, which predicates the need to refuel in space. On the contrary, the ion thruster developed by Neumann and his team eliminates the fuel capacity need, since it utilizes space junk as a fuel source. Among the “junk” the Neumann Drive can use for its propulsion are a number of materials common on Earth, as well as in space. The team touts magnesium as their most efficient fuel, best for longer cargo transport journeys. Aluminum, sourced mainly from space junk, is their best recycled fuel. Carbon, derived from recycled human waste, has also been tested. But the material that tops the list is a more unusual one: Molybdenum . It’s a heavy metal with a high melting point that would have to be sourced from Earth, but a small amount of fuel would last a very long time. “Moly,” as it’s known for short, is the fastest fuel tested so far in the Neumann Drive, and it’s the current favorite for fueling a passenger ship to Mars. Via ABC Australia Images via Neumann Space and Wikipedia

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Mysterious metal “space balls” found in Vietnam turned out to be space junk

January 11, 2016 by  
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After hearing what they thought was thunder, some Vietnam residents discovered three mysterious metal orbs ranging in size from just 9 ounces to 99 pounds. The spheres reportedly fell from the sky and two of them landed in residential neighborhoods, causing locals to run in fear. Government officials say they believe the strange round objects are actually space debris , and local residents can rest easy knowing the orbs are no longer dangerous to them. Read the rest of Mysterious metal “space balls” found in Vietnam turned out to be space junk

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The new 2017 Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid is sharper, sportier, and packed with tech

January 11, 2016 by  
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Japan Prepares to Launch Giant Net into Orbit to Sweep up Space Debris

January 16, 2014 by  
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In late February, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is teaming up with a fishing equipment company to test out an unusual approach to fighting space junk: a satellite equipped with a 300-meter magnetic net that will sweep up the man-made debris hovering in low-Earth orbit. Read the rest of Japan Prepares to Launch Giant Net into Orbit to Sweep up Space Debris Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: experimental technologies , Fishing Net , Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency , japanese policy , japanese space program , JAXA , near-earth orbit , orbital debris , space debris , space fishing net , space junk        

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Switzerland to Launch ‘Janitor’ Satellite to Collect 370,000 Pieces of Space Junk From Earth’s Orbit

September 24, 2013 by  
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Space junk is an ongoing problem for the world’s space administrations as decades worth of satellite launches and space missions have filled the  Earth’s orbit with trash  such as fuel tanks, lost tools and parts of derelict satellites. In order to combat this growing hazard and to avoid potentially devastating  collisions , the Swiss Space Center at EPFL has launched CleanSpace One , a project to develop and build the first installment of satellites designed specifically to clean up space debris. Read the rest of Switzerland to Launch ‘Janitor’ Satellite to Collect 370,000 Pieces of Space Junk From Earth’s Orbit Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: clean tech , cleanspace one , collisions , environmental destruction , epfl , green technology , Satellite , satellite cleans space junk , space debris , space junk , spacecraft , swiss satellite , Swiss Space Center , Swiss space junk program        

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