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NASA Moves Forward With Next-Gen Solar Sail Project – ExtremeTech



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Getting from point A to point B in the solar system is no simple feat, and inefficient, heavy rockets aren’t always the best way. Therefore, NASA has announced it is moving ahead with a new solar sail concept that could make future spacecraft more efficient and maneuverable. The Diffractive Solar Sailing project is now entering phase III development under the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, which could eventually lead to probes that use solar radiation to coast over the sun’s polar regions. 

The concept of solar sails is an old one — they were first proposed in the 1980s. The gist is that you equip a vessel with a lightweight sail that translates the pressure from solar radiation into propulsion. The problem is that a solar sail has to be much larger than the spacecraft it’s dragging along. Even a low-thrust solar sail would need to be almost a square kilometer, and you need to keep it intact over the course of a mission. Plus, you have little choice but to fly in the direction of sunlight, so you have to make tradeoffs for either power or navigation. Futuristic diffractive light sails could address these shortcomings. 

This work is being undertaken at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory under the leadership of Amber Dubill and co-investigator Grover Swartzlander. The project progressed through phase I and II trials, which had the team developing concept and feasibility studies on diffractive light sails. The phase III award ensures $2 million in funding over the next two years to design and test the materials that could make diffractive light propulsion a reality. 

A standard lightsail developed by the Planetary Society in 2019.

A diffractive light sail, as the name implies, takes advantage of a property of light known as diffraction. When light passes through a small opening, it spreads out on the other side. This could be used to make a light sail more maneuverable so it doesn’t need to go wherever the solar winds blow. 

The team will design its prototypes with several possible mission applications in mind. This technology most likely won’t have an impact on missions to the outer solar system where sunlight is weaker and the monumental distances require faster modes of transportation. However, heliophysics is a great use case for diffractive lightsailing as it would allow visiting the polar regions of the sun, which are difficult to access with current technology.

A lightsail with the ability to essentially redirect thrust from a continuous stream of sunlight would be able to enter orbit over the poles. It may even be possible to maneuver a constellation of satellites into this difficult orbit to study the sun from a new angle. In a few years, NASA may be able to conduct a demonstration mission. Until then, it’s all theoretical.

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'Ice Crystals in the Sky:' Electric Clouds Light Up the North – How to Take Photo Using Phone? – Tech Times



The Northern skies have suddenly shimmered in electric blue. 

(Photo : ESA/NASA)
On May 29, 2016, European Space Agency flight engineer Tim Peake captured unusual, high-altitude noctilucent clouds from the International Space Station.

It’s that time of the year again for skywatchers in Canada to revel in the magnificent skyscapes of the polar mesospheric clouds. However, they are more popularly known as noctilucent clouds (NLC).

According to a story by CBC News, these majestic clouds can be seen in the northern sky every year from about the first of June to the end of August. 

In contrast to more popular clouds, these are special as they appear brilliant, iridescent, and shining whenever darkness falls in the skies, or the sun disappears from view.

What are Noctilucent Clouds?

Noctilucent clouds also shimmer when the stars start to appear and can be viewed before the sunlight slips at dawn. 

According to MET Office, noctilucent clouds are incredibly rare to be visible since they are very high in the sky.

These iridescent clouds usually appear on summer nights, and they glow in blue or silver, usually at the same time as the brightest stars of the night sky. 

MET further noted that these clouds are only observed in latitudes between 45°N and 80°N in the Northern Hemisphere and equivalent latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere.

They are strikingly higher than any other clouds, inhabiting the layer of atmosphere known as the Mesosphere. Due to the lack of land and population in the southern hemisphere, they are less frequently observed there. 

The Antarctic and the southernmost points of Chile and Argentina are the only places with the proper latitude.

Read also: [LOOK] NASA Hubble Space Telescope Finds A Dazzling Sea of Sequins 

What Are Noctilucent Clouds Made Of?

MET said that the Mesosphere could readily reach low temperatures, although it is deficient in water vapor and dust. Although volcanic ash or man-made pollutants may also contribute to dust, it’s possible that the dust originated from tiny meteorites from space. 

According to CBC, these clouds were first spotted in 1885, two years when the Krakatoa volcano erupted. Although it was initially thought that they would vanish owing to the eruption, they have subsequently been sighted. 

Where to Spot Them?

Northern Canada is a great place to observe NLCs because, in the past, they were usually seen at high northern latitudes. But in the past few years, they have been seen much further south in the United States, in places like Utah and Nebraska. 

CBC noted that some people think climate change’s effects are also responsible for their growth and appearance at undiscovered latitudes. 

For instance, they were spotted as far south as Joshua Tree, California, in 2019. CBC said that increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere generate more water vapor, making it possible for these clouds to appear in the skies. 

How to Take a Photo of NLC?

According to BBC’s Sky at Night Magazine, taking photos of clouds such as NLC can be easily taken using our smartphones since they have advanced so much throughout the years.

Here are easy steps you can follow to capture that stunning NLC image!

1. Turn On Your Night Camera Mode

Most phones have a “night camera mode” to help capture images in the dark with better quality. However, if your phone doesn’t have this mode, you can opt for a “Pro” or “Manual” mode or download a third-party application. Bear in mind that it is essential to adjust the ISO and exposure length of your phone that would perfectly capture the crystallized clouds. 

2. Focus On the Bright Part 

Locate the brightest area and try to capture it first if an NLC emerges in the sky. Adjust the camera’s settings to get a shot that exhibits detail but isn’t overly noisy. According to BBC, lowering the ISO while raising the exposure is recommended.  

3. Mix it Up!

Once you find an NLC, consider how to make the shot more appealing. If there’s a lake or any body of water nearby, try taking reflection pictures of the sky. The skies are your limit! Just follow these simple camera settings to capture these gorgeous clouds better!

Related Article: NASA Hubble Space Telescope Snaps 5,000 Ancient Galaxies Glowing Like Candles in Space 

This article is owned by Tech Times

Written by Joaquin Victor Tacla

ⓒ 2021 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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2022-07-01 | NDAQ:RKLB | Press Release | Rocket Lab USA Inc. – Stockhouse



Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a leading launch and space systems company, today confirmed its Photon Lunar spacecraft successfully completed a sixth on-orbit burn of the HyperCurie engine, bringing the CAPSTONE satellite closer to the Moon. Lunar Photon’s apogee – the point at which the spacecraft is farthest from Earth during its orbit – is now 43,297 miles (69,680 km).

This sixth burn was originally scheduled to be two burns, but Rocket Lab’s space systems team determined the HyperCurie engine would be capable of performing a single maneuver to accomplish the same delta-v, so combined the two.

The next and final burn is designed to set CAPSTONE on a ballistic lunar transfer trajectory to the Moon travelling at 24,500 mph (39,400 km/h) to break free of Earth’s orbit. This final maneuver is currently scheduled to take place as early as July 4th. After separating from Lunar Photon, CAPSTONE will use its own propulsion and the Sun’s gravity to navigate the rest of the way to the Moon, a four-month journey that will have CAPSTONE arriving to its lunar orbit on Nov. 13.


Designed and built Terran Orbital, and owned and operated by Advanced Space on behalf of NASA, the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) satellite will be the first spacecraft to test the Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) around the Moon. This is the same orbit intended for NASA’s Gateway, a multipurpose Moon-orbiting station that will provide essential support for long-term astronaut lunar missions as part of the Artemis program. CAPSTONE was successfully launched to space on Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle on June 28.

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Astronauts may need to jump in space to fight bone loss –



When astronauts spend extended periods of time in space, many surprising and sometimes harmful changes can occur in their bodies. Unfortunately, there aren’t always ways to avoid or mitigate these effects. 

One such health concern is a loss in bone density and bone strength due to the effects of microgravity and, to a lesser extent, radiation exposure. A NASA-funded study in 2009 found that astronauts’ bone strength decreased by at least 14% on average during a six-month stay in space. Other studies have found much higher rates of bone loss.

But a new study suggests that astronauts and mission planners could employ an effective weapon in the fight against bone-density loss: jumping and other forms of high-impact exercise.

Related: Landmark NASA twins study reveals space travel’s effects on the human body

Out of the 17 astronauts who participated in the new study (opens in new tab), which was published online Thursday (June 30) in the journal Scientific Reports, only eight regained full bone mass density one year after returning from flight. Bone density loss was found to be much higher in astronauts who flew on missions longer than six months.

But the researchers also found that astronauts who engaged in resistance-based training while in space were able to recover bone mineral density after they returned. The authors thus propose adding  “jumping resistance-based exercise that provides high-impact dynamic loads on the legs” to astronauts’ existing exercise routines to prevent bone loss and promote bone growth while on spaceflight missions.

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, Expedition 40 flight engineer, gets a workout on the advanced Resistive Exercise Device (aRED) in the Tranquility node of the International Space Station. (Image credit: NASA)

“Jumping provides short bouts of high-impact, dynamic loads that promote osteogenesis [bone growth],” the researchers wrote, while adding that “neither running, cycling, squats, nor heel raise volume were associated with bone recovery.” Adding jumping exercise routines to astronauts’ existing exercise regimens may prevent bone loss and actually reduce the amount of exercise time needed each day, the authors suggest.

Of course, any new jumping regimen would require specialized equipment, and space is always limited aboard any spaceflight. “Successful implementation of high-load jump-training on-orbit will require an exercise device that mitigates forces transferred to the vehicle, along with an exercise regimen that accounts for astronaut deconditioning,” the researchers wrote in the new study. The authors acknowledge that since living quarters are typically cramped aboard spaceflights, “exercise equipment will need to be optimized for a smaller footprint.”

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Obviously, a study size of 17 astronauts isn’t exactly conclusive, and the authors note that much more data is needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn regarding the effects of resistance training on astronaut bone loss.  

Astronauts already engage in regular exercise while in space to combat the effects of microgravity, and scientists have already tried feeding astronauts genetically modified vegetables to help stimulate bone growth and fish oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids to help mitigate bone breakdown. With bone loss still plaguing astronauts on long flights, there is still a need for more methods to mitigate it. 

Email Brett at or follow Brett on Twitter at @bretttingley. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.  

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