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SpaceX sees launch risk from low oxygen supply amid pandemic – Los Angeles Times

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One consequence of the coronavirus pandemic is showing up in an unlikely place: the space industry.

A summer surge in COVID-19 patients is diverting liquid oxygen from rocket launch pads to hospitals, leading NASA to announce Friday it will delay the September launch of its next Earth-surveillance satellite by a week.

Oxygen chilled to its liquid form at -300 F (-184 C) is a crucial propellant for launch firms such as SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and Virgin Orbit. Now, the industry is anticipating launch delays as patients on ventilators take precedence in the commodity gas supply chain.

“People come first,” said Richard Craig, vice president of technical and regulatory affairs for the Compressed Gas Assn., an industry trade group.

While oxygen supplies have grown tighter nationwide due to medical use of oxygen, the need is most acute in Florida where a surge in COVID-19 infections have filled hospitals.

Some Florida cities, including Orlando and Tampa, have imposed water-use restrictions because some water-treatment plants use oxygen in the sanitizing process.

Happy Masks’ face coverings for kids are a back-to-school sensation amid heightened COVID-19 anxiety — but good luck buying one.

Labor shortages among commercial truck drivers,who must have specialized training to transport some gases such as oxygen, have also compounded the supply bottlenecks, Craig said. Beyond rocketry, liquid oxygen (commonly called LOX) is used in welding and in the production of steel, paper, glass, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. President Gwynne Shotwell sounded the industry alarm this week at a conference in Colorado, calling for anyone with oxygen to spare to contact her. SpaceX uses methane and liquid oxygen to fuel the Merlin engines on its workhorse Falcon 9 rockets. The company’s much larger next-generation rocket, Starship, also uses liquid oxygen as a propellant.

“We certainly are going to make sure the hospitals are going to have the oxygen that they need but for anybody who has liquid oxygen to spare, send me an email,” Shotwell said Aug. 24 during a panel discussion at the 36th Space Symposium.

Elon Musk, the company’s founder, tweeted Thursday that lean liquid oxygen supplies pose “a risk, but not yet a limiting factor” for SpaceX’s launches. The company planned to launch 4,800 pounds of food and other supplies to the International Space Station on Sunday and a batch of its Starlink satellites next month.

SpaceX launched 26 rockets last year and plans to surpass that total in 2021, even with a two-month hiatus from mid-June to mid-August, Sarah Walker, the company’s director of Dragon mission management, said Friday at a NASA news conference ahead of the cargo launch. Hawthorne-based SpaceX has completed 20 launches this year “with many more to come,” Walker said. “The pace is very quick.”

The tight oxygen supply in Florida “is directly attributable to the number of COVID patients being treated in the state,” Craig said, calling the state “an area of concern.”

NASA and the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., said that the launch of Landsat 9, a surveillance satellite that monitors climate change, will be delayed by a week to Sept. 23 because of constraints facing nitrogen supplier Airgas Inc. ULA will launch the satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard its Atlas V rocket.

“Current pandemic demands for medical liquid oxygen have impacted the delivery of the needed liquid nitrogen supply to Vandenberg,” NASA said Friday in a statement. ULA uses nitrogen to test the rocket before launch and for its countdown sequence.

A spokesman for Air Liquide’s Airgas, one of the largest U.S. industrial gas suppliers, said the company is “resolutely committed to ensuring optimal support to its customers and is focusing all available resources to meet the requested demand of customers for medical oxygen during the pandemic.”

Some gas producers have begun moving oxygen, which is produced at dozens of plants nationwide, from Texas to Florida, said Craig, the gas association executive. Most LOX is distributed 200 to 300 miles from a production site, but the pandemic has created supply-chain distortions so that producers are shipping oxygen farther than in normal times, he said.

“What happens is that sometimes supply chains can be like balloons — you squeeze in one area and it’ll change shape,” Craig said.

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A 900-year-old cosmic mystery has been solved by astronomers – CTV News

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TORONTO —
The mystery behind the origins of a supernova first spotted by 12th-century Chinese and Japanese astronomers has been solved, according to an international team of 21st-century astronomers.

New research, published Wednesday in The Astrophysical Journal, has linked astronomical reports from more than 800 years ago with a faint, fast-expanding nebula surrounding Parker’s Star, one of the hottest stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

The nebula, dubbed Pa30, fits the profile, location and age of the supernova, which was originally documented in 1181 AD.

“The historical reports place the guest star between two Chinese constellations, Chuanshe and Huagai,” Albert Zijlstra, astrophysics professor at the University of Manchester, said in a news release. “Parker’s Star fits the position well. That means both the age and location fit with the events of 1181.”

The first astronomers to lay eyes on the supernova, referred to as SN 1181, described it being as bright as the planet Saturn and remaining visible for six months, the authors of the study said.

Previous research has suggested Parker’s Star and the Pa30 nebula may be the result of the merging of two white dwarf stars. Such events are thought to lead to a rare and faint type of supernova called a “Type Iax” supernova.

“Only around 10 per cent of supernovae are of this type and they are not well understood. The fact that SN 1181 was faint but faded very slowly fits this type,” Zijlstra said. “It is the only such event where we can study both the remnant nebula and the merged star, and also have a description of the explosion itself.”

The key to unlocking the mystery of this historical supernova was the discovery that the Pa30 nebula is expanding at a velocity of more than 1,100 kilometres per second. From this, researchers were able to calculate the nebula’s age to be around 1,000 years old, which coincides with the events of 1181 AD.

“Combining all this information such as the age, location, event brightness and historically recorded 185-day duration, indicates that Parker’s Star and Pa30 are the counterparts of SN 1181,” Zijlstra said. “This is the only Type Iax supernova where detailed studies of the remnant star and nebula are possible.”

There have been five supernovae in the Milky Way in past millennium, and up until now, SN 1181 was the only one whose origins remained unknown.

“It is nice to be able to solve both a historical and an astronomical mystery,” Zijlstra said.

The team of astronomers who made the discovery hail from Hong Kong, the U.K., Spain, Hungary and France.

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SpaceX launches amateur crew on private Earth-circling trip – Al Jazeera English

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SpaceX’s first private flight has been launched into orbit with two contest winners, a healthcare worker and their rich sponsor on board, the most ambitious leap yet in space tourism.

The launch on Wednesday night was the first time a spacecraft circled Earth with an all-amateur crew and no professional astronauts.

“Punch it, SpaceX!” the flight’s billionaire leader, Jared Isaacman, urged moments before liftoff.

The Dragon capsule’s two men and two women are looking to spend three days circling the planet from an unusually high orbit – 160km (100 miles) higher than the International Space Station – before splashing down off the Florida coast this weekend.

It is SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s first entry in the competition for space tourism dollars.

Isaacman is the third billionaire to launch this summer, following the brief space-skimming flights by Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson and Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos in July. Only 38, Isaacman made his fortune from a payment-processing company he started in his teens.

Joining Isaacman on the trip dubbed Inspiration4 is Hayley Arceneaux, 29, a childhood bone cancer survivor who works as a physician assistant where she was treated – St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Isaacman has pledged $100m out of his own pocket to the hospital and is seeking another $100m in donations.

Arceneaux became the youngest American in space and the first person in space with a prosthesis, a titanium rod in her left leg.

Also along for the ride are sweepstakes winners Chris Sembroski, 42, a data engineer in Everett, Washington, and Sian Proctor, 51, a community college educator in Tempe, Arizona.

Once opposed to space tourism, NASA is now a supporter.

“Low-Earth orbit is now more accessible for more people to experience the wonders of space,” tweeted NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, who was a congressman when he hitched a ride on a space shuttle decades ago.

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Researchers create a novel method of bioprinting neuron cells – Medical Xpress

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Credit: Public Domain

A group of researchers including a Concordia Ph.D. student have developed a new method of bioprinting adult neuron cells. They’re using a new laser-assisted technology that maintains high levels of cell viability and functionality.

Ph.D. candidate and 2020-21 Public Scholar Hamid Orimi and his co-authors present the feasibility of a new bioprinting technology they developed in a recent paper published in the journal Micromachines. They demonstrate how the methodology they created, called Laser-Induced Side Transfer (LIST), improves on existing bioprinting techniques by using bioinks of differing viscosities, allowing for better 3D printing. Orimi, his Concordia co-supervisor Sivakumar Narayanswamy in the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science, CRHMR co-supervisor Christos Boutopoulos and co-authors at the Université de Montréal first presented the method in the Nature journal Scientific Reports in 2020.

Orimi co-wrote the newer paper with lead author Katiane Roversi, Sebastien Talbot and Boutopoulos at UdeM and Marcelo Falchetti and Edroaldo da Rocha at Federal University of Santa Catarina in Brazil. In it, the researchers demonstrate that the technology can be used to successfully print sensory , a vital component of the peripheral nervous system. This, they say, is promising for the long-term development of bioprinting’s potential, including disease modeling, and implant fabrication.

Viable and functional

The researchers used dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons from the peripheral nervous system of mice to test their technology. The neurons were suspended in a bioink solution and loaded into a square capillary above a biocompatible substrate. Low-energy nanosecond laser pulses were focused on the middle of the capillary, generating microbubbles that expanded and ejected a cell-laden microjet onto the substrate below it. The samples were briefly incubated, then washed and re-incubated for 48 hours.

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Credit: University of Montreal

The team then ran several tests to measure the printed cells’ capacities. A viability assay found that 86 percent of the cells remained alive two days after printing. The researchers note that viability rates improved when the laser used lower energy. The thermomechanics associated with higher laser energy use was more likely to damage the cells.

Other tests measured neurite outgrowth (in which developing neurons produce new projections as they grow in response to guidance cues), neuropeptide release, calcium imaging and RNA sequencing. Overall, the results were generally encouraging, suggesting that the technique could be an important contribution to the field of bioprinting.

Good for people and animals

“In general, people often leap to conclusions when we talk about bioprinting,” Orimi says. “They think that we can now print things like for transplants. While this is a long-term objective, we are very far from that point. But there are still many ways to use this technology.”

Nearest at hand is drug discovery. The team hopes to get approval to continue their research into cell grafting, which can assist greatly in drug discovery, such as for nerve recovery medicines.

Another advantage to using this technology, Orimi says, is a decrease in animal testing. This not only has a humanitarian aspect—fewer animals will be euthanized to carry out experiments meant to benefit humans—but it will also produce more accurate results, since testing will be carried out on human, not animal, tissue.


Explore further

FRESH 3-D-printing platform paves way for tissues, organs


More information:
Hamid Ebrahimi Orimi et al, Drop-on-demand cell bioprinting via Laser Induced Side Transfer (LIST), Scientific Reports (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-66565-x

Citation:
Researchers create a novel method of bioprinting neuron cells (2021, September 15)
retrieved 15 September 2021
from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-09-method-bioprinting-neuron-cells.html

This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no
part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

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