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Canadian company to help track satellites and 'space junk' – Radio Canada International – English Section

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Space, at least around Earth is not a big empty place. In fact with hundreds of thousands of objects now hurtling the planet in orbit, its become extremely crowded. A computer-generated image representing space debris as could be seen from high Earth orbit. The two main debris fields are the ring of objects in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) and the cloud of objects in low Earth orbit (LEO). (image NASA Orbital Debris Prgm Office)

If you counted all the satellites put into space since ‘Sputnik’ in 1957, you’d find that about half of them, roughly 5,000 are still up there speeding around the Earth in various trajectories and at various heights.  Added to this are the occasional lost bolt, spatula, 15kg tool bag with tools, camera, and pliers.

Also spinning around are spent boosters and parts of other space stations, and debris from past collisions of ‘stuff’. In 2009 a Russian military satellite crashed into a US commercial satellite creating a cloud of about 600 more bits of various sizes sent off in new directions and trajectories.

The US space shuttle Endeavour had a major impact on its radiator during STS-118. The entry hole is about 1⁄4 inch, and the exit hole is twice as large..

  All this orbiting debris is monitored from the ground and tracked so that hopefully it won’t result in destruction of operational satellites, the International Space Station, or even astronauts on space walks.

In fact NASA has an ‘orbital debris program office‘ to keep track of the clutter, now in the order of about half a million bits, some 23,000 of which are bigger than a softball. But NASA is only one of many government and private tracking operations.

 When objects appear to be on a collision course there is sometimes a possibility to move them out of the way. This was the case for the ISS in September which took evasive action and the astronauts evacuated temporarily to the Russian pace capsule, in case.

ISS tweet Sept 22. 2020

But ground tracking isn’t as accurate as satellite operators would like. It can also be blocked out by weather conditions.

 A Canadian company is proposing a series of space-based tracking satellites to provide more accurate data of objects and trajectories.

Montreal-based NorthStar Earth and Space has contracted Thales Alenia to build the first three of a planned 12 satellite ‘Skylark’ constellation system to monitor ‘space traffic’.Seattle-based LeoStella LLC will oversee final assembly.

It will become the first commercial firm to monitor movement of objects in orbit from space itself. Such traffic monitoring is called ‘space situational awareness’ (SSA).

 This is important because so much of what we do on earth, from mobile phones, to GPS, broadcasting,  tracking of ships and aircraft, weather tracking and forecasting and so on depends on satellites, and if one is taken out by another, or errant piece of debris, then there’s a real problem and an extremely expensive one too.

Canadian firm NorthStar is proposing a constellation of traffic monitoring satellites to give more accurate assessment of objects and trajectories to avoid accidents ( NorStar)

Stewart Bain, is NorthStar’s CEO. Quoted by he CBC he said, ” “We’ve got the International Space Station up there. We’ve got astronauts going back and forth. We’ve got stuff flying around from a bunch of satellites and constellations. You want to make sure you know where things are with metre precision, not kilometre precision.

The European Space Agency says there’ve been some 12 accidental breakups in the past 20 years. With some 50,000 new launches expected in coming years, ‘SSA’ will become increasingly important.

Bain says there’s a demand for such commercial service like NorthStar and he hopes to get both corporate and government business.

The first satellites are expected to be launched in 2022

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Scientists produce diamonds in minutes at room temperature – MINING.com

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“Natural diamonds are usually formed over billions of years, about 150 kilometres deep in the Earth where there are high pressures and temperatures above 1,000 degrees Celsius,”  Jodie Bradby, professor at The Australian National University and one of the authors of the study, said in a media statement.

“The twist in this story is how we apply the pressure. As well as very high pressures, we allow the carbon to also experience something called ‘shear’ – which is like a twisting or sliding force. We think this allows the carbon atoms to move into place and form Lonsdaleite and regular diamond.” 

The RMIT team’s pictures showed that the regular diamonds only form in the middle of these Lonsdaleite veins under this new method. (Image courtesy of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology).

To observe and understand how this process works, the researchers used advanced electron microscopy techniques to capture solid and intact slices from the experimental samples to create snapshots of how the two types of diamonds formed.

The pictures showed that the regular diamonds only form in the middle of Lonsdaleite veins under this new method.

“Seeing these little ‘rivers’ of Lonsdaleite and regular diamond for the first time was just amazing and really helps us understand how they might form,” Dougal McCulloch, the study’s lead author and a professor at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, said. 

According to the scientists, Lonsdaleite has the potential to be used for cutting through ultra-solid materials on mining sites. As such, they said that creating more of this rare diamond is the long-term aim of their work.

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Siemens, Deutsche Bahn launch local hydrogen trains trial – The Guardian

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MUNICH (Reuters) – Siemens Mobility and Deutsche Bahn have started developing hydrogen-powered fuel cell trains and a filling station which will be trialled in 2024 with view to replace diesel engines on German local rail networks.

The prototype, to be built by Siemens, is based on electric railcar Mireo Plus which will be equipped with fuel cells to turn hydrogen and oxygen into electricity on board, and with a battery, both companies said.

Siemens mobility chief executive Michael Peter told Reuters the train combined the possibility to be fed by three sources in a modular system – either by the battery, the fuel cell or even existing overhead lines, depending on where it would run.

German railway operator Deutsche Bahn has not electrified 40% of its 33,000 kilometre (km) long network, on which it runs 1,300 fossil-fuel emitting diesel locomotives.

Rail transport must be decarbonised over the long-term under European Union and national climate targets.

“Our hydrogen trains are able to replace diesel-fuelled trains in the long term,” Peter said.

The new prototype will be fuelled within 15 minutes, have a range of 600 km and a top speed of 160 km/hour.

It will be tested between Tuebingen, Horb and Pforzheim in Baden Wuerttemberg state.

The main target market are operators of regional networks that typically re-order lots of 10 to 50 trains, Peter said.

“We see a market potential of 10,000-15,000 trains in Europe that will need to be replaced over the next 10-15 years, with 3,000 alone in Germany,” he said.

Each train will cost between five and 10 million euros ($5.9-$11.9 million), creating a market potential of 50-150 billion euros overall.

The Berlin government expects green hydrogen to become competitive with fossil fuels over the long term and to play a key role in decarbonising industry, heating and transport.

(Reporting by Joern Poltz in Munich and Vera Eckert in Frankfurt, editing by David Evans)

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The impossible choice Canada’s seniors face this winter – 95.7 News

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In today’s Big Story podcast, we want elderly Canadians, who are heightened risk from COVID-19, to be safe. For much of the past eight months, that has meant hundreds of thousands of grandparents haven’t seen their grandkids, parents haven’t seen their children, or their siblings — and for many of them, this has harmed them as much as a bout with the virus might.

We all want our elderly loved ones to be around forever, but even forgetting about COVID-19, they won’t be. And as they face another four to six months without much contact or support, many of them are wondering if they might not choose to take the risk with the time they have left.

GUEST: Christina Frangou, science and health writer

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google and Spotify

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

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