Solar System News (miscellaneous articles)


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Even Emirates do their best to join the ranks of spacefaring nations. However, the UAE space agency was established not so long ago, in 2014. And after only seven years, they managed to launch an orbiter to Mars. That's why I stand for startups. Each country has at least one-two aspiring companies that show a lot of promise, of course, except the third-world countries. However, many African countries already take part in the space race: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Algeria, etc. I got interested in one British company called Skyrora. You've probably heard about it at least once. I have every reason to believe that it will raise the British space industry to a new level. Here is the link to their website if anyone is interested

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Jim K




In the new study, researchers used Chandra observations taken in Uranus in 2002 and then again in 2017. They saw a clear detection of X-rays from the first observation, just analyzed recently, and a possible flare of X-rays in those obtained fifteen years later. The main graphic shows a Chandra X-ray image of Uranus from 2002 (in pink) superimposed on an optical image from the Keck-I Telescope obtained in a separate study in 2004. The latter shows the planet at approximately the same orientation as it was during the 2002 Chandra observations.


What could cause Uranus to emit X-rays? The answer: mainly the Sun. Astronomers have observed that both Jupiter and Saturn scatter X-ray light given off by the Sun, similar to how Earth’s atmosphere scatters the Sun’s light. While the authors of the new Uranus study initially expected that most of the X-rays detected would also be from scattering, there are tantalizing hints that at least one other source of X-rays is present. If further observations confirm this, it could have intriguing implications for understanding Uranus.



(Source: Link in above tweet)



Think it's past time to send another probe to Uranus.



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1 hour ago, Jim K said:




Think it's past time to send another probe to Uranus.




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DoD's DRACO program advances another step. This fits with other DoD projects to maneuver in cis-lunar space, a counter to China & Russia's published plans. China's CNSA space agency is a military program, both are negotiating a cooperative cis-lunar Operations, and both are developing & testing space weapons.



General Atomics wins DARPA contract to develop nuclear reactor to power missions to the moon


WASHINGTON — The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded a $22 million contract to General Atomics to design a small nuclear reactor for space propulsion, the agency announced April 9.


General Atomics, based in San Diego, California, was selected for the first phase of a program known as a DRACO, short for Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations. The project is to demonstrate nuclear thermal propulsion — or the use of a nuclear reactor to heat up rocket fuel to generate thrust. 


DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office in May 2020 solicited proposals in a “broad agency announcement.” The goal is to test a nuclear thermal propulsion system in orbit by 2025.


Space propulsion systems in use today include electric and chemical propulsion, but other options might be needed for future exploration beyond Earth’s orbit, DARPA noted.  “The DRACO program intends to develop novel nuclear thermal propulsion technology. Unlike propulsion technologies in use today, NTP can achieve high thrust-to-weights similar to chemical propulsion but with two to five times the efficiency.’



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  • 2 months later...
On 10/04/2021 at 13:40, DocM said:

DoD's DRACO program advances another step. This fits with other DoD projects to maneuver in cis-lunar space, a counter to China & Russia's published plans. China's CNSA space agency is a military program, both are negotiating a cooperative cis-lunar Operations, and both are developing & testing space weapons.


Sounds like they're very serious about US Space vehicles having nuclear engines...



Sierra Space Provides Integration Services for New Nuclear Propulsion System as Part of DARPA’s DRACO Program


LOUISVILLE, Colo. (June 24, 2021) – Sierra Space, the new commercial space subsidiary of global aerospace and national security leader Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), will supply the propulsion components and integration services for a Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) system under a recent contract with General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS). GA-EMS and Sierra Space will develop and demonstrate an on-orbit NTP system for a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program called Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO).

While the primary mission of DRACO is to enable fast transit time between Earth and the moon, the development of nuclear powered spacecraft propulsion is also expected to open up deep space exploration to humans.

“This technology is an essential component of the new space economy,” said Tom Crabb, vice president of Sierra Space’s Propulsion & Environmental Systems group. “Faster, more fuel efficient propulsion and transportation systems support greater awareness of the cislunar space domain and broader exploration of our solar system. Theoretically we should be able to reach other planets nearly twice as fast with nuclear propulsion, placing less strain on the human body and the environmental systems needed for space travel.”

NTP uses a nuclear reactor to heat propellant to extreme temperatures before expelling the hot propellant through a nozzle to produce thrust. Compared to conventional space propulsion technologies, NTP offers a high thrust-to-weight ratio around 10,000 times greater than electric propulsion and two-to-five times greater specific propellant efficiency than chemical propulsion.

“We are really excited about the team dynamic with GA-EMS,” said Dr. Marty Chiaverini, director of Propulsion Systems at Sierra Space. “The GA-EMS reactor is smaller and more technologically advanced and Sierra Space brings extensive experience in developing and fielding mechanical, electrical and thermal conditioning systems that work reliably in space, as well as proven performance with liquid hydrogen-based rocket engines and liquid hydrogen turbomachinery.”

The NTP design will utilize a liquid hydrogen propellant heated by a nuclear fission reactor to provide two times the amount of energy than the most advanced liquid propellant rocket engine. Over the next 18 months, the team will define the system requirements such as power, weight, interfaces and control, and perform some subsystem risk reduction. Follow-on phases are anticipated to complete the demonstration system, leading to a flight test in 2025.


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