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Robotics News – Trap the Trash – Robotics Online

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maxon precision motors, inc.

Posted 10/16/2020

ClearSpace’s first debris removal mission could proceed as shown here. Currently the company is working with maxon drives consisting of the DCX 22 L direct current motor and the GP 32 HP planetary gearhead.A spin-off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) has been given responsibility for a EUR 100 million project by the European Space Agency, ESA. ClearSpace SA now heads a consortium developing the first debris removal mission in the Earth’s orbital field.

Our lives are becoming more and more dependent on space technologies. We use satellites for meteorology, communications, navigation, and observation of disaster areas. According to the European Space Agency, ESA, around 40% of modern-day mobile applications rely on satellite and space technology. However, this infrastructure is at risk.

95% of all objects in low-Earth orbit, which is to say at altitudes between 200 and 2000 kilometers, are defective and no longer controllable. They are space debris—such as jettisoned rocket stages, solar panels (including those from satellites), tools, paint chips, and particles of solid fuel. This debris poses a risk to active satellites and to future space missions and their crews. Even the International Space Station has had to maneuver to avoid space debris on several occasions.

Constellations of mini-satellites

The situation is becoming more urgent due to the new satellites that continue to be placed in orbit. Whereas only 50 spacecraft were sent into orbit each year between 2009 and 2012, 800 are scheduled for the current year, and the trend is upward. In the future, most of the new arrivals in space will be nanosatellites, as part of network constellations. For example, the company OneWeb began to build a constellation of around 650 mini-satellites in 2019. Their aim is to enable internet access even in the most remote locations on Earth. Projects like this, as well as the emerging field of space tourism, necessitate the removal of space debris.

With over 34,000 human-made objects currently registered with diameters exceeding ten centimeters, we have reached a critical juncture. If humanity doesn’t do anything about it, an estimated 140,000 objects of junk will accumulate in orbit by 2065. This is because the collision of two objects creates a debris field with a multitude of parts. There is a risk of a dangerous chain reaction.

First debris removal mission by the ESA

Now a Swiss “disposal satellite” is set to do the groundbreaking work of removing a debris object for the first time. Planned for 2025, the ClearSpace One mission, directed by the startup of the same name, will capture the discarded VESPA upper stage (VEga Secondary Payload Adapter) from a rocket launched in 2013 and guide it into the Earth’s atmosphere.

The prototype of this space cleaner will use a “chaser” consisting of four robotic arms to grab and move the disused upper stage at an altitude of 720 kilometers. Twelve maxon drives operate the tentacle-like arms of ClearSpace One. After that, the captured rocket stage will be positioned such that it can be decelerated out of orbit. This procedure will use jet engines on several sides. During a controlled reentry, both the VESPA and the ClearSpace One will burn up in the atmosphere—the biggest “incineration plant” ever.

The idea is that future disposal satellites will repeat this procedure as often as possible. They will also carry away heavier objects in low-Earth orbit to free up space for subsequent space operations.

The researchers at the EPFL Space Center in Switzerland have been working on space debris capture systems since 2010. The engineering knowledge they have gained over the years went into the development of ClearSpace One. In 2017, the project was spun off, resulting in the founding of ClearSpace SA, which began its operations in the maxon lab at the EPFL. As Luc Piguet, CEO and cofounder of ClearSpace SA, observed, “The maxon lab is a hub for technology transfer, making it ideal for startups.” The growing team at ClearSpace has been enhanced by specialist consultants from leading space agencies and companies with mission experience. The advisory board includes luminaries such as Jean-Jacques Dordain, former Director General of the ESA, and Swiss astronaut Claude Nicollier.

It is remarkable for a startup to be given responsibility for a EUR 100 million project. In 2019, ClearSpace prevailed single-handedly against Airbus, Thales Alenia Space (France), and Avio (Italy). Luc Piguet said, “Although we had great confidence in the application we submitted, we were surprised to be allowed to take the lead over a project consortium on our own.” He remained pragmatic, however: “We’ve taken economic considerations into account right from the beginning.” The costs incurred by each de-orbit should be as low as possible. This won over the ESA. Piquet added with a modest smile, “We’re taking on a big responsibility.” 

ADRIOS program

The ClearSpace One mission is part of the ESA’s space safety program ADRIOS (Active Debris Removal / In-Orbit Servicing). Its aim is to begin the removal of potentially dangerous space debris. It is hoped that this will pave the way for further missions that will contribute to the responsible development of space. Eight ESA member states, including Switzerland, are providing EUR 86 million for the project. The remaining EUR 14.2 million is coming from sponsors.

A 3D animation of all the pieces of debris orbiting the Earth can be viewed at stuffin.space

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New Research Provides Comprehensive Reconstruction of End-Permian Mass Extinction | Paleontology – Sci-News.com

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The end-Permian mass extinction, also known as the Permian-Triassic extinction event and the Great Dying, is the largest mass extinction event in Earth’s history that peaked about 252.3 million years ago. The catastrophe killed off nearly 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species on the planet over the course of thousands of years. Massive eruptions in a volcanic system called the Siberian Traps are thought to have played an important role, but the causational trigger and its feedbacks are yet to be fully understood. Now, a research team led by Dr. Hana Jurikova from the GEOMAR Helmholtz-Zentrum für Ozeanforschung Kiel and the Helmholtz Zentrum Potsdam has assembled a consistent biogeochemical reconstruction of the mechanisms that resulted in the end-Permian extinction.

An illustration depicting the onset of the end-Permian mass extinction. Image credit: Dawid Adam Iurino / PaleoFactory, Sapienza University of Rome / Jurikova et al, doi: 10.1038/s41561-020-00646-4.

Dr. Jurikova and her colleagues studied isotopes of the element boron in the calcareous shells of fossil brachiopods and determined the rate of ocean acidification over the Permian-Triassic boundary.

“These are clam-like organisms that have existed on Earth for more than 500 million years,” Dr. Jurikova said.

“We were able to use well-preserved brachiopod fossils from the Southern Alps for our analyses.”

“These shells were deposited at the bottom of the shallow shelf seas of the Tethys Ocean 252 million years ago and recorded the environmental conditions shortly before and at the beginning of extinction.”

Because the ocean pH and atmospheric carbon dioxide are closely coupled, the researchers were able to reconstruct changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide at the onset of the extinction from boron and carbon isotopes.

They then used an innovative geochemical model to study the impact of the carbon dioxide injection on the environment.

“With this technique, we can not only reconstruct the evolution of the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, but also clearly trace it back to volcanic activity,” said co-author Dr. Marcus Gutjahr, a researcher at the GEOMAR Helmholtz-Zentrum für Ozeanforschung Kiel.

“The dissolution of methane hydrates, which had been suggested as a potential further cause, is highly unlikely based on our data.”

“Without these new techniques it would be difficult to reconstruct environmental processes more than 250 million years ago in the same level of detail as we have done now,” said co-author Professor Anton Eisenhauer, also from the GEOMAR Helmholtz-Zentrum für Ozeanforschung Kiel.

The team’s findings showed that volcanic eruptions in Siberian Traps released immense amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

This release lasted several millennia and led to a strong greenhouse effect on the late Permian world, causing extreme warming and acidification of the ocean.

Dramatic changes in chemical weathering on land altered productivity and nutrient cycling in the ocean, and ultimately led to vast de-oxygenation of the ocean.

The resulting multiple environmental stressors combined to wipe out a wide variety of animal and plant groups.

“We are dealing with a cascading catastrophe in which the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere set off a chain of events that successively extinguished almost all life in the seas,” Dr. Jurikova said.

“Ancient volcanic eruptions of this kind are not directly comparable to anthropogenic carbon emissions, and in fact all modern fossil fuel reserves are far too insufficient to release as much carbon dioxide over hundreds of years, let alone thousands of years as was released 252 million years ago.”

“But it is astonishing that humanity’s carbon dioxide emission rate is currently 14 times higher than the annual emission rate at the time that marked the greatest biological catastrophe in Earth’s history.”

The study was published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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H. Jurikova et al. Permian-Triassic mass extinction pulses driven by major marine carbon cycle perturbations. Nat. Geosci, published online October 19, 2020; doi: 10.1038/s41561-020-00646-4

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Haunted houses find ways around COVID 19

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Psychotic clowns. Axe murderers. Bedrooms possessed by poltergeists.

Many of the frights greeting visitors of horror attractions this Halloween will be familiar, but the thrill-creators behind them say one terrifying experience is squarely off-limits: the terrors of COVID-19.

Before the pandemic shook our lives, haunted houses sometimes dipped into the fears of contagion, splashing themed rooms with signs of a viral outbreak, hazmat suits and contamination warnings.

But with those experiences uncomfortably close to reality this year, horror masters like Shawn Lippert say reminding people of the virus is one line they’re not willing to cross.

“We use the analogy: Treat `COVID’ like the F-word in church,” said the owner of Scarehouse, an industrial-sized indoor haunted house in Windsor, Ont.

“It’s too real and so close to home. It’s almost like when you tell a joke and they say, `Too soon.”’

Lippert said that’s one of several rules he’s introduced at his haunt in order to keep people feeling safe and heath authorities satisfied. Ticketholders arrive at staggered times, and everyone is required to wear a mask.

Creepy objects that once brushed against visitors have been removed, and the giant airbags that evoke the feeling of claustrophobia have been stowed away to decrease the potential spread of germs.

Lippert describes those as small changes in a challenging year.

Many haunt operators were jittery about moving ahead with their usual Halloween festivities, considering health authorities could shut down the houses without much notice if the region experiences a surge in local cases. That would leave a brutal dent in their investments.

“If we can keep our doors open for the full run at this point, that would be a success for us,” Lippert said.

Several Toronto haunted houses decided the risk was too high. Casa Loma’s Legends of Horror and 28-year pillar Screemers at Exhibition Place were among the operators who decided to sit this year out, even before the city introduced tighter restrictions that would’ve closed them anyway.

Some organizers have used the pandemic to imagine ways to scare the living daylights out of people from a distance — often from the safety of their own vehicles.

The Pickering Museum Village put a historic spin on its spooky experience with a drive-thru tour that urged visitors to creep their cars along a roadway checkered with old houses, as ghost stories played on their FM radios.

Others have gone online with virtual group parties for kids or, for those of legal drinking age, what’s being sold as Canada’s first Virtual Halloween Cocktail Crawl.

Mentalist Jaymes White decided to embrace the digital world this year for his annual Halloween seances. His new Zoom experience, called Evoke, invites a small circle of friends to channel a spirit through video chat. He admits the idea goes against the traditions of a seance, where people usually hold hands around a table, but he’s confident the spirits will still be ready to unsettle his guests.

“They don’t care that we have a pandemic,” he said.

Paul Magnuson, one of the leaders at Calgary artist collective Big Art, will take over a downtown self-serve car wash for three days for a drive-in of the dead later this month.

Scare Wash is described as a trip to hell and back that begins when a wash attendee’s seemingly normal car rinse spirals into a nightmare.

Magnuson came up with the idea when it was clear plans for his usual neighbourhood spectacle wouldn’t be possible in the pandemic.

“Last year I turned my garage into a Dexter killer room where we did performances all night. In previous years I’ve had an interactive cemetery,” he said.

“I’m not going to let COVID take this holiday.”

Robby Lavoie felt a similar conviction for keeping Terror Train on track this year at the National Ontario Railroad Museum and Heritage Centre. The annual Halloween event draws thousands of people to Capreol, Ont., part of Greater Sudbury, and provides the museum with a healthy dose of revenue.

Lavoie said he drew inspiration from videos he saw of a Japanese zombie drive-in haunted house over the summer. He knew there was a way to tone down the gore and make the idea a bit more Canadian.

After speaking with museum organizers, Lavoie secured the board’s approval for “Inferno 6077,” an immersive drive-in horror experience inside the garage of the fire hall.

Pulling from his own knowledge of working in live theatre and movies, Lavoie began thinking on a grand scale. He hired a local writer who penned a story about townsfolk who seek revenge on an old man, and built rolling set pieces for the spectacle, which reaches its peak when the space is engulfed in flames, an illusion created with lights and projections.

“We’re putting you almost in an interactive movie, and it all came together within a month,” he said.

“I see myself doing this again next year, even if there isn’t COVID.”

Kathrine Petch understands the urge to keep Halloween on the calendar. As the general manager of Deadmonton Haunted House in Edmonton, she’s laid down strict COVID-19 precautions for their Area 51-themed haunt.

“The absolute, pure excitement of the customers is contagious to us,” she said.

“As long as we can pay the bills and have some money left over to make a different haunted house next year, I think we’ll be pretty happy.”

Petch said keeping Deadmonton open during the pandemic was important to everyone who runs the show.

“One of our biggest goals was to provide people with some kind of escape from all the crappiness that is 2020,” she said.

“And when they reach the end of our haunted house, at least they know the scares are done.”

Source: – CityNews Toronto

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U.S. spacecraft touches asteroid to grab sample – CBC.ca

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A NASA spacecraft descended to an asteroid Tuesday and, dodging boulders the size of buildings, momentarily touched the surface to collect a handful of cosmic rubble for return to Earth.

It was a first for the United States — only Japan has scored asteroid samples.

“Touchdown declared,” a flight controller announced to cheers and applause. “Sampling is in progress.”

Confirmation came from the Osiris-Rex spacecraft as it made contact with the surface of the asteroid Bennu more than 320 million kilometres away. But it could be a week before scientists know how much, if much of anything, was grabbed and whether another try will be needed. If successful, Osiris-Rex will return the samples in 2023.

“I can’t believe we actually pulled this off,” said lead scientist Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona. “The spacecraft did everything it was supposed to do.”

Osiris-Rex took four and a half hours to make its way down from its tight orbit around Bennu, following commands sent well in advance by ground controllers near Denver.

Bennu’s gravity was too low for the spacecraft to land — the asteroid is just 510 metres across. As a result, it had to reach out with its 3.4-metre robot arm and attempt to grab at least 60 grams of Bennu.

‘Kissing the surface’

The University of Arizona’s Heather Enos, deputy scientist for the mission, described it as “kissing the surface with a short touch-and-go measured in just seconds.” At Mission Control for spacecraft builder Lockheed Martin, controllers on the TAG team — for “touch-and-go” — wore royal blue polo shirts and black masks with the mission patch. The coronavirus pandemic had resulted in a two-month delay.

Tuesday’s operation was considered the most harrowing part of the mission, which began with a launch from Cape Canaveral back in 2016.

A van-sized spacecraft with an Egyptian-inspired name, Osiris-Rex aimed for a spot equivalent to a few parking spaces on Earth in the middle of the asteroid’s Nightingale Crater. After nearly two years orbiting the boulder-packed Bennu, the spacecraft found this location to have the biggest patch of particles small enough to be swallowed up.

After determining that the coast was clear, Osiris-Rex closed in the final few metres for the sampling. The spacecraft was programmed to shoot out pressurized nitrogen gas to stir up the surface, then suck up any loose pebbles or dust, before backing away.

By the time flight controllers heard back from Osiris-Rex, the action already happened 18.5 minutes earlier, the time it takes radio signals to travel each way between Bennu and Earth. They expected to start receiving photos overnight and planned to provide an update Wednesday.

WATCH | A 3D animation of the asteroid Bennu:

The Canadian Space Agency’s OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter was crucial in mapping the asteroid Bennu ahead of its “touch-and-go” mission to collect samples that will be returned to Earth in 2023. Credit: Mike Daly, et. al 0:51

“We’re going to be looking at a whole series of images as we descended down to the surface, made contact, fired that gas bottle, and I really want to know how that surface responded,” Lauretta said. “We haven’t done this before, so this is new territory for us.”

Scientists want at least 60 grams and, ideally, closer to two kilograms of Bennu’s black, crumbly, carbon-rich material — thought to contain the building blocks of our solar system. Pictures taken during the operation will give team members a general idea of the amount of loot; they will put the spacecraft through a series of spins Saturday for a more accurate measure.

NASA’s science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, likened Bennu to the Rosetta Stone: “something that’s out there and tells the history of our entire Earth, of the solar system, during the last billions of years.”

Another benefit: The solar-orbiting Bennu, which swings by Earth every six years, has a slight chance of smacking Earth late in the next century. It won’t be a show-stopping life-ender. But the more scientists know about the paths and properties of potentially hazardous space rocks like this one, the safer we’ll all be.

Osiris-Rex could make two more touch-and-go manoeuvres if Tuesday’s sample comes up short. Regardless of how many tries it takes, the samples won’t return to Earth until 2023 to close out the $800-plus million US quest. The sample capsule will parachute into the Utah desert.

“That will be another big day for us. But this is absolutely the major event of the mission right now,” NASA scientist Lucy Lim said.

Japan expects samples from its second asteroid mission — in the milligrams at most — to land in the Australian desert in December.

NASA, meanwhile, plans to launch three more asteroid missions in the next two years, all one-way trips.

The team at Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, which built the spacecraft, react as contact with the asteroid Bennu is announced. (NASA TV)

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